Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not so funky

I've previously posted about what I think are the three essential characteristics that a restaurant should have in order to attract new patrons and more importantly, keep customers returning. I think this is especially important if the restaurant or stall was new. You just need to make that great first impression on the customer, and if you pass that hurdle, then chances are he or she may just come back and bring their friends even. Nothing makes a business prosper like word of mouth. People like what you offer, they'll come back, they'll tell their friends about it, and those friends will come, and tell their friends about it, and so on.

Well, this evening the whole family decided to try out a new eatery here just in Damai. We got to know about it because, one day, as we were walking to another restaurant for lunch a couple of doors away, we noticed this new place and started looking at their menu. The owner happened to be sitting outside and started talking, telling us how his restaurant's prices were good. From the menu, I thought the prices were pretty standard, but since the place looked classier (not the coffeeshop variety), then it offered slightly better value - the ambiance being considered.

So, I filed this at the back of my head (this was maybe a month or two ago) and finally today, we decided to check out this new eatery. And the place is called Funky Town. If you know where Maple Cafe is, then Funky Town is just two doors away...I think.

We decided to sit inside and what greets you soon after you go in is a whiff of something strange. I couldn't quite put my finger on what the smell was: it was a mixture of something damp, and cockroaches. Not very pleasant. But we later found out it was nothing of the sort. It was the remnant of the smells of one of their offerings: Fried Sambal Meehoon. Apparently, customers had complained about the smell (it was actually the sambal) and so they decided to take it off the menu.

So, anyway we look at the menu and my wife decided to go for the fish and chips, and I decided to try out their lamb chop. Order done, we sit down and relax and I check out the place. It had pleasantly dim lighting, soft background music, and with not many customers at that time, the place was cosy enough to have a decent conversation without having to stress your vocal cords.

The first surprise of the evening was when the fish and chips arrived in front of my wife in about 5 minutes - that was fast! Before Adelle or my wife could lay their knife and fork on it, I whipped out my camera and snapped a few pictures of the dish. Here it is:

Fish and chips - wish they were bigger

First impressions. The fish pieces looked a bit on the small side (as I'm typing this, my wife's eating some instant noodles saying that the dinner wasn't filling at all), but probably the size of the plate didn't help either. The amount of food didn't cover the plate adequately so it looked a bit empty. Perhaps they could have added a lettuce leaf of something together with the coleslaw just to fill in the empty white spaces, or use a smaller plate, or better yet increase their portions! So, presentation was not quite there.

Taste? My wife took the first bite and said, "Frozen dory". I knew what that meant as I still remembered the time we bought home some and attempted to make fish and chips. You see, frozen dory is more or less tasteless, and I suppose the batter didn't help add much to the taste. Luckily there was the tartar sauce. The chips were a bit soggy as well, and the whole dish was a tad on the oily side.

So, that's my take (or rather my wife's take as I only had a small bite) on the fish and chips. How was the lamb chop? Well, I'm still wondering. My lamb never arrived. After waiting for about half an hour (and my wife and Adelle were finishing the last bits of their meal), I see a plate of lamb chop come out of the kitchen window, the waiter takes it, and proceeds to give it to a group of young people seated next to us who came and ordered much later. It was then that I decide to ask the waitress (the one who took our orders) to check on my order and also another order of chicken wings that we had made. She goes to the kitchen and checks and never informs me what has happened.

I wait.

Twenty minutes later, my food still hadn't arrived. Food was coming out of the kitchen so I know the cooks were preparing food, just other people's and not mine. The order of chicken wings finally came and I decided to cancel my order. He apologised. When the waiter put the chicken wings on the table, I stifled a laugh. Before us was a small serving plate with two pieces of wings and nothing else. No garnishing, no sauce, nothing...just the two chicken wings sitting on the plain white saucer. Here it is:

The very airy plate of chicken wings

The three of us shared the wings, and though they were tasty enough they were not enough to lift my mood. Just then, my neighbour and his family walked in. I was almost tempted to tell him to find another place to eat but decided against it. Perhaps their experience would be more positive than mine.

Experience and training were clearly lacking in the staff: a lack of experience in handling a clearly disgruntled customer because of a huge mistake on their part (if I were the proprietor, I would have offered a free meal or if that were too much, offered a free side dish or something for the whole family. After all, you're new and you desperately want your customers to come again!); and a lack of training because an experienced staff would have noticed that my order wasn't filled yet even after so long. The restaurant wasn't very busy, so if the waitress who had taken my order had been alert she would have noticed me just sitting and looking at my wife and Adelle eat and would have checked my order with the kitchen.

Just before we got the bill, the waitress who took our order came and gave us something on the house - a pot of frozen yogurt. She offers her apologies saying that the kitchen had forgotten about my order. So, the yogurt was offered as "compensation"- a peace offering. My wife and Adelle ate some, and I was left the task of finishing off my "meal" while my wife went to pay for the meal. The person in-charge (who happened to be my wife's ex-student) asked my wife how I was and my wife's reply was, "Well, put it this way. A hungry man is an angry man."

The giant and the dwarf - the "peace offering" that was given
next to a standard-sized mug of water

How apt.

My wife's ex-student went on to say that the kitchen messed up the order, and I suppose she may have apologised again. We walk out of the restaurant, and I was thinking, "Should I ever go there again?"

Maybe, maybe not.

Service - Below average (especially after they dare charge the 5% service charge!)
Food - So, so. Portion could have been better. My wife thinks Fish and Co. offers better value if you want fish and chips: a bit more pricey but a whole lot more tasty and portion is larger.
Value: RM12.90 for the fish and chips and RM4.50 for the wings - not the best value but not too expensive as well.

Update: Well, what do you know? It looks like my boo-boo wasn't a one-off thing. My neighbour whom we met at the restaurant also had a similar experience. Telling my wife this evening, my neighbour said that somehow the waiter/waitress had forgotten to punch in their order of fish and chips, so that dish didn't come out until the error was pointed out much later. They also ordered a lamb chop but this one came out fast. Must have been my order...


Nick Phillips said...

I believe a restaurant has to have great service. Good food is a must of course but I can tolerate mediocre food but not bad service.

Perry R. Lim said...

Nick: Agreed. Bad service leaves a bad taste in your mouth, even if the food was extremely good.

Anonymous said...

Hey there.. I'm the ex-student of your wife from funky town that you're talking about.. and i just happened to stumble across your blog ..and ya i'm the one who gave you the "peace offering" ice cream.. Just want to apologize again because we were still quite new with everything and still trying to improve in our food and service..all while being short of staff.. Know you were really angry that night.. But you are quite right about some things, portion can be small sometimes.. We are instructing the kitchen to be more generous with the portions now..and also to be careful not to leave out any more orders..Anyway I hope you won't be mad forever with this place.. if i see you again, your food will be on the house =) But umm lol i know you wouldn't wanna step foot here again =p.. so we;'ll just take your critism as a way to correct our service and food.. Take care mr lim , and send my regards to mrs tok fen fen. *P/S : Fish and chips is $11.90, not $12.90 ( sorry couldn't ignore the price variance hehe)

Perry R. Lim said...

Anonymous: Hello, and thanks for dropping by my blog. I understand that your restaurant and your staff are new, but as I said in my post, any of your floor staff or even you could have been more alert as like I mentioned as well, your restaurant wasn't very busy then.

Anyway, yes please do improve. It's always nice to have more choices in eateries to go to. Having said that, I'll probably allow a few more months for you to get the establishment smoothly running before I visit again.

All the best.