Every year my wife and I spend a Saturday taking pictures of NYC at Holiday time, and we stop at spots along the way for a glass of wine and/or something light, then try to find a spot for dinner. Our only rule is that it can't be a restaurant that we've gone to before.
This year we took a detour and headed downtown to Ground Zero--my wife, Soo, has been wanting to head down there and take pictures, meditate, etc., since the attacks, and each weekend I've put her off, feeling that the last thing they need down there are two more gawkers. I have to say, I was wrong--having spent many years working downtown, including two years in the WTC, the impact of seeing the destruction in person was very different and much more powerful than anything we've seen on TV. And I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised at the demeanor and conduct of visitors to the site--so I'm happy we went down.
Sorry for rambling on...anyway, we started walking back uptown at about 4 or 5, and decided that this year's stop would be in Chinatown (much against my usual philosophy, which basically is that it's nearly impossible to find a great Chinese restaurant in Chinatown--in fact there are far, far better ones in NJ and the boros , but that's another post.) So, we stumbled upon Ping's--and I remembered the name from a series of posts here. I hadn't read the posts, and still haven't, but, man, if anyone had anything good to say about this hell hole, I'd have to question their judgment.
Ping's was 1/2 full, being just before the dinner crowd would start coming in. We waited forever (about 30 minutes) for our appetizers, even though two tables that were seated after us were brought theirs before us. All during our wait, and throughout the evening, the manager of the restaurant walked around the floor, swatting flies with a swatter. (I have to say, I only saw one fly, which normally doesn't bother me, but this guy slapping the walls constatntly, totally oblivous to the fact that there was a room full of eating guests, definitely bugged the Hell out of me.) After asking about the whereabouts of our appetizers, they magically appeared--lukewarm--meaning that they'd been sitting in that dumbwaiter they use to send orders up from the kitchen for who knows how long. By the time they arrived, my beer, which wasn't cold to begin with, was almost warm. Our dinners were decent--mine was pretty good, Soo's was a little bland, which dissapointed her because they said they'd make it spicy, but it wasn't horrible. What was horrible, however, was having a waiter take my plate, which still had more than enough food to indicate that I was not done--and when he did so, his sleeve touched some of the vegetables, so I didn't even bother telling him I wasn't finished.
It took a long time to get a check. The folder to collect credit cards was one with the American Express logo, and I usually prefer to pay with AMEX, so I put my card in. I was told, in a very brusque fashion, that they do mnot accept AMEX, and the waiter didn't seem to appreciate my sense of irony when I pointed out that I'd guessed it was the AMEX logo on the folder that should have made that clear. So, okay...I really didn't like the service to this point, and didn't like the policy, so I paid with a VISA card, and when the guy brought back the bill, I wanted to leave a smaller tip, because of shitty service and attitude. I was very uncomfortable because the waiter stood over me as I started to fill out the bill, and I actually was so put off by this that I asked him if he would give me a little space, and he said no!!! So now I was really pissed, and decided to leave a $1 tip, writing on the slip ("Lousy service=lousy tip")...and I printed in big letters so he couldn't miss it. So you know what he did? He told me there was a 15% service charge! I went to the manager to complain--she was totally indifferent, and said he was right about the service charge.
This all left a bitter taste in my mouth. I have had unpleasant experiences in restaurants before, and am usually quite willing to put them down to our having caught them on a bad day. Frequently--in fact, almost always, I am willing to go back again, to see if the place is that bad or if our experience was just an anomaly. It's almost always the latter. However, this went waaaayyyyy beyond a restaurant having an off day. This instead was a restaurant that counts on tourist business for its trade (I think we were the only locals in the place...) and being totally indifferent as to whether or not people plan to come back.
My first inclination was to call Citi and tell them not to honor the charge, but Soo says that's wrong to do, and I guess I have to agree--we did have dinner, and quite frankly, it was pretty cheap. But I can state with certainty that I am NEVER going back to Ping's again!
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