Monday, May 4, 2009

Emek Refaim Eatery

Last week, I decided to recommit myself to my blog. In all honesty, I missed spending time writing. Besides, its been hard since JuJu was born to find anytime to myself and blogging was certainly one of my guilty pleasures to go. Now that JuJu is almost 5 months old, I think I've gotten the basic hang of things. Now I have her basically on a schedule. I know that an hour and a half after she eats, she needs to nap. This one is a little snoozer - I get 20-30 minute naps multiple times a day. So, I decided to spend one of her nap times doing something that makes me happy. And, if that means the laundry doesn't get folded, dinner is late to the table or I missed a meal (story of my life), then so be it. 

Welcome back Jtownunderground!

I decided the perfect way to get back into the blogging swing of things was to write a review about the new restaurant on Emek Refaim: RYU (pronounced Ree-you). So, on Erev Yom Haatzmaut, I took my husband and JuJu and we went for a walk to the eatery. 

The place can't be missed, with the obnoxiously large dragon draping the old entrance to Yo Ja and the words that scream at you that the entrance is in back. I had read a review about the place on eLuna and was eager to check it out. Especially since I'm a chinese food fanatic! And, Jerusalem is really lacking when it comes to good Chinese food. So, when I heard this place was Chinese and Japanese, I was excited. I'm not that interested in the Japanese part since I'm very, very happy with my take out from Sushi Bar Rechavia and, when I really need a good sushi fix, Yoko Ono Sushi in Tel Aviv.

No, I was looking to satisfy my desire for good sweet and sour chicken, a nicely flavored egg roll and some sesame chicken with a side of beef and broccoli.

So, there we were, hungry for Chinese food and standing in the doorway of the restaurant. The place was empty and it was only 4:30 p.m. Now, eLuna's review said they were open from 12-11, and never mentioned a siesta in the afternoon. But, apparently, the restaurant was not able to seat us until 6:00 p.m.

Well, that was a bit of a bummer, but we decided not to let this opportunity pass us by. We asked if they would be willing to give us take out. The waitress checked with the powers that be and said of course. I poured over the menu - as did the Pidgeon - and we came up with an order that cost 350 shekel! Now, we don't have that kind of money to spend on one dinner, but we decided to splurge a bit since it was Erev Yom Haatzmaut and we really wanted to taste a wide array of menu offerings.

The waitress went in to the Chef to give our order, and then returned to tell us that the Chef didn't recommend the Entrecote as take away. He felt that it would get dried out by the time we got home, even though Pidgeon ordered it rare. So, we said we appreciated his warning but we would like to order it anyway. The waitress disappeared and then returned again, with a very sheepish smile on her, to tell us that Chef Eran Gefen refused to make the dish for us. 

I was shocked. Now, I am a self proclaimed foodie. I watch Iron Chef, Iron Chef America, Top Chef and Rosemary Shrager's reality cooking show. The first thing we did when we got Hot Cable was order me the Food Network, and I spent many a sleepless night watching Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and even Rachael Ray whip up some fabulous feast in 30 minutes or less when I lived in Manhattan. 

I also used to represent a Chef (as his Publicist) who did his studying under Chef Tom Valenti and Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at 'Cesca and Jean Georges respectively.  Eran, meanwhile, did his apprenticeship in Michelin-rated restaurants (which ones, I'm dying to know, and at what capacity???) and worked at Arcadia for 5 years (again, was he head Chef? What did he do at that restaurant?). I called my Chef and told him the story and he said the following:

"What happened to you isn’t that crazy for a chef who really cares.  A lot of places suck and don’t give a crap about quality.  This guy obviously cares and wouldn’t want you to try anything he made that wouldn’t be perfect (according to his standards) when you ate it.  I would go back and try his food.


The same thing happens a lot when people order meat cooked to medium, medium-well or well done in a restaurant.  It’s going to suck, and many chefs don’t want to serve food that is not going to have any flavor.


When the customer doesn’t know what’s good, he can’t be right!"


Now I remember why I stopped working with him. I personally like my meat cooked medium-well. I know how it tastes and to me, it tastes good. I personally don't like meat rare, it just doesn't appeal to me. His last statement was extremely condescending and rude. People know what they like, period. And, if they can't get it in one place, they'll just go somewhere else to find it. In todays economy, who can afford to insult a paying customer? 

Thank goodness there's Chef Tom Colicchio, who during the very FIRST season as judge on Top Chef, admonished one of the contestants for not wanting to do something a customer asked her to do. Again, it's always what the customer wants, even if the Chef disagrees. (Tom Colicchio, meanwhile, is a legend in the food world - creator and Chef behind Craft, and numerous other eateries in multiple cities in the United States)

So, back to the moment when Chef Eran Gefen refused to make us a rare entrecote steak with chi-chicki sauce (not sure what that was, but would have loved to find out) for take out. Now, again, we would have loved to have him serve it to us right then and there. But, they weren't serving diners until 6:00 p.m., so what were we to do.

I took my credit card back from the waitress and cancelled our order. I then instructed the waitress to tell the manager that we were willing to spend 350 shekel on a NEW restaurant but the Chef refused to serve us. We walked out of RYU, went down a few blocks, and picked up sandwiches at Aroma cafe. The waitress there was more than happy to make us Chai Lattes with Soy Milk and leave off the onion and mayo in our sandwiches - as requested. Our dinner was also a third of the price.

But, man, I was steamed! I had such high hopes for this place! I mean, it could be our new Chinese restaurant! The one I've been dreaming about since I moved from New York to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem. But, with the Chef refusing to serve us part of our order, how would I ever know if it's good or not?

So, I decided to call the manager myself. I got him on the phone and calmly explained the situation. And, after asking me a couple of questions, he said he stood behind his Chef 100%.

I respect that he stood behind his Chef's decision not to serve us. The manager should stand behind his Chef, at least at this stage of the game. Should Chef Gefen continue to refuse to serve customers based on their personal taste, and more and more people walk out of the restaurant unhappy, I wonder if the manager would continue his steadfast alliance with his Chef. If not the manager, CERTAINLY, the owner of this establishment would have something to say?

Back to the conversation. The manager went on to explain that they would never put an entrecote on their take out menu, but there was no take out menu when we went to the restaurant (since they're new and all). I suggested, in the future, that they make sure when someone orders take out that the items not recommended for take out be told to the customer by the waitress, so that this situation is not repeated and no one gets disappointed.

He asked that we try them again and come into the restaurant, as opposed to ordering take out.

Lord, that's what we were TRYING to do the first time.

I politely said I would consider it and we hung up.

So, it was all I guess a series of bad luck for us and RYU:

1) The restaurant wasn't open for customers at 4:30 p.m. on Erev Yom Haatzmaut
2) My husband wanted a rare entrecote steak as his main
3) There was no take out menu to choose from, so we chose an item on the menu that wouldn't have been on the take out menu

I'm hoping other Jerusalem foodies and bloggers will try out RYU and then write about it, so I'll see what we're missing. Provided, of course, that there is something to be missed.

Well, my 30 minutes are up and so is little JUJU

Yom Tov from Baka!

No comments: