In my thirteen years of living in Los Angeles and often dining out, I’ve noticed that many restaurants are completely unreliable when it comes to consistently good food and/or customer service.
I actually used to have a rule where I’d immediately terminate my “relationship” with an establishment if one significant thing (to the common patron/consumer) was not protocol. However, I’ve learned that more times than not, bad or unpleasant incidents tend to be isolated. So, I’ve decided to go against my consistent better judgment in an attempt to offer second, third, and, yes, even 40 chances to those restaurants where I decide to visit.
For instance, until last week, I’d often dined at Mexicali in Studio City based on a couple previously positive experiences many years ago. (FYI, this restaurant is responsible for inspiring this article and sealing the deal on the launch of this blog.) Each time I would visit Mexicali, I’d notice that one more thing would be wrong with either my ordered items, the taste or temperature of the food, the customer service, the utensils, the drinks – you name it!
This once reliable place for great food, stellar drinks, fun ambience, and perfect customer service has turned into everything BUT what they used to be. My most recent visit was an absolute nightmare. And I believe I had that coming since I wanted to offer them chance after chance based on what they used to be.
This particular visit started with a ten-minute wait for our glasses water. You’re thinking, “Ay, it happens. It’s only the water.” Good point. Then we encountered another ten-minute wait for our waiter to take our order. (When I say “we,” I’m referring to a party of two.) While waiting twenty minutes for our food, we noticed ALL of our utensils were dirty. As we looked around for someone to replace our silverware, we not only noticed the many tables that hadn’t been bussed, but the only other two parties seated in our area were looking for their waiter(s) too. Poor folks were sitting so long with their menus, they were obviously ready to order but didn’t even get their water yet. They were probably very parched. (By the way, there were probably 20-25 people in this restaurant; Not the usual 50 – 100 people.)
So, our food was delivered by what felt like a good samaritan. It wasn’t our waiter who delivered our food – which is often the case, but I still can’t recall whether it was a man, woman, or some type of God that planted our food on the table and quickly vanished like a magical puffy cloud of goodness.
Anyway, we were so hungry, we decided to pour our water (lucky us) on our napkins and clean our own utensils so we could eat the food while it was hot… or so we thought. (Had we actually taken time to find our waiter – or anyone on staff for that matter – and give him/her our silverware, who knows how long it would’ve been before we got to eat our food with fresh, clean utensils?)
The presentation of the food wasn’t the most appetizing, but I’ve been in this situation before and ended up pleasantly surprised. Our first bite was unbelievably appalling. The rice was not only cold and bland, but hard! It was almost of raw consistency. I don’t know about you, but, cold or hot, I don’t like my rice al dente.
The beans, too, were cold and watery. They tasted like how I always imagined paper mache would taste. For this reason, I wished I’d actually sampled some paper mache in eighth grade when I had the opportunity. And to sum up my “kobe beef soft tacos” in one acronym… WTF?!
And our waiter? He showed up to deliver the check about a half hour after we received our food. No water or beverage refills in the interim. No checking on us. No removing our obviously “finished-with” dinnerware. No “waiting.” And, we never did get fresh napkins or water to replace what we had to use to clean our own utensils.
Normally, I would express my problem to a manager, but I was honestly at a point where I felt somewhat responsible for my bad experience. After all, I continued to return to this restaurant after it was made obvious to me over the course of all my visits that this ship was slowly sinking. (Though, in defense of myself, a legitimate friend or acquaintance would occasionally mention their “good experience” with Mexicali, so that encouraged me to keep an open mind.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, that, indeed, was my last meal at Mexicali. I have decided after five years and more than 40 visits to NEVER return nor recommend this restaurant under ANY circumstances. Most importantly, I have decided to not patronize any business after being dissatisfied more than once.
However, I would like to recommend my 10 favorite Los Angeles area restaurants (and their notable dishes), which I believe you will thoroughly enjoy (customer service and all):
10. Don Cuco’s (In addition to great salsa and chips, their margaritas are amazing!)
9. Sushi Katsu-Ya (Their seared albacore with crispy onion is “magically delicious!”)
8. RFD (You can’t go wrong with their TV Dinner!)
7. Aroma (Best salmon salad you’ll ever have!)
6. Yen (Their Green Train Roll is to die for!)
5. Grand Lux Café (Best tomato basil soup I’ve ever tasted.)
Katana (Any of their kabobs are unforgettably satisfying!)
3. La Serenata De Garibaldi (Wonderful cocktails and great appetizers!)
2. Koi (Their baked black cod literally melts in your mouth!)
1. Dolce (The best scallop scampi and NY strip I’ve EVER tasted!)