Hi, I've been reading the chowhound posts for a while but haven't had an experience noteworthy enough to share, until today. Warning, the experience is fresh in my mind and I'm quite bitter. :)
4 of us went to Restaurant Peony in Oakland's Chinatown for dim sum this morning. After waiting 45 min instead of the 15-20 they told us when we got there, we got shown to a table in the corner of the restaurant. The table was up against a wall and behind other tables on 3 sides. We realized that we'd never be able to see what was offered on the carts. When we asked if we could be moved to an empty table of the same size that we spotted, they refused us flat out. We tried to make the best of the situation, keeping all 4 pairs of eyes watching for carts rolling by. One of us would then jump up from the table to check out what was in the cart. When we tried to approach one server, she tried to shoo us away, assuming that we were trying to jump our place in the line-up of tables. I don't know about other people, but our idea of dim sum on a Sunday morning is to enjoy the company of our friends and a relaxing meal. Obviously, we were too busy trying to flag down the carts to really enjoy our food. I tried to ask a waitress if we could order dim sum instead, but she replied in an abrupt and brusque manner that we can't order dim sim, wait for the carts. When we spoke with the manager, he walked away from us before we even finished explaining the problem, saying that he would tell the servers to wheel their carts over. The next few times he walked by, we tried to catch his eye but it seemed he was purposefully looking the other way. Finally, someone got up and walked right up to him, asking him to move us to a new table. Again, he refused. Fed up with the situation, we decided to leave and try for another dim sum restaurant since it was only noon. The bill came to $50.16 for about 8 dishes of dim sum but we were too tired to challenge the total. Obviously, we didn't leave any tip.
I'm sure the language barrier didn't help the situation, making it feel like the staff was being rude and abrupt. Although I speak Mandarin Chinese, I couldn't communicate well with the Cantonese-speaking staff. Although I've been to Peony several times before and had a decent meal, this experience guaranteed that the 4 of us would never go back. Anyways, we ended up driving half an hour to Milpitas and had some great dim sum (and wonderful service) at ABC Seafood.