The food’s good but the service does not make the cut

So we (me, runab and 2 friends) trudged along to Casa de Goa for dinner on Friday (23rd Feb 2007). We had booked a table and luckily managed to get our favorite one (Table No 6) – you know the one that is just where the stairs rise for the upper floor and create a nice personal nook. The only drawback to that place is that the air conditioning periodically blows cold air down to where you sit, but that can be managed. The place was lit up very nicely and the woodwork does look good in the lights. As an aside, one friend thought that the massive painting they have up there has grasshoppers pasted on to look like birds ;). But here’s what we had:

  • Crab Bisque (shared by two): flavor was good but it was gritty – something was not right
  • Fish Cachets: a cutlet kind of preparation with rawa, good to have but do note that it serves a maximum of 3
  • Lamb Chilly Fry: a no-brainer starter which is a bit spicy, but the meat was tough not the kind one would like
  • Chicken Xacuti: now the bill shows this as Chicken Moelho (which we did not order) so don’t really know what we ate but it was tough chicken in a very pungent base of coconut. Going easy on the coconut might have helped
  • Tawa Paratha: well made but again not served warm/hot big minus there
  • Goan Fish Curry with Rice: very nicely made and served piping hot – the one good dish of the dinner
  • Assorted Seafood salad: don’t order this. They go too much for the covering with mayonnaise and that effectively kills whatever taste you expect out of this
  • Chicken Margherita: again don’t order this. The meat was burnt and overdone with a slapdash work with pineapple
  • Chicken Vindaloo with Coconut Rice: we ordered this but finally did not have this (details later)
  • Bread pudding, Coconut Pancake and Banana Pancake: The pancakes had different wraps from last time – did the person who does this change ? The Bread Pudding was nice – makes for a filling dessert

So, here’s what went wrong.

They mixed up our order of Chicken Margherita, Chicken Vindaloo and Coconut Rice (and served it at some different table) thus keeping us waiting for a good half an hour while those who were attending at the table were in a rush to clear it out. Thus, the dinner spanned a huge 2 hours for us – good since the meal was spaced out but bad because one was never sure what one was getting. Someone ought to take a look at their billing system though – traditionally, each item should be mentioned rather than clubbing the similar priced ones under a common top level name (I guess that’s the issue with the Moelho and the Xacuti but cannot be sure). They seem to have served the Margherita and the Bread Pudding as complimentary but that doesn’t just cut it. Like the earlier time the service was a bit too enthusiastic – one goes to a restaurant with friends to have a discussion and some nice food, if the service keeps on intruding that’s too bad.

Overall rating (out of 5): 3 for decor (the lights were nice), 1 for the service (it messed up the experience), 2 for the food (slapdash was evident in some items of the main course) and 3 for the price (even with the complimentary it was not worth it)

The Wild West that is the retail market

The business publications are at it again.

When the soft drink majors (those-who-would-not-be-named) came into the market there were calculations of how deep their pockets were and how long they could sustain losses just to ensure that drinking soft drinks became ingrained. The whole point was that they saw the vast potential market that’s called the “Indian Middle Class” and factored in their purchasing power. This time around it is the turn of retail. Indian retail scene is like the badlands of the Wild West – serviced by small mom-n-pop units with not much provided to the customer in terms of choice or variety not to mention price. Thus, it is a place where the big majors (local and international) see money.

My experience of retail in Pune has not been too good. They don’t provide too much cost advantage since the price point is the MRP. That’s surprising since the stores should not actually be spending to get the products on the shelves, the billing happens when the items get sold. However, the one are which might be addressed by the retail business is the availability of variety. Take an example that’s pretty close. We have a small “kirana” shop titled Raj SuperMarket where we live. Of late, it seems not to be stocking what would appear everyday stuff and rather going into stocking brands that don’t get talked about too much eg Samrat Atta over Ashirwad, TopRamen over Maggi (ok that was kind of bad example but you sort of get the point). So, there are two specific things that worry me:

  • Given that folks like Reliance’s Retail arm plan to turn stores like Raj SuperMarket into their branded stores – would the quality of purchasing experience increase ?
  • Given that the Walmart chain finds it increasingly difficult to be cost effective while setting up stores (real estate prices are sky rocketing) would the retail model actually be of use in these days of high property prices ?

We have around 3 branded sportswear shops in the vicinity (2 RBK and 1 Nike) and none of them seem to have footfalls – wonder how true is the retail story…

“Customer” “Support”

Deconstructing the above it can either be “Customer Support” or be as in the $TITLE. When it comes to ICICI, I am fairly sure that they are using a lexicon I don’t have access to. First, they don’t know who their customers are eg. the Credit Card team does not know (or perhaps does not care) about whether they have banking relations and of course vice-versa. Second, their “Support” is terrible to say the least. It begins with the atrocious accent on the phone. I am all for neutral accents and all that but when the accent tries to be something it is not that is jarring. Then, they don’t stop to listen and repeat or even respond to a question. Lastly, I have all but given up on their e-mail support. You ask a question providing all the relevant details (possible relevant details) and what you get in response is a template of questions to which you have already responded.

runab says that SBI’s Customer Care or DSAs are unique. They call up existing relations and offer to sell the same services which are their with the called-up party. Wh0a that’s a new method of annoying your customers.

When I read some blogs these days …

কেন চেয়ে আছ, গো মা, মুখপানে।
এরা চাহে না তোমারে চাহে না যে, আপন মায়েরে নাহি জানে।
এরা তোমায় কিছু দেবে না, দেবে না ‌‌‌- মিথ্যা কহে শুধু কত কি ভাণে।।
তুমি তো দিতেছ, মা, যা আছে তোমারি – স্বর্ণশস্য তব, জাহ্নবীবারি,
জ্ঞান ধর্ম কত পুণ্যকাহিনী।
এরা কি দেবে তোরে ! কিছু না, কিছু না। মিথ্যা কবে শুধু হীনপরানে।।

and that’s all that comes to my mind

Good Food and decent prices

So on a balmy hot (unusually for this time of the year) Saturday noon runab and myself went out to have lunch at Casa De Goa (Chinar Buildings, Floriana Estate Near Gold Adlabs Kalyaninagar Pune, 020 64009002/03). This one has come up at the same place where earlier there was Shu’s Jade. Now Shu’s Jade was a fine eating place. Delicious wontons and a good selection of meat and fowl items and for a change really well made soups. Casa de Goa has also received some rave reviews on the Pune Eat Outs community on Orkut, so we said – let’s check out the place.

It is done up nicely, although the dark wood look does seem a bit sombre during noon (the lights were not on) and since they have not changed much in the decor (or layout) of Shu’s Jade, we took our favorite table just beside the stairs. In double quick time we were handed a huge book (much like the attendance register) which was in fact the menu done up in nice colors. One thing the managers might like to note is that jamming up an eating joint with too much of heavy earth colors (dark wood, maroon, burgundy etc) tends to makes it appear smaller than it is.

Here’s what we ordered:

  • Fresh Lime water (for her), Coconut water (for me). I got handed a real coconut to drink from
  • Fresh Bombay Duck for starters – nicely done with rawa. Crispy and yummy
  • Fish Cafreal, Tawa Paratha, Chicken Vindaloo for the main course. They messed up the Chicken Vindaloo – it was having the base taste of tomato ketchup but the Fish Cafreal was very well prepared
  • Caramel Custard and Banana Pancake for dessert – suggest that you don’t order these. The Caramel Custard at Yana’s Sizzler wins hands down again, this one was too granular. The Banana Pancake has a complete Banana wrapped in a thin pancake

Overall rating (out of 5): 2 for decor (get some light in), 3 for the service (good but just try and cut down a bit on the enthusiasm), 3 for the food (try and improve though) and 4 for the price (the meal for two which was a bit more than what we have was nicely priced)

A film that finally got released based on a book that I had read long back…

runab and myself went to catch Black Friday which is woven around 1993 Bombay (now Mumbai) bombings. A non-linear film with nice camera work and some fine acting touches makes it worth spending 180 minutes on. Watch it if you have not read the book and watch it even if you have read it.