EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Monkey in the Room” is a straight up review of a restaurant, theater performance, foreigner or Korean backed where the punches are not pulled and no establishment or organization gets a free ride. For the sake of fairness and being interactive 3wm will approach the subject of the piece and offer them a chance to clarify and rebuke as the needs be. Have an idea for this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Poison Pen
A wise monkey suggested that I, “blog like you talk to people at the pub.” And also I’m writing this with the same force of hostility that was thrown at me. So, here goes.
Since I’ve been living in Haebangcheon, I’ve twice had the distinct displeasure of patronizing a little neighborhood restaurant by the name of Noxa. I will not waste my time nor my won going back for strike three.
The food: Take it or leave it. Italian restaurants seem to be ubiquitous in Yongsan–Gu (This is the Itaewon area general the main foreigner borough in Seoul), and frankly, most Italian food around here is either the very essence of mediocrity or embassy lifestyle pricey. Noxa’s dishes seem alright in a general comparison both with taste and price.
What truly distinguishes Noxa from its competitors is the bald Aussie that runs the place. He deftly takes customer service to transcendent lows. He makes BonQuiQui look like a geisha. He makes the Soup Nazi look genteel. To be fair to him and everyone else I generally prefer assholes to polite people, but not when I’m paying through the nose for wine and food…and certainly not when the attitude towards paying customers can make you feel queasy when you’re trying to eat. I prefer the quiet disinterest of normal, Korean customer service to the outright hostility the Aussie has towards customers. Hell, I’d prefer to be turned away at the door by Koreans than voluntarily subject myself to OBNOXA again.
The first time I went to Noxa was last June at the urging of close friends who “used to go there all the time.” They raved about the food and ambiance. They also spoke highly of a Korean man who treated them, “very kindly.” I enjoy patronizing local restaurants, especially when they are run by newbies who should appreciate the business and support, so I gave it a shot.
However, I was quite shocked when our Aussie proprietor par ignorance bit the head off of a patron for requesting a light be turned on so she could read the fucking menu. So sorry to bother you? I guess you’re not interested in having people order food? When the same patron ordered a cream pasta dish that came out tasting like it was made with Cool Whip, she politely informed him of the problem and he promptly blew up at her at the table. Did I add she wasn’t interested in getting a free meal? Her intention was to make sure that they didn’t use the same batch of cream, hear more complaints and start losing customers.
His delivery to her was reminiscent of Snape. He also didn’t seem to care if other customers heard him berating her: “There are customers and then there are customers. We’ve been using the same case of cream for over two weeks and no one has complained. We served thirteen of these dishes today and no one has complained.”
Really? That’s convenient. Someone’s complaining now so go over the top about it. Again I relay: this woman didn’t want a free dish. But what a way to scare off customers: Shout them out the door. I know of at least four people who have never returned. A+ for letting out your demons in a place where you are the proprietor. What the hell will it get you? As my Welsh friends dryly observed, “RESULT!”
The second time I went with a Korean friend who was educated at Columbia University and frankly, speaks better English than I do. I figured it had been a few months since the prior incident and perhaps the Aussie had acquired some manners. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.
My friend asked the waiter in Korean if they could make their chicken salad but add some spice to it. The waiter went to ask and the Aussie ran up to the table faster than a chinchilla.
“NO!!!! This…is…an…I-TAL-IAN…rest-aur-ant. We…don’t…make…spicy…food. We…only…serve…I-TAL-IAN…food. Please…tell…your…friend…we…only…serve…I-TAL-IAN…food.”
Gee, no shit? Italian? Are you taking the piss? You couldn’t throw some Tabasco onto some chicken? Or even put it on the table? And you don’t serve spicy food? That’s amusing because why is a red pepper symbol printed beside a few of your dishes on the menu?
The inability to modify a dish is somewhat understandable. Perhaps the cook wants to stay true to the recipes. However, the manner in which the information was conveyed was reminiscent of Nurse Ratchett. And the way the Aussie reacted you’d predict that someone had just shat in his Easter basket. Not to mention, there’s no need to assume that my friend doesn’t speak English…especially when she’s with me, a waegookin. How dare you be condescending and nasty to begin with!
By the way, the “food concept” by the front door, says nothing about I-TAL-IAN food.
NOXA. Modernism’s youthful, light-hearted, sometimes raucous, late-night doppelganger, its urban underbelly of utopian hopes twinned with laughter.
I think they would be better served by being honest. “I-TAL-IAN food and fascist attitude”
Unfortunately for Noxa, the word is spreading. There’s a saying in food service: To lose one customer is to lose ten. I know I’m not the only person to witness abysmal behavior and ranting on the part of the Aussie.
Fool me once, shame on you. Second time, shame. There won’t be a third, I tell you. In addition, I won’t be patronizing their sister establishment across the street, Istanbul. I do feel bad for his partner, who seems to be polite and genuinely concerned about the business. It’s a pity he can’t make up for the blatant cretinism of the Aussie who appears to be achieving his goal of putting off as many people as possible.
In short: Avoid this restaurant like the plague unless you need to use the bathroom…Or are feeling particularly masochistic….