Friday, December 04, 2009

New Neighborhood Restaurant

For the past umpteen weeks there has been a new restaurant under construction across the street from our apartment. As they got closer to finishing the building, it seemed that it was going to be either a Pizza Hut or a Thai place, judging by the shape of the roof, and sure enough they eventually put up a sign that it was the "Laburnum Thai Restaurant". Since our old neighborhood Thai place closed several months ago, we welcomed the arrival of a new Thai restaurant, and a few weeks ago, when it looked like the place was opened, we tried to have dinner there. Unfortunately, it turned out that they were not yet open, so we tried a few weeks later, when we saw people actually dining inside, but then, too, it turned out that it was not yet open to the public. But finally the place opened this past Sunday, so we decided to eat there tonight.

The restaurant is nicely decorated, with teak-ish wood inside, large tables, comfortable-ish chairs, and countless hostesses bedecked in feathery shawl-type things. We were shown to a table right in front of the Filipino band (they sang quietly, so it was OK) and then J2 was given a copy of the enormous menu. As is typical in China, within five seconds of the (single) menu being dropped off, we were asked if we were ready to order. Instead I insisted that they bring us a second menu, which we perused at our leisure, eventually choosing four dishes to order. We then proceeded to wait for our food to arrive. It was not too terribly long before the first dish showed up--chicken parcels wrapped in pandanus leaves (regular readers will remember that we served these at last year's holiday party). They were very tasty, but small, so they did not really satisfy our hunger, and we were anxious for our other dishes to arrive. We waited, and waited, and waited some more, before finally someone came by to say that they were going to tell the chef to hurry up. Then about 10 minutes later they came around with two bowls of dessert that they were going to give us as a gift to make up for the delay. (It's not uncommon for Chinese to eat dessert alongside of the savory courses of a meal, but I have not gone that native yet, so I told them to take the dessert away until after the meal was finished.) It was at least another 15 minutes before the next dish arrived, and then the third came shortly thereafter. Unfortunately these were all finished before there was any sign of the last dish so we asked for the bill so we could get out of there, having already spent nearly 90 minutes there. Sure enough, the missing dish was on the bill, but they took it off when I pointed out that it was never served.

The other patrons in the restaurant were mostly the Beijing nouveaux riches, dressed in their frillery and their gaudy jewelry and smoking their cigarettes (this was the first restaurant I've been to that had a listing of cigarettes available for sale among the wines). These people have a strange sense of public behavior, keeping their winter coats on as they eat and playing games on their phones while sitting around the table with their dining companions. Very odd.

All the dishes that we had were tasty enough, though no better than any of the other Thai places in the area, all of which are far cheaper than this place. Interestingly, we never did get that dessert that they brought us earlier on, but we were not interested in making a big deal about it. It would have been great if this restaurant had turned out to be a wonderful new addition to our neighborhood, but it really isn't, what with the lousy service, the high prices and the unpleasant fellow diners. Oh, well.