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MuLan today at lunch

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Based on recent board recs, I ordered take out from MuLan for lunch. Unfortunately, it turned out to be "one of those experiences."

Here's the rundown:

I placed an order at 11:10 a.m. (pork and string bean dumplings; beef with leeks and pancake) and was told there would be a 20 minute wait. I arrived at 11:45 a.m. Five tables were occupied (4 two-tops and a large group of 8, many who were enjoying soup.)

The woman working the hostess station/takeout AND waitressing informed me the restaurant did not the beef with leeks dish. In its place, I ordered a small hot & sour soup, thinking this would be the quickest order to pack up. I was told the order would be "right out."

Not more than a minute later, a man arrived to pick up his phone order. He was told his order would be "right out."

Sensing system overload, I asked if I could pay my bill and was accomodated.

No sooner than I had my change, three more two-tops arrived. The phone began ringing as well (both lines). The woman behind the desk picked up the phone - and took an order that consumed four minutes.

A large group of six or seven arrived.

At this time (11:54 a.m.), a woman appeared from the kitchen with one take out order in a bag (for the man next to me, as it turned out.) The man asked if the order was his, but the woman said she could not take money and walked away. The hostess was still on the phone (the second call went unanswered.)

At 11:58, the woman behind the hostess station hung up the phone and immediately began seating the waiting parties, then ran into the kitchen to begin serving dishes to people in the restaurant.

While she was doing this, the phone rang and she answered the call. She still had not given the man next to me his order or taken his money.

Then the girlfriend of the man next to me showed up and asked what was taking so long. Turns out the couple had ordered their meal at 11:00 a.m. At 12:04 p.m., the hostess/waitress finally handed over the take out to the couple, who paid and left.

Simultaneously, a two-top (construction workers, possibly painters) got up and left. So too did a couple waiting to be seated (they decided to go to Royal East.)

Now 12:06 p.m., I asked where my order was (a tad bit shortly, I might add.) "It will be right out" she replied (perhaps forgetting that she'd said the same thing more than ten minutes earlier.)

The woman ran into the kitchen, began bagging my order and then the phone rang. She answered it. Four more people arrived to be seated. (I don't know if they were together or separate parties.)

At 12:08, she hung up the phone and delivered the food.

Post-script. MuLan's chow was as good as advertised - even if the hostess/waitress forgot to put dipping sauce in the bag for the dumplings.

The moral of this tale? No matter how yummy some places are, miserable service and amazingly long delays leave lasting impressions. Clearly, there was a problem today. Assuming their food continues to impress, they will draw recognition here and elsewhere, which will increase foot traffic. Today's problem should be fixed and right soon...

As for me, I will come again - but only when I have a lot of time to spare. The hostess's insistence on answering the phone rather than dealing with the people in front of her was certainly grating.

BTW, as this is my second negative post in a row, I'd like to close it with a positive experience. The pork tacos at La Taqueria Mexicana last week in Union Square were simply outstanding, nicely shredded carnitas/pork shoulder with some crackly bits mixed in, topped with bit of cheese, a dollop of salsa, some shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, all stuffed into double wrapped soft tortillas. I lknow La Taq gets consistent high marks here, but I've been eating at Roberto Rendon's place now for 12-plus years and it still is MMMM good.

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  1. Bob -- ugh, what an experience. I feel badly for you but I have to say I also feel badly for her. Not her fault if the place is understaffed -- hostessing, phone reception, handling take-out orders AND waiting tables at even a moderately busy lunch spot must be stressful. I hope they can get her some help especially if they get more popular -- lunchtime was when I first tried it, and it was definitely more crowded than I expected.

    The note about tacos at Mexicana made me feel a little better for you, though.....mmmmm pork.

      1. re: emilief

        In a little shopping center on Broadway in Cambridge just north of Kendall Square. It is next to Beauty Pizza.