Samalita's: Is it creepy or not?
This Sunday, two friends and I stopped by Samalita's [Californian cuisine with a Mexican twist, so they say] for a quick brunch bite because we were stuck on the wrong side of the Marathon.
I ordered the steak and eggs brunch item and asked for rare. I do like it cooked on the outside but a thin bloody core in the middle, so I asked the waitress what rare meant for them (I've found that rare in European restaurants usually means quite rare, while many other restaurants overcook in Manhattan). It seemed like she wasn't sure, but she offered that it would be easy to take it back if it were too bloody.
I received the hanger steak and cut into it twice, took a bite, and it was completely well done. The busboy/server had not left our table, so I asked gently--"perhaps this wasn't mine, perhaps it was someone else's?" Because I figured that you could get medium if you ordered rare, but never well done.
The server took it back and a few minutes later, came back and said "yes, I brought the wrong plate. This is yours." There was a new piece of steak on it, which I cut through and it was again well done. Then disconcertingly, I noticed a piece of my old steak underneath it. I'm not sure why, but this creeped me out. It may have had something to do with the fact that I observed the manager help himself to a customer's bowl of guacamole and chips (just the chips, not the guac) while it was waiting to be carried out (the restaurant has a semi-open kitchen). In my opinion, a fair amount of germaphobe behavior is wishful thinking-- there's too much stuff floating around anyway, and that's what your immune system is for. But..while this kind of behavior is normal in your house (sampling, reusing and switching), don't you think it should be a bit hidden in a restaurant? Or is that besides the point?
Anyway, I asked the waitress to cancel my order because they tried twice and they couldn't cook it properly, and also because the server lied. The server came back to argue with me that he had given me an entirely fresh plate. I pointed out that I wasn't sure what he thought he was going to get by arguing with me in front of his customers. I also pointed out that it was clear that from the swipe through the serving of black beans and the broken eggs that this plate had been previously consumed. Then the waitress came over, brought over the manager about five feet away from our table, pointed at me and said "that's the one that doesn't want the food" in a loud voice. People turned to look at us and my friends were mortified, though I was rather bemused by this situation. The waitress did inform us that item had been taken off our bill. The manager did not come over to say anything to us, and we paid and left.
Sounds creepy to me. But then again, i'd rather eat bbq'd rat than step foot in a NYC restaurant that serves "California cuisine with a Mexican twist".
The service issues you mention are the kind of things that make me happy that i left NYC. Despite having many many favorite places in Manhattan, i think the experience you described is all too common in terms of the general disregard for customers (in Seattle, Vancouver, and many other places one finds that the exact opposite is the norm: the managers and waiters usually care that you enjoy your meal: imagine that)
On the other hand, i do like a few NYC places where others have found the service wanting. For example, i always get stellar service at the oyster bar at the GCOB.
I live nearby and pass it almost daily on my way back from work. I have not gotten a good impression from the look of the diners' faces. We wanted to go once for lunch a month or so ago, but were dissuaded when a group of 5-6 people walked out of the door and one of them loudly exclaimed "That place SUCKED!" (true story). My girlfriend did have drinks there once and reported disappointing service. We did have high hopes before the place opened as we live very close, but it looks to be a miss.
I had the most horrendous meal recently there-even went back in person the next day to comment that i would love them to suceed. Every single one of my friends who tried said never again. They need new chef, owner or whatever it takes because they did a gut renovation but food is soooooooooooooooooooooooo bad!!!!!!!!!!!!
Getting something truly rare is becoming near impossible. It's often like assuring a Thai waiter you can take a curry SPICY! I sometimes will say "bleu" but only French restaurants understand thatI also have been known to say I want it so rare it can walk to the table. I have to concur that this sounds like an awful place on quite a few levels. When servers are being abused by the front person, it comes out in your experience with them. I also avoid California Cuisine as fastidiously as I avoid Nouveau cuisine. If I want health food, I go to a juice bar, if I want Mexican, I go to somewhere authentically Mexican.
Samalita's Sunflower Restaurant is worse than terrible. It is a con, a scam, and a travesty against food love. It gives those who love Mexican and Cal-Mex hope when they walk past and grab a menu; that there could be a place in the neighborhood where you could get hearty and earthy, well-prepared Mexican food. DO NOT BE FOOLED. WALK ON!
I've been wanting to eat there for months, and - being hungry and feeling lazy, ordered from Samalita's last night. I usually start any restaurant off with an easy cuisine staple, before I commit to a big order, or suggest it to friends.
We started with a small order of Pico de Gallo and chips. The tiny plastic ramekin order of Pico De Gallo was watery and whined of the vinegar that leaked off the big jar o' pickled jalapeno's they made it with. The "homemade" chips were okay, thick and corny - but it was a joke trying to use them to get into the large plastic thimble the Pico came in.
We ordered a California Cobb salad that was supposed to have smoked bacon (like a Cobb does). Instead it came with candied walnuts (weird). We called and they apologized, saying the menu had changed and the take-out ones hadn't been updated. We asked to have the bacon sent over and to be credited for the salad. They offered a small order of Chips and Guacamole instead. We were never going to eat there again, so we said okay. 45 min. later, we received a tiny bit of un-cooked bacon in their trademark plastic portion, along with runny tasteless Guacamole and another nice bag of corny goodness. Basically, their Cobb Salad is a food service version with minute portions of the Cobb's ingredients, served with watery greens.
But the worst of the worst of the food we ordered was the item we had the highest hopes for - Chicken Enchiladas in Mole Sauce (we could have ordered them w "green" sauce, or "chili gravy") served with rice and beans (the rice was par-boiled Sysco Uncle Ben's, the pinto beans were the okay-est thing we ate from Samalita's). Their Mole Negro is sweet and icky and in combination with the cubed chicken they must use for everything in the enchiladas was a complete and total letdown. So was the smaller thimble of the "chili gravy" they sent for me to taste ($1.00). Ick.....Icky Ick.
I cannot say enough how disappointed we were. I also can't help but think this food is being made by Mexican hands who have to laugh at what Gringos will eat - and how much we'll pay for it
With it's too-expensive prices for the industrial-grade ingredients and portions, and menu hype about the owner being a "fifth generation Californian of Spanish, Mexican, and European decent" the restaurant is worse than it's food. It is cardboard beacon of hope in the already terrible landscape of New York City Mexican, and pseudo-Mexican. Don't go there! Make your own or go up to 116th where you have a better chance of getting actual Mexican food. Better yet, go to the Super Taco Truck at 96th and Broadway and eat a few $2.00 tacos al pastor instead.......yummmm
1681 1st Ave, New York, NY 10128