Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CLOSED! mexican/revisited: i do not recommend LA CASITA

"No reservations? No enchiladas for you!"

a/o August 2010

No. 7 on Lane 64, SongJiang Rd.,1F
(02) 2531-9246


kid friendliness: if you can take the attitude, no high chairs and a little room for strollers

visit reviewed: 4/23/2008
previous visits reviewed: 12/9/2006 and 7.29.2005

Have you ever seen that SEINFELD episode with the Soup Nazi? He has a set of rules that you must abide by if you are to eat his food, abuses his customers, but even though he is so mean, the customers can't help but to buy the soup. I feel like I was in a Taiwanese variation of that episode after my lunch experience with La Casita today.

There really is no where to get decent Mexican food in Taipei... so despite my previous up and down experiences, I thought I'd head over to eat some chicken enchiladas during lunch. It's never been completely full when I'm there, so I figured I didn't need to call ahead to make reservations. Boy, was I wrong.

When we stepped inside, it was empty, though the tables were separated into large configurations. I figured some reservations were probably made. The owner asked if we had reservations and after saying, no, he bluntly stated they were booked.

He pushed, "All my old customers know that they should make reservations." Okay... well, shouldn't you treat all your customers with respect whether or not they are new or old, make reservations or not? While my mom offered congratulations for being so busy, he said, "No need for congratulations, I'm booked at lunch til Friday."

I asked if we could to-go something, he reluctantly agreed, saying that the kitchen wasn't really open yet (though they open at 11:30am and it was already 11:45am) and said if wanted to to order, we should hurry because once his "reservation" customers arrived he would not be able to help us.

He also very reluctantly agreed to let us sit down while we waited for our order. Keep in mind the restaurant is COMPLETELY empty at this point.

His demeanor was just so uninviting and downright rude, I was about ready to leave without ordering anything.

I was torn. Should we just walk out and away from his attitude?

But I figured I came all this way, I hadn't eaten Mexican in so long, I might as well order what I wanted since my friend and Mom didn't care. Even while ordering, he was pushing me to hurry. I felt like if a "reservation" customer walked in, he would tear the menu away from my hands and no longer let me order.

As our order came out, it was 12:08pm.

The restaurant was STILL empty.

He could have sat us down, served us and we might have been out the door by the time all his tables came in. Or at least gave us a semi-apologetic response and kindly asked us to make reservations the next time.

I ate some of the nachos with cheese, beef and guacamole (NT$300) in the car and my chicken enchiladas with rice and beans (NT$280) at home. The guacamole made with imported avocados was freshly made and did hit the spot.

But the whole experience definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

When I complained to my friend that the owner was mean to me again (he had been with me and our friends the last time the owner was cranky), he said, "I should get mad at you. You should have left without ordering anything and you should not support his business and his attitude."

My girl friend who had come with me tried some of the food and agreed that it's the best she's had in Taipei, but that she just didn't understand why the owner was such an a-hole.

The owner also complained to my mom and friend that before SARS he had a huge restaurant with lots of employees and after SARS business wasn't as good. Ummm, maybe there is another reason why your customers are not coming back....

Before I headed over today, I was excited about re-reviewing the place and giving it a good recommendation, but after the way we were treated today (I don't think it's out of the ordinary), I can't recommend it despite the food being good (for Taipei) especially to new (or occasional) customers who aren't going to be treated with respect. I'm not even angry (like with the terrible service at Diamond Tony's), just really sad since it could be a place I'd like to eat at often. I guess if you are really desparate to eat there, just be sure to make reservations and deal with crochety service.

Should I have left without ordering anything? Have you ever endured bad or even rude service for food?


Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your bad experience at La Casita. After dicovering the place after reading one of your previous reviews I frequented the place over the past two years.

I've never had the rude experience there that you described. Usually it's so empty and dead there that Amy, the rude man's wife, is the one who waits on me and my friends. She's always been nice.

But, having said that, the experience you described mirrors the experience I had at Forkers, which is why I'll never go back there. Too bad courtesy to customers and general customer service skills are lacking in many places here in Taiwan. Sometimes I get the feeling some business owners just don't care if you go to the competition.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Billy. The service at Forkers suck! Who came up with that name anyways? The caucasian owners have terrible attitudes. They can fork themselves. Food is only barely average. Sounds like La Casita is another place I won't go. Sorry to hear you were treated so rudely. Should have left without getting anything.

D-scape said...

I've been there twice. The first time I couldn't quite believe how rude the grumpy guy was so tried it again - same thing. I won't make the same mistake three times. I'm sorry to hear about your experience, but I'm glad it wasn't just me! Boycott. It's not like he needs the business - according to him at least.

joanh said...

billy: i'm glad to hear that you've gotten only the good side. maybe because they recognize you and Amy is definitely a lot friendlier! sorry to hear that you had a bad experience at Forkers- I had an okay experience there, but definitely some places give you an F-U attitude where it's like, why am I even giving you my money?

anonymous: thanks for the comment.. sorry to hear that your experience at Forkers was bad too! i wasn't that excited by the food either.

d-scape: ditto, glad it wasn't just me. it's too bad, isn't it?? isn't it amazing how abrasive/grumpy he is??

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your experience! But these people exist all over the world...

doesn't excuse him though.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to hear about your experience. I've heard nothing but good things about the service there. My boyfriend goes there all the time and has never had a problem with the owners, either Roland (the husband) or Amy (the wife). In fact, they are quite friendly to him. My uncle loves their food and says that Roland is quite chatty. My friend went there on my boyfriend's recommendation and though he arrived at the restaurant during their break, he said Roland spotted him and opened up the restaurant just so my friend could eat lunch there. All of them have been back several times and haven't encountered any rudeness (quite the opposite). My experiences have also been positive. I'm not sure what happened during your visits, but if you don't feel like you are being treated well somewhere, then of course it's your prerogative not to give them your business.

Anonymous said...

hmm you know, my service there wasn't so good either... although not quite as bad as yours. although, being originally from Arizona, i have to say that the food is pretty good Mexican food, especially for Taiwan! but... nonetheless... bad service is definitely a turn off. sorry you had such a bad experience.

FarAway said...

I usually agree with your reviews, but I have to absolutely disagree on La Casita. It is definitely the best Mexican food in town, but also I've never experienced this kind of service in the more than a dozen times I've been there with friends. We've made reservations plenty of times, but I've also been seated without reservations as well, and once showed up when the place was booked.

If the kitchen was running late getting ready and there were a bunch of groups coming in, the owner was probably already stressed out. He shouldn't expose customers to that, but I wouldn't say that this, and an incident three years ago would be enough to write off a restaurant as having bad service and recommend that others not go there. Every business has its bad days - with so many positive experiences there with great service and good food, I really hope you'll give it another try.

Jean said...

omg.. you totally should have went all jack in the box on him. at least then you could blame it on the hormones. if i come to taiwan, take me there and we'll fight! :P

Anonymous said...

no comparison to the soup nazi. he had a line of people waiting to get in out the door.

joanh said...

su-lin: yeah.. it's unfortunate!

terwillger: i'm glad that your friends had good experiences there. the first time we went it was off-peak hours too and roland was friendly. it's unfortunately just been downhill from here from my bad luck, i suppose

hellobeebs: yeah... i wouldn't have ordered anything if i didn't want to eat the food. sorry to hear your service was not good either.

farfromfrostburg: thanks for reading and for your comment. like i said, i was TOTALLY ready to give the restaurant a recommend or strong recommend upgrade from the last few times i visited, but i was surprised and saddened by how TERRIBLY we were treated. i don't think i could capture the tone and attitude he gave us in the review accurately enough, but my mom and friends that i brought along were SHOCKED at how rudely we were treated. they were afraid to order anything, so i was the only one who ordered. there's a difference in between booked up and stressed (which i totally understand and have experienced) and just being mean to people who are your customers and potentially great customers. the reason why there are such big gaps between my visits are because i've run out of friends who are willing to go there with me and his demeanor is just so unpredictable. i'm not saying the food is bad- i've said in the past it's the most authentic mexican (especially the enchiladas) in taipei, but i'm paying him to be rude to me and that's a hard thing to swallow. it's great he treats his regulars like old friends, but he should treat everyone with the same courtesy. he didn't smile once. he didn't make me feel welcome. he made me feel like he didn't care whether or not i walked out the door without ever come back and that he didn't need my business. and i've seen him on his "nice" days. he CAN be really nice. but it's now a 50/50 chance in my book that he won't be. you can see the last time we had a bad experience, i chalked it up to "having a bad day" and i didn't NOT recommend it. but like dspace said, if i have two bad experiences, a third time would be shame on me.

jean: yeah.. i know

anonymous: hahah. well, he had a full house of reservations (in theory)

Anonymous said...

I went there twice about four years ago. I'm surprised they're still in business, since you can make better "mexican food" using ingredients easily available at many supermarkets in taipei. The service when I went wasn't bad but then there weren't any other people there at the time I was there. I felt the food was pretty ordinary. Certainly nothing worth going back for.

Anonymous said...

i really can't agree with you here and I usually do...I've only been a few times and they have been nothing but most gracious to me and my rowdy crowd. (which isn't always the case here in Taipei) After I went there 3 times in 6 months...the 4rd time I called to make reservation, Ronald even recognized my voice on the phone. I say that's some damn good service...not like we are buddies or that I chat with him when I'm there or anything...they are just always really nice.

With restaurant service here in Taipei, I find that it usually goes both ways...if you are nice to them they are usually nice to a general rule of should always be super nice to people who handle your food because you never know what they are doing back there....

Anonymous said...

dear anonymous, (unless you are the ronald himself)
I wish you could tell me the next time you are going to go so I can witness when he is in a good mood. I went twice with friends and the owner or the ronald was not in a pleasant mood most of the time. But I appreciated his wife, she was friendly.

As for "going both ways", I have to disagree that people in the service industry should think that they have the option to treat their customers base on their customers' behavior. A good host should treat any type of customer the same.

Lastly, think about it, why would Hungry Girl be rude to any restaurant people when her intention is to find the best food in Taipei.

p.s. Dear Anonymous, please send me an audio file of you calling Ronald and making reservations.

reed a little more said...

Wow, that's terrible. I've been to "Amys: La Casita" on many occassions with & without reservations. I agree, the husband is kind of a hit or miss on the nice side, but I usually ignore him anyway, or if he's rude, i'm rude back. The key is to get to Amy. When you try the food, ask to speak to the cook because it's so good (assuming it is, but in my experience, I have yet to have bad mexican food there - it's definitely the best mexican food in Taipei in my book (price, serving size, and most importantly taste all come out on top - I'm from Texas and have spent a good amount of time in Central Mexico). And chat it up with her. She'll love you. Then when you come in, the hubby will stand behind the bar and do his own thing, while Amy takes your order and helps you out. I'm really sorry to hear you had such a bad experience.

Anonymous said...

I've been to La Casita many times. I'd order a big plate of enchiladas, and always got one or two to go for the next few days (serious Mexican food addiction). I enjoyed many chats with Amy and Roland over the year or two I went to their restaurant. The food was always great; I was thrilled to find decent Mexican food in Taipei.

Then I got married and took my wife there, and in one fell swoop, it was all over. For some reason, Roland and Amy found it necessary to direct some idiotic and insulting comments at her. They were so offensive and nasty that I've never been back since, and I won't be back again. You just don't do that sort of thing to ANY customer, let alone someone who is at your restaurant almost every week.

I'd say, if you go, be prepared to eat some great Mexican food, but be on your guard for some possible unpleasantness.

joanh said...

anonymous 9:09pm: yeah.. i guess it's still hard to find good corn tortillas in taiwan.. but i've been making my own guacamole and nachos.

anonymous 2:46pm: are you trying to say that i wasn't nice to them? because i definitely didn't do anything to get the treatment that i did. see anonymous 11:28 below

kevin matthews: thank you.. yes, i don't think it would be in my benefit to be rude to anyone..

euroasian: good hint.. i guess if amy doesn't emerge from the kitchen then you're stuck w/ the hit or miss niceness

anonymous 11:28am: wow.. that's serious craziness. again, i TOTALLY don't get it.. why would they be so rude to their customers?? well, thanks for commenting.. i really was surprised by all the people writing in who received consistently great and friendly service who didn't understand what my review was about. thanks for sharing your similar experience.

Anonymous said...

I have had nothing but good experiences and good food at La Casita.

The other night I walked in when they were closing and turning the lights off. They turned everything on and prepared us a great home-made Mexican meal.

Love the food and Amy the owner is very friendly.

someone who knows his mexican food said...

sorry guys, but the food here was terrible. not just bad, but really quite terrible. we ordered a two-taco entree, chimichangas, and and enchiladas. none of it was good. seriously. the tacos were too oily, the meat was bland, the rice was dry (and wasn't mexican rice), and the refried beans - ewww. and the guac was weird...never seen anything like it (watery and not flavorful). apparently it was made from local avocados. anyway, i do not recommend this place. the owner, however, was actually friendly. what a strange counter-point to all these comments about great food, bad service. AWFUL FOOD, OK SERVICE. (oh yeah, and the taco shell tasted like pez candy. not even joking).

Kyle said...

I have to agree with hungrygirl. I've eaten at this place a few times and been disappointed and offended by the host's treatment. The first time I ate there was during a party where the whole place had been rented out and lots of food been ordered. Maybe it was because the owners had a relationship with my friends or maybe I just never interacted with the owners, but there was nothing unusual about the service. I thought the food was OK. A little bland and taco bellesque, but it was the closest thing to Mexican food available in Taipei at that point. I've returned two times since then and had nothing but bad experiences. Both times were with groups of about six people where reservations were made in advance and more than 6000NT was spent by the group. That still didn't prevent numerous orders from being screwed up, us being spoken to in a condescending way, having plates of food picked up before they were finished and being ushered out the door as soon as the food was gone. Both experiences left me and my (two different groups of) friends feeling let down and slightly cheated. If you are a regular patron and defender of La Casita, then next time Amy or Roland start complaining about how business "isn't what it used to be", clue them in to the horrible reputation that their business has among a substantial percentage of people who would otherwise eat there regularly. If you are looking for good "Mexican" food in Taipei give La Casita a pass. They may have had the market cornered a few years ago, but restaurants like Yuma and El Gallo are now serving up comparable (if not better) food minus the side dish of hostility that you get at La Casita. Why support a business that treats its customers so poorly?