Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raku - Westside

Last night, I returned to Raku for what will be my third and final time for the foreseeable future. While Raku doesn't have close to the best Ramen in Atlanta, I loved having the option for a quick, late night bite. We just don't have enough options like this ITP and it was a welcome addition to serviceable "ethnic" dining not on Buford Highway. It is also extremely economical.

In the past, when I've come around 8PM, Raku has been empty. And maybe that's why I was served with a quickness on those evenings. Yesterday, both the parking lot and dining room were slammed. I'm going to keep this short - I sat for fifteen minutes without ever being acknowledged by the staff. No water. No eye-contact. No menu. In fact, I probably stood at the entryway, waiting to be seated for three minutes until I took it upon myself to sit down.

I'm an extremely tolerant diner. I've put up with hair in my food and the lousiest of service. I probably would have sat there waiting to be served or I would have gently spoken up when one of the two servers looked my way. But sitting there, at the high-bar, I had a vantage point directly into their open kitchen. And since I don't like to spend my evenings over a toilet, frontwards or backwards, I chose to do something I can't remember doing in at least ten years - I walked.

You're a fool if you think unsanitary practices don't occur in restaurant kitchens. It's the nature of the beast. In fact, the whole wearing gloves while handling food is a silly legislation (Taka's epic tweet on the matter) and rarely used in finer restaurants that can get away with it. But the amount of cross-contamination that occurred in the 15 minutes I watched that kitchen was unfathomable and stomach wrenching.

From the moment I got there until the moment I left, there was an open bag of raw, red meat siting out on the cutting board. This same cutting board was used to slice raw salmon on. That cutting board was also used to plate food going out to the dining room. You may be thinking, "Big deal, the bottoms of the plates were touching the board so as not to contaminate the top. And all the meat on the board was going to get cooked anyways, killing the bacteria." And you might be right. But then consider that the cook handling every single order that went out - that sliced the fish, that plated dishes, that handled every cooking utensil, every device in that kitchen and ever finished order, never once washed his hands. Raw meat, both beef and fish, was handled constantly with the same unwashed hands that took care of dirty dishes, contaminated surfaces and new plates to the dining room. If someone didn't get sick last night at Raku, the bacterial gods have forsaken us.

Needing to recover from the spell of disarray Raku put me under, I went with a surefire, nearby alternative - Antico. I can put up with the unfriendly service and intolerable customers there for that pizza time and time again.

Raku Tonkatsu & Ramen on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Response to Caren West's Facebook Post

This post on Facebook was recently brought to my attention. I hope you all will read all the comments and now read my response. If I could, I would respond on Facebook, but unfortunately, Facebook won't allow it.

Hi Caren and others. I am the "douchebag" and "imbecile" who wrote the blog post you've referenced. I'll say flat out, if I offended you, I'm sorry. While I did write a generalization (which can be and has been dangerous territory) it clearly wasn't directed at Caren, her company, or others like it. I have witnessed first hand (and from afar) the work of Caren West PR. You are one of the best in the business. I can see why you would take offense. But, the blog post wasn't directed at you or others like you.

I would also point out that I called myself out in the exact bit you quote. It is possibly/potentially erroneous and hasty. It should also be noted that in the referenced blog post, I was throwing tons of praise at Brave Public Relations as a contrast to the picture I painted. Because like Caren's company, they have their shit together, break the mold and left me impressed. I understand that by not tagging me or linking to the post, you don't want to help my numbers - and if you've paid any attention to my blog, numbers aren't exactly my drive (it's pretty inactive and not run in the most savvy of ways). But also by not linking, you've taken things slightly out of context as the people here do not see my point in the bit you did quote. It was to paint a humorous, silly contrast to the great companies (like your own) that I've encountered. Anyone who believes that I think that an entire industry's MO is to get impregnated and retire takes themselves way too seriously. The notion is silly.

So again, I do want to apologize for those that I did offend. Clearly, they aren't the type of people I was describing and joking about. I also encourage you to read the blog - not because it's awesome or accurate, but because maybe you'll get an idea of the snark and humor I put into posts. If I just wrote that the food was "tasty" and everyone was great, it'd be a boring ass blog. So I call out some witnessed negatives too - for both accuracy and entertainment's sake.

Caren you're awesome and so is your team. Oh, and I've never been rejected by a PR girl because I've never tried anything with one. I'm sure if I did, I would get rejected - you should see my mug (that's some light humor for you all).