I just had my second bad experience at what was — up until now — my favorite Thai restaurant in DC. Nava Thai in Wheaton has some of the consistently best tasting pad thai around. As a Seattle-ite, having a go-to Thai place in whatever city I’m in (New Delhi included) has always been a must.
Last time I was there, I ordered the pad see ew only to be served pad thai. I didn’t mind, since I like the latter, but I let the wait staff know. They apologized, but I kept my order and paid for it.
This time, I decided to give the pad see ew another go. It arrived 20 minutes after I ordered it (during lunch hour!) burnt. The tofu, noodle, and vegetable pieces were literally charred. I bit into them and tasted a smokiness that I am sure was unintentional.
After several attempts at flagging down a waiter, the hostess came by and I explained what was wrong. The waitress arrived, too, and promptly took the dish. (I have a feeling she knew it was burnt, and the dish was smothered in extra sauce as an attempt to hide this fact.)
I declined another one, since my husband had to get back to work, and asked for spring rolls to munch on. I was charged for them, and paid. I suppose a mom-and-pop can’t afford to offer up a free dish.
But I got no apology this time, and as I munched on my oily spring rolls, I decided I was done with Nava Thai. I really do like the restaurant for its food and ambiance. But service matters.
When I pay $15-20 to eat out, I expect decent service. The food is important, but I am a good enough cook to know that good food alone isn’t enough to rationalize that cost.
I don’t want to be a snobby diner, and I try consistently to check myself when I am getting irked by small mistakes. Everyone makes them and everyone deserves a break.
But after reading Bruce Buschel’s 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do in the New York Times, I have realized that wait staff are there to make you feel waited on. And if they don’t, you have every right never to return.