The conversations/arguments about food are some of my favourite moments in any bombcast and this week was no exception. When I heard the first few lines of Ryan's yelp review I had to read more. A little googling and sure enough here it is.
From Fuji Mongolian Barbeque in Petaluma, CA:
I should preface this review by stating that I freaking *love* Mongolian BBQ. Growing up, trips to the Ghenghis Khan in Coddingtown were always a special occasion, and I was simply beside myself when I learned that Fuji--a sushi restaurant that, in my experience, had always been serviceable--was bringing the format to Petaluma.
The beauty of Mongolian BBQ, from both the proprietor and the customer perspective, is that it's pretty hard to screw up. The customer throws a bunch of thin-sliced meat, veggies, and sauce into a bowl, a grill-man toss it on a hot grill for a couple minutes, and then you're on your way. And if that combination didn't really work for you? Well, there's always the next bowl to try again.
The BBQ itself here is decent--good, even--but in the half-dozen visits I've made here, I have been absolutely blown away by the consistently apathetic, disinterested, and poorly trained waitstaff. They never seem to know how to approach the table, and requests for drinks are consistently met with confusion and bewilderment. Despite the restaurant being mostly empty every time I've been here, the staff is slow and always seems incredibly distracted by everything but the customers.
You'd think service in a buffet-style setting wouldn't be an issue, except that, rather than leave a stack of bowls next to the buffet counter, Fuji has the waitresses (never seen a male waitperson here) bring the bowls to the customers' tables one at a time. It's counter-intuitive to the Mongolian BBQ experiences I've had, though it wouldn't be an issue with an attentive waitstaff.
They also insist on starting each meal with bowls of just the most awful, watery, flavorless egg drop soup I've ever been served. Since I have no interest in ruining my appetite with this grey-ish slurry, every visit has started with a lengthy wait for my first bowl to arrive. I don't consider myself an impatient diner, but when the only thing between you and an enjoyable dining experience is a freaking *bowl*, it can be frustrating.
If I had to speculate, a lot of the format decisions here are driven by a desire to slow the pace of the diner and ultimately curb the amount of Mongolian BBQ they consume. But that theory gets blown to smithereens by the way they treat steamed rice like Nazi gold, refusing to serve it in portions larger than a measly quarter-cup at a time. Rice is cheap and fills people up quickly; why wouldn't you serve it in plentiful portions, or even just put out a rice cooker that the customers could serve themselves from?
As much as I enjoy the actual food here, and find the place to generally be a pretty great value, I've always left feeling like I've spent too much of my visit struggling against the service. So Fuji Mongolian BBQ, you're on notice: either fire your waitstaff and replace them people interested in customer service, or give the customers direct access to bowls and rice. These might seem like simple requests, and minor things to penalize a restaurant over, but when bowls and rice are pretty much the only things the waitstaff is responsible for, it comes off as a pretty significant failing