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Bad Experience @ Tombo, San Mateo

jo watanabe | May 15, 200304:47 PM

I learned about Tombo in San Mateo from this board last year and had been anxious to find an opportunity to eat there. Well, I finally made it there with my friend last Saturday, around 7:00pm. We both were looking forward to our meal as we were greeted and seated.

The place was not very busy and fairly quiet -- about 3 other tables occupied. After examining the menu and peeking over to other tables to see what looks good, we both decided on Nabeyaki udon. But my friend likes having the shrimp tempura crisp instead of soggy in the broth, so I asked the "okami-san" (owner's wife) in "polite-form" Japanese if we could have the tempura on the side instead of placed in the broth. (*Japanese language has many ways to same the same thing, in different levels of politeness) We were TOTALLY taken aback when the reply was not only direct and to-the-point, but in fairly rude-form of Japanese, totally inappropriate for how I asked the question. The translation of the reply in English would have been "We don't do that. Pick something else."

Well, we took a brief moment or two to glance at the menu again -- I was actually wondering if we should leave since we didn't seem welcome here, but my friend told her it's OK and we stayed with Nabeyaki udon. The only reason we could figure that they couldn't place the tempura on the side was if the tempura was either refrigerated or frozen and needed to be in the hot broth to warm it up. Or, she was offended by us asking to change the way it was intended to be served. (But come on, this is just udon.) When our meal arrived, we couldn't see what the big deal would have been. The shrimp tempura looked like it had just been fried, and they even provided a small empty bowl on the side where they could have placed it! Anyway, the waiter who brought the meal and tea was properly polite. Maybe they should let him take the orders and she should stay in the kitchen.

Despite the owner's rudeness in taking our order, I would say the food was indeed good as other chowhounds have stated, but I wouldn't rave about it. I would have even considered trying the place again someday, but after paying the bill, we experienced continued coldness from the owner. She was approaching the next table to take their order as we were getting up to leave. As she walked by, she totally ignored us. No "thanks", no "goodbye", no smile, nothing.

Restaurants that can't show any respect for their customers don't deserve any business.

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