My Friday nights are always a great time for me. After putting in a hard week of work, I want to go out and enjoy some quality time with a plate of food that I didnt have to cook or clean up after. Usually, I invite a friend to join me. Madge and Boris had plans, so I invited my roommate Dave out for a bite to eat.
We had a tough time deciding between heading for some new Asian bistro or grabbing some Italian comfort food. Thinking for a bit, I was reminded that there was a restaurant that would suit both tastes. We got into the car and drove down Camelback Road looking for the small strip mall that housed Cherryblossom Noodle Café.
It was about 8 PM when we arrived and we ended up parking in the back of the mall. We walked in and notice a couple of acquaintances sitting at the first table near the door. We chatted a bit while we waited for a staff member to seat the two women in front of us and then ourselves. The interior of Cherryblossom was decorated in Asian highlights and lots of dark woods. It was a very comfortable place and quite pretty inside.
Several minutes had passed when I caught the eye of one of the staff members who broke a record pace to talk to me. She asked if I had put my name on the list. I told her that I had not and she asked for my name and how many in my party. She then disappeared.
Dave and I waited some more as did the two women in front of us. The place was busy, but not jammed packed and we waited some more as tables became available, but no one was clearing them. The two women were finally seated and we stepped up closer to the cash register area thinking that doubled as the host station. As we waited, I was a bit struck by the fact that the staff clearly had rather undefined roles. Everyone was trying to be host, busboy, waiter, cook, manager, etc. It all seemed like a frantic mess with no direction and I was starting to get a bad feeling. A woman finally approached me and asked if my name was "on the list." I said I had given my name to someone but I didn't see her write anything down. The response was a simple "oh!" before she disappeared into the kitchen.
We were finally seated in the secondary dining room at a table next to the window that faced Camelback Road. We were handed menus and told our server would be with us shortly. We reviewed the menus as well as the appetizer selections that were on a small placard on the table.
We waited for an inordinate amount of time before our server arrived taking our drink order. Dave had a Diet Pepsi ($2.00) and I had a Tropical Iced Tea ($2.00). Since it was Friday, Dave threw caution to the wind and ordered a Shirley Temple ($2.50). (No, I am not kidding.)
Only a few moments passed before our drinks arrived and we hoped that the waiting was at an end. Unfortunately, it was not and we again waited quite a long time before our server come back to take our order. The table next to us was also having service issues and, ultimately, the time between their appetizers and their entrees was incredibly long.
We did finally place our order. We split the Hot Thai Beef Salad ($9.25) and the Pork Cutlet Pieces ($7.25). Dave went with a cold noodle dish called Hiyashi Chu-ka ($7.75) and I was intrigued by the Ginger Beef Linguine($9.25). Our server left and we sat again for an eternity before someone came by to freshen our drinks. We also had to ask for place settings. At the table next to us, one of the entrees had arrived, but the other was nowhere to be found and the gentleman expressed his concern. A good 20 minutes passed before the other entrée appeared and that was just about the time it took for us to get our Hot Thai Beef Salad.
The salad was a large plate of Romaine and field greens mixed with pea pods, sliced peppers, bean sprouts and strips of beef with a ginger and garlic marinade. All of it was tossed with a spicy Thai dressing and served on a charger-like plate with lime wedges. We mixed up the salad and took portions of it for our individual plates. It was a great success and we finally found something to take away the sting of the plodding service.
Shortly thereafter, our Pork Cutlet Pieces arrived. They were blazing hot having just come from the fryer. About a dozen pieces were in a deep bowl next to a ramekin of a wonderfully spicy BBQ sauce that has been drizzled with Chinese mustard. After a couple of bites, we were hooked and felt even better. It was a successful dish and well prepared. We loved every bite.
About 10 minutes passed and we our server came by with Daves entrée. He set it aside and said he would wait for my entrée to arrive. A few minutes passed and we heard a rather vocal discussion from a table behind us. Apparently, their entrees were delivered separately as well and after 15 minutes, the person at the table said loudly, Do you have any idea when my wife can expect her meal? There were profuse apologies from the server and I nursed my tea.
Another 20 minutes had passed and I was still without my entrée. This was now into the silliness range of bad service. Our server came by with drinks and asked if I had received my order yet. I told her no and she disappeared. I told Dave to go ahead and eat reminding him that his cold noodle dish might get warm if he didnt. (Hee!) Our server appeared again to tell me that they had given my entrée away to someone else, but that mine would be right up. Frankly, I didnt believe her, either about my entrée being given away or that my order would be right up.
Another 5 minutes passed and my Ginger Beef Linguine arrived. Dave dove into his noodles. They were still chilled (thankfully). His egg noodles were presented with strips of cooked chicken breast, lettuce and cucumbers. The dressing was a light sesame vinaigrette and he was pleased there was an ample amount of dressing to cover all the components. He said he thought the noodles were really excellent.
I was ready for a great linguine dish and I must say that I was not disappointed. The Ginger Beef Linguine was fantastic. The beef was tender and had a great taste. The linguine was al dente and perfect. The sauce was more broth-like and the flavor and texture was outstanding. It was a great dish and I would order it again in a heartbeat.
We finished our meals and debated on whether or not to have dessert. The Green Tea Mousse looked interesting, but our server had once again disappeared and after another long wait, we decided to throw in the towel, at least enjoying the memories of some great food, and hoping that Cherryblossom Noodle Café would fix the kitchen and service problems.
When our server did return we requested the check which didnt come to the table for another 10 minutes. The total was $42.78 including tax and I reflected my displeasure in the service via the tip. We finished up and headed into the main dining room where the exit was.
Upon seeing the main dining room, it all made sense. In the middle of the room was a party of about 30 people. The restaurant had lined up small tables from the back of the restaurant to the front to accommodate this large party. Along with all the tables in the main dining room, all the staff was working with the large party as well, including our server. I simply shook my head and we departed. It was a slow burn I suffered as I walked to the car, and I half expected to see my car buried in a glacier considering the amount of time we spent in the restaurant would have been sufficient to usher in the next Ice Age.
We got into the car and I flatly stated to Dave, The food was terrific and the service sucked. Dave agreed. We looked at the clock and noticed that our meal took us two hours for noodles and salad. Yikes. Large group or not, two hours for a casual dinner is absurd unless the patron chooses to make it that long.
We then talked about all the things that should have happened that didnt, from the server talking to the manager about the kitchen mix-ups to the accommodation of the large party at the expense of the other patrons. All in all, it was not a good first impression. I havent had bad service like this since my disastrous outing to the Bamboo Club at the Biltmore Fashion Park. So, I found myself torn. I loved the food, but I am not sure I would be willing to suffer horrid service for noodles.
In the end, I was and still am disappointed. All the good reviews of Cherryblossom had me excited about this place and now I am debating on if or when I should go back.
Maybe after the disappointment has evaporated, I will try it again on a weekday evening or for lunch.
Right now, I just hope they take some time to reflect on service issues. When every other sentence out of a server's mouth is "Oh, I am so sorry for the problem," it is time to take some action to repair the problem.
Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe
914 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85014
Notes: If the front lot is full, there is additional parking in the back.
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