Red Pepper Framingham - NO service NO food
So we went to try Red Pepper tonight. 7 of us went for 7:00. We got there at 6:45 and put our name in. 7:20 we had a table.
As we were waiting a group came out with crying children and angry faces. Woman told us they waited over 1 hour for food and got none and this is why the children were crying. They were going home to eat. This was the first warning we ignored.
We sat down and were given menus, a pot of tea, dishes and chopsticks. We put together our order but never did a waiter come. In fact there appeared to be no waiters/waitresses.
Looking around the dining room, i notice, there is NO FOOD. Not one table had ANYTHING! This worried me.
We saw a buss boy who had brought us our dishes, 2 hostess women and thats about it. We finally flagged down the hostess and gave her the order, explaining to her we had to be someplace a mile down the street by 9:45 (which gave us over 2 hours).
Got the buss boy to bring us some waters and beers. This took 3-4 trips to get it right though. Nobody took the menus or anything. Still nobody had any food in the dining room. We saw the hostess come out and give some tables what looked like rice crispy treats wrapped in plastic. This did not look good.
We had no tea cups so a couple of us started to drink the tea from the rice bowls on the table.
A large table against the wall had a chinese family of over 12 people. Two are reading books, kids are playing video games, none had food. They finally all got up and had a few words with the hostess and walked out. Without eating. Not sure how long they were there.
Then another table 20 minutes later walked out. At this point people are angry. Fingers snapping, hands waving, I saw a few people sleeping with their heads on the tables. Some arguing in Chinese and even though i dont understand any chinese i could tell exactly what was being said!
Finally after 1 hour of sitting waiting since our order. We put some cash on the table for the beers and we too walked out. We were the 4th or 5th group to walk out without eating in the time we were there.
We went to Kellys and ate dinner there.
In the entire time we were there i saw maybe 4-5 dishes come out of the kitchen. Carried out 1 at a time. Every time one came out you saw every head in the restaurant look up and at it, like hungry baby birds in a nest, hoping.....
Its sad really cause the menu looked good and it smelled good in there.
I stuck my head in the kitchen as we left and i saw 1 cook in a small kitchen cooking with a few women standing around.
We got take-out from Red Pepper last night, and really enjoyed our food. We ordered Twice-cooked Pork in Sichuan Bean Chili Sauce, which was delicious but quite rich. A bit of heat, citrusy taste of sichuan peppercorns, tasty pork belly. Also, South Mountain Chicken (Chicken in Chongqing chili sauce), which again had a nicely flavored brown sauce with fresh red chili and black mushrooms that soaked up the sauce and were delicious. The meat was chicken thighs chopped in pieces on the bone, which added lots of flavor but make for careful eating since little pieces of bone get in the sauce. We also got Peking Ravioli, which were good with the excellent dipping sauce
The vegetarian among us ordered Sour Cabbage & Bean Noodle Soup, which had quite a bit of flavor for a veggie broth, and Fresh Green Soybean & Dried Tofu, which was light and interesting tasting with some smokiness from the tofu. He'd probably order it again, but I'm not sure I would since I like heat and salt..
The prices are a bit higher than many restaurants. I can't say if the service "kinks" have been worked out yet, since the restaurant was empty when I got there, and people were trickling in while I waited. Servers were very warm and welcoming, and I was served good tea while I waited. The owner said that they are pretty busy on weekends through word-of-mouth, and are now feeling like they can do some advertising to bring in more people as the kitchen gets on its feet.
I'm planning on trying more when I'm in the area.
Okay, I tried to go one Monday, but it was closed. (Now open on Mondays, BTW).
TC and I went last night, Siunday night, and LOVED it! Owners were really friendly, and helpful. Not that much help was needed, I already knew I wanted; the fish fillets in red pepper sauce with preserved vegetables. Just great. I usually get a similar dish at Sichuan Garden in Brookline, with nappa cabbage, but the preserved cabbage, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots added a flavor layer that I quite liked to this version. They also have the other dish, with other seafood added. TC got shredded pork with Beijing sauce, which he enjoyed, and we shared a wonderful seaweed salad app of seaweed (wakame, not seaweed surimi), bean sprouts and bean-thread noodles in a light, tangy sesame vinaigrette. In fact, everything was pretty light for a Sichuan place. I can't wait to go again. They were about half full. Everyone was Cantonese (I think; usually I can identify Mandarin), except for one couple, who was amazed when another pair of gaijin strolled in.
Wow, that sounds terrible. Although the level of service you got was definitely inexcusable, this (or a disaster this large) or course happens to almost every restaurant at least once. It sounds like they experienced some sort of kitchen disaster (or a series of kitchen disasters) at exactly the wrong moment.
I can envision it now...
Let's say that you've been open for 5 weekends. With the exception of the first desolate Friday, the business has been pretty steady over the first 5 weekend dinner services. You scheduled one too many cooks and had way too much prepped stock for the first few weeks you were open, but now you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. Suddenly, you get an unexpected early dinner rush. The word of mouth buzz you've been trying to drum up must have started paying off. The rush has drained your prepped stock, but your prep man is cutting up 30 more lbs of onions, 15 more lbs of carrots, velveting chicken meat, etc. Uh oh, 5 minutes into replenishing the stock he cuts the tip of his thumb off and needs to go to the emergency room... he's not going to be back for at least 2 hours, and the 2 other prep guys live 30 miles away. In this weekend traffic you'll be lucky to get them in an hour. So you've got to decide between doing 25 minutes of prep to stock up until your replacement prep guy makes it in, or individually prep for every meal cooked. The first means that no food will be even started for 25 minutes, the latter will multiply the amount of time it takes to cook each dish by at least 5 and could potentially reduce quality and consistency. Also, the more pressure there is to go faster than you're comfortable working, and the more tickets that pile up in that window, the further you get yourself into the weeds. You start working slower than you were, and making bad decisions. (Queue the I love lucy candy factory scene.) Uh oh, table 5 is a cynical food reviewer from The Digg who's really hungry (probably in a bitterly hip and ironic way) and table 2 is a food blogger hoping that the food lives up to the hype (and the menu) and is going to tell people aaaalll about it when they get home. Great or terrible, they'll dutifully document their experience for the world to see... and thousands of grateful people are going to read it and decide whether it's worth it to try something new or stick to Sichuan Garden tonight...
Congratulations, your restaurant is on the way to being one of seven out of a total of ten.
That being said, IMHO there is a certain amount of quality that this system brings to the industry on a whole, regardless of how fair or unfair it may be in certain instances. It's one of the lines of work where if you (or somebody else that you have no control over whatsoever) mess up one dish for the wrong person, the 4 star cuisine that you're pumping out morning to midnight for the 1000 other people that have eaten your food doesn't matter anymore. On the other hand, it also allows for entirely mediocre and lazy chefs/owners/managers to impress the right people, and be called a genius while serving slop to the general public.
It sounds to me like the real inexcusable mistake was that the front of the house wasn't at all up front with you about what was going on, and kept seating people as if nothing was wrong even though they knew that the kitchen was operating at 10x it's capacity. Just a friendly warning would have been enough to allow you to choose another time to eat there, or settle in for the long haul if you were really dedicated... though in my experience I've found that immature, inexperienced managers and moronic owners might forbid their front of the house staff from giving such warnings because it might 'scare off business'... And when i've encountered these people I try to remind them that it won't scare off business a quarter as much as a scathing exposure of their shortcomings in a public forum. ;-)
I'm still going to give it a shot methinks. It (along with Sichuan Garden, which I had not tried until a couple of days ago) was given rave reviews by a chinese born chef-instructor at the culinary school I attend, and that's all the endorsement I need. Hopefully I'll be able to try the food... in less than several hours. ;-)
I cant imagine they have had many nights like i experienced or they would be gone already! Seriously at least 40 people walked out after waiting and not eating like we did. And that was just in the couple hours we were there!
I would suspect they must have hired some staff since then or got the van repaired
I really want to try it again but not for a few more months!
Hey we should plan an outing there!
PS: marinara are you also bear?
Yeah, that's one of the most horrifying restaurant experiences I've heard about in a long time, and it didn't even involve a severed finger or chili (i know i know, it was a hoax). Let's hope it was a fluke... it's always so disappointing to see high quality restaurants go under because they weren't professionally run.
Bear (who's my mom) and I are planning on grabbing some takeout from there at some point soon, we'll give a full report (and look to see if we're the only ones with food). ;-)
I've tried RP twice for lunch now and the service was certainly choppy - there was a "first time in the restaurant biz" feel to the front of the house.
That's a shame, since they have a menu that is almost exclusively focused on traditional Szechuan dishes. There is, in fact, a small (1/4 page) selection of "American chinese dishes".
I've tried two of the more mainstream lunch specials - Yuxiang shredded pork & Gungbao Chicken - just to gauge them against other places. Both stood up well. The Yuxiang sauce was an especially strong effort.
By comparison I wouldn't call SG "Americanized", but it is - true to its name - more gourmet. The knifework and presentation at SG are _very_ refined - and they have a pretty big rotating specials menu that keeps things interesting.
RP - intentionally or not - is more "homestyle" - emphasizing flavors more than overall persentation I think.
EG., the Gungbao at Sichuan Gourmet has chicken diced into such precise and uniform cubes, and the finishing sauce is sweet (but not oversweet) and glossy. RP had less uniform knife work and (I thought) and a less sweet sauce.
The poached slice pork with fresh garlic at RP was again, less lapidary then the equivalent SG dish in presentation - not every slice was lantern shade thin and the garlic did not look like it had been sliced to a puree - but the flavor was there and there was the surprise of a small pile of pickled veg under the mound of pork slices - all swimming in lovely garlic and red oil sauce.
I'm excited to try more of the menu (as were my lunch companions), especially as hot pots are featured in their own section - something that I've only seen as a special at SG.
The owner, Jennifer, was very approachable on my visits and does seem interested in feedback. Before I brave a dinner there I'll probably go for lunch again and ask here what's up with the PM service.
Back again yesterday for lunch and had an amazing huge bowl of soup noodles w/ shredded pork and mustard greens ($7 including tax).
Talked to the man in the front of the house about the service and he agreed that there were problems, especially on weekends at dinner. His said that they were getting far more interest in their opening month than they expected and that they did tend to spend more time and put more care into preparing each dish than other places might.
Whether you buy that or not, I'm thinking of taking up his suggesting to try an extra early dinner setting there sometime in the next few weeks. Based on my experience so far, I can't wait to try the hot pot!
I did it.
I called for a 7.30 reservation tonight, was gently and politely encouraged to come at 8.00 and then fecklessly showed up a couple minutes after 7 anyway.
Front of the house was attentive, but also made it clear that things could take time.
We had a glass of wine, enjoyed the fact that the children were with a babysitter and we could have conversation and perused the menu in detail.
Here's the deal: don't come expecting lightning fast service. The room was not jam packed tonight with people expecting a quick bite and out the door. The scene was dominated by multi generational parties of 4 to 8 people - many families with small children in tow. In other words very much a social, almost neighborhood scene.
Do expect some really good food. No hot pot tonight (again staff was apologetic:"the chef wants to prepare each dish himself") and I still haven't made it in when the chongqing dumplings are available. But what we did have was awsome: Sliced Poached Pork with Minced Fresh Garlic stands up to and improves on the SG version. Stewed duck with beer was loaded with aromatics, garlic, chillies and juicy black mushrooms. We also asked for and got some baby bok choy fried with garlic & chili - even though this isn't on the menu.
This place has been busy and I think that it may have what it takes to make it. It's really up to you: plan ahead and be prepared to relax and wait. When the dishes do come out of the kitchen they are clearly prepared with expertise and care.
When you say "relax and wait" how long are we talking?
I wouldnt call waiting over 1 hour after you place your order and still not even getting an app " expecting a quick bite and out the door"...
Others seemed to agree as the same multi generational parties were walking out left and right while we were there.
The front of the house was attentive and polite when we were there too. Just nothing past that was available. Never did even see any staff working the dining room other then the same hostess from the front and a buss boy. Was there waitstaff tonight?
We ordered those dumplings you mentioned and were not told they were not available but cant verify if they ever were going to come or not. We also ordered the same duck and pork dishes you got. I think we asked for 8 different dishes.
I think i may try it as takeout one night. Call it in a few hours in advance or something.
wow. that sounds dreadful. how long have they been open? i drive by this place every day but thought they were still pre-opening. there is something cursed about that particular locale. so many restaurants have failed. my other thought is the last thing framingham needs is yet another chinese restaurant. i'd kill for a good, non-chain, comfort food spot. sorry you had such a lousy experience.
The Grand Opening was Sep/12th
We were so excited for it especially after seeing the great menu and after the hostess (who i think is also the owner) talked it up as being so authentic and how she considors sichuan gourmet up the road "americanized" .....
One of us had a loaf of bread in a bag she was carrying from a local bakery and we actually started to eat it. The joke at the table was that it was authentic prison food. Bread (our own) and water.
Wow, Hargau, that's so bad, it almost sounds good (at least you were able to write an ”amusing” story about it, right?)! Your perseverance is amazing.
However, a Chinese friend attended a group dinner there this week, and I quote: "Red Pepper is pretty good, better than Sichuan Gourmet I think. They offer 10% discount till end of October. We did not drink last night, since they only have a license for beer for now. Wine is coming soon..."
Personally, I find it pretty hard to believe that anywhere is better than Sichuan Gourmet (the Billerica location is better than the Framingham one). I adore their sliced beef cartilage in chili sauce. Dried chicken and peppers is also a favorite. One of the two or three best Chinese restaurants in the Boston area, up there with Peach Farm and Taiwan Café, IMHO. But I'm not Chinese. However, half my co-workers and staff are Chinese, some from Sichuan and Hunan, and they all agree. I'm NEVER heard one of them say SG is "Americanized" (unless that means they actually serve food)! Although they do have a few of those sort of dishes on the menu, most seems to be the “I have a Western face, but a Chinese stomach” variety (I’ve been told that is the translation of the Chinese phrase on the old Chowhound.com “waiters card”—do they still sell these?).
Anyway, I'll give RP a shot in the name of this board, since it sounds like you won't be back. But maybe in a couple of weeks (give them time to hire more than one chef).
good luck. I wont be back and im sure at least 50+ people from last night will not be either. I will stick with S.G.
Everyone in my party was joking that its the last time they will let me pick the restaurant....
The menu looked great and the 4-5 dishes that did come out for the entire restaurant in the time we were there smelled/looked decent. If you go, id go soon before they shutdown. The hostess didnt even seem phased that huge tables of people were getting up and leaving.
Not sure I would put Taiwan Cafe even close to top three. Peach Farm maybe but only for seafood.
Others further up the list in no particular order:
Best Little Restaurant
Wang's Fast Food
Think I am missing one or two.
Recently did a chow dinner at Fuloon in Malden and their dry woked chicken with chilis and szechuan peppercorns was superb.
That said, I gotta get out to Sichuan Gourmet one of these days.
I will second this - we need more diner food, more comfort food made with style and panache.
I have been to Red Pepper twice, once for dinner last weekend, once for lunch last Wednesday. On both occasions, the service of food was quite slow, as if only one chef was actually doing the cooking. On both trips, the tables were full. A Chinese restaurant needs multiple chefs...
While the food was successful on both trips, this was not a good sign then. But food quality and preparation warranted some latitude.
Not sure what happened, but it sounds like a revolt led by unhappy staff. Wow!...