Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mom's Night Out at Dora's Peruvian Chicken

Tonight the MOPS moms met at Dora's Peruvian Chicken for our Monthly Mom's Night Out. Earlier in the month I had started to hear a LOT of negative feedback about people's experiences. I had several friends on Facebook who had been there and been happy, and mentioned that the longer they are open, the more things they get on their menu, and the more they get kinks ironed out.

I have to say that I had been REALLY excited about something new and different coming in to Princeton. Evan and I had talked about taking the kids there and talked about going there for date night. I REALLY want this establishment to succeed. They have done an insane amount of work to this building and obviously intend to succeed (?)

Unfortunately, at the rate they are going, I don't think they will be there long. The expanded menu was.... weell.... seriously lacking. Seriously. Lacking. The prices of entrees range from about $12-16 per person. CB and I both ordered steamed tilapia, which came with rice and salad. It was a $12 entree. I love Pinot Grigio, which also happened to be their most expensive wine at $7 per glass. I don't drink wine often, and I am by no means a wine connoisseur, but I can tell you, that glass of wine was no $7 glass of wine. The majority of the other ladies had Sangria at $3 a glass. we inquired about pitchers of Sangria and did not (to my knowledge) get an answer.

Now, one thing I will say, up front, is that I really like the Waitress. She is a facebook friend and her family owns the restaurant. I think she is really sweet and I really hesitate to write this review because I don't want to hurt her feelings. But the more I considered it, the more I considered that it would be really a shame if a place with such great potential went under because they weren't providing what the people are looking for. And anyone who knows me should probably already know that all my blog reviews are NOT biased. Even if I get free product to review, I do not mince words and if I do not like it, I say so. I don't change my mind because I like you.

Firstly, when arriving at a restaurant, especially one that is new and considered (IMHO) Fine dining, the thing I expect first is a warm welcome. No matter what your ethnicity, language, or cultural differences, a big smile and a nice gesture to your table go a long long long long way. We received neither. In fact, there was a big lack of, well, talking. At all. No smiling, with the exception of our waitress. There was, essentially, no "host" or hostess behavior. The man who I assumed was in charge of greeting us also gave me a vibe that he might be a potential owner or family member, but when we arrived he was behind the bar and when we decided where we were planning on sitting, I don't believe he really made much conversation or eye contact with any of us. This was disappointing. I didn't feel welcomed, I didn't feel appreciated. I have to say that I am greeted better at McDonald's than I was at Dora's. Had it not been for knowing the waitress, I would absolutely, Never consider going back. Ever.

Overlooking that factor, We waited 25 minutes from the time of arrival until the time our orders were taken. There were about 4 other tables of 2-4 people at the time, and there was ONE waitress. ONE. She was in charge of taking orders, filling water glasses, bringing drinks from the bar, AND putting tickets in, delivering meals, clearing the table after the meal, AND taking the money up to the bar with our tickets. ONE. WAITRESS. Granted it was a Tuesday evening, but that is a bit silly. Even if you are trying to save money, if things aren't done in a timely manner, you aren't going to save yourself anything.

She brought us ice water right away, but it was 25 minutes until our order was taken, and after our order was taken it was quite a bit of time until we received our drinks. One of our ladies actually walked up to the bar and took a full pitcher of ice water, which had been just sitting there, and brought it back to the table because all of us had empty water glasses but the waitress was busy with other tables, some whose food orders were up, and some who were just coming in.

the bar was NOT full, the exact opposite in fact. The "bartender" was sitting behind the bar drinking (lemonade?) while we sat without water and waiting for our drinks. When the waitress took our order she let us know that the chicken would take 30 minutes to get done. She asked if that was okay. I don't know what would have happened if we said no, but of course we said "fine." After placing our order, we had our food in between 15-20 minutes. It really wasn't much of a wait... ONCE we had placed our order. A few people came in and left, because the sign on the door stated that there were no credit or debit cards accepted until their system was online. I can understand that... but it has been a few weeks since their opening. Checks and Cash were accepted. We witnessed one family, who finished their meal, and the father had to go out in the pouring rain and DRIVE to an ATM to come back and pay for their meal. If I had children with me, there is NO WAY I would have seen that sign on the door when ushering them inside in the rain.

A few moms had to pay other moms back because they weren't prepared for the Cash or check only situation.

Food. this can certainly make or break a restaurant :) I ordered the Tilapia, and it was, in fact, delicious. The portions were generous. The Tilapia had a delicious sauce and was marinated with some types of tomato/onion/vegetables (chopped and cooked) and really was quite tasty. It was quite possible the best tilapia I have ever had in an Illinois establishment. It was not the traditionally light, flaky, yet DRY fish.... It was incredibly moist. CB and I both questioned if it truly had been steamed. I almost thought it had perhaps been steamed but then sauteed in the sauce with veggies... it was delicious. Not something that I would be "dreaming of" in the future, but really quite good. Everyone at the table agreed that the rice sides left something to be desired. They tasted a little less delicious than the Uncle Ben's 90 second microwave pouches. This was not just my consensus, but more than one person said that, and agreed with that.

SC said the chicken was good, and others said they wished they had tried something else, because their order did not overly impress them.

Our side salads came with our meals, but none of them had salad dressing on or with them. We all were quite puzzled. Several minutes later (8?) after many of us had already eaten half of our salads, the salad dressings arrived with each individual cup on a larger tray, much like a tray of drinks. they were left at one end of the table and we passed them out ourselves. Many of the ladies meals included french fries... and only ONE person got ketchup, because she specifically asked for it (?)

There were candle lanterns on the tables, but none of them were lit. There were silk roses at the center of each table. the tablecloths were white linen, but were covered with white paper, like butcher paper, that was replaced after each table was cleared.

Dessert "options" consisted of Sisler's Ice Cream. After eating, we were all looking for something sweet, but with the prices and the types of meals we had eaten, and the wine and sangria, we all expected a dessert menu, something with a little more to it. Something rich that you could split and sink your fork, and your teeth into. Something rich chocolate with whipped cream, or cheesecake. None of us ordered dessert.

It took so long for the bartender to get our money figured out and get the change back to the waitress that some moms thought that she had made off with our change.... but I had been watching all the trays with receipts sitting up on the bar and assured them that she would not take off with our money.

1. No One Greeted Us Properly
2. Everything Seemed to take an unacceptable amount of time
3. Everyone was wondering exactly what the bartender's job WAS, and if he was actually doing it.
4. The food was nothing to write home about. Especially for the cost. If the fish and chicken had some phenomenal sides, MAYBE. The sides left a LOT to be desired. The Salads were unimpressive and the dressing was late.
5. While the renovations were very nice, and some of the peruvian themed wall decorations were very nice, there were also some really poorly done fake flower arrangements, some hand blown glass "vases" that looked much like bongs, and a large fake fruit bowl arrangement on the bar. It would do better with a minimalist look than it would to have such a beautifully done style that was cluttered up with things that you would find looking quite plastic, tacky, and dusty in your grandma's old house.
6. If you are in any sort of a hurry, go somewhere, ANYWHERE else. I would not take your kids there. At all. There is no children's type menu, I would not pay $12 for my kids to even split the food, and there is no way they would sit through that type of waiting successfully.
7. It was HOT in the building, even though it was overcast and storming out side. Originally the people who had said it was hot had said they thought it was because of the big windows and all the sun coming in, but there was no sun and it was STILL hot. I had a sweatshirt with a tank top underneath and I ended up eating in my tank top and it was 40 degrees outside and raining.

There you have it.

I still maintain that this place could be SO COOL! They need people who are more willing to take initiative and help the waitress, or a designated hostess who welcomes you and handles drinks so that you feel like they actually WANT you there. The meat dishes seemed to be well done, but the sides were unimpressive and the prices were not in line with the service and package they were providing. The wine is overpriced. No refills on drinks like Lemonade.... The menu is very slim. There wasn't really much of an issue "deciding what you want" - it was more like "Deciding what you might like"

I hope that they take some of our suggestions to heart and make some positive changes. Princeton needs different places to eat. At this point I would rather go to McDonalds or Monicals or The Pizza Cellar than go to Dora's again.

My Bill for one entree and one glass of wine plus tip was $25 even.

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