Friday, February 5, 2010

Disappointed by the service at Kyotofu

This past Tuesday, Mom got out of work early, so we arranged to meet up for food and drink at Kyotofu. Now, I've written about how much I enjoy Kyotofu's soft serve; I've had their plated desserts once or twice before as well, but I hadn't been back recently for the dine-in experience. Well, turns out I wasn't missing much... at least experience-wise.

I arrived before Mom did and asked for a party of two in the dining room, which is shaped vaguely like a spaceship and is tucked behind the kitchen and take-out area. The waiter showed me to a table in the corner, separating a four-person setup into two two-person tables, one of which was for me. There was maybe one other occupied table in the room; the rest was empty. Seems reasonable, no?

Well, after I had settled in and removed my eighteen layers of outer garments, the same waiter came in and told me that table was reserved, so could I move to THAT table (points across the room to the opposite corner, which looks pretty much 100% identical to my table, only across the room). I actually laughed. Sure, I'll move, what the hell. So I started the rather laborious process of gathering my things, during which the party of two who had "reserved" my table told the waiter they didn't care and would sit in the other corner. So I was ALLOWED to keep the table. Woohoo.

That pretty much set the tone for the service that evening. Mom arrived and after a delay we were able to place our orders. I asked for a pot of genmai matcha green tea, which came in a beautiful setup, albeit with no place to put the basket of used leaves once I pulled them out of the tea to stop the steeping. Oh, and I was about two cups in before my requested sweetener arrived.

All very delicate

Mom's food finally arrived after I'd consumed nearly all of the tea. Kyotofu's savory menu is a bit confusing-- it's hard to tell how big the portions are, so it's difficult to judge how much food to order. Insider tip: they're small, get a lot. Mom went with three choices, and that was right for her. The first, chamame, was enjoyed; when the diners at another table asked the waiter what made it different from regular edamame, our waiter said "it's the same." Way to sell it, brother! Regardless, Mom claimed there was an interesting flavor-- not just regular salt-- atop the beans. Some sort of cheese? Who knows?

Beans in a bowl

She also ordered the warm Japanese mushroom salad. She liked this quite a bit as well, noting that I would probably like it too. I do like my salads, so I trust her judgment on this.

Greens 'n' fungi

Her final choice was the house-cured snapper nigiri. She took one bite and noted that she had expected the dish to have much more flavor. Too bad. From the other waiter roaming the room, I requested some soy sauce, which mercifully arrived quite promptly. I think the soy sauce rescued the dish to some extent.

Flavorless, but pretty

While Mom packed away her "real" food, I went straight for the dessert. Intending to get the soft serve sundae, I inquired as to what the soft serve flavors were that week and was told that the soft serve machine was out of commission. Wah-wahhhhh. On to plan B. I ordered the sorbet sampler, which I requested with one scoop of white peach and an extra scoop of coconut rather than the mandarin orange that completed the trio. The white peach was rather astringent, but the coconut sorbet was sublime-- preternaturally creamy with a texture like velvet and the strong and pure taste of coconut. There were three mini cookies on the side; two chocolate chip, which were forgettable, and one of an unidentified nature studded with what looked like white chocolate chips, which was actually quite good.

Strangely hypnotizing

At this point, dinner finished, my mom naturally wanted dessert. It took a good ten minutes or so for her to track down our waiter to request the dessert menu; a hasty order was delivered, and we eagerly awaited the conclusion of our meal. And a-waited. A solid half hour passed before she finally asked our server once again where the dessert might be. He said that the kitchen was "baking" the chocolate cake, so it takes a longer time. Uhhh, sure. Well, a few minutes later the cake emerged-- perfectly room temperature, of course (so maybe they had baked it and then the exorbitant wait was simply the time while it was cooling to room temp? Riiiight). No matter. What's important is that the cake was delicious. My mom particularly swooned over the pool of caramel in which it sat, and I took care of the dollops of "cream" on top-- I swear it was a dead ringer for the middle layer of an Oreo. Truly well done.

Worth the wait. Sort of.

We had wisely requested the check when the dessert arrived, and it came promptly, along with two heavenly finishing bites of complimentary mini chocolate souffles. Mmmm.

Final bites

As soon as our last bites were dispatched, we shipped out of there. I must say, while the food was quite good overall, I was pretty disappointed with the overall experience of Kyotofu. The service was bumbling and awkward, with terrible pacing and long stretches of inattentiveness. And have I mentioned that there are only about eight tables in the entire restaurant? Perhaps they simply need another server or two to staff the dining room. Let me be clear-- the food is good, but it's expensive, and for those prices, the service needs to be there as well. So the question is, would I return? I'll definitely be back for the soymilk soft serve when the machine is back in action, but I'll think twice before paying the price for the dining room. I guess that means Kytofu ends up on the wrong side of the two/three Offset Spatula divide.

705 Ninth Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets

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