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Friday, April 12, 2013

Nashville Food Friday: Royal Thai

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a recommendation of Royal Thai. This is a story about how Royal Thai destroyed date night and prevented me from going ice skating.

Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Royal Thai is located just off of West End Ave surrounded by offices. I guess it's mostly a lunch place, but we went for dinner. We were planning on going to the 7:30-10pm open skate at the local ice rink afterward for date night. We hadn't really had much good quality time together that week so we were both really looking forward to this. Royal Thai was located near the rink and they had a deal on Scout Mob for 50% off. Steve went there a few years ago when he lived in the area and said we should try it. Why not? Below, I'll explain the reasons why you should never visit Royal Thai.
Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
I'll give it up for the decorator, the inside of Royal Thai is pretty cute. They have nice floor-to-ceiling murals and lots of kitsch and character. If you were to judge a place on decor, you would expect this place to be the bee's knees. But this is just another lesson in "don't judge a book by its cover." (Or more precisely, don't judge a Thai Restaurant by its murals.)
Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Look at the lovely portable heater just hanging out in the corner. It really adds to the ambiance. 

When we arrived there were 3 other people in the restaurant. By the time we got our menus everyone was gone and we were the only people there. At 7:30 on a Friday night we were the only people in this place. Not a good sign. The worst part was that the place was completely silent. Eerily silent. No background music, no chatter, nothing. Every word I said bounced off the walls and I'm sure our waiter could hear everything (and maybe even the kitchen staff). I was so put-off by the silence that we decided to take matters into our own hands. We opened up Spotify on my phone and started DJing our table. I would normally NEVER EVER do this, but there was no one else there so I was 100% sure that we were not pissing anyone off. 

I kept thinking about how terrible of a place Royal Thai would be for a first date. It was so empty and creepy silent that if someone took me here I would be afraid that the date would end with me being abducted. I could see myself texting girlfriends from the bathroom asking them to get me out of this situation. 
Pork spring rolls at Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
We were hungry so we ordered the pork spring rolls. They came to the table fairly quickly which was a plus. The roasted pork inside the spring roll had good flavor, and the dipping sauce was good. Unfortunately the spring roll was mostly lettuce and cabbage and the normal delicious ratio was off. They were also really cold which made me think that they were pre-made and just chilling in the refrigerator. How hard is it to roll some spring rolls to order?
Thai Iced Tea at Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Steve ordered a Thai Ice Tea. It was typical, but a little too sweet for me. Steve liked it.

At this point I guess our waiter was totally bored so he decided to take a break. He got his own Thai ice tea and sat down at the table across from us. He took out his cell phone and I guess he was checking facebook/texting/anything that wasn't his actual job. Good to know that the ONE STAFF MEMBER feels totally comfortable to just kick-back on the job. At least go to the kitchen area or something.
Duck curry at Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Steve ordered the duck curry which was supposed to be roasted duck in red curry. What arrived was not duck curry at all, but a totally different dish, roasted duck. When we both looked very confused, the waiter realized what was wrong and said something like, "yah, that isn't what you ordered...umm...I can take it back." But Steve was hungry and decided to just eat what they gave him. I would totally pass this off as a normal mistake, but honestly, how?! We were the only people there so they weren't busy. This is just total incompetence.  The duck itself tasted like it was made ages ago and defrosted. The brown sauce it was covered in was pretty salty, probably to cover up the freezer burn.
Rice at Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
This is the plate of rice that accompanied the duck dish. No really, this is how it arrived. Completely mangled like someone already took a bite out of it. If you aren't going to plate the rice nicely, just serve it in a bowl as one giant scoop.
Pad Woon Sen  at Royal Thai restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
I ordered the Pad Woon Sen with beef. The description said it was "Bean Thread Noodles stir fried with our house Soy Base Sauce" but didn't say it came with any vegetables. All of the other noodle dishes on the menu listed the vegetables that were in the dish, so I asked the waiter if it came with veggies because I didn't want noodles only. The waiter was unsure if this dish had vegetables (WTF?) and went to ask the kitchen. He came back and listed off a bunch of good stuff so I went ahead and ordered it.

What I received was not Pad Woon Sen, but a pile of mushy brown stuff that was inedible. It was so salty I could feel the salt crystals burning into my lips, cheeks and tongue. This dish was hurting me! I asked Steve to try it because I know that I'm more sensitive than average to salt, but even he agreed with me that the dish was just too salty.

So I sat their pouting, feeling really bad. I was upset because I couldn't eat dinner and that our nice date-night out wasn't going as planned. The waiter looked in our direction and noticed that I wasn't eating and asked what was wrong. I told him that the dish was just way too salty and inedible. While he said they could re-make it, I was so pissed off at this point that we just asked for a bunch of to-go boxes. Steve and I packed up our food without eating it. 

While we did get the Scout Mob discount, we got no money off the check and no apology for the quality of the food or our experience. I guess it's a common thing at Royal Thai that patrons immediately leave after their food hits the table. Since we didn't really get to eat dinner #1, we had to come up with an option for dinner #2.
Much better food at Woodlands Indian Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
So Steve and I went to our favorite Indian place Woodlands where we knew that we would get excellent food and service. I mean, look at my face! AM SO HAPPY FOR SAAG PANEER. But because dinner #1 was an EPIC FAIL and we had to have dinner #2, we missed ice skating. I guess the moral of the story is: If you want to eat at Royal Thai and plan on doing something after, make sure you leave enough time for eating your real dinner somewhere else. 

After 4 years of living in Nashville, Royal Thai gets the prize for the worst dining experience. It's definitely the worst Thai Food I ever had and it's pretty high on the list of not-so-great customer service experiences. The prices for dishes were also way too expensive for what you got. If I'm paying $15 for duck curry, I would like the duck to not taste like the back of your deep freezer. For that much money I could go to whole foods and get myself a whole damn duck and roast it to perfection.

Royal Thai? More like Plebian Thai. Just don't go. 



Royal Thai on Urbanspoon

20 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Agreed. They make any night better. I should have just gone there in the first place!

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  2. You should tag your food posts with Urbanspoon, so people can read your reviews! This place actually has above 80% right now, so something is off there.

    I have a tendency not to write negative reviews of restaurants (omit vs. let them waste even more of my time) but truly horrendous experiences like these deserve to be published and documented to save future diners from a similar ordeal!

    I've gotta check out Woodlands sometime. :)

    http://adventuresinaubreyland.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Aubrey, thank you so much for your suggestion. I've totally tagged all my food posts with urban spoon and now I'm waiting for "blog approval." This is a great idea! Generally I've just been posting condensed reviews on Yelp! but being able to post the whole blog is great!

      I had writing negative reviews as well. After reviewing restaurants once a week for over a year, this is my worst experience yet. Most places in Nashville are good so I usually don't have to stress.

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  3. That sucks! I used to eat at Royal Thai Express a lot when I worked on 19th, and their lunchtime cooks and servers are great. I went there once for dinner, though, and NEVER AGAIN. I felt like we shouldn't be there, like it was closing in a moment and the staff didn't want us to use the dining room. It was so unwelcoming and weird.

    It seems not all Royal Thais are created equally; the Brentwood and Cool Springs locations are very good. They must be under different management?

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    Replies
    1. OH! So happy you had the same dinner experience. I really felt that there should have been a sign that said "Nighttime take-out ONLY." I'm happy to hear that their other locations are good- perhaps they will send a chef from one of the other locations to whip the midtown guy into shape!

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  4. Oh no, that's awful! We had a similar experience recently with a East African place that we had been dying to go to for a while, the only difference, ours had some music...even if we could barely hear it since it was only on in the kitchen :/

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    Replies
    1. What type of food is East African? Ethiopian or something different? I'm very interested :)

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    2. At Ethiopian restaurants you usually get something like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alicha_1.jpg where everything everyone ordered is served on a sour spongy breadlike thing...not really my kind of thing since it all tastes pretty sour. East African can also have that, but is a bit more diverse with Indian influences (among others) my favorite thing to get is Sambusa which is similar to Indian Samosa but tastes different :) you can read about the other types of African foods here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_cuisine

      xoxo

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  5. Urgh, this sounds awful. I don't go out for food much, so when I do it is kind of a big deal, the last thing I want is to have a terrible time. We had a really bad experience at a restaurant in Edinburgh years ago and I still refuse to go back. My mum bad mouths them loudly everytime she goes past - in fact she convinced a quite famous older male musician not to go there after he overheard her one evening.

    You never know who someone is, who they know, or whether they are going to write a scathing review on their blog, so why treat your customers like crap? I can generally forgive not great food if the service is great but it sounds like you just had a crap night all round. Hope you and Steve get to have a wonderful date night soon to make up for it xoxo

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    Replies
    1. That's the thing! We walked in with a camera and were taking TONS OF PICTURES. Being the only people there, I'm pretty sure the waiter noticed. I don't expect people to care that I'm a minor league food blogger, but perhaps I was from the local paper? He had no idea so maybe, just maybe, they could have prettied up the rice just a bit.

      nothing could save the food.

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  6. UGh. I have only had takeout from there, so I can't confirm or deny the overall atmosphere. I will say though, that I have noticed this at a few other thai places. I ate at one in cool springs (Basil) and felt the service was AWFUL. The guy just kind of loitered at our table and acted visibly irritated when I asked for a cup to share my friends pot of tea (She wasn't able to finish it on her own)...even after telling him I would accept a surcharge he was an asshole about it.

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    Replies
    1. This waiter looked like a Belmont student who had taken a part-time job and wanted to be any where else but at work.

      I get it, we have all been there at some point, but dude, you get tips. WORK FOR THEM.

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  7. No that sounded like an awful experience. :[

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  8. Thank God for amazing Woodlands. My husband loves Royal Thai. I've only gone there once and I was all, "Saaaaaaad".

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    Replies
    1. OH OH so you agree with me?! Ung, hearing all the agreement makes me feel like I wasn't totally insane to not like it.

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  9. Wow. That is horrible. How can someone mess up an order when you are the only ones there? I've seen some horrible dishes before but yours looks like a complete mess. How awful :( Maybe you should post a review on Yelp!

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    Replies
    1. Oh I totally posted a review on yelp and on Urban Spoon.

      The other Yelp reviews on this place are hilarious. Apparently a few months ago they were selling their decor. Statues had For Sale signs on them!

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  10. I wonder if they "messed up" your order because they didn't want to bother making what you wanted and just gave you what they had. Sounds like a terrible experience.

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    Replies
    1. Oh gosh. I didn't even think of that as a possibility. That is so freakin' sad!

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