Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ripped off at Room Service

This evening, walking home from the bakery, I passed a new restaurant on 9th Ave between 47th and 48th streets. Called Room Service, it was Thai, like every other restaurant on 9th Ave, and it looked cool. So when the bro and I were searching for a dinner destination, we headed straight there.

I'll be upfront with the primary positive of dining at RS: the space is cool. Very cool. It's modern and baroque at the same time: The chairs are metal wire covered with black pads; there's a collection of different shaped mirrors on the ceiling; and the center of the room is occupied by a giant chandelier. The bathroom was gorgeous and dominated by an enormous framed mirror leaning up against one wall. Even the food presentation and the accompanying tableware were really cool. You'll never be bored eating there, that's for sure-- there's always something interesting to look at.

Unfortunately, the food isn't quite as cool. The bro and I both agonized over our food selections, as there were many items on the menu that appealed to both of us. After much thought, he went with an appetizer sampler, ordering the chicken satay, the coconut calamari tempura, and the assorted golden fritters. The satay arrived first and was definitely the winner of all of them-- it was beautiful and very tasty, he reported. The assorted golden fritters were merely "meh"; while some were good, some weren't. And the calamari was simply awful: not only did it not taste of coconut, but it was so over-fried that the entire dish was desiccated. The bro tried one or two bites of it and left the remainder in the bowl.

Vertical satay

Fritters. In one half of the bowl.

Brittle and dry... but was once calamari

My own selection was the spicy Thai basil saute with vegetables and tofu. It was okay; not incredibly flavorful but not awful. Bizarrely, it got cold rather quickly. The accompanying sticky white rice was probably better than the main dish-- very coolly presented and delicious, especially when doused with soy sauce from the amazingly awesome bottle the bro requested.

Stealthily expensive...

Mod rice

Throughout the meal, service was incredibly, claustrophobically attentive. We were asked whether our meal was okay by three or four separate waiters (I lost count); one waitress attempted to take away one of our plates two times while we were still not done with it. This is clearly a function of the restaurant being new, but.... still. At a certain point, you've gotta let us eat in peace.

In any case, all this would lead me to waffle between granting two and three Offset Spatulas. But wait-- Room Service decided it for me. When the bill arrived, my dish was a dollar extra than it had been on the menu. When I asked the waiters about the charge, they informed me that the extra charge was because I had asked for tofu AND vegetables-- tofu is $1 extra. One of the waiters went to retrieve the menu to "clear things up." Well, nowhere on the menu did it disclose the extra charge; in the "Vegetarian dishes" corner, it stated that all dishes could be made "with assorted tofu and a variety of vegetables upon request." Silly me, I took that to mean that dishes could have veggies and tofu for the stated vegetarian price. Apparently not. I told the waiter that that was misleading and I wouldn't have ordered the tofu if I had known it was going to be a dollar more. He said something to the effect of "wow, thanks for informing me," and then did nothing. So I paid my extra dollar and we left.

And that, dear readers, is how we went from a potential three-OSer with a probable return visit due to the cool atmosphere to a never-again two-OS place, far down my priority list of Thai places on 9th. Too bad, too, because the space itself has such promise.

Room Service
9th Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets

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