May 15, 2010

News: Ramengate

On May 9th in San Francisco, Hapa Ramen previewed their food at Coffee Bar on Mariposa near Florida. This is before they are opening a hotly anticipated stand at Ferry Building Farmer's Market. Well, things didn't go quite as expected and the night is now forever being known as "Ramengate".

For San Franciscans, the blogosphere, Twitter, and some other parts of the Internets were all a-buzz with earlier reviews of Hapa Ramen's food. Plus, the announcement of their special preview spreaded like wildfire causing hundreds of people to show up. Normally, this would be a good sign for things to come and a chance to really prove yourself worthy in a city where food is a considerable subject. However, Hapa was overwhelmed by the turn out and not fully prepared in the kitchen.

Here is what Hapa Ramen's Kitty Gallisa wrote in response to a customer who waited three hours to be seated and was less than pleased by the night's nourishments:
People were waiting at the patio starting at 4pm. The kitchen and equipment we had to work with went awry quite quickly. The kitchen temperature shot up to 90 degrees with severe humidity and the electric burners we had could barely boil water due to electrical issues. So, we could barely get our noodles to cook properly and the broth could only get so hot. This explains the doughy noodles and the lukewarm broth. In addition, we lost practically 100 portions of freshly cut noodles melt in the heat and humidity of the hoodless kitchen. It was heartbreaking. To sum it up in one word it last night was a challenge.
Sounds like a whole bunch of excuses, but I'm not here to pass judgment on how the restaurant handled the evening. On one hand, ramen is a very difficult dish to cook. You have noodles, broth, egg, veggies, and meat to prepare, which have different cooking times, and must be done at the same time in the end. This had to be done for 500 people that night. That's a lot of cooking. On the other hand, if you know you're not going to be able to perform to the quality and standards you have set for yourself, then you shouldn't be serving subpar ramen.

Look at it this way, it's a new ramen place. I'm completely open to the expansion of ramen shops, so seeing a place like this show up is a blessing. If the food continues to be bad, then obviously the company is not going to last long. Is it important to provide criticism to the restaurant? Yes. Should you continuously berate them and publicly post your discussion? Well, that doesn't help anyone.

What do you think? Should the customer cut Hapa Ramen some slack, or should Hapa just take this one on the butt, take a little more time off to perfect their practice and learn from this mistake?

To read a well-written review of Hapa Ramen's pop-up, go here. To read the full e-mail exchange between the upset customer and Hapa, read the fourth comment on the page here.