When Service Really Sucks!


Don’t mind me, it has been sometime since I bitched about service at a restaurant or is it is because it is the weekend again.

Read these first:-

30mins

(I have walked off from restaurants couple of times before when there was no service or when my orders delivered late but it was a bit hard difficult to do the same when you have a family in tow. Image source: http://www.insightwithpassion.co.uk)

I did not realise that eating sushis for lunch (which was excellent and my son had a good run on the available choices) can make you really hungry later in the evening.

When we came back home, it was just nice for a quiet afternoon nap. And some hours later, my wife and my son was soon feeling hungry again. But since we were going off to see one of our aunty who were not well, we decided to go for dinner on the way later. Just then my mom and my sisters had came back from their Deepavali shopping and since my wife had not cooked anything for dinner, they asked if we can “tapau” some food back.

Someone mentioned thosai and the Indian restaurant just near the house where we once had our usual fare of good thosai, roti naan and roti canai did crossed my mind. However the problem is that their level of service is nothing to shout about – its sucked big time (a norm in some restaurants). You actually need to remind the morons at the restaurant several times on your orders and I have kind of had avoided going to the restaurant for some time. Which was unfortunate because the place is clean, the food is great and the price of food is quite reasonable. It is also quite near to the house and have plenty of parking spots near to the restaurant. These days we pick on another Indian restaurant couple kilometers away where their service is better. Unfortunately it is far from where the aunty resides and since my son now had started to complain that he is really hungry and could not wait another minute more, I had to make the dreaded decision – to head to that nearest restaurant where service is known to be bad. My wife tried to protest but since my son’s complaint had become louder, she kept quiet, hoping for the best.

As we pulled in to the parking spot in front of the restaurant, we could see that the restaurant was packed – the reason was due to another restaurant nearby (with the same level of service that sucks) had closed for the day and its patrons had decided to eat in this restaurant. I looked at my wife and told her that it looks like we need to wait longer for the food. That did not go well with my son but somehow he understood the situation. Despite the crowd, we found empty seats. Trays, plates and cups from the previous patrons left on the table. We took our seats and I immediately waved my hands asking the waiter to clean the table but no one came. One guy passed our table and only remarked “wait”. We understood that the restaurant had more patrons than usual and it will be slow. Sensing that someone will come over later to clean, we decided to wait for the table to be cleaned. But then on the other side, another group of patrons had left and to my irk, the waiter who told us to wait, was soon got busy clearing the plates and cups whilst the same remained on our table.

I was losing my patience – why they don’t clean tables where patrons are still waiting? They can’t be that dumb, right? We understand if they are busy with patrons who came before us. I waved to another waiter and he only came after I had raised my voice. He cleared the plates and cups but left his rag cloth on the table without cleaning the table. He left us rather abruptly to take order from another table. We saw another waiter but he seemed busy chit-chatting with the cook. The restaurant was crowded and the workers were very busy no doubt but it looked like they were not interested taking our orders. To make things worse, they were entertaining patrons who came in after us. If they are too busy with the existing patrons, I completely understand their situation and I will patiently wait for our turn. But seeing patrons who came after us getting their orders done did struck the right cord with me.

I had enough of the nonsense – I somehow regretted coming over to this restaurant in the first place. I should have just listened to my instinct and go to our usual place for our dinner. Never mind the traffic or the distance or my son saying that he is very hungry. I told my wife in a loud voice that if no one come over and take our order in the next minute, we are walking out from here – I did not realise I was loud but I guess I was rather annoyed with the level service. It was loud enough to be heard by the patrons near to where we were seated. Despite the need to disappoint my son who was complaining, we decided to have dinner at our usual place. It seemed this restaurant was “rich” enough to turn away customers.

Just when we was about to walk out and head to our usual restaurant, the earlier waiter then came back and asked us on our orders. His rag cloth was still on the table. My wife was about to tell her order when I stopped her. I looked at the waiter rather annoyingly and told him to clean the table first. We kept quiet until the table was really cleaned. Only after he had properly cleaned the table, we gave him our orders, expecting another round of waiting for the order to come (somehow I regretted this decision). But it was not the case. The food came without much delays – probably because I was keeping an eye on the waiter and the kitchen. Or perhaps the waiter knows that if the food was delayed or if patrons who came after us got their food first, we would have just walked out (it is not the first time I have done that).

Lesson well learned – 1. no point giving some people a second chance. Some people does not know what a good service means and take things for granted 2. just follow instinct and go to places known for good food and good service and 3. simply walk out if service turns out to be bad

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Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 6


I almost forgot about this and thought of doing a closure post but then I just realised that there are still plenty of photos of food in my collection. So, let’s do probably another 1-2 posts on food (this included) before we “head back” home.

One of the juicy advertisement as we head towards our ride at one of the underground trains – the famed Peking Duck. When we were in Shanghai, we did not really had this dish for lunch or dinner but then we decided not to look for the place that serve the dish as well. But a friend of us who went to Beijing for a short trip had the Peking Duck packed and brought it back home.

That small logo at the top of the menu almost caught us – at we thought it was KFC‘s menu for their local dish but then we took a closer look at realised that it is not Colonel Sanders and it is just a logo that was used by one of the smaller restaurants near to our workplace. After all if you can get a crystal clear “imitation” of the Rolls Royce in China, what more of well known international brands and well known fast food dishes.

Don’t be mistaken – they also have the real KFC restaurants in the city but despite it being cheap and easy, we decided not to go for it – a quick look in the inside and things was not looking too good. The queue was long (mostly with over-excited youngsters) and there were very limited tables and chairs inside the restaurant for those who wish to dine in (the area looked small and stuffy too) and with some of us with handful of shopping bags, we decided not to take the risk either.

There is also a Chinese (albeit cheaper) version of Subway in the city. It is known as Starway and they operate in the same manner as the real Subway with the same types of bread with the same options of filing and with the almost identical modus operandi as Subway (the founder must have been an ex-Subway staff). The people behind the counter speak fluent English too so ordering was a breeze. And we often opt for this simple dish of bread with “halal” fillings (halal since they don’t serve beef, surprisingly) instead of walking out far in the cold and get ourselves the more complex noodles for dinner.

Starway bread of the day packed and filled – it’s cheap (less than RMB20), cleaner and surprising very tasty and more than enough to cover our hunger when we end up working late. Unfortunately they don’t provide delivery service though but thankfully the restaurant was not far away from our workplace (it is not crowded too – the locals have not caught on the idea of having bread for lunch or dinner) and we had caring colleagues who were wiling to “ta-pau” for the rest of us who were busy working to resolve the issues so that we all can go back and have a good night sleep (after a couple bottles of beers, of course).

Here’s something I gotten fond of when I order my bread from Starway – cold fresh vegetarian drink and often, 1 bottle is not enough (it never was) and somehow I often felt more healthy drinking this than the hot plain Chinese tea but then again it could be just my imagination because I also had plenty of tea and beer during my stay in Shanghai and I never fell sick (even after I walked in the rain on several occasions)

Thankfully the sense of imitation did not extend to other kind of restaurants. The Korean fast food restaurant was pretty authentic with proper Korean dishes with Korean restaurant setting. Prices ranges from RMB40 to RMB120 and it was not so bad considering the portions was sufficient enough – it was heavy but was not overwhelming to our taste. The only complaint was the entrance to this restaurant – we had to go through a small lift and there was only one that was working, so we were praying for the lift not to breakdown when were inside the lift.

The good old “nasi goreng” – you can get them hot and tasty no matter where you go. This one was not that bad (I had better ones when I was in Ghana – the spicy scrimp fried rice was really, really good) but at least it was rather safe to eat – you know what is in it. I wished they had a good sambal to go with that.

Here’s another dish from the Korean restaurant that we went – more meat than the rest and gravy too. Ha, I already missing the home cooked chicken curry.

We also found a small Thai restaurant just behind the place we were staying – we almost missed it as there was no big sign-board on the front but it only realised that it is a Thai restaurant after we had checked inside (it looked like a bar from the outside). They had the usual Thai wish-list food on the menu but it was quite pricey and thus we decided to go safe by ordering fried rice. It was good but it was no where near to the usual fried rice that we often get at Thai restaurants – it was not spicy enough for our standards.

The Tom Yam that we had was not that good as the Tom Yam we get in Malaysia – it was more watery but it was slightly spicier than the other dishes. It was also missing some Thai ingredients but that is understandable – it may not be easy to get the right stuff in the city. But at least we got something closer to home than the usual noodles and soups. We also found Malaysian restaurant from the net but it was a bit from where we were staying and further since we are going back home soon, we decided to wait out and get real, cheaper Malaysian food once we are back.

To be continued…

Trip to Oriental Paris – Part 3


(The next couple of posts in this series will be on food – my favorite whenever I travel, no doubt)

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

(My very first dish in Shanghai – I opted for something familiar, rice and chicken with beans and cold salad. It was good but I then realized my mistake – the weather was cold but the food was not warm enough. No wonder others were having the hot bowl of noodles and soup)

One that things that often fascinates me when I travel is the local culture and way of life and one good way to experience this is through the local food. The same goes when friends from overseas come over for a visit to Malaysia (how we love the hot teh-tarik and roti canai banjir by the road side at 2 in the morning).

Over the years, from initially sticking to more well-known food (read fast food from well-known brands); I have learned that one (sometimes) need to be adventures enough to trying the local sampling (beers included) – jelly fish in noodles, oily lumps of mutton, kebabs, locally made plain yoghurt drinks, etc and it is the same thing for this trip. And being in China, one cannot run away from noodles, soup and non-halal stuff. We can find the same thing in Malaysia but there is some difference in taste, presentation and portion. We got smaller portions in Malaysia.

(The morning breakfast was rather tame and safe – a good spread of more western and oriental tuned food at the hotel breakfast buffet)

On the very first day we arrived, we decided to go for a local dish – a bowl of noodles and as the weather starting to cold down, made it more sense to order hot bowl of noodle soup. We walked out and a couple of meters of walk, we stopped by a small shop by the roadside. The interior was clean and because it was crowded and seeing a foreigner in the crowd, I guess, the shop owner led us towards the kitchen and out to a small backyard where the waiters quickly setup the chairs and tables for us (it was a big group).

I dreaded the “backyard” – we all know how dirty some of the restaurants backyard in Malaysia. But surprisingly the backyard was clean and from where I was sitting, I also noticed that the kitchen (where they cooked) was clean as well. I later realized that by local customs, the restaurant normally does not take order for drinks first – they take the order for food and only if we need something to drink, we ask for it. It is not like in Malaysia where you will be asked on your drinks first, then only the food.

We asked for something to drink and the waiter served us warm water – a far cry from the usual iced Milo back home. Other than warm water, the usual drink that is more common here is a pot of Chinese tea with small cups to go around. You can also get iced coffee and cappuccinos, etc from the many convenient stores but it is not so common in restaurants.

(A bowl of hot Noodle soup is one the best thing on a cold day – the portions were indeed more than usual – so is the price – but overall the taste was manageable)

We pay upfront for the food – my colleagues were kind enough to translate the menu for me but still, it all sounded the same. I opted for an easy one on my first day here – rice and chicken (instead of noodles). On the second day, I braved myself for a hot bowl of noodles and soup.

The portion for noodles was bigger than what I had expected. The soup smelled different but the taste was alright (I did not get that raw taste of mono-sodium glutamate). The noodles were soft and somehow felt more slippery than the usual noodles I had. Perhaps it is how the noodles were made here. Perhaps it is just how it is cooked here – damn, I was already missing the noodles back home. But the consoling factor was that this restaurant (and most restaurants) is that they have this small bottle of chillies to be added into the soups and this chilli is really spicy – much better than chillies that we get back at home.

To be continued…

Tale of 2 Restaurants


I will be traveling over the next 2 weeks and may not be blogging but here’s one before I go…

customer service

(Something that is lacking in Malaysia but hardly anyone makes the attempt to improve it. Image source: http://www.tennentstrainingacademy.co.uk)

There is plenty of restaurants near my workplace and their services differs one from another. So are their prices. After a long time, I settled to 2 restaurants and here is the story of the 2.

Restaurant No. 1

Famous for it’s roti canai and creamy teh tarik in the morning, it is one of the newer shops around. One of the reasons, it is doing quite well is that the price of the food is considerably cheap. And wide open area at the front makes it rather easy place to lepak for a hot teh tarik in the evenings. Plenty of oily dishes during the lunch time but if you are careful enough, you can get good, fresh fish for lunch.

Restaurant No. 2

Compared to Restaurant No. 1, this restaurant has been around longer but it has it’s share of regular customers. It has less choice of food but it has it’s own style and presentations. The food is slightly pricey than the rest but overall reasonable. In my opinion, serves the best teh-o limau panas around.

I go to both restaurants on different days of the weeks and when I get bored with the other restaurants. Lately the Restaurant No. 1’s service has been turning to bad. You sit down and wait for someone to take your orders. No one comes until you call. And after telling them what your order is, you patiently wait for the meal only to find that it is not coming. The lady who took your order is seen taking order from someone else and later wiping the tables. I had to call another and repeat the orders and pray that this time, the person gets it right and bring my meal. The owner is busier chit-chatting with the restaurant workers than attending to the customers.

When I go to Restaurant No. 2, things are different – the owner himself waits at the entrance and welcomes you. He wishes you “good morning” and sees that his staffs attend to me immediately. And if I go in and sit down, the staffs brings me the menu and puts on the table before I even sit down on the chair. The food looks fresh and the drinks are served at the right temperature. And it is served without any delays. Unfortunately, the price of the meal is not cheap but as I take out money to pay for the meal, I at least, get a “thanks”. Unlike Restaurant No. 1 who takes your money as if you owe them something big.

It comes down to who can provide a better service. Price is a secondary issue. For those having restaurants or in the industry of service, this is something for you to ponder. And why I raising this is because I find, more frequently, a lot of restaurants are having this – take it or leave it attitude and soon, they are run out customers and had to close shop.

That is sad because their food and the price are great – they have a good chance to make it big but their service sucks big time. It does not cost much to improve on service – it does not take much to say “good morning” and “thank you”. Restaurant No. 1 may be surviving for now but keep up the bad service, you may find customers looking for other place to eat.

Perhaps, this is where Najib should be focusing on – building a developed and matured human resource and service level in Malaysia, instead of the dreadful Warisan Merdeka

Parking Paranoia


Just a quickie on a Monday morning…

(With more people having cars, getting the right parking spot is fast becoming more crucial too. Image source: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/)

Call me paranoid but the last thing I want to do is to park my car somewhere far from the restaurant where I am having my dinner.

To recall back, I have lost count of giving amiss of good restaurants just because the nearby parking lots was full or the parking was far away or the available place to park simply looked too unsecured (read back lanes and dark alleys). Best restaurants ends up as restaurants with good parking spaces rather than restaurants with good food.

So problematic of me! And this usually does not go well with family and friends but then again, I do the same with temples and shopping malls. So, over time, they would have come accustomed to my peculiar preference of place of dining, worship or shopping.

The best, ideal situation would be where I can see my car directly from my dining table. So, if any suspicious characters start to linger near my car or if some idiot runs his car into mine, I could keep a close eye and act fast before my car is not broken into or before the idiot do a quick “hit and run”.

The next ideal situation would be where I park at secured, well maintained parking lots (hotels mainly come top of the list although parking lots at shopping malls has a lot to be desired – well maintained but poorly secured).

And there is no other choice but to park my car far from the restaurant, I would leave the fate of my car in the hands of the Al-Mighty and have a rather restless dinner. It could be just me – worrying for nothing and being suspicious of everything.

Trip to ‘Chilly’ Restaurant


By the way, Chilly means Chinese…

(One good sign is red lights and tang-lungs on the inside and on the outside)

From day 1 after we had arrived here, we have been looking for cheap Chinese restaurant and thus far, we have been unsuccessful.

Some of our colleagues who have been in this part of the world had recommended us to visit one restaurant which is located about 2 kilometres walk from our apartment. But once we reached the place, we found the gates to the front doors was locked and no one on sight. At first, we thought we came on the wrong day or the wrong time (perhaps it was still too early). So we went to the same restaurant on different days and time and yet it was still closed.

We were unable to eat Chinese food but what the heck, we got plenty of exercise – just imagine 4 kilometres walk to and fro. One day we saw someone coming out from the restaurant – we asked and were informed that the restaurant was undergoing renovation and will be opening in 2 weeks time. Unfortunately the 2 weeks was almost a month ago and the renovation is still undergoing. I guess it take another 2 weeks from the time of writing this post for the ‘official’ reopening.

(It looks big on photo but in reality the servings are small and expensive)

So, we dropped our hopes for Chinese restaurant until one of the taxi drivers mentioned another in the city. But once again we had to abort the trip to that Chinese restaurant as we found that it will cost us at least USD35 for meals for each of us.

Last week, however, we got a breakthrough. One of our colleagues had found another ‘chilly’ restaurant and after a long tele conversation, it was found that the price was very reasonable – about 20,000 Rial for a plate of fried rice. With 4 of us who have decided to go and share out the cost, there were plenty of dishes that we were able to order. The restaurant was not easy to find for it was tucked away from the usual busy roads and given the roads were jammed, the taxi driver took some time to locate the restaurant and that too, after getting lost several times and had to stop and ask people.

(A close-up of all the dishes in one plate…my plate)

The restaurant, when we walked in, was empty with no one in sight except for the lonely restaurant manager. Later we found that we came too early to the restaurant for the crowd only came in when we about to leave after spending almost one hour in the restaurant. The manager remarked that the foreigners would usually come in early before the locals come in. Coming in early was also a blessing in disguise as the chef was not busy with other orders and had time to cook our dishes without any necessary rush (no half cooked dishes were found).

Admittedly at the end of the day, the price of the dishes and the taste can never come close to what we have back home in Malaysia but it was a relieve to see something that were very familiar such as ‘taugeh’, ‘onion leave’, ‘noodles’ and etc.

At the end of the day, 3 bowls of different types of soup, 2 bowl of fried rice (with different ingredients), 2 plate of mixed vegetables, 2 plate of noodles with different ingredients and a free flow of green tea, cost us about 500,000 Rial for 4 of us.

(To be continued)

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