Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Corndance Tavern

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Corndance Tavern
4725 Grape Rd
Mishawaka, IN 46545
(574) 217-7584

Good Food : 3.5/5 | Good Service : 3/5

The hubbie and I decided to take his parents here after a day spent in Mishawaka. We had first stopped here back in 2012 and decided this would be a good choice for us and his parents & to re-fresh our opinion.

One of the 4 dates that came in the Medjool date appetizer.

Disappointing is a polite way to describe our visit.

We started by ordering the Medjool date appetizer. Described as stuffed dates with smoked almond, blue cheese, an aged basalmic reduction & wrapped in Nueske bacon, they sounded great. What we got was 4 pieces of stuffed Medjool dates. Sure they were wrapped in bacon but each date was no more than 1″ in length. At $9 this was $2.25 per date – a pricey amuse bouche for our party of 4. And where was the smoked almond? was it hidden in the date, or supposed to appear as crushed almond pieces on top?

The Corndance salad we ordered had wilted lettuce pieces and was swimming in a pool of salad dressing. Yes there was balsamic in the dressing, but that was all that we tasted.

Kitchen coordination also fell flat in terms of dish presentation and composition. The roast chicken dish that my mother-in-law got (pollo rico) was described as an inca spiced rotisserie chicken, accompanied by wood roasted garlic steak fries, and a vegetable medley. What showed up was half a roasted chicken on top of 4 (we counted them – only 4!) french fries in a pool of au jus – no side veggies.

Note the lack of onions or garlic fries - just a lonely steak w/ a smear of BBQ sauce.

The flat iron steak dish listed on the specials menu sounded great – a dry aged steak with truffle oil, sautéed pearl onions and wood roasted garlic steak fries . I was told I got to choose 2 side dishes, which I thought odd for a special but did not turn this opportunity down. When I got my plate, the only items present were a lonely steak topped with some julienned green onion, next to a smear of chipotle BBQ sauce. No sign of the truffle oil, onions or fries that drew me to order this dish – just a bare spot where these items should have been. The coleslaw and broccoli that I choose as my 2 sides also fell flat – large pieces of flavorless cabbage and broccoli that still tasted raw with no salt or seasoning.

When we got the bill, we figured out what had happened – our waitress did not realize I had ordered the flatiron steak special, but assumed I was ordering the regular flatiron steak offered under their steak menu. So we weren’t charged the price of the special version – a small saving grace – but our impressions of the steak weren’t that great either.

Since Corndance touts a rotating seasonal menu, this is a big faux pas in the restaurant’s level of customer service training for their wait staff. Our waitress should have known what specials were being offered that night, and should have asked if I was ordering the regular flatiron steak or the flatiron special.

Service was also lacking – while we understand going to a restaurant on a Saturday evening on a busy road near a major shopping area can result in slow service, we had to wait a significant amount of time for our waitress to take our order. And this was before our dining area was full, and before a large party got seated next to us.

While I am all for supporting local businesses, these multiple gross oversights were inexcusable. The fact that the kitchen staff was blatantly sloppy or intentionally skimping entree components is an affront to the customer, as the menu pricing is supposed to reflect a higher level of food preparation and the locally sourced ingredients. Corndance touts a rotating seasonal menu, so our waitress should also have known what specials were being offered that night and should have confirmed if I was ordering the regular flatiron steak or the flatiron special. Not catching this tells me that the restaurant is not setting aside time to prep/educate their wait staff on what is actually being offered that day.

What made our experience worse is that the owners boast of their experience working in various Chicago restaurants before opening 4 businesses (including this one) in Indiana. I understand that Northern Indiana is not known for high-end restaurants. But that doesn’t give a restaurant an excuse to dumb down their level of service for a perceived lower clientele expectation. The local private Catholic university brings in lots of high-dollar spenders during the football season, so we do see a fair amount of educated out-of-town diners in this area. And our proximity to Chicago brings that population to our area during the tourist season.

A restaurant should never assume that diners will tolerate a lower level of customer service or food quality & presentation because of their geographical location. What matters at the end of the day – a dedication to delivering well-prepared food and good customer service, no matter whether you are a Michelin-rated restaurant serving 5 course menus or a simple mom & pop restaurant offering local specialities.

Unfortunately, our 2 visits to Corndance have shown that they are not able to consistently deliver in either area. We won’t be going back.

2 hours for takeout …

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Ban Thai Restaurant
2936 Niles Ave
St. Joseph, MI

Good Food : N/A | Good Service : 0/5

So we didn’t feel like cooking one night, and the husband and I thought we would try out the latest restaurant to open in our area a month ago – a Thai restaurant. As our regions is primarily limited to the 4 major restaurant types (Chinese, Mexican, Italian, or major chain), we were very excited to try a new place that did not fit the typical food type. Originally, we were going to wait until after the summer tourist season had died down but as we had some errands to run in the town where the new restaurant was located, we thought ‘Why not get some takeout and try it out?’ Plus it had been several weeks since I had been to my favorite Thai place back in California, so I quickly agreed when the husband suggested takeout.

When we pulled up to the restaurant around 7:30pm, there was a full line of cars – a good sign to us. Even better was seeing a completely full dining room. So we started browsing through the paper dinner menu to figure out what we wanted. After a quick perusal, we knew what we wanted and flagged down one of the 2 employees manning the dining room :

First Waitstaff : May I help you?
Me : We would like to order takeout.
First Waitstaff : Just one moment (runs to get a notepad to take our order …)

In the meantime, the second person manning the dining room sees us :

Second Waitstaff : Please feel free to take this table (he gestures to an empty table that had just been cleared)
Me : Actually, we would like to place a takeout order.
Second Waitstaff : (looks slightly disturbed) Oh, we have a very full dining room tonight and won’t be able to get to your order … for about 2 hours. Why don’t you take this table?
Me : (shock) Thank you, but due to our schedule we don’t have time to dine in, so we wanted to order takeout instead.
Second Waitstaff : Well, we won’t be able to help you tonight, so please come again to dine with us.

2 hours wait for takeout?! Needless to say, we left very unhappy. Fortunately, we were able to satisfy ourselves in our local Chinese/Cantonese/Szechuan place tonight.

We tried to reason out why the second waitstaff (who obviously was the owner) treated us the way he did :

  • Perhaps he had received a large number of takeout orders prior to us coming in
  • Perhaps the kitchen was understaffed tonight, so they were currently overwhelmed trying to satisfy the dine-in orders
  • It was a Saturday night at prime dinner time, so perhaps the restaurant had gotten overwhelmed …

But, in the end, we realized it was because the owner did NOT want to take a takeout order (remember, he gave us a 2 hour takeout window, but then offered to seat us at a table immediately). We believe that he intentionally turned down our walk-in business in an effort to garner dine-in customers (and conversely the tip that the sit-in sale would generate).

Now, if you’re going to open a restaurant that only does dine-in service & advertise it this way, then I don’t have a problem with that. It means that prospective diners keep this mind when you want to dine at that particular establishment. But, this restaurant had prominently advertised ‘Dine In, Carry Out and Catering’ on its website and menus, but then refused to honor this advertisement.

Just because we’re not located in Chicago doesn’t mean that you can drop your level of customer service. Many of the people who live in the area didn’t grow up here, and are used to city-level type service. So just because Chicago people are opening a restaurant not in Chicago doesn’t give them the excuse to drop their level of service. ‘Shame on you!’ to the owner and this restaurant.

Evidently we’re not the only ones to have an unpleasant experience – Yelp reviews

A (unfavorable) trend in sushi rolls

Saturday, January 10th, 2009
Houdini roll from Blue Nami, Roseville, CA

Houdini roll from Blue Nami, Roseville, CA

Back in my early sushi noshing days when I lived in the SF Bay Area, the emphasis in sushi was on the preparations to feature the fresh flavorful seafood being enjoyed. I had my wonderful introduction to the sushi world by a Japanese college friend at Kirala in downtown Berkeley, CA. The evening started out as a ‘try these first since you’ve never had raw fish before’ and ended up being a tour of Kirala’s nigiri menu. I still don’t know how much we ate/spent that night (my friend insisted on paying since I was still a poor college freshman), but this experience was my benchmark for all subsequent sushi bar visits.

During my past 2 years traveling to California, I’ve noticed a trend as I satisfy my sushi cravings. You know what it is – that humongous roll covered in 1 or more sauces & various toppings. They go by flashy, trendy names (Caterpillar, Train Wreck, Flying Tiger, Rolls Royce, Rainbow, etc).

These rolls are visually very stunning – topped with various colored sauces, chopped fish, different types of fish eggs (tobiki, salmon eggs, etc), deep-fried or including various fried items & sometimes even flambéed/torched – taking up an entire rectangular plate. I’ve tried at least 20 different variations and have come to the same conclusions :

  • Too much sauce – the rolls I’ve gotten are coated in the accompanied sauces, which are usually mayonnaise-based & overwhelm the other ingredient flavors in the roll
  • Too much ‘stuff’ – when I order a roll, I assume that my roll ingredients are going to be contained within the roll. I don’t want to have to juggle crushed macadamia nuts, wasabi tobiki or chopped tuna as I try to get the roll piece from the plate to my mouth without leaving a colorful seafood trail.

Is this trend giving in to the typical American palate’s penchant of drowning food in various sauces, in an effort to reduce the ‘fear factor’ in ordering sushi? :?

As for me, I would much rather have my bowl of edamame, a plate of nigiri and my wakame salad.