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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Uchi + Twitter = dining nightmare

I used to have a favorite place to go for celebrations. The service here was spectacular. The food was incredible. Every dish was interesting and exciting. This place was Uchi. I've been to Uchi 4 times in the last few months, and I had a terrific time on each visit. One of my photographs of an Uchi dish was even published recently. Link here: Here's a link to a previous review I wrote of Uchi. To say that I was a fan of Uchi is an understandment. However, I feel that Uchi committed a public relations/marketing error which completely changed my attitude about my previously favorite restaurant. The story unfolds....

After the yogurt making party at Megan's house, I checked my twitter. I saw this on Uchi' Twitter " - 40lb halibut today! first person to come request, chef tyson cole will prepare the collar and head for you!!!..." Link to Uchi's Twitter: Link to the Tweet: That was posted at 4:18 pm. It was close to 7:30 pm, so chances that I would have gotten the halibut head were slim. Since Uchi was on the way home anyways, I stopped by just to see if it was still available.

The hostesss had no idea what I was talking about and had to ask Tyson. Apparently, I was the first person to ask about this mysterious fish head. About 10 minutes later, Tyson brought it out and showed it to me, raw. I was confused. I thought he was supposed to cook it first. We're both standing at the front with this gigantic raw fish head. He asked if I was eating, and the answer was yes. I did come for the halibut didn't I? He asked if anyone one else was going to eat with me, and I said no. He replied saying he wouldn't cook it for one person as it was a massive amount of food. I said fine. A friend was going to be joining me.

At this point, I was really confused. Why had no one else claimed this "special" dish if Uchi already had 684 followers on twitter? How often was this halibut available and what was the price? From the few words "
40lb halibut today! first person to come request, chef tyson cole will prepare the collar and head for you!!!..., "It seems like a special, and maybe even complimentary. Why didn't the hostess know anything about the special? Someone's confused, and that someone was me. I wasn't getting a good vibe, and had thought about ditching. But heck, Uchi was my favorite place. I decided to stick it ou.

Finally, my friend arrives and I tell the hostess that we're both here and ready for the halibut. To which the hostess asks if I wanted to get on the waiting list. Um...... was I not already on the waiting list? How did I go from getting the halibut head to not being on the waiting list? We wait. The hostess comes out to give us more information. She points to me and says, "You get the halibut head, and *points to my friend* you have to order off the regular menu." I take that as an indication that the halibut head is a special event, but I'm still not sure if I get anything special for it. We wait. And we wait. We're offered some appetizers while we wait. 9:00 pm rolls around, and we are finally seated.

By now, everyone knows that we've ordered the halibut, and the waiter tells us that it is a 20-25 minute prep time on the halibut head. So we order the brie seneca, which comes and goes. We're offered a salad of some sort by the manager, which comes and goes. 9:50 rolls around, and we're
looking pretty annoyed. My friend lets the manager know that we've been waiting nearly an hour for a dish that is supposed to take 20 minutes to prepare. The manager says that they started the dish when we were seated, and that they are just now plating it. Funny. We were seated at 9:00pm. They should have said that the dish takes an hour to prepare. 10 minutes roll by. 5 more minutes roll by. I'm feeling like walking out at this point. I really felt like leaving at this point.

Finally, I'm presented with this gigantic fish head that has everyone around us oogling. That's cool. I take a while to snap some pictures. And then we dig in. It was big. It overly salty and not at all special. It wasn't anything that wowed me. It wasn't "delicious" by any means. I would
have been much happier with the hotate, shag roll, or kona kanpachi. It tasted like cooked fish with a salty, blackened crust. And unfortunately, the rice it was served with was terribly salty. This was not a typical Uchi experience. This was the only time I have ever had a less than stellar experience at Uchi, and it did suck the big one. My friend and I ate maybe one-tenth of that sucker, and then had the rest wrapped up to go. I think it is very safe to say that I'm a big eater, and the fact that two people barely touched the fish means something. I wouldn't have waited 20 minutes for the halibut head. And it isn't that I don't know how to eat fish heads. I've been eating fish heads all my life. This was just like another fish head.

The check comes, and I see that the halibut was $50. Um....... okay. Where was that listed on the twitter? It isn't on the regular menu. I had no idea how much it was supposed to cost. No one made mention of the cost to me at any point. If anything, the Twitter posts and interaction with the hostess makes it seem complimentary at best. The waiter asks for the manager.

The manager says that the price was on the twitter post.
" - 40lb halibut today! first person to come request, chef tyson cole will prepare the collar and head for you!!!..." Didn't see a price there. I show her my iphone with their Twitter feed. No price. She asks me to click on the post. I show her that the full tweet showed no price. The manager heads into the kitchen and comes back with a print out of the twitter picture. Below that is a caption that says "40lb halibut today! first person to come request, chef tyson cole will prepare the collar and head for you!!! 50$$$ mmmm... what a tweet deal!" Funny, that wasn't on twitter. In order to see that, you have to view the picture on twitpic on a browser and not on an application. Whoever runs their twitter did not see that the tweet was truncated as it exceeded 140 characters with the photo URL. Needless to say, I felt a little mislead. The manager did not offer to make any amends or to adjust the price or even apologize for the misunderstanding.

I wound up paying 54.13 pre-tip for that over salted uninspiring halibut head that took 3.5 hours of my life. I was annoyed. I was upset. If the tweet had said "$50 for halibut head, special deal" or something of that nature, I would have saved myself a big wad of cash and some time. I would have gone straight home, ate leftovers, and spent time doing something productive. I had absolutely no intentions on eating at Uchi tonight, and I was only brought in on the fly by the truncated tweet.

My major complaints:

  • I found the staff tonight to be rough, confusing, and disorganized. The hostess had no idea about the special. The advertising of the halibut was vague. If I was supposed to be getting the halibut head, why did the hostess wait until my 4th interaction with her to ask if I wanted to get on the waiting list? If I'm paying $50 for this dish, why did Tyson refuse to cook it for just one? If I'm paying for it anyways, it shouldn't matter how many people are there to eat it. The manager did not apologize for the wait, the food, or the issue with the pricing.
  • This is the first time that I have felt that Uchi's food was less than mediocre. The halibut head was boring, over salted, and nothing like I would have expected from Uchi. This was like something I could get at Din-ho or Asian Market. I actually make a very similarly prepared dish with whole tilapia that costs me about $3.00 per whole fish.
  • I felt like no apologies were made for their mistake on Twitter. Their tweet was truncated, and some how no one even bothered to say "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding, but the price of this dish was $50." No one bothered to say before hand, "I understand that you are having the halibut head special tonight for $50." The attitude of the manager was "Pay up."
  • Someone needs to learn how to use Twitter.

This is why one star reviews of Uchi exist. If tonight was my only Uchi dining experience, I may never come back again. I'm still very upset about last night's experience now. I hope that in the future, they can get all their staff members on the same page and advertise their specials more accurately.

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