Monday, September 27, 2010

The elephant in the corner...

This Saturday night, my wife and I went to the Elephant Bar, which is a restaurant near the West County mall.  This restaurant has food that is inspired by the co-owner's trips around the world and his time in a kitchen in Hong Kong.  Basically, everything is pan-Asian inspired.  They want everyone there to have an enjoyable dining experience, with a jungle/safari atmosphere and just a relaxing and casual experience. 

Well, I have had my doubts on this dining location, especially since it is located behind a large parking garage and the 40 spots that are in front of it are always taken.  My wife called ahead a reservation for myself, her and our two kids for 7:00pm and we walked a bit in the mall.  We had come out at just 5 minutes till, found a nice and close spot to the restaurant's doors and walked inside.  My wife told the hostess that she had made reservations for the 4 of us for 7:00 and she told us 'just one moment' and handed us one of those coasters that lights up when it is your turn for seating.  Well, we waited and waited and figured out that when you call for reservations, it doesn't actually save a table for you, but just puts your name on the list.  I also saw a few booths that were clearly available, but no one was seating anyone in those spots.

I will admit that they finally got to us about 8 minutes after our supposed reservation time, sat us at a booth that I had seen empty since we walked through the doors, and completely ignored us every time we went up to the hostesses, but they did get a server with us, almost immediately.  The thing about the menu is that it is supposed to reflect the travels that this main executive chef had taken throughout the world.  These travels meant eating things like bland food and overly salty sides.  If this was the case, I would hate to travel where this chef went to. 

Is that a harsh thing to say about a chef and his restaurant?  Yes, but it is also the truth.  There is no way around it.  I thought the food was about as good as the food at MacDonald's.  For the same price, we could have gone to the Cheesecake Factory and had incredible service, food and a great dining experience, even with the kids!

My wife and I were hungry, but also thought that ordering a larger dish and each of us having a side would be good.  So, we ordered the Kona BBQ Pork Ribs.  We had a choice of white or brown rice and we picked brown.  We ordered a half rack and this is what came:
Um, if you look on their website at the great picture:, and click on the Global Grill, their picture of the same dish had different items, like french fries, for instance.  Now, let's get right in. The BBQ ribs were okay, it tasted like your usual store-bought sauce, as they were tender enough to fall off the bone also.  We had a scoop of coleslaw, which tasted like your general coleslaw.  There was a skewer of grilled shrimp that tasted fishy, even to her, which meant they were not fresh at all.  The BBQ chicken breast was tough.  It was good and cooked fine on the thinner side, as it was a half a breast, but the other side was hard on the bottom, so it was not cooked evenly.  The brown rice that we asked for was in fact arborio rice and it was vastly under cooked.  It was not hard and crunchy but hard and chewy, like gum or a gummy bear that was stored in the refrigerator. The biggest thing that didn't fit on the plate was the small cup of brown beans, just like your basic pork n' beans.  However, these had no pork in them and instead tasted like they were cooked in the Taco Bell hot sauce packets, then someone sprinkled some cheese on top.  Besides this, the plate was $16.95!  I give the plate a sad 2 out of 5 stars.

How could this have been fixed?  Well, it was supposed to be inspired by something. Most of the time, anything with the word 'Kona' in the title is supposed to have something to do with Hawaii.  I find it hard to believe that the food in Hawaii is served like this.  The boring Southern style cole slaw, Mexican inspired beans, and undercooked Italian rice.  Nothing went together on this plate at all.  I think before they fix the plate, they should have decided what culture or cuisine were they trying to copy or play with.

My wife and I each ordered a small side to go with our main dish.  My wife ordered a pear salad.

I ordered the Fresh Sauteed Spinach and it was good.  It had just the right amount of cheese and spices on top and I actually ate the whole thing and was happy.  A 3 out of 5 for me, chef.  It was just your basic cooked spinach, still crunchy but still tender.

The kids got a great deal as we ordered a chicken quesadilla for one and the other got the hamburger.  I can honestly say, that my son's burger was tastier that my grill platter.  The bun was brushed with butter and grilled with a bit of garlic on top: perhaps even with Whirl. The burger was as thin as a MacDonald's burger and it came with some simple french fries.  I ended up eating most of my son's burger, as he was not that hungry anyway.  His burger was a good 3 out of 5, it really was.

What did I learn from this?  Well, the higher the food prices, does not relate to how good the food is.  So, it was possible that the $39 that we spent on the four of us, did not deliver to us $39 worth of flavor and tastiness.  Now, one of my biggest issues was this:  Our server handed me the bill, at $39.06.  I didn't have enough small cash to give her the standard tip we do, which is about 18%.  So, I gave her $50 and asked for change back.  So, math people, work with me here: If I give you $50 and the bill is $39.06, how much should be delivered back to me?  Say about $10.94 right?  Guess how much she gave back to me?  $10 in ones.  That's right, she did not give me back the 94 cents.  Why?  I don't know, but I found it unsettling that instead of giving me back the full amount that was not on the bill, she kept the 94 cents.  Now, was it an accident?  Maybe, but she should have noticed it when were leaving the table and she took the money.  She could have remembered, 'oh, there are no coins, what happened, oh, I didn't give him the change!' Instead, I gave her just her a tip and even so, I counted that 94 cents which she already took, as part of her tip. Moral of the story, don't steal from the customer.  I had a feeling that she was actually going to expect that I tip her another 15%, from $40 or even from $39 which would have meant that she received $5.85 as she already pocketed the 94 cents.  The total would have been $6.79, which was likely closer to a 17% tip. I don't play that way and in this case, her % tip did count the 94 cents she stole.  So, did she get less than she may have expected?  Yes, because I didn't see that money. 

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