What defines good service? Good service to me is that you come by occasionally to refill my water or make eye contact as you walk by in case I need something, but for the most part you leave me alone. It’s knowing to be invisible but aware and available that I like in a server.
Perhaps a great scene to reinforce the rigid discipline, from the legendary Stephen Chow food film: “God of Cookery”…
We just came back from a 5 night trip to Miami. Not only was the food very good, but service was universally better than restaurants in LA, even of the same price range. We are just astounded. Is this what service should be like? Was it just the restaurants we went to in Miami? We routinely eat in SF and NYC as well, so but for some reason this trip made it very apparent of the deficiencies in LA. In Miami, 18% gratuity is included at most places, which makes it even more surprising somewhat. We routinely gave a few extra bucks on top of the 18% because it was so good.
I think the issue in LA is that “casual” meals are now routinely in the $200 range in LA (e.g. Kismet / Jon & Vinnys / Bestia). But the service at such casual restaurants just does not match the price range. Service is better in LA restaurants that not quite as casual, like Kali, Sotto, Chi Spacca, etc., though pretty much everything in LA feels casual compared to other places in the country.
The best service I’ve ever had in LA was at both Craft and Gwen.
I have not been to Gwen, but I absolutely agree on Craft. Craft has terrific service, attentive without being fawning or invasive. One step down,probably because it is a less formal setting, but still striking me as very good, is the service at Sotto. It can get busy, and the servers a bit harried, but they somehow always make it a point to have someone attending to a particular diner’s needs. The same is true of Odys & Penelope, which has a similar vibe. (The solid service there should not surprise me as I always thought the service at Hatfield’s was excellent.)
Maybe I’m just universally loveable? But I typically get great service in LA. I am not entirely sure what people are talking about.
Especially if we mean Jon & Vinny’s and Bestia… I can hardly think of places I get better service than Bestia. They removed an entire bottle of wine from my bill because I didn’t care for the taste after pouring 3 glasses and just let us have the three glasses for my party for free while they opened a different bottle for me… they refire dishes on my most subtle critiques. I feel like I want for nothing there.
I found service far worse in New York, where everyone in every restaurant seemed convinced that they worked in the best restaurant in the world, and treated me like I was lucky to be dining there.
SF/PDX/Seattle have all treated me super well.
I am also a little lost on the casualness ranking, though. Sotto, Kali, Chi Spacca seem exactly as casual as Bestia, Jon & Vinny’s to me…I’ve eaten in a hoodie in all of them.
I would’ve thought maybe citing a place like N/Naka (or Providence) would be the go-to for elevated service or something.
Also, if your $200 figure for 1 person?
Not a problem for me normally. We don’t seem to notice service unless it’s particularly bad or if the waiter is really friendly which is nice.
I have never really noticed service in LA either unless it was below average (like my visit to Kismet), but after thinking about it more, I think it comes down to attentiveness. The “style” in LA seems to be about being around but not overbearing…let the diners enjoy, stay out of the way. What I experienced in Miami I thought was unusual because (1) the waiters actually knew a lot more about the dishes than usual, (2) seemed to actually enjoy being there, (3) seemed more interested in making us feel welcome, perhaps because we were obviously from out of town, and (4) paid a lot more visits to our table than what I find normal in LA. This last one may not always be a welcome trait, particularly for a restaurant you frequent often.
When I said $200, I mean for 2 persons, sorry! Also, when you are at Bestia, do you sit at the bar? Maybe that explains some of it, but since you said “party” you must be referring to a table. Also, are you a regular? I know get amazing service at Shibumi, but it was not always the case and I wonder if being a regular is part of that or not.
Re the casualness ranking. Of course in LA you can eat in a hoodie almost anywhere. But Jon & Vinnys is decidedly a more casual restaurant than the others I mentioned in my mind. I always see a lot of kids there and they serve you soft serve in a paper cut with a wooden spoon. Yet it’s not that hard to spend almost $200 for lunch with a few drinks. That is the LA paradox for you.
Anyway, I don’t mean to say service at Jon & Vinnys is bad, it just felt a bit below average compared to my Miami experience. Miami is not a place I expected service to be so high, so maybe it was just the places I went on this particular weekend. Especially since I never noticed this when travelling to SF or NYC.
I sit in a variety of places at Bestia.
Of course, it is possible that my regularity at places colors my experiences.
I like to be taken care of, but not necessarily henpecked so (4) is definitely not necessarily better for me. But I do like people to be accessible; actually it’s more important to me to be able to send things back that I don’t like over anything else hah.
I would peg Shibumi as a place giving great service to everyone. They have recruited talent from the top ranks of the restaurant world’s FOH operations from around LA. Shibumi is also really small and intimate, though.
However, the idea of knowing about the dishes is interesting. Sometimes it does seem like people employed in LA restaurants really don’t know that much about the food they are serving as they should… I’ve encountered that even at Bestia with new hires. Shibumi is, again, an incredible exception to this as everyone on the small staff seems to be an expert in something. That is for sure not the norm in LA, or anywhere else as far as I can tell.
To clarify, what is an example of how the waiters knew more about the dishes in Miami? Like knowing precise saucing components, and farm sourcing for specific ingredients?
The waiters just knew what was in the dish before we ordered it, which helped us along, and were a lot more helpful helping us order in general. One of the best service experiences we had was at Bazaar Mar, basically the seafood version of Bazaar. Maybe the restaurant was just new, so that staff was more energized, but it was very much above what I’ve experienced at Bazaar at the SLS in Beverly Hills. Wait staff also extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable at 27, the restaurant in the Freehand hotel (which is basically a hostel, but oddly has one of the best cocktail bars in Miami as well).
PS: There is a Freehand Hotel opening in DTLA, so keep an eye out, since you will definitely enjoy the cocktails:
Bazaar Mar and Alter still appear to be the top 2 places in Miami in 2018. Sadly, I’ve come down with a strep throat so I’ll have to postpone my fine-dining plans for a few days.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas is rather hilariously named, and they have a fairly conservative view of “thai spicy”, but they make a pretty good khao soi and northern larb that at least partly helps clear the sinuses!
This is my first time in Miami. Are there any local/regional specialties I should try while here? Things that you cannot really get in LA for example?