[SFBA] What restaurants won't you go back to, and why?

@felice mentioned a long time ago that there were too few critical reviews here. I am guessing people may be less inclined to conjure up the energy to write about a meh meal unless its infuriatingly bad, or if someone already have a thread about the restaurant, or if a restaurant merely aspires to be average then criticism of them being who they want to be seems out of place . So I am starting this thread to collect feedback on never again experiences, with the view that a collective body of such experiences can help us spend our dining dollars better. Let’s be specific and fair in our comments.

I will start.

Kotetsu in Santa Clara. Ramen joint. Crowded often. Had a tonkotsu this weekend. Pretty one dimensional in flavor and mostly tasted of salt. Yes its different noodles, but given the great Tay Ho is right next door and cheaper by a few $ for each bowl of noodle, and bigger portion, I see little reason to go back, unless one really really wants ramen right there and then.

To stir the pot a little, I will offer up a quite popular restaurant: A Cote in Oakland. First visit, we ordered cassoulet and a few other dishes. Cassoulet arrived and the beans were undercooked. Talked to the server, sent back the dish. The response from the kitchen was that it happens occasionally depending on the batch of beans. They can’t replace it because all the beans were cooked in the same batch and would have had the same problem. Okay, I understand, it happens sometimes, we will order something else. Maybe the kitchen didn’t check the doneness of the beans but now they know. Nothing up to this point would have led me to write off this restaurant.

20 minutes later, I see our server bring out another cassoulet to a different table, and several other portions went to other tables. Whhhhat! The kitchen knows the beans are undercooked, the waiter knows they are undercooked, and the cassoulet still made it out onto the table.

La Note in Berkeley. I attended a retirement lunch there some years ago. I ate half of my Nicoise salad including several olives. I left the pits on the side of the plate. When the server boxed the rest of my salad they dumped the pits in with it. Of course, I bit down on one of them and cracked a tooth. I left a message with my complaint and never heard back from them. Never again.

That is incredibly sloppy packaging of leftovers by the waitstaff.

But generally, if no dish is provided to dispose of
olive pits or cherry pits, they are placed under the edge of the plate,

  • re A Cote: Thanks for this, I was beginning to think we were the only people who weren’t impressed by this place. We’ve gone 4x with other people but just never been impressed by 90% of the food.
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Oh, the list of places we won’t go back to is long, indeed. LOL!

Off the top of my head:

  • Madrona Manor. Pretentious service, especially the fake coffee cart that went banging through the DR hitting chair legs (the DRs are very small at MM). And really, you expect us to be impressed by nitro-freezing vanilla ice cream tableside? Please. There were a couple of good courses in our meal, but overall a disappointment for the price and the hoopla about this place (Bauer loves it, but there’s a reason why I don’t agree with most of his reviews). You could go to Farmhouse Inn twice over for what MM costs, or go to Willow Wood 4x. And the food is better, as well as the service, at both.

  • Commis. Same as Madrona. My lord, the service is obnoxious! Heaven forbid one should want to talk to one’s dining companions, even about an unexpected romantic engagement announcement. No, we should all just shut up and worship at the feet of a chef’s oversized ego. Don’t even get me started on the inedible fat cap on the tenderloin slices, or the godawful licorice-y anise-flavored sweet dark chocolate dessert. Blech. And yes, I’ve eaten at Syhabout’s other restaurants and been equally non-impressed.

  • Anything by Michael Mina. I really hate that it’s come to this. I remember when Mina was actually cooking in the kitchen, becoming famous at Aqua for his exquisite cooking. Not a fan of the lobster pot pie but his sea bass in broth was ephemeral, one of those dishes you carry in your memory forever. It rivaled La Bourgogne’s (real) Dover Sole in champagne sauce, IMHO. But now? He’s a corporate hack collecting his $$$$ while bar food-level chefs cook in his restaurants. There’s enough salt used in his 20+ chain places that you could turn Lake Tahoe in a giant pasta boiling pot.

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Ichi Sushi

Odd service, limited menu, cramped generic space and I felt like I was treated like an idiot. When I asked how much the omakase was the server explained WHAT an omakase was – I said, yes I know what it is, but how much is it, to which she said well you just eat until you are full? The open check book omakase I guess. Nigiri is priced per single piece and the server repeatedly stressed that they don’t serve soy with the nigiri because they are perfect as is. Which is fine, I don’t generally use it anyway on nigiri, but at least wait to see if I actually ask for soy for my nigiri before lecturing me about it. And for the per piece price I am paying by the way I’ll dip it in ketchup if I want to. Rolls were pedestrian, mostly vegetarian – but they do serve soy with these? Why not use the same care in rolls as the nigiri? Sashimi was very limited and nothing special.

Nigiri was good, however, but not worth the price of admission.

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Hell to the yeah. :fu:

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[quote=“brisket44, post:8, topic:9133”]
Ichi Sushi
[/quote]Is this the place in Pasadena, CA?

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San Francisco.

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Gracias Madre. The server we had couldn’t describe any of the food, and what we did get was drowned under flavorless and runny cashew creme. In a dark interior with uncomfortable seats. Never again.

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La Palma Mexicatessen in the Mission. We were on our way home from SFO and had to make a stop in the Mission and were in the mood for Taco’s. This place is very highly rated on Yelp. Everything we ordered was bland and mediocre. The guacamole was bland and off balance. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a less satisfying version. We got Carnitas tacos. Should be a no brainer. How can anyone mess up carnitas? They managed. Carnitas was strangely greasy and dry at the same time and completely flavorless. It was the worst Mexican food I remember eating in along time. Dreadful, greasy bland. But the hipster crowd that filled the place seemed to love it. I should know better by now than to trust Yelp, but sadly reliable food sites like CH and HO are kind of dead these days.

I have to agree with you that their meats are lackluster— La Palma’s strengths, and they are big strengths, are in their freshly made masa items (huaraches, pupusas, hand made tortillas).

La Palma is my eternal source for tortillas and homemade toppings for tacos, but id love to learn of better Mexican places in SF that sell meats by the pound.

La Palma has a “hipster crowd”? I’ve never experienced that. I don’t buy their meat, so IDK about that. But their strengths are many-- tortilla chips, guac, tortillas, homemade potato chips, the best refried beans on the mf-ing planet!

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Yea, La Palma isn’t the place to go for tacos. Try again when you are looking for masa or tortillas or salsa or expensive, but delicious, chips.

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Sorry you had a bad experience at La Palma. I’ve enjoyed food from although I don’t think I’ve ever had the guacamole by itself. I like their chicharrones (hard to go wrong with deep fried pork rinds), and they also have a big Sonoran taco made with one of their flour tortillas there that I like as well. And as mentioned above their masa and tortillas are very good. Maybe it was an off day?

Their pupusas are also quite good. We also like their chile relleno (the meat version) and their chile verde

I just bought a pound of their carnitas and two pounds of masa for tortillas. I have never had anything like tacos or burritos there; for me they are a grocery store for meals at home. The carnitas are really deeply roasted; I reheat in the microwave, not in a skillet, and eat with a fork and knife (and salsa or mole). As others have said, their tortillas are really good. The chile verde is a decent rendition, perhaps a bit too salty.

We had chicharones tacos as well. They were bland- kind of like pieces of plastic. Everything we ate was inexcusably mediocre, I am guessing freshness may have been an issue. Off day or not, the food was so profoundly unenjoyable I will never venture back.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold