Monday, July 28, 2008


let's start the recounting from the very beginning: friday night. dr. rei, bwong, and i had made plans to go to el sol for a dinner. we hadn't seen bwong in a long time (maybe two weeks?) so we were totally due for some goosetang clan hanging. the roomie came too, with her friend l'armitage (her male friend whom i have previously referred to as M...i gave him a new nickname and by it he will henceforth be known).

now, everyone in the whole universe (or the toronto chowhound public) knows that el sol is slow. the internets has been known to call it "el slow." your food comes out on trolleys (whether it's platters of food, or like, a single beer) whenever the kitchen feels like making it. bwong suspects that they use each chit that comes in as a grocery list. that wouldn't be a surprise. an hour long wait is to be expected. we've been going there for 7 years now, so the dotytron and i totally know the drill. in fact, we used to phone in our orders and then show up 30 minutes later in order to cut our wait time in half...but we tried doing it the last few times and the manager dude refused. there have been a few times where we've waited so long (like, long even by el sol standards) that i've had to politely inquire about the status of the food, but overall, we know the routine and the food is exceptional and the price is right so we keep going back. this was bwong's first time i prepared him for it in advance.

me, dr. rei, bwong and the roomie show up at our reserved time of 8pm. we see a large table (about 14 people) and start worrying. as we're led to our table, we see that the big group has been served their food. relief. there are maybe 10 other people total in the rest of the restaurant. we're taken to a table far off to the side that has this weird spotlight shining on it. the music is also BLASTING. we ask them if they could turn it down (three times throughout the night) and they say yes, and nothing happens. more egregious than the volume, is the tune selection. the songs would be stuff like: the "ducktales" theme, the "sex and the city" theme, the "seinfeld" theme, mixed in with huey lewis and the news, and then some mariachi remix of some eurodance hit. the super annoying thing was that each song would play for about a minute before they would switch to the next. it was like the music was being manned by a 10 year old kid from mainland china with a crate full of bootlegged dvds and serious aspberger's syndrome. the four of us place our drink orders. the drinks arrive. shortly thereafter, the dotytron and l'armitage show up and place their drink orders. 15 minutes later, the dotytron's sangria appears, but l'armitage's beer is nowhere to be seen. it takes us 5 minutes to get the attention of our server who finally brings l'armitage's drink.

then we wait. and wait. and wait. at the hour and fifteen minute point, people start getting antsy. we're blatantly being ignored. the large party has come and gone...there are maybe 8-10 other people in the restaurant and we watch trolley after trolley of food come out...with no love for our table. at the hour and a half point, tempers start to flare. people want to leave, go to square boy, get a slice of pizza, a burger, SOMETHING. bwong gets up and puts on his bag and places his hands on the table and declares: "this is unacceptable. TIME IS OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE" trying to get everyone to leave. the dotytron goes into apocalyptica mode and dr. rei is rocking herself back and forth, near feverish with hunger. we talk about leaving without paying, about not tipping. me and the roomie are holding fast to the opinion that we should stay because the food is just so good.

finally, i get up and go to our server and say, "our party has decided that we're going to leave if the food isn't ready in 5 minutes." he goes and checks on the kitchen. and still we wait. and wait. 10 minutes later, i walk up to the manager and politely say, "excuse me, we've been waiting for over an hour and a half for our food. this is unacceptable. surely there must be something you can do." (still no food). the manager walks up to our table with the bill and says that he's willing to take off 2 of the 3 virgin pina coladas we ordered. he says that they were very busy. when i tell him (still very polite. lots of "sirs" peppered in there. lots of calm voice) that there must be more that he can do, he snaps at me,


"but sir -"


finally, the first wave of food comes. 10 minutes later, we're still waiting for the rest of our platters. i take a bite out of my chicken soft taco and there's an uncooked, fully pink and raw-looking piece of chicken in there. i take it out and put it on my plate and call the manager over. i say this: "with all due respect sir, not only was our food late, but there's a piece of raw chicken in my burrito. i think you can do better than 2 virgin pina coladas." things escalate like crazy. he says that the solution is for me to leave and never come back there. he says that i've caused problems before. he says that i'm being difficult (!!!!!) and that they were busy. i say (still very calm and polite), "with all due respect sir, i've been working in the restaurant industry for over 7 years, and this is not the way you do things." then he raises his voice and says that i'm always going in there and causing problems. and that he doesn't like my attitude, at which point, the dotytron burst in with a, "HER attitude?!? we were all ready to leave. it's not just her, it's EVERYONE at the table" and starts to drop a few F bombs (throughout the exchange, bwong and the dotytron and l'armitage had been interjecting, but the focus of the dispute was between me as the table spokesperson and the manager). then the manager turns to the dotytron and says, "what are you going to do? are you going to do something drastic?" and makes it sound all threatening. we try to explain that we've been coming here for a long time and the manager is like, "oh i know" or something like that but it's pretty obvious that he has beef with me. i'm not sure why. maybe because i've asked about the whereabouts of my food before. he was being really mean and angry and rude.

anyway, he ended up taking off a whole platter. our friend from new york had actually gotten me and the dotytron a gift certificate, so we threw that down and then paid the rest of the bill to the last penny and didn't leave a tip. it should be a sign of just HOW BAD things were that the roomie was willing to leave a table without tipping. it was that bad.

so we basically can't ever go back there again. but i can't BELIEVE that the reaction of the establishment, when faced with a legitimate, calmly worded complaint about the slow service and the raw chicken, LASHED OUT at the customers! i've never seen anything like it! no apology, no nothing. everyone else was ready to leave and walk out, but me and the roomie honestly weren't going to go there. if at any point, one staff member had come up to us and apologized for the lateness or even checked in on us, i don't think we would have had any problems (well, bwong, the dotytron and l'armitage were fed up). it was the whole being made to feel like it was OUR fault thing that really put it over the top. el sol dumped us before we could dump them. and quite frankly, it rankles.

i think he was racist...but the roomie thinks probably more misogynist. either was obviously semi personal...what with the "you've caused problems here before" and all that. and what with every other table in the restaurant having eaten and had their plates cleared before we got a single scrap of rice'n'beans.

it's probably for the best. when we first started going 7 years ago, the same platter of food was $7.99. now it's $12.99. still decent, but starting to border on the insane. and the guacamole is just unreasonable. so i'll have to go without tasty mexican food and the best damn rice and beans i've ever had. the crazy thing is...there's no way in HELL it should take almost 2 hours to cook six plates of tacos and rice and beans. no way. you know they have a vat of beans and a vat of the rice. even if they were cooking the filling for each taco separately there's still no way that it would take 2 hours.

in other news: we also found out that night that bwong used to fly kites competitively.

in other other news: the dotytron is considering retaliation by putting mice into the restaurant, one mouse at a time. this involves cupping the mouse in your hands, and whispering "tell the others" or "godspeed" before sending it on its havoc wreaking. lol. how is he so funny?



dr. rei said...

i am literally DYING of laughter at the mouse idea!!!!! LOLOLOL!!! ahahahah i'm dying..!!!

steph said...

Dude we went there once for Aarons bday and it kind of soured the night. We waited so long that going out after was kinda botched and we were all grumpy. I think the dotytron shoud put his plan into attack, STAT!!!

futronic said...

That is absolutely insane. Clearly we need to stage a revolt and do our own Mexican food night.

In other news, fantastic porchetta day will be rescheduled until later in August when the peoples who love the cracklin' will be available.

That is all.

kitsch:in:sync said...

el salmonella was amazingly balanced in that the distressing level of insolence of the staff was matched by the atrociously abominable decor and absolutely heinous soundtrack. instead of the boiler plate reaction of advising against going there i've taken to recommending people go there and treat it like a ride at an amusement park. i'm recommending people take their own food stuffs to sustain themselves throughout the 2-3hour long denouement of what i think is a worthwhile team-building/bonding experience. i found it both revelatory and cathartic to subject ourselves to the micro-lord-of-the-flies ordeal at our table. the goal, ostensibly, for future the people i'm sending there would be to a) see how many items from their bill they can get comp'd; b) see how quickly they can get kicked out/banned; and c) to procure the mix cd they're using so i can have it for my car

karl lagerfeld, esquire said...

i actually don't find the decor objectionable. it's folk-arty and cute. and you can't deny that the food is hella tasty. it's a tough call, really. because the food is so damned good. and the soundtrack isn't usually so bad. but maybe i'm pulling classic victim behaviour and sticking up for my abuser.