December 29, 2017

Slaughtering fat sheep, part 3

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This is a rant.  I'm not going to describe all the delicious food I had tonight at one of my (former) favorite restaurants.  I'm too pissed off by the unprofessional service to care.

I was really pissed off about the way our orders were taken for our dinner at Above and Beyond (天外天) in Hotel ICON.  To be fair, we were partly to blame for the problem.  Hello Kitty had pre-ordered 1½ roast Peking ducks for the 12 of us, as well as the restaurant's signature steamed coral crab with glutinous rice.  She was too busy at work when someone at the restaurant got her on the phone and tried to discuss tonight's menu.

So the task of ordering the rest of the dishes fell on our shoulders.  I was feeling lazy and kicked the ball over to A, who had never been here before.  He proceeded to order a few dishes, then passed the menu back to me so I could finish ordering the dishes.

This is where we ran into trouble.

I had not heard the entire conversation between A and the Tall Bespectacled Waiter who took his order, so I actually didn't know how many dishes had been ordered - although I was aware that no starters had been mentioned.  So I picked out a couple of starters, then added a couple of more dishes - including 2 vegetable dishes to balance out the proteins and the carbs that we were getting.

Towards the end, I was half-reciting the dishes that I thought we had ordered, and half-expecting the Tall Bespectacled Waiter to confirm to me every single dish that we had ordered - as many, many waiters would do at most restaurants I go to.  No such response from him.  I did not grasp the full extent of our order.

Instead, the Tall Bespectacled Waiter told me that their dishes were designed to serve parties of 3-4 people, and asked whether I wanted to upsize my order by getting double portions or more.  Again, not knowing how many dishes A had ordered, I figured that getting double portions of the dishes would be a sensible thing to do.

Everything was fine at the start of our meal.  The 1½ portions of roast Peking duck was a big hit with just about everyone.  The double portions of starters was a little much, but single portions would not have been enough.  So far, so good.

Then it hit us.  A had ordered fish, but it was leopard coral trout (東星斑) prepared two ways - pan-fried fillets and stir-fried fillets.  So we already had two plates of fish - which was then DOUBLED to give us 4 plates of fish.  A apparently also ordered both sweet and sour pork as well as stir-fried pork with black vinegar, as the Tall Bespectacled Waiter recommended the latter to him.  This also became DOUBLE, so we now had 4 plates of breaded pork.  Together with the double portions of the two vegetables (which were necessary and appreciated by many), as well as the double portion of stir-fried noodles with beef (one of which we cancelled), the amount of food was simply getting ridiculous.

The final straw came when I saw that two steamers of steamed coral crab with glutinous rice arrive at our table.  Hello Kitty had pre-ordered two portions as she felt one wasn't enough, but I wasn't aware of this... and when the Tall Bespectacled Waiter reminded me of our pre-orders, he did not specify that there were two portions of this dish.

Again, I'll admit that we were partly to blame for our lack of communication among us.  However, in my mind one of the most important jobs for a waiter is to help the customer order dishes - and to let the customer know when there is sufficient food to feed everyone.  Letting the customer order way too much food without so much as a cautionary comment is not how restaurants should do business.  Honestly, a good waiter should know that with the number of dishes being ordered, having double portions of just about everything is ridiculous.  Do they treat all their customers this way, or did we look like fat sheep ready to be slaughtered?

I was very pissed and voiced my displeasure, but didn't make a scene on account of it being a celebratory dinner for a 90th birthday.

Which resulted in our final WTF moment.  With the help of my old friend BM, I had managed to get us a salted caramel mille-crepes cake from Lady M on very short notice.  After an excessive amount of food, we didn't think we could finish the whole 9-inch cake, so we asked the waiters to cut half the cake into 10 portions.

And I was completely shocked when this showed up on my plate...

With round cakes, I had always had people cut them into triangular slices before.  That ensures that everyone gets some of the icing or whatever is on the side of the cake.  But the genius tonight decided to cut them into rectangular pieces, and I got stuck with an "inside" piece.

I stared my piece of cake in disbelief for at least a minute or two before finally picking up my fork.

I understand the peculiar nature of this hotel and of the restaurant, and that some of the staff here are students at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management.  But for a restaurant that charges full retail price, I expect the service level to be on par with other restaurants at similar price points.  Amateurish and shit service is not acceptable.  I have always enjoyed my meals here and have fond memories of dining here, but I'm certainly going to stop recommending this place to friends after tonight.

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