I was back in SoCal again last week and had a number of hound-worthy experiences. But before I get to the positive ones, I must write about this place because it was so outrageous. Not only did my sweetie, who lives in South Pasadena, recommend it on hearsay, but I saw it on the LATimes list of the 300 best. So much for hearsay and so much for the vaunted LAT. Wouldn't trust the Tribune here in Chicago so I don't know why I had to learn the hard way in LA. My error.
I have had bad food and I have had Thai food but the two combined in an atrocious experience on Saturday night. Saladang Dong in Pasadena is a factory, in the worst possible sense of the word (is there a positive one?) churning out food and customers at an astonishing rate. The doors to the very large room were constantly--and I mean constantly--opening and closing as new customers came in, old ones departed and the staff (waitresses and busboys) kept up a never-ending pace. Given how cold it was that night, that meant a regular (several times a minute without exaggeration) blast of cold air into the room. It's astonishing, particularly under the circumstances, that the staff couldn't have found another way in and out to the "patio," such as the walkway along the side of the restaurant. Adding to this, the room is glass walls, steel beams, and a concrete floor with a 40-foot (or more) ceiling. Nothing whatsoever to absorb or muffle sound. That means loud and this place was so loud we nearly had to shout across a two-top. Diners are shoehorned in, lots of large parties, and lots of noise. All accompanied by a large waitstaff running constantly to and fro.
Our waitress was so busy that she had to interrupt taking our order to do god-knows-what. We didn't see her again for ten minutes. When she returned, no apology, no explanation. Food was delivered quickly, as in: here it is, eat up, and get out. No one cared about anything other than getting the order placed and getting it delivered.
How was the food, you ask? Steamed dumplings were good, period. Fish cakes had nice flavor but were way too soggy from apparently being pre-made and kept until needed. We had three entrees and I will spare the details save to explain that we could have made better at home. When a half-pint of sweet black soy substitutes for a sauce, I'm not returning anytime soon.
(They also have a very odd "delivery" system. The waitress writes a large number on the paper table cover when she starts. When the food is ready, the busboys/servers wander around in the general vicinity, looking high and low for the right number. What kind of service is this?)
I should have checked the place out on chowhound but didn't. Shame on me. Having checked now, I find virtually nothing...a hint at the least. Later posts will highlight some of my better experiences, such as Tibet Nepal House (Nepal Tibet House?) and Trattoria Tre Venezie, both also in Pasadena. But for now, I cannot be clearer about this place. I'd suggest you avoid it; we will.