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May 26, 2009 04:37 AM

Brief Oyamel report

This is not an intentionally brief Oyamel report.

We met some friends at Oyamel last night - none of us had been before.

Upon arrival, our waiter was very nice - recommended the tamarind agua fresca for my boyfriend, who liked it. We were informed that our waiter would be changing shifts. So, as our friends were a little late, we ordered some plates to ensure there'd be food when they got there (we had a movie to catch). The new waiter showed up once our friends did, and things quickly went down hill. One diner asked for a coke ($3!!!) and that arrived pretty much the same time as our check. The waiter sensed that we were vegetarian and recommended some dishes....and then 20 minutes later, we wondered where things were...waiter had disappeared. We think he had too many tables and simply ignored us. One of our friends asked a passing waitress about what was going on. We had ordered guacamole (I make better), and the runner brought it out and it just sat there. The waitress put it together for us (without asking how spicy, etc, as other tables had been). the ready to make guac was sitting there for about 8 minutes.

Our other food arrived once we asked for the check. Our waiter seemed uninterested in why we just wanted to get out of there, saying "here's your check, everything should be out now".

Meh, uninterested service,

the food was fine - queso fundido was tasty, but there is considerably more cheese than tortillas brought out. Our waiter DID tell us we should order more tortillas, which we did but never showed up at our table. The chips/salsa were fine...but honestly, Lauriol's chips are better and never ending (which when you order queso and guac would have been nice at Oyamel). The cactus dish was well received by those who ate it...fried Plaintain were very tasty (the chipotle sauce not so much, but that sauce DID go well with the queso).

And that was the extend of what we were able to order due to our waiter never checking in/disappearing.

One last issue - we sat at a 6 top with a lazy susan in the middle - it was very crowded. The plates wouldn't fit and we basically had our water glasses on in front of our chests to keep them out of the way of the sides of the plate from the over crowded lazy susan. Nothing major, just annoying to try to not knock things over!

This is the only bad experience I have had a Jose Andres restaurant. Perfectly fine food (overpriced, IMO), poor service on a variety of levels (no manager in sight).

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  1. I am shocked.
    The Oyamel staff has always been on top of their game when it comes to service. The food for that matter has always been great also. Joe Raffa is a great chef and the management staff is all very well seasoned at their positions.

    I would email the manager and let him know of the issues that you had. Even though it is now too late and you have left the building, they should know about the concerns that you have and the issues you encountered while dining there.


    10 Replies
    1. re: themeatguy

      we issued our concern to multiple people who seemed to be working there - bus/runner and another waitress (who when we asked what was going on, gave us a sort of confused yet irritated look). Most places, if you complained, they'd go find the manager on duty and bring them over.

      The service at Andres' restaurants has always been good when I've gone - so I can see us going back, but honestly for the price, I don't think it's as substantial a meal as I've had at other places in the restaurant group.

      1. re: Jeserf

        Jeserf, those are not the right people to make a formal complaint or expect them to solve the problem unless you asked them for a manager. You should have asked for a manager while there or when you were about to leave. If you have problems but are a passive diner, how do you expect management to know and how do you expect the restaurant to do better in the future?

        1. re: Jacey

          So wait, if a patron tells a waiter that the service is not...decent, we should expect to have him say, "here's the rest of your food' and plop the check on our table? Having worked in the service industry, I would have tried to rectify my customer's needs before having it go up the chain.

          We had to go make a movie - but yes, we should have asked for a manager sometime during the 20 minutes it took the waitress not assigned to our area to help us rectify the situation. We looked for a manger and business cards with contact info on our way out, but there was no one at the front other than a bartender, so we left. The other Andres' restaurants seem to have cards with contact info right by the door but again - we were pressed for time since the snack took longer than we had planned.

          I'll forward the contact info for the managers to the person in our party who made the complaints.

          And for what it's worth, I've never had poor service in DC since moving here- whatever issues there's been in terms of long waits (an order wasn't placed, for example), the waiter always took care of it, or brought the manager over to explain/comp. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I also don't spend as much time and money on restaurants as many board regulars.

          1. re: Jeserf

            "And for what it's worth, I've never had poor service in DC since moving here"

            Count your blessings.

            1. re: WestIndianArchie

              I do, but I also do not dine out a lot. I save my money, and when we go out, it's rare and hope that it's very lovely. While I'd like to try 'em, I don't believe in blowing my pay check on all the fabulous places we have. I'd rather have my condo and cook in MY kitchen :)

            2. re: Jeserf

              For the record---I feel your pain. Sometimes there just isn't enough time to track down a manager especially when the signals are being crossed and the waiter is no where to be found.

              Did you tell your waiter you were trying to make a movie? I always say this when I have a play/movie/concert etc to get to.

              Even if you didn't, I don't think the poor service was your fault. It seems like you did everything you could within the time didn't seem like a "passive diner."

              1. re: Elyssa

                hehe we told him 3 times - and my dramatic "I totally don't want to see this movie!" was included.

                We weren't passive, but it's more trouble than it's worth when you're under time contstrains to fix things on your way out. We paid our bill, tipped well enough for what we got, etc.

                The first waiter we had was great! The couple next to us was also ignored but had more time to "dine" vs. eat.

          2. re: Jeserf

            I think the best thing to do in these situations is to know going into a time critical situation, that you might advise the person seating you that you are looking move out quickly because of prior engagements. If that doesn’t work, then the situation might call for sitting at the bar, where you always have attentive eyes and ears.

            I do disagree with some of what some of the other posters have said, only because I eat at a Jose Andres restaurant 3 times a month. Never the same location each time, always going to different places. What I can say is that all restaurants have BAD servers. You hope and pray that you don’t get one, but you will eventually. The thing I always do is ask them to seat me in a section where there are other tables and not off in the corner alone. That is so if for some reason, it is taking a while to get a person over……I can flag someone down, as there is never that many bad servers in one restaurant.

            1. re: themeatguy

              Is there a time of day when it's better to go to Oyamel? We'd like to go and we'll be spending a week in DC in December, visiting various Smithsonian museums (and possibly the zoo) so I was hoping to give it a shot. :)

              1. re: themeatguy

                I agree- we told the first waiter that we were catching a movie once...and the "new" waiter twice. :)

          3. I've had really competent service at Oyamel, and I've also experience the train wrecks. My limited experience/observations during the train wrecks at Oyamel is that one or two people are really at the root of problems that then multiply and cause disruptions throughout the system. When Oyamel is on, it is one of my favorites. But when it is off, it's shockingly, monumentally bad.

            4 Replies
            1. re: dcandohio

              That's been my experience w/ all of Andres' restaurants--when the service is good, they are great palces to dine, but when the service is bad, it's REALLY bad. Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel, Jaleo--they all seem to have this problem. Oyamel's food also went downhill after the move to Penn Quarter, so of the Andres restaurants, it's probably on the bottom of the list for me right now.

              1. re: sweth

                I agree, at least based on my experiences at Penn Quarter Jaleo. The first few times my husband and I dined there, we had a very good time and enjoyed good food. When we took foody friends the service was generally uninterested and ALL our tapas arrived within 5 minutes of each other instead of the intential timing and order of tapas that had been explained to us and carried out during our first couple visits.

                1. re: sweth

                  "Oyamel's food also went downhill after the move to Penn Quarter,"....
                  I totally Disagree with this statement. Joe Raffa puts out some of the best Mexican around and has a high regard for his dishes and the quality of the food.

                  Maybe you feel that way considering the CryCity location was never busy so it made for a more pleasurable experience. But to say that the quality of the food has gone down,…….I think that is wrong.

                  1. re: sweth

                    I actually think that the food has improved since it moved to Penn Quarter and since I worked near both locations and had the chance to go multiple times to each at lunch, I think I'm in a pretty good position to comment on the change. There are occasional "misses" but I think that it's because they're trying new things.

                2. I had a similar experience when visiting 2 weeks ago. In addition to your service woes, we waited well over 10 minutes for our waitress to make the guac after it was placed next to our table by the server plus our waitress completely screwed up our food order. Thankfully, the sorbets were delivery promptly (much to my surprise).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: HilkaryIC

                    our guac sat there too! i told my table that I'd make it....