|Tea Cup from Starbucks - chipped and worse for ware|
I’ll preface this post by saying until I visited Anju, I’d never eaten Korean food before. So it probably wasn’t the best idea for Korean fusion to be my first taste of the very different flavors that Korean cuisine employs such as kimchi.
Located on the edge of downtown on a quiet street, in what looks like a converted house, Anju has two floors or dining. The atmosphere was far from what I imagined it would be, expecting a restaurant atmosphere and winding up dining in what felt like a bar instead. Perhaps what gave us that impression was that all the seating except for one area was bar height tables and stools, with a bar situated on one end of the room with the Calgary Flames game playing on the flat screen tv that hung above, as well as being the only table of two that we could see, surrounded by large, loud, rambunctious groups of young diners.
|Gochujang Korean Fried Chicken|
Unfortunately, the service throughout our whole dining experience that night was lacking, making our already drooping expectations continue to nose dive. Although someone came over almost immediately to light our candle, we were left with ample time to pour over the menu, too much time. Our candle lighter returned as our server and took our drink and order at the same time. It has been pointed out to us that we should have skipped the entrees and stuck to the small plates as that is what Anju does well, and that the server should have explained that to us. However, no explanation was offered or provided, so we wound up ordering the gochujang Korean fried chicken, crispy tofu, kimchi fried rice with pork belly and the stone rice bowl with chicken.
The gochujang KFC was delivered shortly, and we quickly realized that no plates, utensils, or most importantly, napkins had been bestowed upon our table. Napkins are a necessity when eating chicken wings! Being stuck in a corner behind two tables filled with large groups, our server didn’t appear too keen on coming to check on us. After trying to flag her down for five minutes, watching her occasionally glance at our direction over the group tables – obviously she wasn’t looking too hard if she couldn’t see my humans trying to wave her down – we managed to get her attention and ask her to bring us the necessities.
|Kimchi Fried Rice with Pork Belly|
After the hot wings, we waited probably another twenty minutes, wondering where our crispy tofu appetizer was. Our server finally appeared and told us the crispy tofu would be delayed but that our entrees would be up soon. Shortly after, my kimchi fried rice appeared and the server quickly left, and we were left wondering where our other entrée was. Although the pork belly was quite tender, I wasn’t sure what to make of the taste of kimchi. I neither liked nor disliked it as it was a foreign flavor to me.
|Stone Rice Bowl with Chicken|
When we finally gave up on our meals, it took another effort of waving someone down to have our table cleared and another ten minute wait to get the bill, by which time we couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Overall, although the gochujunk KFC was absolutely fantastic, the rest of the food wasn’t really to my taste. The fact that we had to yell to hear each other over the noise of other diners, and the lack of service we got all night made it one of the most unpleasant dining experiences we have had in a long time. I think it was the servers' apparent lack of willingness to even come over that really killed this experience for us. Least to say, for us poor service + mediocre food = we won’t be back.
UPDATE, April 4, 2012: Roy Oh, owner and chef of Anju Restaurant emailed to apologize and offer a free meal on our next trip to Calgary. Although I appreciate the gesture and his personal reply, I am not sure if we would take him up on it on our next visit to Calgary. Although I understand his view point, I don't whole heartedly agree with some of his comments in his email.
Firstly, I wasn't expecting perfection or 100% satisfaction at his restaurant, nor is it realistic to expect that of any restaurant for that matter. Secondly, restaurants make mistakes, but they are by no means "inevitable", as he puts it. Restaurants that are well prepared for the volume of business they are expecting, and who have staff who are well trained, will not inevitably make mistakes. Inevitable means that you are "certain to make mistakes". Yes, mistakes do happen, and I can forgive mistakes, but some things are not mistakes. A mistake, for example, was the crispy tofu taking longer than expected because the server didn't put in the ticket right away.
What was not a mistake, however, was how evident it was that our server had no desire to come over to our table. Am I speculating? Yes, you can certainly argue that. However, watching her glance over at our table repeatedly, but ignore my initial attempts to get her attention by making direct eye contact, then having my humans wave their arms at her, and still not manage to get her to come over.... well, you would think one of the two other servers we saw would notice and tell her...
What also would be considered, not an inevitable mistake, but rather negligence is how our water glasses were not filled. We ordered gochujang wings, which by are hot. Generally when you serve spicy food, diners find that water is desirable. You might forget to fill someone's water glass once, maybe twice, but when you make four separate trips to a table to deliver food and never once ask/offer/fill... Had the server noticed at some point they hadn't been attentive enough by providing us water or other beverages and apologized, I would've classified that as a mistake or an oversight, but no recognition on her part was made. She was blissfully unaware that she wasn't fulfilling what I would consider a basic duty of a server.
Thirdly, does an 80% "like" rate on Urbanspoon or 4.5 stars on Yelp actually mean that it's a testament that a restaurant is good? We have dined at restaurants with similar ratings on Urbanspoon and Yelp and have received equally poor service. The rating is only a reflection of how diners who had the desire or were willing to spend the time to log onto Urbanspoon or Yelp to click a "like" button, or submit a review felt. Although I was advised by a friend on Twitter to speak with Roy Oh prior to leaving, I'm sure that like me, many diners are so frustrated by the end of a bad dining experience that they just want to get out and move on with their evening.
The long and short of it is I really have no issue with the food, my issue lies mainly with the lack of customer experience provided by the server that evening. I don't want to sound ungrateful for his apology, because I'm not, I'm very grateful he took the time to recognize and try to rectify an unsatisfied diner. However, it's not the first time this type of experience has happened to Moo. My advice is that it's often better if restaurants simply apologize to the diner without trying to justify how or why a mistake might have occurred and how good they really are.
507 10 Street SW