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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Starry Kitchen II: If You Don't Like the Food, Get Out and Don't Come Back!

I belatedly found out that my negative (gasp!) review of cult-favorite Starry Kitchen had caused somewhat of a stir on its fan page with all sorts of haters out there for yours truly. That explains the huge spike in visitors that one day, I told myself with some amusement.

What was truly disturbing, however, was the reaction from the owner when I went to pay the restaurant another visit to see if I'd like it the second time. This was before I knew about the outrage among fans. He, who usually borders on solicitous to incoming customers as he gregariously sings the virtues of his food, how to order, etc., took one look at me and blurted out, "You hate this place" and moved right on to the next customer standing in line behind me.

I don't expect to be given favorable treatment when I visit a restaurant but I don't expect owners to be rude to me when I give them a negative review. In fact, I've had owners and employees of restaurants write to me apologizing for the bad experience and letting me know they take what I wrote in stride and hope I will return for a better experience.

If it had been a scathing review that was malicious, that'd be a different story. But I had merely pointed out that the fried pork in my sandwich was cold and the sandwiches were bland and flavorless. I felt the same way about the curry rice that came as a side. Don't even get me started on the unremarkable japchae.

Ironically enough, the crab cake wrap I had on my second visit was a lot better -- the crab cake was actually warm and while it was still on the bland side, I guess that's what the Sriracha sauce is for. I just wish that restaurants wouldn't have to tone down their flavors and heat quotient to cater to a certain type of customer base.

The owner proceeded to "diss" me one more time throughout the course of my second visit although eventually he was "forced" to take my order. It's really no skin off my back if he treats all unhappy customers that way. I just think that it violates the fundamental notion of hospitality, which is to make it a pleasant experience for your customers -- whether that is through the food, ambiance or perhaps most importantly, the service.

True, it's his establishment and he can refuse service to anyone. But as a budding restaurateur, would you really want to be in denial about the existence of anyone who says anything negative about your food? Do you think that your food is that perfect? Well, it isn't and this is true for any startup restaurant that is test-driving different menu items. Things like serving a fried sandwich that is cold isn't a matter of taste or preference. It's a given that certain foods must be served at certain temperatures.

I wish I had tried food from its NoHo days but all have to go by is its downtown location. There are far too many restaurants I want to go to for me to be compelled to return to this one, but all I have to say is that arrogance was never a virtue for a restaurant.


Starry Kitchen said...

Dear NJ Eats,

I'm going to just expound rather than regurgitate what I wrote as a public comment to your updated Yelp review.

I do think there could be a BIG misunderstanding here.

I will definitely re-iterate one thing: I have NO IDEA what you look like and could not associate you with your review even if I wanted to. The lone picture of "possibly" yourself (that I could find) is on your Yelp profile and I cannot make ANYTHING of it. I promise ya, I TRIED when you posted your first blog/Yelp review!

Regarding the "YOU HATE THIS PLACE" or possibly even an "I HATE YOU" comment. I do remember using that a couple of times, and it was ALWAYS in SUPER SARCASTIC jest or reference to a friendly foodie jealousy towards someone going to place I REALLY want to try (i.e. ENVY). You could have been one of the people w/ the Ludo Bites t-shirt (before I had gone) or w/ similar foodie (and/or awesome nerd) paraphernalia that would prompt that kind of comment/jealous/nerd envy.

It actually sounds more like the scenario in how I deal with familiar people sometimes (which will also explain the skipping or "dissing" as you felt treated in your post):

I probably recognized that you have been in before (I recognize a lot of faces that come even once), assumed it was your 2nd time that you might have liked it and in OVERLY SARCASTIC JEST (as a spectacle to you, if you liked us, and to others that haven't been before and needed some kind of validation that people are coming back to the place) I probably pointed at you and said "OH YOU HATE THIS PLACE" hopefully/possibly in a theatrical manner.

I promise you if I COULD identify you (I don't even know if you're male or female), I would have been VERY upfront and said "Hello NJ EATS!" I have approached MANY that have given us mediocre to bad reviews that have come back for that "2nd chance", and PERSONALLY identified them too.

Regarding "skipping" you, the way I approach the line is that priority goes to those that have not been to SK. Those that I know have or identified, I skip (nothing personal). The main reason for this is because the people that do NOT understand actually hold up the line a LOT longer. ALL the questions slow the line down much more. After I go through the ENTIRE line to explain, then I return to the front to take orders.

If that was even close to the cases above, I hope that better explains it and I apologize for my overly sarcastic enthusiastic delivery. That is my humor.. I won't change it, but I will apologize when it's taken out of context because I mean nothing malicious about it.

If it's NOT any of that, then I'm not sure what to tell you outside of "I'm sorry!" I'm not going to say you mis-heard me, because I frankly can't remember anything outside of those instances. You obviously remember better than me (considering the crab cakes were almost 2 months ago).

As far as the food, I do say that SK's motto is, "If you don't like it, then MORE for us!" And I do deliver it with a lil bit of confidence/arrogance (for fun), but the real purpose for it is to be a tongue-and-cheek way of saying, "Hey, we're not 5-star chefs, we're not elite cooks, but the only thing we even pretend to do is make food that we personally enjoy. If we enjoy it, and others don't, that's all we can do!" (generally speaking of course)

And I think that about covers as much as I can. If you don't feel that acceptable, was very different than what you personally experience or I was really just that rude to you.. I'm sorry, and I think we'll have to accept that we could possibly have incompatible personalities (which happens, and that's okay too).

Thanks again for returning, and for taking the time to write this and your review. I look forward to meeting you AND associating you with your alias soon.

Very best,


ironchef442 said...

dear sk team,

thanks for your response. i appreciate you taking the time to explain your position. i get that you don't know what i look like. i love sarcastic humor as much as the next person, but i honestly don't see how this qualifies as that, esp. considering i wasn't wearing any kind of foodie or nerd paraphernalia for you to envy. in any case, not sure you care but unless i knew you as a long-time friend, chances are i, like most customers who walk into your joint, wouldn't necessarily appreciate that kind of reception, whether you meant it as envy or familiarity. but of course, that's your prerogative.

as i wrote in my first post, i want you guys to succeed, especially considering the sad dearth of flavorful restaurants in downtown for the office crowd. one thing's for sure. the area is definitely in need of more asian food places. i wish you guys the best.


ps: i added a star b/c the crab cake wrap was better than the first banh mi sandwich i had on first visit. food is more imp to me than service, although not negligible, of course.

Anonymous said...

oh get over yourselves guys, tit for petty...pretty sure no one cares about either one of your positions/arguments