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Nov 22, 2012 04:41 PM

Bad experience at Estihana (Manhattan)

Went out to Estihana on the Upper West Side last night after going to see the Macy's balloons. It was one of the only times in memory that we actually wanted to leave a place without any tip whatsoever. Why? We made a 7:30 reservation for 5 people. Showed up at 7:20 and there was a line out the door, it literally took 10 minutes to just get in and let them know we had a reservation. Then it took them over a half hour to find us a table, even though they had our reservation written down. They were seating walk-ins before people with reservations. If that is the case I have no idea why they would bother having reservations to begin with. After we were finally seated they only gave us 3 menus and then we could not get the waiters attention for another 20 minutes. Since we had come in knowing what we wanted (we mostly went for the crispy beef) we thought it would be pretty simple to order and get food right? After placing our orders for apps and mains we waited over an hour until any food arrived. Again, no waiters around to tell us what the hold up was or offer any explanations. Finally got the appetizers and then had to wait another 1/2 hour for the mains. By this time we had been in the restaurant so long that we didn't even feel like eating them. Only ate about half then wanted the rest wrapped up. Again, no waiters to help or to ask for the check. Finally got someone to give us the check and they decided we had to speak to a manager about splitting it (even though while waiting for a table we saw them splitting checks amongst various credit cards with no problem.) Finally got out of there after being there for over 3 hours. Another in my party told the manager as we were paying how dissatisfied we were. He could not have cared less. And to make it even worse the food was only OK, even the crispy beef we originally went for was only so-so. Will not be going back.

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  1. You forgot the part where they automatically added a17% tip to the bill for our party of 5. At no point during the three hour ordeal did any waiter manager come over to apologize for the delay or offer to compensate us in anyway for our patience. That visit was definitely my last visit to Estihana

    1. Ellie....
      I've read your post and kosherjewishfoodie's as well (it appears you were in the same party) and it appears that you have/had unrealistic expectations on a public holiday.

      There are limited restaurant choices available on Thanksgiving, even in the non-kosher world. You arrived at a restaurant and found them full up and a line out the door. This should have automatically let you know that the kitchen would be hammered, food would not be coming out fast and you would not be seated promptly.
      Just because you had a 7PM reservation doesn't mean that the owners can force diners to vacate a table. People eat more slowly on a holiday than a business day. They don't have to hurry back to work, the kids don't have to be in bed early for school.
      It is not a server's fault that it takes a long time for food to come out of a jammed kitchen. It is not a server's fault that when the restaurant is packed to capacity they are short menus. NONE of this is reason to consider stiffing a server. The fact that the food was only ok is NOT the server's fault either and shouldn't affect your tip.
      Personally, I think you had a lot of nerve expecting an overly busy restaurant to split a check. You and your friends should do your own accounting and settle with each other. And the person who 'decided ' they had to check with a manager about splitting a check, didn't 'decide' anything, it's obvious that person did not have the authority to split a check, or was new or was temporary holiday help that may not have known the procedure.

      It's more than 30 years since I was in the kosher restaurant buisiness, jammed packed on public holidays. If I were that manager who fielded your complaint at 10PM (or later) after busting my hump all day and night on a holiday I couldn't spend with my family, I could not have cared less, either.

      Your not going back is probably a good thing for the restaurant. You are a customer who can not roll with the punches on a very crowded holiday, they would have had no problem filing the table without you. It's not as if you had 1PM resevations for an expensive special Thanksgiving dinner special menu at $100pp and were made to wait, you were ordering off the everyday menu.

      And as a reply to KJF who complains of the automatic gratuity added to the bill, you did not have to pay it, you were free under the law to cross it off, reduce or increase it. It might have been nice if a staff member apologiozed for the delay, but from Ellie's post you must have all been blind if you saw the crowd and didn't expect a wait. NO ONE OWES you any compensation for your patience, it's called good manners and adult understanding of what is happening in your surroundings.

      6 Replies
      1. re: bagelman01

        I agree that if Estihana only acted like that on busy days, you'd absolutely have a point. They aren't particularly good with customer service when things are quiet.

        1. re: bagelman01

          Bagelman, I agree with most of your points, but I think you made one bad assumption(granted Ellie wasn't clear), going out to dinner after the Macy's balloons sounds like this was Wed night, not Thanksgiving day, also it looks like the post was made on Thursday and talks about "last night", so all signs point to this being Wed night erev Thanksgiving, and not a holiday dinner.

          Further, I'd argue that a restaurant taking reservations should hold the table and not try to squeeze in a party just before the reservation. If I showed up on time with a reservation and my table wasn't available because they had sat a walk-in, I'd be inclined to not go back either.

          Beyond that, your points about service once they were seated was spot on. If you go out and see a line out the door you need to expect swamped waiters and chefs.

          1. re: avitrek

            no, it wasn't clear that Ellie saw the ballons on Wed night, not Thanksgiving. My late grandmother worked in Macy's corporate offices in the 1960s and we always went to the staging area after Thanksgiving dinner where we could touch the ballons and floats as they were being deflated for storage.
            I've only had one visit to Estihana (last December) and service was ok.

            1. re: bagelman01

              It should have been clear that it was Wednesday night since she said "Went out to Estihana on the Upper West Side last night after going to see the Macy's balloons." The words "last night" make it very clear.

              As to Estihana, I can't find the thread I once posted in here about my terrible experience there, but I'm with Ellie on this. Service was terrible, and they were not apologetic at all. Estihana in Brooklyn was, in our experience, very nice, but not the Manhattan branch.

          2. re: bagelman01

            Bagelman, I don't know why you would make all these assumptions about me and my party and put this bad experience as our responsibility. There is no need to question my manners. I am hoping it is simply that you did not understand my post. To clarify: This was on Wednesday evening, not Thanksgiving. I understand that a restaurant may be busy and would have something of a delay and if such was the case would have been ok with that. This was way beyond that. In the time that we were sitting there waiting for our food there was turnover at every single table surrounding us, including 2 were the people were seated after us, ordered, got their and ate, and left,. all while we were still waiting for our appetizers to come out. Keeping us in the restaurant for 3+ hours, basically keeping us at a table for the whole evening did neither us or them any good. It was so excessive a wait that someone at my table asked if we were on some sort of hidden camera show. Additionally, you are wrong about your assumption about splitting the bill. Amongst ourselves we did the calculations about who owed what and put post it notes on each credit card stating the exact amount that should be charged on each. And the only reason we did that and thought it was ok was because during our wait for the table we saw them splitting bills for other diners with no problem.
            I usually do not go on chowhound to pan a restaurant, but in this case, when as you point out that there is a finite number of kosher restaurants I would rather give people a head's up on what they could expect in this place, so they don't waste there time or money. That, I think, is good manners.

            1. re: bagelman01

              You have hit one of my pet peeves (sometimes). The addition of a tip for five people or more. I do not know if you can cross out the tip under state law, but I do know that the restaurant will get in an argument with you if you do. That is not my real problem, since I believe the wait staff almost always deserves the tip. My pet peeve is that if you don't look at your bill closely you will not know there was a service charge. If you pay by credit card there is always a "tip" portion on the receipt. If a restaurant is taking a tip they should make it clear, not hope to entrap you into giving an additional tip. Only once do I remember the a line for "additional tip".

            2. Seating walk-ins before parties with reservations is a legitimate complaint.

              I respect places like Noi Dui that simply do not take reservations.

              But I have seen Pardes turn walk-ins away to honor reservations while tables stand empty. I know Pardes is not comparable to Estihana - but...

              Ladino Tapas sort of is. And I have seen them honor reservations while walk-ins wait and the house is packed.

              It does sound like Estihana was failing to act professionally. They should honor reservations, not fill more tables than they can serve, and give walk-ins a good-faith estimate of how long the wait is likely to be.