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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blue Orchid

What I've got here are dueling reviews of the new Thai place in the old Federal Building, Blue Orchid. First is reader Gary's review followed by Blue Orchid through the eyes of ace correspondent, Jack Jackson.

Blue Orchid

by Gary

A friend treated me to a late birthday lunch at the Blue Orchid last
week. This is a Thai restaurant in the old Federal Building at 10th
and P streets. The restaurant is in the south portion of the newly
remodeled Federal Place Apartments.

I was surprised by the elegance of the restaurant, from its open floor
plan to the color scheme and the detail given to dishes, stemware and

The lunch menu was standardized but flexible enough to give you plenty
of options. I believe lunch cost $7.95 and included a choice of two
appetizers (spring roll or Thai roll); choice of soup (Tom Khan or Tom
Yum); and several entrees.

The food and its presentation was excellent, although the service was
pretty slow. I chalk that up to what must have been a new waitress
because she walked as slow as the service. Must not be used to
carrying food or the pace of a restaurant's lunch rush.

I had Thai rolls with a plum glaze and they were spectacular. My soup
was the spicy coconut milk based soup Tom Yum. It was a generous
portion with lots of flavor and not too spicy. My entree was red
curry chicken that came with steamed rice. The portions were, again,
generous and the spice was just right, if not on the bubble for more
spice than I expected. Knowing this, I'm anxious to try the milder
yellow curry next time, assuming it will have at least a little kick
to it.

My favorite Thai restaurant in Lincoln is the Thai House on 27th
Street south of Vine but the food here rivaled the quality of food at
the Thai House. It was hands down a better place in terms of
atmosphere and presentation, although the Thai House has the Blue
Orchid beat on price.

It's nice for Lincoln to have a restaurant that focuses on elegance.
And the price, compared to the atmosphere, is a bargain.

Blue Balls

By Jack Jackson

I went to Blue Orchid this fine Saturday afternoon with four friends after reading the write-up in yesterday’s Ground Zero. I call this review Blue Balls because “orchid” is derived from the Greek “orchis” (ορχις) which means “testicle” referring to the shape of an orchid’s tubers, and my experience at Blue Orchid was a lot like having blue balls, which is the painful feeling a man gets in his testicles after a lot of foreplay but no winning.
First off, it’s a nice-looking place. They spent a lot of money on fixing up the old Federal Building, but they unfortunately spent no money on an experienced staff, either at the front or back of the house. This is shocking, since the restaurant was apparently in Chicago before it came here, and you’d think they’d have the kinks worked out by now. Or maybe they were run out of Chicago because the service was so bad.
Don’t get me wrong. Our server was friendly. But the servers have to bus the tables and fill water and answer phones and it looked like they even had to do some dishes. Other Thai restaurants have basic service figured out without extra staff, like Thai House and Thai Garden, so why can’t Blue Orchid get it straight with multiple servers?
At lunch, for $7.95 you get an entrée, an appeteaser, and a soup. It took forever for anything to show up. We assumed soup would be right out, but we were wrong. When we asked our server why the soup took so long, she said that each bowl of soup is made fresh for each table, whether Tom Yum or Tom Kha. She said it was worth the wait because it was fresh.
I have to digress now to talk a little bit about soup. Soup often tastes better after it is reheated, after it has sat in the fridge and the flavors have coalesced. And what is the point of making soup fresh for each person? That makes no sense. Soup is something a restaurant should have ready to go, ready to ladle out as a quick dish.
It was tasty soup, after twenty minutes of waiting. I am not exaggerating at all about the wait. We waited a full twenty minutes for soup. Whatever “freshness” the soup had was lost on me for I’ve had many bowls of Thai soup in bigger cities and they tasted just as good but came straight away. But our server thinks it’s worth the wait. She is wrong.
And then we were told our entrees were cooked before our spring and Thai rolls, so we had to wait another twenty minutes (no exaggeration) for the rolls. And when the rolls came out, only half of them showed up, even though our server claimed the initial delay was because they wanted to plate all of our entrees at once.
Then another twenty minutes passed (again, no exaggeration) before our entrees showed up. If we had been to Thai Garden or Thai House, we would’ve been done eating at least thirty minutes earlier, and it would’ve been $2 cheaper. One tofu dish came out cold, the result of behind cooked early and then slightly reheated, we figured. We sent it back, and in five minutes, it came back without being heated. The server promised to make it new again, and then it came back five minutes later, the same food on the same plate, microwaved.
And it took another five minutes to get our check. The server passed by three times promising the check, but it still took five minutes.
My advice: don’t go to Blue Orchid unless you want Blue Balls. The wait is not worth it, the food is not any better than Thai House or Thai Garden, and it is more expensive. The décor is simply a waste of money and I doubt they’ll be able to pay their rent for very long.
[Side note: I know it is a more upscale place, but we would’ve appreciated the little caddy of chili paste and what-nots to flavor our own dishes to our own liking.]

As you can see, the service was a bit of an issue. Jack went the day the Korbelik feature appeared in the Journal-Star so that might have something to do with the service issues. Never go to a restaurant the day it gets featured in the local paper. On the other hand, a friend of mine went there for dinner that night and was in and out within an hour.


Blogger Justin said...

I went to the Blue Orchid last week. I had the same action as Jackson. It took one full hour (12:15-1:15pm) to get our soup. The place was busy, but not that busy. There were four servers, and only one of them appeared interested or willing or even at all like restaurant staff. (However, they were entertaining: one young man spent what seemed the entire afternoon navigating the tables with a tray of soup bowls.)

The soup was delicious (Tom Yum) though, and so was my Iced Coffee. My sister ordered the Iced Tea and it was terrible - obviously instant tea. If they used instant coffee in mine, it was well-masked with the stamp adhesive sweetener they use (that I'm actually quite fond of).

Our waitress told us she was sweaty. And new. But didn't really apologize. She filled my Mom's water but not the rest of the table's.

After the soup, it was about 20 minutes before the first entree arrived. My sister ordered the Pad Thai. It was okay (though I've had better from a Safeway in WA) but was quickly becoming cold. She was trying to wait until my mother and I got our food. We told her to just eat anyway.

15 minutes later, the rest of the food came. My mom ordered some chicken (Orchid Chicken? or something...) that looked very pretty but was kind of generic. I got the green curry, and it was good - very spicy and a little sweet (coconuts and peanuts?).

Our appetizers were totally missing in action until we asked for them, again. The waitress delivered them and the check at the same time. She did not charge us for the Iced Tea and the Iced Coffee. The bill was $23 and something, for three people.

The interior was sweet. People had to seat themselves. There was food from a previous meal on the table next to us for the entire two hours we were there, a bowl of rice and a plate with some old chicken on it. I almost ate it after the first 45 minutes.

But the soup was good!

3:38 PM  
Blogger Awesome Inc. said...

Now that you mention it....me and Mark's food came out at different times, but we were out of there after 50 minutes.


7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to have dinner on a Tuesday evening with three other friends. Having just moved to Lincoln from Dallas I was looking forward to a friendly smile and good food. After waiting 10 minutes at the front of the restaurant and having been "looked at" by all the servers I decided to go to the bar and ask the female bartender if we needed to seat ourselves (half of the tables were empty). She nearly bit my head off barking out "it'll be at least 30 minutes!". No explanation, no offer to take our names, no offer of a cocktail while we wait. I looked her in the sour-puss face and said "no, it won't, we'll leave now."
I wrote the owners a letter detailing our experience over 2 weeks ago. I have yet to get a response.
I could care less how terrific the food might be, the staff was so rude it'll be a cold day in hell before I'll ever return. And yes, i've told EVERYONE I've met in Lincoln to avoid the restaurant as well.
If the owners are not even concerned with the dining public's experiences in their establishment I doubt the restaurant will be around too long.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just checked this place out on Friday Feb. 11th. The service seems to have improved. They at least had a host to greet people now, overworked, but very polite. We had a group of 6 so we waited for a little while but the host was able to get us set up in only about 15 minutes, which was 15 minutes earlier than we expected. The food was very good and service was satisfactory. I would recommend this restaraunt to anyone.

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My roommate and I went to Blue Orchid before a show at the Rococo. It took about 5 minutes to be seated which wasn't bad, except that the host replied to a text message on his cell phone, while in our view, before seating us. We were seated at a table that was so close to another table that whenever a server tried to get through he moved bump our table. The host filled our waters as he sat us. No one said anything to us for about the next 10 minutes.

There were only 3 servers on the floor and it was moderately busy. I am a server myself and understand how hard it is to get to your tables, so we waited paitiently. When our server did finally reach us his first question was whether or not we were going to the Leid show, we said we weren't, but we did have a show to catch. He took our drink and food orders at this point. He brought our sodas back promptly, both or our water glasses were empty.

Our server didn't appraoch our table again for 40 minutes (no exaggeration). At this point he told us that our ticket had been lost in the kitchen. He asked us what we had ordered and left us again. If our ticket was lost in the kitchen why don't you know what we had? The computer should still have our ticket on it...unless you're lying and you forgot to put our food into the computer in the first place.

So now I'm upset that our server is lying to us, our waters have been empty for 40 minutes and our sodas for about 10. He makes no effort ot get us refills. A few minutres later we see the table that came in after us leave, I'm livid. If we don't get our food soon we'll be late for our show.

After being seated for an hour and 15 minutes we get our food. The portions are adequete, but not large by any means. The server brings us new soda's about half way through our eating.

The food was fantastic, I had the Roma Garden with steak and my roommate had the peppercorn. It was very, very good, but not worth being late for our show.

We had finished our meals and stacked our plates on the edge of the table. Our server came to get them about 5 minutes late adn another 5 minutes passed before we got our check.

We both expected some kind of discount for our wait. If I ever made someone wait like that at my restaurant I'd have their meals and drinks taken care of, they would eat for free. We got no compensation. Being a server myself I understand that server have to pay there bills off what they make in tips so we still left a tip, but we will never go back.

We left after having been in hte restaurant for an hour and 40 minutes. We ran to our show and sat down just as the light were dimming, we were expecting to be about 45 minutes early.

Never again!

2:26 PM  

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