Before I left for Cambodia in 2004, Rai Rai Ken was my favorite Japanese restaurant. I didn’t mind paying more for the food because they were really delicious. Over the years, whenever I was on holiday in Manila, I would eat at least once at Rai Rai Ken with friends and family. I was glad to know that they had an outlet at SM San Lazaro, which was very close to where I live. However, the last time I ate there was around 2010. I’ve seen many negative feedback on its food and service but this didn’t stop me from wanting to dine there again. After all, I had many wonderful meals there. I’d been planning to eat there again for weeks now but this plan only saw fruition today. I was waiting for my friend and having an hour to spare before my appointment, I decided to have lunch at Rai Rai Ken.
There was a lunch crowd at the restaurant, which was a good sign for me. However, I was alarmed when I saw “Batchoy Ramen” in the menu. So I ordered what I thought to be ‘the old reliables’, which were Gyoza and Beef Udon. But first, a note on the service. Though there was a lunch crowd when I came, the restaurant wasn’t that crowded because I was seated right away. But the wait staff seemed so harried. The lady who took my order acted as if she’d rather be elsewhere; she wouldn’t even maintain eye contact. When I asked her if they served house tea (as I remembered), she curtly replied that they serve their house tea cold. I asked for it, nevertheless.
Then there was the wait. I know I didn’t order an elaborate dish, but I waited too long. They didn’t give me anything to drink while waiting. When my Gyoza arrived, the waiter just slid it in on the table, as if I were an unwelcome diversion to his trek towards the front of the restaurant. He didn’t bother to serve the plate with the name facing me. This is a little thing, but it says a lot about the quality of wait staff.
As for the Gyoza, as you can see in the picture, have you seen a sorrier bunch than these? One side was charred too much and another looked un-cooked. The wrapper tasted doughy and the texture indicated it dried out after being steamed.
The Beef Udon was a bit better because the the noodles were perfectly cooked. However, the ratio of beef to noodles wasn’t like the one I was used to. The flavor was just so-so. I’ve definitely had better meals at Rai Rai Ken. At this point of the meal, I hadn’t seen a drop of their cold house tea. I was given a glass of cool water, nothing more.
Another thing I’d like to point out is their ugly, cheap-looking, buy-by-bulk chopsticks. I mean, I felt I was going to have splinters in my lips. Tokyo Tokyo has better chopsticks, and it’s a fast food outlet.By this time also my spirit has been crushed by sadness at the sorry state of my favorite restaurant. I’m not sure if this is a franchise issue or a chain-wide problem but they better shape up if they want to stay in business.
After my unfinished meal, my friend and I ran off to have coffee and cake so I can wash away the taste of my disappointing lunch experience at Rai Rai Ken.