So as you might have read, I recently went to San Francisco. I'd been there twice before but never got a chance to actually do anything as a visitor, both times I was there I simply drove through and had lunch en-route back to Socal.
This time I got to experience more of the city, with my girlfriend and family. One of the days we were there, we showed up to Kuleto's. We had a reservation because according to my girlfriend, this place is the shit! So I was all excited. The place turned out to be one of the worse experiences I've had in fine dining. Here's my experience and review of Kuleto's. In short, don't ever go there.
We were seated promptly, however our table was absolutely unaccommodating. We had reserved a table for 10 a couple weeks in advance, I would think this would allow the restaurant to plan accordingly and provide us with a decent table. I can't say that the table was bad, but it was probably the most inconvenient table in the whole place. They essentially put a table near a corner area with a "bench" kind of like a booth and so we had , 4 people on chairs, 4 people on the bench, 1 person at the head of the table and one person on the bench on the other side of the table. Needless to say, the 4 people on the bench were locked in place. It was a hassle for them to leave the table and use the restroom for example. This is kind of normal I guess, but it made for an unpleasant experience.
Our table was poorly setup when we sat down. We ordered wine, and one of us placed their wine down on the table and it simply fell over and spilled everywhere. We found the reason for this wasn't sloppiness or drunkenness as you might have guessed, it was simply that the lazy and rude waiter didn't put the table together correctly. The tables had a few inches gap in between, and this gap was covered by the table cloth. So when the wine was placed there, it tipped over because there wasn't an actual table there... just a gap and table cloth covering this. When we brought this to the attention of the waiter, he brushed it off as if asking "so what"? And tossed a bunch of napkins on the table for us to clean it up. We simply ended up covering the spilled wine with 3 or 4 napkins.
We proceeded to look over our menus, never was offered water or anything like that. We had some questions about the menu so we called the waiter over. My sister asked something like "is the X dish" good? To which the asshole waiter replied, "yes, it wouldn't be in the menu if it wasn't good." There was something in the menu that my mom didn't know how to pronounce, but when the waiter came, she attempted and promptly asked the waiter "is that how you say it?" to which he said "how should I know? I don't know how to say it and walked away."
I know that if you are treated poorly, especially at a fine dining place you should raise up these issues with your waiter or manager right away. But we were celebrating and enjoying each other's company and stuff so we didn't want to make a big deal out of the issues, they seemed petty at the time. Oh geez, was I wrong. When little things like the ones I've described above happen, speak up right away, they are probably an indication of bigger things to come. I'm a pretty picky consumer and I should have paid attention to my gut when I felt some of the mistreatment was a clear indication of trouble. But I ignored it.
Our food was eventually brought out, Another waiter was bringing the plates to our table and he would just stand up at one of the end of the table and yell... "lasagna"? "who's got the lasagna"? After a couple of times he yelled across and actually passed one of the dishes down to one of us to be passed down 3 seats over I told him, take this back and bring our waiter, why would you be yelling, you should know where these go. Take it back and bring our waiter, he knows where they go. To this, he responded, "I know but you guys moved a lot" I said "we haven't moved, take this back and bring the waiter" He corrected this by talking to the waiter before each plate was brought to the table.
So we thought ok, all the issues are now cleared up lets forget about it and enjoy our dinner. We were celebrating my sister's graduation from college, not something you get to do very often right?
We ate our food, which was alright. It wasn't anything to write home about and frankly way over priced. A place like Bistango, or French75, or Bayside in Orange County simply blow this place out of the water. But this is not all, As we are all finishing our dinner, I hear my cousin ask my uncle "what is that Dad"? pointing at her plate of half-eaten vegetarian lasagna. There was some commotion on her end of the table so I focused my attention over there. She was pointing to her plate and near the remainder of the pasta there was something. Upon closer examination, we found that it was a worm. That's right, a freaking worm, like a grub like the ones you would buy at the tackle shop to go fishing. I am not kidding you. We even snapped a couple of pictures for posterity.
I asked for the plate to be passed down to me and I took some pictures, and when the waiter realized what was there, he attempted to take the plate from me... He actually tried tugging it away from my hand before I said NO!. He obviously noticed the worm and assuming I had finished with my own dinner, tried to take it away to cover the issue up. But it was too late, my cousin took video, my sister, her friend, my uncle, my mom and I had already taken a few photos so there was no way this would go unnoticed. I demanded that the manager come over to our table.
After a long time, five to ten minutes, (when you find a worm in your food, I think anything more than a minute is too long). The manager showed up and looked at the plate and said "Oh my god, that is disgusting" he said. And walked way as he said "I'm going back to investigate this" also in a very strange tone. After 10 minutes, and after we had all lost our appetite and one of us had to run to the restroom to vomit, the manger came back. He then proceeded to explain that the vegetables in the vegetarian lasagna have some sort of hollow corkscrew cavity where the worm might have been hidden. And that was it, then I said ok... so what now?
He mumbled something about comping the two vegetarian meals and left. After a really long time, we had most of our table picked up and the waiter brought our bill. The moment I looked at it, I handed it back to him and said "this is not acceptable, please take it back to Troy (the manager)." He reluctantly did. All they did was remove the 2 vegetarian lasagna from the bill and tried to charge us for all the rest, as if it had been a great experience.
(click on the picture to view a better image)
Now, lets stop for a second and let me tell you what I would have done if I were the manager of that place. First of all, the first thing I would have done is let the owner know. Then I would have come back and apologize as much as it was humanly possible. This wasn't a hair, or kitchen debris, this is a fuc*ing worm! I would have also brought the bill back with a balance of 0 and invite the customer back for a complimentary dinner. And I would thank the customers all the way to their cab for coming by and accepting our apology.
I don't think this ever happened. On a Friday night, in a restaurant of this "caliber" on Powell street, you would think the owner should be somewhere in sight, or at least in an office or something nearby. Mr Troy tried to handle the situation himself, he eventually came back with the bill which had a balance and I began talking to him about it.
Here's exactly what I said to him, "Troy, stop --he was rambling on about something-- listen to me, look at me in the eyes and tell me if this is acceptable." After a bunch of excuses and useless commentary, I had to ask it again to which he responded yes. His response triggered the anger of my sister and girlfriend and they jumped into the conversation. Thanks to them, Troy decided it was better if they just took care of our bill. Frankly I expected nothing less, but I feel bad that we had to request this and fight for it.
So don't bother visiting Kuleto's next time you're in town. You will pay fine dining but based on my experience, you will get piss-poor service, not fine dining service. You will also pay for common food. If you're looking to have a nice dinner in the City, I'm sure there are tons of other places that would make a better experience than Kuleto's. I've gotten better service, food and price at IHOP, Denny's and Ruby's than I did here. What a shame.
As harsh as I may seem in this post, this is all true and verifiable with the photo, and 8 witnesses I had with me. Skip Kuleto's and find somewhere else to enjoy a nice dinner in company of loved ones and friends.
Just so there's no confusion, or ambiguity. This happened at Kuleto's on Powell Street in downtown SF. I would still like the restaurant to apologize, they never did. The half-assed apology from the manager and the waiter, was similar to someone apologizing as they bump to you at the mall. One of those "sorry 'bout that" kind of apologies. Unbecoming of a place like this.