Lunch at Noi – good food spoiled by bad service
I recently went out to lunch at Ristorante Noi (Shop 21, 60 Royal St East Perth) with my workmates, to farewell L, who’s left to take on a new job.
The food was pretty good, but I don’t recommend nor plan to return to Noi. I’ll explain why, but let me start with the food first.
We shared a couple of serves of Italian bread with reduced balsamic vinegar and Talbot grove olive oil (AU$5.00). I don’t care very much for vinegar or olive oil as dips for bread, but I liked the crusty fresh bread, which tasted very sour dough-ish.
Three of our group ordered the chilli fried calamari with roast capsicum aioli and salad (AU$24.00).
J enjoyed her tortellini duo with mushroom, bacon and cream sauce, topped with a little shaved parmesan (AU$24.00).
C’s roasted vegetable and ricotta frittata with artichoke and pine nut salad (AU$18.00) which was more like an omelette, was topped (or maybe hidden?) with lots of green salad. Not so sure about “roasted vegetables” in the frittata – it seemed to be mostly peas and broccoli in the frittata. C said the salad was the best part of the dish, and the frittata itself very ordinary.
This was the fish special of the day (AU$33.00) – there’s a bit of a story behind this one, not all good. I’ll elaborate further down in this post.
This was my chosen dish – grilled marinated chicken thigh on avocado, tomato and warm haloumi salad (AU$26.00). The salad was fresh and the grilled haloumi chewy and delicious. The chicken was juicy and succulent, flavoured with rosemary and a fantastic charry smell and taste. This dish was huge – there were four whole boneless skinless chicken thighs, yes – FOUR – in this dish. Regular readers will know how much I love chicken – but even I found this to be a chicken overdose. It was a little over the top for a lunch dish, I thought – they could’ve served two chicken thighs, charged less, and it would have been a great dish.
And now, the problems. I don’t like writing negative reviews, but I could not post the photos and not tell you about our experience. This is why this post is a little late and out of date sync; it always takes me a little longer to write these sorts of posts.
From the time we ordered, the food took almost an hour to arrive.
Yes, an hour. Unacceptable, especially at lunch time. There was no communication or eye contact with our table while we waited and grew more bemused and impatient. If the food hadn’t taken so long, we wouldn’t have been so ravenous and in such a hurry to get back to work – we wolfed our food down and left straight afterwards. The food arrived at 1:40pm,and we had all finished eating by 2pm. We’d been hungry and ready to eat when we arrived at 12:30pm. A few of us had been eyeing off the desserts on display – a cake covered with icing and what looked like chocolate balls (maybe Maltesers?), but there was simply no time to stick around for dessert.
The fish special was handled very badly. We were originally told that the fish special was grilled crispy skin salmon with asparagus, fennel salad and a spicy capsicum and tomato mix (I think they called this “peperoncino”). Three of our group liked the sound of the special, and ordered it. After our order was placed, our waiter returned to say that they were out of salmon, would the people who ordered the fish care to have the substitute fish, blue chin groper? Two out of the three chose to go with the groper, the third person switched to calamari. Not a big deal, we understand a restaurant can run out of items from time to time. When the meals came out, there was no asparagus. The two people with the fish asked about the missing asparagus. The waiter said she’d get the asparagus right away. She had not returned by the time they were halfway through their meals and wondering if they’d get the asparagus while they still had food left on their plates. Eventually, the waiter returned to say that the asparagus was not coming, because they had run out of asparagus.
So here’s the situation. You have a blackboard special and you soon run out of two of its major, named components. What should you do? You should change the special, that’s what you should do! The whole time we were there, the special written up on the board was not changed. Perhaps the waiter had not known they were out of the original fish and the asparagus when we placed our orders – if the kitchen doesn’t tell the waiters, they wouldn’t have any way of knowing. But a good waiter would’ve noticed there was no asparagus on the dish when she looked at the plates to take them out, and would’ve queried this with the kitchen right away. I worked in hospitality for years as I did my undergraduate degree, and that’s what I would’ve done. But then, a good chef would’ve communicated with the wait staff right away if they ran out of a major component of a special – e.g. “We’re out of x for the special… we’re substituting with y, change the special on the board” (“y” could be something else, or just more of something that was already part of the plate) or “We’re out of y – just take it off the board completely”. You don’t just run plates out and hope the customer won’t notice. If a dish has asparagus named as one of its components, the person who’s ordered it probably likes asparagus and will notice if it’s not there.
The fish itself was very tender and delicious – I tried some of L’s – As much as I love crispy skinned fish, I much prefer a white fish like groper than salmon.
The calamari has a story too – as the waiter took our orders, R had asked how spicy the chilli calamari was. She loves calamari, but is not so keen on a lot of chilli. The waiter told her the chef crumbs the calamari to order, so he could do hers as mild as she liked, or with no chilli at all, if she preferred. R asked for mild chilli. When the food came out, one out of the three calamari dishes was brought out on its own- “I ordered my calamari mild – is that the mild one?” R asked. The waiter did not know, but placed it in front of her and said she would find out. After a few minutes, she came back and said, quite unconvincingly, “You’re all right, love” (meaning that it was indeed the mild dish). When the other two calamari dishes appeared, we did a visual comparison, and couldn’t tell the difference – the dishes appeared to have the same amount of chilli on the calamari. R found it quite hot – we’re not convinced that hers was any milder than the other calamari dishes – seriously, the amount of chilli on the calamari on all three looked exactly the same. The other two people who ordered the calamari quite enjoyed it, and liked the heat from the chilli. Given that we’d waited for so long for the food, it’s not surprising R didn’t want to waste more time asking about the chilli on her calamari.
We weren’t asked if we wanted a drink. They gave us water, which was nice, but from the restaurant’s point of view as a business, your staff must ask customers if they’d like to order drinks – you miss out on a lot of drink sales when you don’t ask – I’m not saying staff need to be pushy, they just need to ask the question. I know customers are capable of ordering drinks without being asked, but it’s just good practice to offer drinks as a waiter. Oh, and some of the diners at our table ask for drinks – and they took a very long time to arrive. Not sure if it was a staffing issue (lack of) or they couldn’t cope with having a table of 11 in amongst the tables of two and three. I didn’t think it was unusually or overly busy while we were there.
When the last two meals came out (the fish dishes, which arrived at least five minutes after the first round of dishes arrived at the table – the dishes came out in three distinct waves, each with a few minutes between), the waiter said, “Who ordered the fish?” If you were paying attention as you ran the food out, you’d know there were only two dishes left, and you could see straight away if you looked, who the two people without meals were – and they were clearly sitting there, waiting hungrily as their companions were scoffing their food down. And given that they’d been waiting for some time for their meals, I wouldn’t ask “Who ordered the fish?” as 1) it was pretty obvious that everyone else had their meals already, and 2) the docket in the kitchen would have shown that everything had gone out, apart from the two fish dishes and, given that it was pretty obvious, 3) it was just plain irritating to have the waiter ask who ordered those last two meals, clearly showing that she wasn’t paying attention. I’m sorry if I seem to be ranting a bit in this post, but these are elementary aspects of service that when done poorly really irk me.
We saw dolphins swimming in the river outside while we sat, and it was nice to go out to lunch with everyone – it’s such a shame we only tend to go out for lunch together when someone’s leaving.
The food was pretty good, but not so good I’d tolerate the service. No, I definitely don’t plan to return to Noi, which is a shame. What a waste of a gorgeous waterside location.