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Disappointed by Pujol

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Pujol... No matter how good their food is, they aboslutely need improvement of their service.

Today, around lunch time, I found myself in Polanco.
Since it is quite difficult to eat well near my work place - Zona Rosa -, I wanted to give myself a special treat, so I went to Pujol.

The food was good as usual, but THE SERVICE AND THE AMBIENCE WAS REALLY DISAPPOINTING.

First of all, there were a lot of mosquitos flying all over the restaurant. I just could not understand that a restaurant like Pujol had not tackled the problem beforehand. The maitre D and the watiers explained me that it is because of sudden change of climate.

First of all, I'm not a visitor, but a resident here. This increase of temperature started more than 2 weeks ago. It is really lame that they blamed the climate.

Secondly, please...give me a break.
The lunch cost me more than US$80, and here I'm in Mexico.
if you want to charge US$80 for a lunch in Mexico, please, at least make sure that your restaurant is hygienic enough not to have those annoying insects!!!

Lastly, the attitude of the sommelier was bizarre.
The sommelier neither knew which wine he had available, nor had much knowledge on the wines that he had in their cellar.

What a shame.
I'm accustomed to be disappointed by Restaurants of Mexico due to their poor service or inadequate attitude. However, I did expect more from Pujol.

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  1. What about the food? You hear such good things.
    Did you end up having wine? Is that how the bill got to 80- bucks?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Earl Grey

      Well, the food was good, but not so impressive. I was so annoyed at the mosquitos and the overall service that I could not appreciate the food properly.

      By the way, I had asparagus with haba beans and bits of peanuts(so so), and trout with mushrooms in burnt onion sauce (very good). And yes, I could have wine after all.

      I have a besetting question everytime I visit a fancy restaurant in Mexico.
      WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MAITRE D', WAITERS AND BUS BOYS and sometimes with the sommeliers?

      Well, Mexico's fancy places have plenty of wait staffs(in numbers), but they either do not know or do not care what they do. There are always too many wait staffs, but no one seems to work attentively. They are friendly, but simply are not interested in doing their job.

      For example, when my wine or water glass is empty, the waiters are too busy chatting and joking AMONG THEMSELVES, and when I am in the middle of very important conversation, they constantly come to my table, asking "Finished?". They are not rushing you out, they just ask you "finished?" like a habit.

      I'm not talking about common food joints, but about those so-called "sophisticated" places. I'm not talking about one or two experiences, either. This is an observation for two and a half years and not only in Mexico City but also in other parts of Mexico.

      I speak Spanish very fluently, so I do not think that there is any kind of miscommunication between me and the waiting staffs.

      I do not go to a fancy restaurant just to eat food. I look forward to an oasis that refreshes my hectic life for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, here in Mexico, inefficient and incompetent waiting staffs quite often ruin the meal.

      1. re: humble drinker

        Piénsalo bien: unless the waitstaff is trained at the restaurant, and trained, and trained again, it's all but impossible to get them to understand the reasons and purposes of doing certain things at certain times.

        Which of the waitstaff has the kind of sophistication and financial resources to have eaten in a high-end restaurant? Which of them truly understands the idea that food and service go hand in glove? Very few, IMHO.

        This waitstaff problem exists, as you mentioned, everywhere in Mexico. I've been in very few restaurants where the service is attentive without being obtrusive, where the waiters know enough about their jobs to anticipate your needs, and where elegance and fine food coexist with exceptionally trained staff.

        One exception has been at Ma Come No, a fine Italian restaurant in Guadalajara. The owners seem to give a damn about the client and his/her desire for quiet, attentive service. A stupendous waiter there--Lulú Maldonado--had it all to a 'T'. Any dinner when she waited on me was a delight.

        1. re: humble drinker

          Honestly... you are probably too mild mannered... happens to everyone coming from the U.S.... last time I was in Mexico it even took me a few meals to get my stride back. Observe the wealthy locals... you will see arrogance, confidence & disdain... kind of like wealthy New Yorkers, Parisians & Indians I know.... it sucks but the servers at the nice places are use to be ordered at by the patrons and when someone comes in that doesn't they will think you have no spine.... its a Dog eat Dog world in D.F.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            It's funny you say this. The last time I was in DF I was watching a lot of the interactions between the waitstaff and customers and some of the customers were incredibly difficult and demanding. I found the staff incredibly patient in dealing with these difficult people. I perceived it to be a more middle class than wealthy thing but I may have missed a lot of the nuance.

            Anyway, I don't doubt this bad experience but I had great service at both Pujol and Izote, especially. Our waiter was peppy and had a sense of humor.

            1. re: Earl Grey

              You and Eat Nopal have touched on one of the most cruel cultural mores I have observed in Mexico: that courtesy and kindness toward someone in a servile position is read as a sign of weakness that in turn may likely be exploited by the first "victim". Let your housekeeper use your hairbrush just once, and in two days it will be missing.

              1. re: Veggo

                Sad reality... to Earl Grey... its more of a wealthy thing (although Mexico's wealthy often don't appear so... i.e., they usually aren't the trendy hipsters driving around the luxury car).

                It should be noted... that this type of cultural dynamic is more prevalent in Polanco than in say Coyoacan, San Angel or Condesa where you get a higher concentration of left leaning, upper middle class types.

                Also nychilanga is absolutely right about service in the cantinas... usually incredible service... very well seasoned, confident servers who make almost anyone feel like an old acquaintance.

      2. The wait staff in most DF restaurants, even Polanco, have never enjoyed a $10 glass of wine in their life, or a $20 meal. If you could follow their collectivo home and observe where they disboarded, you would understand.
        I lived a year in Polanco, on the park, 82 Campos Eliseos, and never had a mosquito bite. You encountered a rare event; bring some Deet next time.
        Learn to enjoy the food, don't rush it, and cut the help a little slack. That's Mexico. I love it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          Amen.

          "Vino", in Mexico, is interpreted by many to mean any hard liquor. Don't expect to find a wine selection at 95% of liquor stores with a sign reading "Vinos y Licores".

          Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

          1. re: cristina

            Thanks for your reflections, Veggo and Cristina. Teneis razon.
            I still believe that those places definitely have much work to do to improve the service, but I'll be more at ease, enjoying the way it is.

            1. re: humble drinker

              The truth is that I must correct myself. I called this a "waitstaff problem". In fact, it's not a problem at all. It's just the way life is here in Mexico, a good bit different from life in the USA and Europe.

              Como México, no hay dos!

              Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

        2. I am so sorry that you had that experience.

          When I first started coming down here 5 years I ago, I used to occasionally splurge at the high end restaurants discussed on this board. After several experiences similar to the one you described at Pujol, I have given up on the expense account places. I would much rather be wowed at a fondita, taqueria, or cantina than feel totally ripped off spending half a month's rent on a restaurant meal.

          The idea that good service does not exist in Mexico is ludicrous! Next time treat yourself to a meal at one of DF's classic cantinas or family restaurants. In my experiences, waiters at cantinas are masters of excellent service- non obtrusive if that's what you want, jokey & friendly if you are, & always ready with the next drink or botana.

          I honestly think that the staff at these big money places think that you are a sucker for spending so much. Not you personally, of course, but wealthy patrons in general who frequent certain restaurants or bars for status and to isolate themselves from the mainstream.

          1. Our experience could not be more different! We came to Pujol to meet our soon to be daughter-in-law's parents and celebrate before the wedding. I sent an email a couple of weeks before to Pujol explaining that we were coming to celebrate, and celebrate we did. The food was beautiful, inventive, and delicious. I just wish I had a better background in traditional Mexican cuisine, I know I would have enjoyed it even more. I found the staff to be professional in the truest Mexican sense of the word, and especially kind and patient with those of us not particularly fluent in Spanish. The evening was topped off by a visit to our table from Chef Enrique bearing complementary bottles of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame with toasts all around. It was an especially memorable evening, from the first puff of foam to the last of the sweets, thanks in no small part to the attentive waitstaff. My thanks again to Chef Enrique and the entire Pujol staff for an incomparable evening.

            1. I agree with Colleend. My wife and I were in Mexico D.F. two months ago specifically to go to the restaurants there. Pujol was one of the best of our trip. We landed at the airport and went straight there for lunch. We had the tasting menu. The food and service were fabulous. All the waitstaff and busboys were very friendly and very attentive despite the fact that we were casually dressed gringos. Pujol, Jaso and Contramar were our best experiences in D. F. I am in the restaurant business and travel frequently. Contrary to some of the other posts, I think that most waitstaff in any local or country will treat you with respect if you treat them with respect. Flying pests can be annoying, but at times unavoidable even in an upscale restaurant. This shouldn't cloud your judgement of this particular restaurant.

              1. Just saw this thread, and I have to agree with most of that. In general restaurants in DF have way too many servers working, which leads to lots of standing around and talking. And I've definitely experienced waiters who, while trying to do their job well, are too eager to take a plate before I'm finished, etc.

                The line "never drank a $10 glass of wine / $20 meal" is irrelevant, IMO. I worked as a server at a very high-end restaurant in the US, but before working there I had never eaten at a restaurant of a similar level. I was good at my job because of good training and because my tips depended on pleasing the customers.

                A typical Mexican middle-class and up has much more "help" than a similar person in the US (abudance of cheap labor). And compared to the US, where many servers at fine restaurants are college graduates, or at least have a very healthy amount of education, etc., the typical server in a high-end restaurant in Mexico has very little education, on average. And whereas many college students in America work as waiters, that is almost never the case here. There's obviously a big gap between the educated/professional class and the service class in Mexico. Back in the States, I had a friend from a wealthy Malibu family who, despite not "needing" the money, still worked as a server part-time in college. I know of a wealthy pro golfer whose son works part-time at a fast food restaurant; Dad wants junior to gain real-world work experience. You would never see the children of wealthy Mexicans doing those things here.

                Ultimately, service isn't great at DF restaurants because "the consumer" (primarily wealthy Mexicans) has not particularly demanded it. In my experience, people here, especially the wealthy, are generally pretty dismissive of service workers. They are constantly surrounded by them (nannys, drivers, etc.) and treat them with much more of a "do what I want right now" attitude versus understanding the way that quality service can improve an amazing meal.

                Until wealthy Mexicans understand the benefits of great service and start demanding with their checkbooks more knowledgeable and high-quality service, things won't change.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hibore222

                  You should try a meal at Restaurante JASO, Newton #88 in Polanco. The service and the food are equally exquisite.

                  Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                2. First of all, this thread was started TWO and a HALF YEARS ago!

                  I've dined twice at Pujol in the past year, and both times the service was exemplary. It's obvious the staff is highly trained. They know their menu, they speak very good English, and the several sommeliers all know their wine.

                  My meal there at the end of 09 was easily my best meal of that year.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    A bit different when I dined there. the waitstaff that i interacted with did not speak english. only the sommelier did. I am not saying whether they should or should not speak english because Mexico is a spanish speaking country. just merely an observation.

                    1. re: ckshen

                      As a matter of fact, Olvera provides Englisk speaking lessons for his waitstaff.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        That's too bad for me then. I would have loved to ask more questions about the ingredients and the preparation while i was there, but felt kinda bad asking things because every time i asked something, the waiter went and fetched the sommelier, who was busy with her own job.