Our good friends, the Imoos, are staying with us for a few days this week and next. We are really happy to have them over and glad that they have included a visit with us on their 3-week California roadtrip. It’s always nice catching up with Gail (she was my best friend back in the 6th grade up till her family migrated to Vancouver, but over the last 20 years – yes 20! – we’ve maintained a close friendship thru snail mail, email and occasional visits). Jojo and I also enjoy spending time with her very outgoing husband, Clay, and their adorable boys, Sean and Jake - plus another baby on the way!
To celebrate their first night with us, Jojo and I took them out to dinner. When Clay suggested Japanese food – Onami was our unanimous choice since all our past visits to this local favorite had been really pleasant. We’ve taken a number of our out-of-town guests there and even celebrated my 31st birthday with family at the restaurant. Food selection and quality were always top-notch, service was good, and the ambiance was nothing to complain about either. We were in for a surprise.
We arrived at 10 past 8 and were informed that because it was weeknight, the buffet would be closing at 9 PM – but the restaurant would stay open till we were ready to go. 50 minutes seemed like more than enough time for dinner even with a the huge spread of Japanese sushis, sashimis, appetizers, hot food, soups, desserts and green tea ice cream station. We all started off with round one - the sushi bar. This is pretty much where things started to go downhill. Here is a list of the things that went wrong that night:
1. The food choices were still expansive but were no longer “fresh” – most looked like they had been sitting under food lamps all day, some of the sushi selections were questionable, and a lot of the hot dishes looked reheated. Now, I understand that towards the end of the day, buffet selections start to deteriorate – but I insist that if a buffet remains open till 9, restaurant management should try to at least maintain some sense of quality (after all dinner prices are double that of lunch prices!).
2. 15 minutes before 9, the staff started helping themselves to the buffet. While I certainly have no issue with sharing the buffet with the restaurant employees, I do take exception to the fact that several times, the person before me would get the last serving of a dish. I think it would be a good practice in customer service to leave some food for paying customers.
3. True to their word, the buffet lights were shut down at exactly 9 PM (and not a second later), but soon after the lights in other sections of the restaurant were shut down too – including the restroom while Clay and Jake were still inside!
4. A few minutes later, the music died down and the place started getting slightly warmer (which meant they had turned off the air-conditioning). Without background music and the hum of the AC, the place turned eerily silent.
5. By about 9:20 or so, the other restaurant staff started leaving – as in going home! Even the valet guy walked into the restaurant and handed us our car keys because he was heading out.
6. Our server (who I guess was stuck at work because of us) started removing our plates just as soon as we picked up the last of our food from it and was wiping down the other end of our table even as we were still working on dessert.
7. When we finally finished, slightly past 9:30, the front door (which is the main entry way) was already locked for the night and we were directed to walk down a very dark hallway – dimly lit by the “Fire Exit” sign at the end of it. We had to take the back exit, past the dumpsters, into the parking lot which was, of course, also deserted at this time.
It was a definitely a night to remember! I was slightly embarrassed since we were with guests. But am thankful that Clay and Gail are such an easy-going couple that they could laugh about the whole incident. I can think of a number of our other guests who would have made a much bigger deal! But in all honesty I was really disappointed with the quality and service and will definitely have to think twice about another visit to that place any time soon.