Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nice Spruced Up Facade, but...

I don't normally like to complain about places I have been, but choose instead to enjoy it while I am there for the experience it brings.

I do, however, feel like I have should report when service is really bad, like what I saw last night when getting dinner.

The coffee shop at Block 166 in Woodlands has recently been renovated, and is all spruced up and pretty to look at. I was overseas when the work was completed and normal operations reopened. The first thing I heard from friends when I got back was that it was more expensive, and that the only improvement was the prettier facilities. The place had been renovated not long before, and was not really in serious need of the sprucing up. After all, who really goes to a coffee shop for the ambience?

I had already visited several stalls at the coffee shop over the past month or so, but had not yet ordered from the "zi cha" stall since it had been revamped. Last night I was in a bit of a hurry, needing to pick up food for everyone at home, and grab a quick bite for myself before heading out to class. I ordered the food to take home, and a quick plate of noodles for myself to wolf down while I waited for the order to be ready. Here's a translation of my conversation with the stall manager while ordering my noodles:

Me: A plate of fried bee hoon, dry, to eat here while I wait.

Him: Fried bee hoon?

Me: Yeah, dry.

Him: You mean cooked like hor fun, but using bee hoon? Something like that?

Me: No, no, no. Not the wet type noodles, but dry. Fried bee hoon, dry.

Him: OK, OK, I know already.

I'm sure you can guess. It was bee hoon cooked like hor fun (something like that) that was brought to my table... and of course not by the fellow who took my order.

I waited for the man to notice, then called him over. Here's that conversation (again, translated):

Me: This isn't dry.

Him: It's fried bee hoon. That's what you ordered.

Me: I said very clearly I wanted dry bee hoon, not the wet type, and I said it several times.

Him: Well, anyway, this one is nicer.

Me: Nicer? It isn't what I ordered.

Him: Never mind lah.

Me: So you're saying you're not going to do anything about it.

Him: Yeah. Thanks.

OK, this fellow is new here, and he might not realize yet that I am a permanent fixture in the neighbourhood, and not just someone passing through. Maybe. (Even though he has seen me an awful lot over the past few weeks, even stopping to disturb my 2 nephews a couple of times. And anyway, all I have to do is open my mouth and people usually know I am not new around here.) One way or another, I am a regular here. I know that the stall he is replacing had really good food at good prices, and that I often took guests there to eat. And I know equally well that the "zi cha" stall at Block 167, directly opposite the coffee shop where he is working, has had excellent food, excellent prices, and excellent service for the past 15+ years that I have been eating there. It's not like I will ever be in a situation where I have no choice bu to eat at this fellow's stall again.

Furthermore, if the wet type of bee hoon really was better than the type I ordered, then the whole menu must be rather disappointing. It was overpriced, and not good at all.

Usually when I don't like the food or service at some spot I've visited, I just don't go back. This new guy's attitude, though, was worth posting about and warning other potential customers: don't be fooled by the pretty facade. The food and prices at the "zi cha" stall at Block 166 in Woodlands are not good. Especially beware if you are one of the tourists staying in Hostel 166. This is the nearest coffee shop to the hostel, so don't get caught with the bad service there. It's worth crossing the road to go to Block 167 and eat. Or, if you do eat at 166, avoid this stall (it's the one with the big "Seafood" label along the top, in case you don't know what the "zi cha" stall is).

Just a word of advice.

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silken said...

too bad, since this is the one right by your place (right?) and too bad for him, since you will let the word out about his bad service!!

hifidel said...

Yes, that's the one. Very sad that they would offer such bad service. Especially since they are replacing a stall that has done a nice job for many years.

Anyway... there's always 167!