This was not my family's 1st trip back to Vietnam Restaurant post-renovation. We have been twice before but it was very soon after they reopened and we have waited, giving them some time to work out (what we thought were) kinks before we returned. We were never “regulars” at the old location but it was one of those "neighborhood places" that was here before The Heights was such a popular destination.
On this last trip, the whole night started with nonsense. Our friends, frequent dining partners of ours, arrived first. We would have 5 adults, 2 toddlers and a baby. The baby would not require a seat, so they told the hostess “5 adults and 2 high chairs.” She escorted them to a round table set for 5 and said “We will just cram the highchairs in.” This wasn’t going to work regardless of the baby, because our toddlers are older and require a full place setting like an adult. We just like them in highchairs to keep their craziness strapped in. So, they told her we would need a bigger table and that there would also be a baby. She said “Yes, I know. Five adults and 2 babies.” No, 5 adults, 2 toddlers and a baby. We would need more room. She gave them a lot of push back and made the situation very awkward. She finally acquiesced but only after asking our friends “Well, how long will you be here?” After 10+ years in the restaurant business, I can tell you that is one of the rudest questions a table of customers can ever be asked.
The new interior of an old favorite
But they got the table and sat. One of the reasons we eat with them often is because they brought beers and a bottle of wine. Well, we like their company, but still they are always good for vino! Seeing the bottles, the hostess (who might also be a manager) says “Let me ask you another question…” and follows with inquiries about if they are going to buy drinks or pay the corkage fee. Now, the corkage fee is only $1.50, best deal in town, but they said they would have water (which you have to buy at $1/bottle. This is nothing new, but I always thought it was straaaange). Hostess/manager lady then proceeds to lecture them on how the whole table had to buy drinks if they wanted to avoid the corkage fee- not just them. Every.person.at.the.table. Including the kids. So they said fine, everyone or we’ll pay for the bottle opener. Then they ordered their mandatory-or-pay-the-fee-drinks and asked for milk for their daughter. One of the strangest drink ordering conversations ever got so much stranger when she said that “Well, all I have is my personal milk. “ Um, what? They got her lemonade instead.
By the time we got arrived, all this had already gone down and they were just shaking their heads and drinking beers. We got a good chuckle out of the table story and thought the worst was behind us. Until our waitress arrived. Now, remember I said that this wasn’t our 1st time back? Well, service was a big issue on our last two trips but they obviously had new servers after the re-do so we were understanding. After this dinner, I think you might have to fail an IQ test to work there. Our friends were having beers while they waited for us, but also brought a bottle of wine. Hubby and I also brought a bottle of wine, prompting our waitress to ask how many wineglasses. We said 4 (ones of the adults was not of drinking age). She stared at the table for 10 seconds that felt like 10 minutes trying to figure this out. We told her we would all be having wine and she literally could not compute that the beer drinkers would also have wine. At this point I was not yet aware of the milk comment and ordered milk for my son. She didn’t say anything and he got a cup of it, but we all had a good laugh wondering whose it was.
It’s hard to explain with words how dim the waitress is. She looked confused with every order. We wanted spring rolls for the table. She was confused. We had questions about the menu. She was confused. The kids were going to split an entrée. She was confused.
But the food came and we did get to eat, despite all the drama.
We started with Spring rolls and Imperial Rolls. They were all good, although the Imperial Rolls were a little on the small side compared to other places we eat (Vietopia, Miss Saigon). Pretty standard and good finger foods for the kiddos, although the sauces were too spicy for the little ones to share.
Imperial Roll fixins and the wee rolls themselves
We ordered several entrees for the table to share (which also seemed to confuse the waitress even though I think this is pretty typical).
Basic. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to write home about.
Fried rice was the usual and not-so-orangy Orange Chicken
Sweet and Sour Shrimp:
My husband ordered this after he was told he couldn’t order some dish he used to love off the menu. Oh well...
While the S&S sauce was pretty standard, it was a little too heavy (maybe "thick" is a better word?) for shrimp. It was acceptable, but again not really “good.”
Just more "average" when it came to Sweet&Sour Shrimp
Black Pepper Chicken:
This was the biggest disappointment. As the person who ordered it said “I keep eating it, but it’s not great.” It was very bland. There was no real sauce to speak of and, even though you could see flecks of pepper and spices on the chicken, it tasted more like friend chicken strips with no flavor in the breading.
Chicken with Egg Noodles:
This isn’t the exact name of this dish, but it is under the “Noodle” section on the menu. This order once again confused our waitress- we ordered this for the 2 toddlers to share. We had to tell her 3 times, in 3 different ways, that this dish was for them. To share. Odd, I tell ya.
Yummy noodles covered with veg and sauce. "Toddlers' Delight" should be the new name :)
So, as I reread my comments above, I see that the food wasn’t bad, just not great. So, why did I leave so disappointed? The service has certainly been questionable in the new space and I feel the real loss after the renovation has been the atmosphere. It’s all new waitstaff and they just seem clueless. I don’t know if it’s bad hiring or bad training, but it’s just bad. Their attempt at fancy leaves the restaurant so unwelcoming and patrons no longer get warm’n’fuzzy feeling that comes with eating an old school, divey, neighborhood joint. Even the new hostess stand seems so close to the door that I feel like it keeps me out instead of welcoming me in.
Plastic covered chair. My Italian grandmother would be proud!