It’s pretty rare that bad service hits my radar. Having worked at restaurants, I can see when a server is particularly busy or overtaxed by one table or another. When inactive service combines with cold and mediocre food, it deserves to be talked about. On the second visit to Ramen Tomo on Telegraph, Yakitori was our mission. We ordered Asahi beer and sake, eight or so stick sets and got excited for dinner. I was excited because the last time I went with a group of four, we were served quickly and the service was attentive.
The beer never came, and the small sake was gone in about 10 minutes never to be refilled or asked about, sadly. The sticks started to arrive, first the bacon and enoki and pork belly/chestnut. The pork belly came first(YES!). It was cold(NO!). Not room temperature, but intentionally cold(AUGH!). I was thinking maybe this was a special weird preparation that only they knew about? Trying to stay positive, I asked about it:
Me: So the pork belly sticks, are they meant to be cold?
Server: (Wide eyed) NO. What?
Me: Yeah they were cold, like refrigerator cold. Is it supposed to be like that? I thought maybe it was a new way of making it?
Server: (Still wide eyed) NO. It’s supposed to be hot, cooked.
He then brought us sticks that were slightly more caramel colored than the first, saying “This is how they are supposed to be.” Luke warm with no char. Hmm, not sold on that one. In fact, the only things we got any slight char on were the bacon with enoki and scallops and jalapeno which were sadly dry. It literally looked like someone had taken a lighter to one side of them, a dotted black edge on one side of the scallops.
We were tempted to walk out after no one would come to the table after 15 minutes of inactivity and pleading eye contact, also 30 minutes without drinks. Standing around the kitchen talking about vacation hours, none of the service staff looked around to check anyone’s dinner.
When one of us got up to leave, the waitress came over. She didn’t seem to notice when we said the food was not good.
The last time I went I had the spicy ramen and some sticks. Adding grated garlic at the table was a nice touch, but they don’t do that anymore- they came around with a container of pre-grated garlic. Who knows when that was prepared?
There’s just too much good food in Oakland to come back here. We also tried to hit B-Dama on Piedmont for a corrective sticks bite and found that they no longer serve yakitori!! Nooooo! After two letdowns, we went to Ippuku in Berkeley for corrective, blazing hot, smoky sticks and velvety unfiltered sake- ending the night on a high note.
Dear readers, what are your favorite smoky meat and veg sticks in Oakland??