stuck*

Disclaimer: this is not a happy post. In fact, it is a very unhappy post. So unhappy that I had to give myself a few weeks to chill out before pressing the new post button.

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So If you only want to see unicorns and rainbows, I suggest you go watch Candy Mountain instead.

You’re still here? Good. Now let me tell you about an unhappy happy hour experience that I had.
Several weeks ago, I read somewhere on the interwebs that happy hour is a great way to “try on” a restaurant. Small bites for less bones and some booze should be a great audition for your money, the article said. So I bought into it and looked into happy hour that was happening around our area.

There are many, many happy hour options by my workplace; Charlie Palmer, Blue Water Grill, Kimera, The Auld Dubliner, to name a few. And out of all that, I chose AnQi. Why? Because I am a sucker for persistent marketing, that’s why.

The PR firm that AnQi uses sends me a shit load of email press releases about the next underwear runway show AnQi will be hosting, or some summer cocktail contest that AnQi is in (okay, more like 5 or 6, but still. Do not want.) And as annoying as PR releases are with their low quality JPEGS and irritating “feel free to write a post about this!” footnotes, the name of the restaurant is, by then, deeply embedded in my memory cortex. Then I get suckered into visiting the restaurant because it’s stuck in my head.

I knew that AnQi was in the South Coast Plaza, which means that it caters to the money-dropping couture crowd. The same crowd that lines up for Sprinkles cupcakes when you can drive a few miles to eat better sweets at Cream Pan (for much less).
But how bad could it be? AnQi is part of the highly venerable An family business. The An family owns Thanh Long in San Francisco and The Crustacean in Beverly Hills – both highly regarded restaurants that are famous for their garlicy crab. In fact, it is really hard to snag a reservation at both restaurants. Even my parents approve of Thanh Long, and it’s rare to hear my Dad not bash, in fact, compliment another Vietnamese entrepreneur.

That must mean something. Right? I mean, they have pork belly on the menu for chrissakes.

These are actual excuses I used to drag Don into AnQi with me. He didn’t want to step foot into AnQi because one, it looks too fancy, and two, we couldn’t find the bloody entrance. Unfortunately AnQi managed to betray me, and my happy-hour-choosing privileges have been revoked by my husband.

Let me list the many ways AnQi’s Happy Hour (erm, I mean, Red Hour) is just wrong…

  1. There were only 2 waiters throughout the whole floor (AnQi is divided into three dining areas, and easily seats a 100)… During a Thursday evening happy hour.
  2. Time from seating to finally flagging down the waiter and placing drink orders: 30 minutes.
  3. The waiters are impeccably rude. When we tried to order some food, our server responded with a flat-out, unapologetic “we’re out of that.”
  4. Which leads me to another point. Why the hell are you out of bar food an hour into happy hour?
  5. The waiters love to flirt with clients. (While I glare at the back of his head with an empty glass at hand for 20 minutes)
  6. Before our drinks even arrived, our waiter came by and asked if we would like to order anything else from the kitchen.
  7. The  waiter never asked us if we wanted to another round of cocktails. So we asked for the check and GTFO‘d.
  8. Well, are the foods/cocktails at least worth the neglect? No.

But enough of the rambling – you’re all here for the photos, yes? Let me show you:

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White Samurai (6). Hand pressed orange, corzo silver tequila, fresh lemonade, 100% agave nectar, with a splash of pama (pomegranate liquer). Faintly smoky and fruity at the same time. If you like a penicillion or even the Donaji (at Rivera), then this one’s for you.

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Shangria (7). White peach sangria made with Grey Goose L’Orange, Navan (vanilla liqueur), Licor 43, Cointreau, Peach Schnapps, white wine, fresh peach puree, prosecco. Way too much going on, and a disconcertingly slimy mouthfeel.

As for food, we came to AnQi primarily for the pork belly bao, but they were out. We should’ve walked out then, but we had just ordered our drinks. So we perused the menu for other options. (Unfortunately the ‘famous garlic noodles‘ are not available at the lounge area)

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Salt & Pepper Fried Potatoes, Truffle Essence (4). Filling, but without the faintest note of truffle.

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Salt and Pepper Calamari, Jalapeno, Sun Dried Tomato Aioli (6). You would think that an Asian restaurant would have perfectly crispy calamari. Not the case. However, it’s a very familiar dish: the flavor reminded me of the salt and pepper shrimp with green peppers that you can buy at any Chinese restaurant. Think of the aioli as fancy mayo, and just that.

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Chicken Satay, Essence of Lemongrass, Pickled Vegetables (6). A Thai dish at a Vietnamese restaurant should have been the red flag. BUT. But. It was also the strongest dish out of our spread. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was like a spicy teriyaki. The tart, Vietnamese style pickles balanced it out very well.

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Crispy Chicken Drumettes, Soy Ginger Glaze (6). Nothing home to write about – just your standard crispy fried chicken with sweet gringo sauce.

Overall: dull.

AnQi: despite the multi-million glitz and glam, runway shows, and your self proclaimed family treasure recipe shpeel, you did it wrong from all angles – service, food, ambience. Your only saving grace is your location and the cougar crowd that flock about your bar. Needless to say, we won’t be returning.

AnQi Bistro
South Coast Plaza, next to Bloomingdales
3333 Bristol
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 557-5679
www.anqirestaurant.com
AnQi on Urbanspoon

* NO, not the Stacie Orrico song.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • weezermonkey July 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I am sad about your bad experience, but I am thrilled that you are not one to shy away from truthful reporting.

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  • Gastronomer July 27, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Those press releases kind of crack me up! I just can’t imagine a dining space that has an ENTIRE RUNWAY in it too.

    Sorry about your crappy experience. Hopefully Don will have better luck with HH spots ;-)

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  • Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves July 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

    This blog post was a breath of fresh air. Thanks for keeping it real. It’s easy to believe that all of those PR emails are truthful but again it’s the old saying, don’t believe everything you read. I’m sorry you had a rough time but thanks for speaking out on it too. I wish I had guts like you. I had a bad experience but just wrote about it through clenched teeth.

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  • H.C. July 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    awww bummers, was hopeful given the beautiful photos you posted on flickr a while back — was curious about checking out AnQi, looks like I might have to brave the cougars and snag a bar seat if I don’t want to wait half-hour for service.

    With that wait-time they could’ve at least made use of the runway and offered you the eye candy of underwear models ;)

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  • SinoSoul July 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    “sweet gringo sauce” – RAAAACIST~! Haha!

    The AnQi PR releases are kinda awesome. There was a glitzy Chicago tapas joint that always hosted swim suit runway shows at night, and AnQi reminded me of such. Except I remembered about how bad the food was…

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  • ila July 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    weezermonkey, thanks! it just bums me out so much, and i would hate for another person to go through what i went through.

    Cathy, i mean… WHY underwear. in a restaurant. gee-ross.

    Bianca, thanks for visiting! It took me a while too cool down though. the original draft was a rollercoaster of grumpy, bitchy, and then sadness. lol.

    H.C., it’s a very very pretty place, i’ll give you that. but with my long wait time, i did have a chance to oggle at the very pretty hostess in their aodai uniforms. it’s a bit weird to see a model-like white girl in traditional vietnamese garb.

    tony, lolz. will keep that in mind. if anqi’s like this i can’t imagine how bad tialto is/will be.

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