We’re pretty understanding when it comes to visiting a new restaurant in their opening weeks. Kinks need to be worked out. Dishes need to be finalized. We get that. But this past weekend, we had what is now officially the winner of “Worst Dining Experience Ever.” I cannot, CANNOT, emphasize this enough.
Please, for the love of all that you hold dear, do NOT go to the Lombard, Illinois location of RA Sushi Bar And if you DO go, and your server’s name is AJ, just get up and leave. We’re saving you a headache that it’s not worth having.
Craving sushi for several days, we decided Sunday would be the perfect chance to give this new restaurant a try. We were on the road driving home from Rosemont after a weekend spent at the Flashback Weekend Horror Convention, when the hunger hit. The area surrounding Yorktown Mall is being remodeled with a “Streets of Yorkville” featuring a plethora of restaurants, which gives us plenty of new restaurants to try. We were excited. We were giddy. We were apparently delusional from hunger.
First walking into the restaurant, we were asked if we had a reservation. When we told her no, the hostess looked around as if wondering where she would be able to fit us in. The funny thing was, the restaurant was empty. Finally asking if we’d mind sitting at the sushi bar, we quickly agreed and took our seats.
A quick aside, I may be a vegetarian, but I love watching sushi chefs do their thing. A good sushi chef is like watching an artist with a brush.
We glanced through the menu briefly, oohing and aahing over the appetizer list, while I was disappointed in the poor vegetable maki selection. Three. There were only three. Cucumber, avocado, and vegetarian which was basically cucumber, avocado, asparagus and sprouts rolled into one.
Then the fun started. We were introduced to AJ.
A.J.: “Hi! I’m A.J. and I’ll be your server this evening.”
A: “So, is this your first time eating sushi?”
U: “No, actually. We’re big fans.”
A: “Good, good. Well, since this is your first time eating sushi, I’m going to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience.”
Katie and I exchanged glances, wondering if she misheard us. So, after telling her we needed some time to look at the menu, she came back. We had already filled out the sushi menu, upon her return.
A: “Well, since this is your first time eating sushi, let me explain the seafood you see in front of you.”
Mike: “It’s not our first time eating sushi. And actually I’m a vegetarian, so I already know what I want.”
She turned to Katie at this point.
Katie: “I’m not sure if I’m in the mood for sushi.”
A: “What kind of fish is your favorite? I can point to some sushi that you would enjoy for your first experience.”
Now, we told her twice already that we weren’t new to the sushi experience. It was as if she was stuck on autopilot. She was waiting for a response to continue the next part of her script. And it became incredibly annoying.
K: “I’ve had sushi before, but I think I’m going for something else today.”
A: “Oh, okay. Well, I’ll be right back then.”
She comes back and looks over the sushi menu we’ve filled out. We make sure to point out the appetizers we’ve ordered (edamame and tofu dengaku), as well as Katie’s potsticker soup. She wandered off, but quickly came back out because she forgot what Katie ordered.
The meal was a nightmare. I received my entire order a good 10-15 minutes before Katie received her SOUP. And our appetizer didn’t show up until AFTER our main course. I wish I was kidding. I actually started laughing by this point, because I couldn’t believe all the problems we were having.
But, the even bigger question…how was the food? I’m glad the dengaku tofu came out last, because that was the only good part of our meal. Lightly fried in panko bread crumbs, and drizzled with a ginger sauce, it was the only flavorful part of the meal. The sushi seemed to be wrapped using regular grain white rice instead of sushi rice. My cucumber roll actually fell apart, the seaweed not properly wetted to keep it together. And the vegetarian roll, while pretty, was mostly tasteless.
Katie’s soup was even worse and has its own story. I had previous mentioned my vegetarianism to our server, yet she came out and asked if I’d like a bowl to share the CHICKEN and PORK soup. When the soup arrived in its bubbling cauldron, it looked like it could easily serve two people, until you counted what came with the pool of broth: 5 potstickers and 4 peapods, with a healthy dose of shredded carrot. Even worse, we had to perform kitchen 911 on it, as it apparently had no flavor. Mixing soy sauce, wasabi, and extra pickled ginger to make the soup edible, she was only able to eat the potstickers before throwing in the towel.
And her green tea? Cloudy and tasting like puffed wheat.
When we finally got the bill, after trying to guess where AJ disappeared to, I realized that only half our food was included on the bill. She had completely forgotten to include any of my sushi. I pointed this out to the sushi chef, and he laughed at it, calling over the other chefs to point at her mistake and join in the laughter.
I was set to leave a 20 dollar bill and walk out by this time. Katie calmed me down and we waited for AJ to return. Her response to the mistake: “I call that the AJ special! Only charging for half the food!”
We quickly, and quietly, paid our bill, vowing to tell every person we know about this atrocious experience. If it was just the food, I would have been willing to brush it all off as growing pains; but the fact our server obviously wasn’t actually listening to us, nor paying attention to her job, is what pissed me off.
And what makes me even sadder is that mallrats and middle America shoppers will probably think this is what sushi is supposed to taste like. Cream cheese is SUPPOSED to be in every other maki or sushi roll! Mango, too! Gah.
RA, you have taken the Oxford Street Café crown. Wear it in proudly.