Giving thanks to service staff despite poor wait times and mediocre food
Despite not being American, I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving again this year and my past experiences were always full of delicious bountiful food and drink shared amongst friends. This year I thought I would try something different and go out to a restaurant to celebrate rather than having home cooked food. This year I chose to experience Thanksgiving dinner at Mezza9 in Grand Hyatt Singapore.
For SGD 79++ you get a three course meal followed by tea or coffee. There are no choices for the course, there's only one of each - so if you don't like a certain dish, you're out of luck. However, as of writing, you don't have to pre-book the menu and stick to it - you only reserve the table. When you sit down you're given two menus, the a la carte menu as well as the Thanksgiving menu, so thankfully, you're not restricted from the outset. So if turkey isn't your thing, then at least you're given the choice of choosing something else.
The ambience of Mezza9 is quite impressive (and on the Sunday Champagne Bunches, overwhelming). The layout of the restaurant is basically a big arc peppered with several stations catering to different cuisines or courses. The one below was the station dedicated to the Thanksgiving dishes and a la carte mains.
Before we had the starter, we were served rustic bread with a capsicum dipping sauce. The sauce was an absolute delight - so much so we asked for a second round as we just couldn't bear to give it up. And in hindsight, that was a good thing we had more of the bread...(more on that later)
Butternut squash & crab velouté with brown crab tortellini, pickled pumpkin and lemon.
Butternut squash can sometimes come out bland or overly seasoned but this was quite well balanced - without the need for extra salt or pepper to release the flavour. The tortellini was well formed and didn't disintegrate when devouring it.
The only downside to this dish was that it was served lukewarm and the pickled pumpkin was an unwelcome jolt to the tastebuds.
Overall though, not a bad start to the meal.
Mains & Sides
Slow roasted turkey crown, with apricot and chestnut stuffing, maple syrup glazed carrots, parsnips and beet root.
On the side was sweet potato casserole with mashmellows and pecan nuts.
The star of the show, the reason why I came. However, as much as I want to say I didn't leave disappointed, I can't.
The meal took over 45 minutes to arrive on our table. The reason stated was that the restaurant had vastly underestimated the number of orders of the Thanksgiving menu and so, when the orders piled on, they were woefully unprepared. (One of the downsides of not requesting customers to reserve what menu they will have).
For the past two years, they had on average 50 orders for the menu, so you can't really blame them for forecasting to sell roughly the same this year. However, when over 200 orders came in, the kitchen staff were overwhelmed and the waiters could only stand by waiting for the dishes to be prepared whilst the managers tried their best at damage control and service recovery (one of the staff mentioned that the number of complaints was above 50% - which was quite easy to see with other customers quite visibly and audibly venting their frustration on the nearest manager).
Whilst I can empathise with their predicament, the harsh reality is that it's not the customers problem. A restaurant as big and experienced as Mezza9 should have the ability to scale as well as predict customer demand at short notice.
Service recovery was quite poor for us (maybe because I didn't shout and stomp my feet like other customers), I was offered a salad to help give me something to eat whilst I waited for my food. Thing is though, despite it being offered, I'm still waiting for that salad to arrive. Maybe next year?
Frankly speaking, the mains were not worth the wait. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of a surfeit of food - a gluttons delight. What was presented didn't exactly live up to my expectations and unfortunately therefore I felt it was lacking. The portion was quite tiny, with only 3 or 4 slices of turkey and 2 teaspoon sized servings of stuffing - hardly the eating bonanza that one expects at Thanksgiving.
However what was there, was good (albeit lukewarm - again). The turkey was succulent and juicy, with the stuffing giving the turkey that extra burst of flavour with each bite.
The real surprise was the sweet potato casserole topped with mashmellows - it was more flavoursome than I originally expected and it was a true delight to eat. The apple at the bottom was a surprise but not an unwelcome one.
I'm not the hugest parsnip or beetroot fan so I didn't eat much of them.
The setup of the plate itself though was particularly annoying, the metal serving bowl was not flush with the ceramic plate so it would move when cutting the turkey. Furthermore, the high edges of the metal bowl isn't very conducive to the aforementioned cutting of the turkey. I'd rather they just forgo the metal bowl and serve it on a plate, like you would have at home.
Pumpkin pie and cinnamon ice cream. Traditional pecan pie with dark chocolate sorbet.
We didn't incur the same wait for dessert as we did for the mains however it was more disappointing. We scoured all over the pumpkin pie but couldn't find or taste a single morsel of pumpkin and the pecan pie was too dry and chewy to continue eating without straining our jaw muscles..
Was it tasty? The soup and the turkey as a whole were tasty but were let down by less than optimal serving temperature, plates and portion. The dessert was forgettable. Mezza9 has a massive dessert counter and they no doubt have some of the best dessert chefs in Singapore so I would have expected more. Also, the unacceptable wait between the starter and mains, the unfulfilled service recovery promise and the air of disappointment that propagated from table to table left a sour taste in my mouth.
That being said, it was not entirely their fault and you'd couldn't blame the service staff - they were not twiddling their thumbs whilst they were waiting for the food and you could tell they were as anxious to serve us our food as much as we were wanting to eat. A shout out to our server, "Sam". An infectiously happy, polite server did more to placate the customers than his higher ranked colleagues and took the extra and unrequested step of putting our alcohol (well, one glass of wine) on the house. Management material!
Would I go again? To Mezza9, yes, but not for their thanksgiving menu. For SGD 79++ I can't say it was good value for money considering the portion size and the quality just didn't quite make up for the smaller portion. I'm sure there are other places in Singapore that will better satiate any Thanksgiving food cravings. At least I have one year to do my research.