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Pusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

Pusadee’s Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

Garden Thai but Without the Garden?

Probably the most underrated attribute of any dining experience has to be the atmosphere where one is actually dining.  As a “hospitalitarian” and a customer service fanatic, service is obviously what I critique more rigorously than anyone else I’ve dined with, and the food itself is naturally an important metric on which to base a restaurant’s rating.  Even price, or more accurately, value, is a critical factor to rank and score restaurants on, given how important getting the “best bang for your buck” is in today’s society.

Pusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

However, I never want to down play the importance of atmosphere in any of my reviews.  The setting in which one enjoys his meal or receives her service can definitely elevate the restaurant’s overall impression in my mind.  On the other hand, a great atmosphere, like that of Church Brew Works or Six Penn Kitchen, can be impressive on its own, but if that’s the only thing a restaurant has in its corner, then why dine there?

With this in mind, read into the “Atmosphere” subsection of this review carefully, as it reveals a great deal about maybe why Pusadee’s Garden leaves some wowed, and others in disappointment.

Atmosphere

It maybe goes without saying that Pusadee’s Garden Thai has a beautiful and exclusive garden along the side of the main building.  It is entirely covered in green, with draping leaves and branches hanging overhead and shrubs, ferns, and flowers encircling and enveloping the inner courtyard.  Twinkling lights provide the final touch to this oasis, and anyone dining in the garden would feel completely relaxed and secluded from the outside world.

Pusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

This is the experience I wish we had had.  Alas, we were confined to the inside of the building, with barren white walls and simple wooden tables replacing the tropical haven we were “promised” in the name.  While I understand the capacity constraints in having a space as lovely as the garden (meaning everyone wants to dine there even though not everyone can be accommodated), the extreme contrast between the beautiful garden and the main inside dining room, where it seems effort was put in to making the room more boring, is not ideal.  Not that dining in the garden would have elevated the entire restaurant’s impression substantially, but the garden would not have diminished Pusadee’s score in my mind.

Pusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

Service

Danny Meyer preaches that hospitality is a dialogue between two entities, meaning that there is a relationship between any guest and host that fosters value, goodwill, and most importantly, the feeling that the host is on the side of the guest.  In this case, our service was not a dialogue, but a monologue, with the staff unapologetic, unsympathetic, and one-sided in all of their interactions with our table.  Olivia’s experience (detailed below), is the perfect articulation of this narrowness of mind with regard to hospitality.

QualityPusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

The quality of each dish certainly met my standards, if only just meeting them.  The spring rolls were good, with a decent crunch to the vegetables and a warm plum sauce that brought just enough newness to each bite.  I also had one of my favorite dishes ever (although one I normally make at home via Bon Appetite), Chicken Kao Soi.  I don’t think it beat the one I make, but it was strong and spicy where it needed to be, and contained good portions of chicken, which is usually the downfall of a dish that relies too heavily on noodles.

Price – Now ValuePusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

The price of everything was fine, but this restaurant has changed my thinking with regard to this category.  I think from now on, I’m going to refer to this title as “value”, which more accurately reflects my feelings on the price not just for the food and drink, but also for the entire dining experience.

In this case, I thought the value was quite low for what we expected and paid.

Rating

5.6/10

Translation

I’d like to say that there is potential for Pusadee’s.  I think a traditional Thai menu in a space like this should really be better than this.  I think time will tell whether improvement becomes the necessity for the restaurant, or, with the lack thereof, its downfall.

Olivia’s Take

Best part of the experience?

The best experience was the exterior of the building; it was covered in ivy and had a very hole-in-the-wall like appearance, which I found charming. Also, the experience didn’t feel rushed at all; we spent a good half an hour or more chatting after our meal was finished, and we didn’t feel like we were being rushed out for more customers to come in.

What needs the most improvement?

What bothered me most about this experience was their insensitivity to food allergies. I’m rather severely allergic to tree nuts and am cautious of that when I dine out. I ordered a dish with peanuts (which I’m not allergic to) in it, but asked for the dish without the peanuts, explaining to the waitress that I have food allergies and am very cautious. However, when the dish came out, I found peanuts in it. When I told the waitress that I had asked for no nuts in the dish, she said that I should’ve told her that when I ordered the dish. Although I luckily had no problems with the peanuts in the dish (after waiting 5 minutes for a possible reaction after taking the first bite of the dish), I still think that the restaurant could be more sensitive to food allergies, especially since many of their dishes have nuts (a very common allergen) in them.

Also, the atmosphere within the restaurant was very plain and boring, unlike the outside of the building.

Also, the service was rather slow, but this did allow me and my friends to feel free to stay and chat comfortable after we finished our meal.

What kind of place is this (who would you bring here, for what purpose, etc.)?

Because it’s rather plain and the food was just decent, I wouldn’t go to this restaurant for a special occasion, like when family and friends were visiting me at Pitt.  I’d probably come here if I needed a place to eat in Lawrenceville with a good friend or two.

Describe your meal for us.

I had the vegetable spring rolls, which were quite good, especially with their dipping sauce. For my main course, I had a simple dish of vegetable pad Thai.

Pusadee's Garden Thai with Olivia Rauktis

Olivia Rauktis is a senior at Pitt studying English literature and psychology.  She enjoys naps, strolls through Schenley, and cats.

 

Pusadee’s Garden Thai is located outside Lawrenceville on Butler Street.  Their website and menu are found here: http://www.pusadeesgarden.com/

Hospitality: It’s a Give and Take

My second day in London started off very differently than back in the states, including getting lost on the Tube (the English subway) while heading to class and trying to memorize the names of a dozen new people.  There is something, however, that was very much the same today as it is back in the United States and as I suspect it is around the world.  That something is the language of hospitality.  No matter where you are in the world, if you approach your fellow man with general warmth and sincerity, with the goal of helping him or seeing that his needs are taken care of, you will be received gladly and even rewarded.

I witnessed the language being spoken today around lunch time when some friends and I entered a local Italian restaurant after class, but not at first.  Our server was a solemn young girl who would’t speak to us and the restaurants owners, an older couple who seemed of Italian descent, were fiddling around with what seemed like a printer in the room next to us.  While I was thrown off by the lack of cheerful service that I’ve come to know and love in the U.S., I’ve learned that the English aren’t very emotional people in public and I suppose I mistook that for a deficit in genuine hospitable service.  Nevertheless I tried to have a good time with my friends at least until the the older woman of the couple came over to our table, asking if any of us had any experience with technology or computers.  She explained that her husband was trying to get the new fax machine they had just bought to work but it just kept making strange noises.  Being minimally technology-oriented but maximally service-oriented and clearly seeing the woman’s distress, I volunteered to assist her and her husband.  As soon as I stood up to help, the air in the room changed from one of isolation to one of cheer.  The couple were very friendly to us then on (the fax machine was an easy fix, I just turned on “automatic answer” button and it seemed to work fine), complementing how helpful and knowledgeable we all were and giving us all free sodas to drink.  I even got a small word of appreciation from the now genial young girl.  It’s amazing how a little friendly service can pay dividends like that, and although it might be unorthodox for the customer to initiate the service transaction in this way, our experience at the restaurant was better for it.  We left the restaurant very satisfied and promising to come back and patronize their store again.

The lesson here is clear: hospitality is a universal language.  When you give some, you receive some in return.