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Red Moon Cafe (long)

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PRSMDave Nov 4, 2001 06:08 PM

We were in Torrance yesterday, which usually means a visit to Emerald BBQ on PCH, but we weren't ready to eat at 5:30, so we drove home to work up an appetite. When we were hungry, we drove down to Red Moon Cafe, on National and Sawtelle in Mar Vista, right under the freeway.

BIAS CONFESSION

We've been to Red Moon a few times before and, to be honest, the food was never spectacular. We went last night only because I wanted Chinese food and my beloved wanted Vietnamese, and it seemed like the best compromise. Our prior experience is that the service is painfully slow, to the point where I had to body-check the waitress one time to get the bill after 30 minutes of waiting.

SERVICE

That said, they seem to have cleaned up the service somewhat. This is not to say that it's good - not even close - but we weren't kept waiting an impossibly long time for anything. Part of the problem with the service, to be honest, is the language barrier. Pointing at the menu is fine for the ordering, but special requests are maddening. That said, the food came out reasonably quickly and at the appropriate temperature. Very little communication was attempted on the part of the waitress.

DECOR AND AMBIANCE

It's definitely red. It's surprisingly elegant in a minimalist kind of way, and hidden somewhat from the large streets at whose corner it sits. You don't hear the freeway at all. Just PLEASE close the door to the bathroom - no one wants to see into it while he's eating!

FOOD

After all our debate at home, we both ended up choosing from the Family Dinner menu (soup, appetizer rolls, and an entree each). We ordered garlic chicken and lemongrass beef.

The soup was absolutely a chaloshes. It seemed like someone had dumped a tablespoon of unflavoured gelatin in a tub of something destined to be hot and sour soup (only missing the hot and sour part), so it was a thick fog of eggs and orange-coloured, bland semisolid. I did something uncharacteristic of me when I tasted it - I refused to eat it.

The meal came with summer rolls (unfried) and spring rolls (fried). Both were delicious, but the spring rolls were incredible. Instead of the usual fried medium-brown sheets of wonton skin, it had a very crêpe-papery texture and had been fried so that it was just barely brown. When eaten with their peanut sauce, it was excellent. When eaten with their nuoc mam (fish sauce), it was even better.

My fiancée didn't like the lemongrass beef as much as I did. She wanted it to be more sour, whereas I thought it was pretty darn good and just sour enough so you knew it was there. The sour was, of course, all in the sauce so if you got a bite without sauce it was just another woked creation.

On to the garlic chicken. When I die, I want to have just finished an enormous plate of Red Moon's garlic chicken. Hot, tangy, with the perfect texture of sauce (the same thickness, may I mention, as the soup), and hints of ginger as well. We played 'parse the ingredient' but we'll never be able to recreate it at home.

A note about their steamed rice. So many places give you awful rice, heavy and thick and obviously several hours old. The rice here was light and fluffy and a perfect foil for that garlic sauce (my God, I'm DROOLING, twenty hours later!).

My beloved had water, I drank Vietnamese coffee (ca phê sua). The coffee was very good but waiting for it to drip out of that little contraption on the top was IRRITATING.

PRICE

Dinner for the two of us was $30, including tax and tip.

VALUE

Not a bad value but not exactly something that's going to make bargain hunters flock to the door.

OVERALL

They've cleaned up the service and I want more garlic chicken. I will be back and to Hell with the communications problems.

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  1. v
    Victoria RE: PRSMDave Nov 5, 2001 05:56 PM

    I go here all the time with my family (it's my kids' favorite restaurant) and I've never had a problem with either the language or the service. In fact, the service is super friendly and adequately attentive. Agree on price: Not for bargain hunters (tho' not outrageous by any means). I highly recommend.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Victoria
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      PRSMDave RE: Victoria Nov 6, 2001 12:46 AM

      You know, it must be me then... I must have "give me crappy service" tatoué on my forehead... because this is not the only example of this.

      I'm going to go develop a complex now.

      1. re: PRSMDave
        m
        mdub RE: PRSMDave Nov 6, 2001 04:55 PM

        It's not you.
        I had the worst dinning experience ever about six months ago at the red moon
        Went to the red moon with coworkers for lunch.
        We all selected plates from the lunch menu. Quick and easy. Right? Wrong!
        In our group of five, two ordered chicken entrees, two ordered beef and one person ordered a shrimp dish.
        Although we ordered at the same time, all the orders were served spread out over a period of time. Originally, we thought we were off to a good start when the soup was promptly served soon after we placed our order.
        Did someone accidentally spill a box of cornstarch into the soup pot? Good favor but I can't get past the gelatinous consistency.
        Twenty minutes go by and our attention turned from the soup to our entrees that were evidently missing in action. We watched as bowls of noodles, pho and plates of fragrant meats emerged from the kitchen and whisk past us.
        We mentioned to our waitress that we noticed three tables were served their food even though they arrived after we had placed our orders. She dashed off to the kitchen then returned a few seconds later and assured us that "your orders will be out shortly". Finally, ten minutes later, a single chicken dish emerged from the kitchen and was served to one of my coworkers. She politely waited for everyone else to be served before eating. After ten minutes of waiting, we felt sorry that her food was getting cold and encouraged her to begin eating. Soon after she begins the other chicken and the shrimp dish was served. The people that order beef were not served until everyone else had completely finished their meal and the table cleared of plates and utensils. We continued to question our waitress as to why it was taking so long and express our discontent with the service. Again, the only explanation that was offered was "your orders will be out shortly". At the end of the meal the staff made no apology and no discount was offered for their horrible service.

        1. re: mdub
          m
          Mike Kilgore RE: mdub Nov 6, 2001 06:20 PM

          Did you leave a tip, and if you did how much was it? Did you speak or write to the manager/owner? Have you been, or would you ever go back?

          1. re: Mike Kilgore
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            shlepo RE: Mike Kilgore Dec 9, 2001 02:03 PM

            I as well was very dissappointed with Red Moon. The service was slow and the food mediocre. I also feel it is overpriced. Check out Litle Saigon in WestLA --better food for less,although the menu is limited.

    2. j
      julia RE: PRSMDave Nov 6, 2001 06:12 PM

      Dave,

      I am so diggin' your (long) reviews - please keep it up!

      p.s. I have a friend who has "give me bad service" tattooed on his forehead in such a way that only waitstaff can see. Whenever we go out together, we are a bad service magnet! I don't have this problem in such a consistent way with my other friends. It's a really weird phenomenon, since this particular friend is from New Orleans and is one of the most generous, sweet, cultured, chowhoundish, cute, great guys I know! There is really no explaining it. Hmmm... except for the fact that his name is... DAVID! No, that can't be it...

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