aMa Bistro

What more fitting subject for our first review than the place that started it all? aMa Bistro is a relatively new, well-decorated café hidden on State Street between CVS and The Getup Vintage. Our first visit, during the restaurant’s infancy, left us so dissatisfied with the quality of service that the idea for this blog was conceived somewhere between our forsaken coffee cups and lukewarm food. We left with no intention of returning, but after getting wind that aMa had sought out a professional staff trainer, decided to give them a second chance.

We arrived expecting a turn around, but our hopes were quickly dashed. Our first inkling that this second visit might be as disappointing as the first presented itself as an empty host stand asking us to wait for seating. Although all but two tables were empty, it was a whopping minute and a half (yes, we timed it) before we were brusquely greeted and instructed to pick any seat by the only hand on deck. Those that followed behind us were met with the same tactless reception. Once seated, it was another several minutes before we received waters; unaccompanied by menus or the offer of any other beverages. Several guests ventured in after us, but all remained ignored and thirsty while the server disappeared into the back. It soon became obvious that apathy was the guiding principle of service here.

When the server finally arrived with the menus, she did not stick around long enough to inform us of the daily specials or soups and again assumed that we were satisfied with water. To our chagrin, the lackluster server did not seem to care that we had entered the establishment first and proceeded to take orders at random. This gave us time to look around the restaurant and notice that a majority of the tables were not set with silverware or the proper condiments. Once the server found the time to come take our orders, it was done almost mechanically. No pleasantry nor personality were provided.

After placing our order, a small eternity filled with awkward silence passed before our pre-meal soups reached us. At this point, Tucker pointedly asked for a soda, receiving a curt “sure” in return. Our server scurried off into the back, once again shunning the dining room. Whether or not she went back there with our soda in mind we may never know, as she reemerged several times without it in hand before fulfilling our request. In the meantime, we discovered that Tucker’s soup was lukewarm, bordering on chilly, whereas Arina’s was piping hot. Tucker’s dissatisfaction and subsequent request for the soup to be reheated were received without concern or apology. By the time the soup was returned (haphazardly presented on a soup-splattered saucer) Arina’s empty bowl had been deliberately placed on the edge of the table. The reheated soup was anything but, and was indignantly pushed aside. The soda finally arrived at our table but the dirtied dishes did not depart, leaving unappealing clutter and further accentuating the server’s inaptitude.

Entrees came sooner than water refills, and the used dishes remained at the edge of our table. We aren’t sure of our server’s methodology, but we can assume from her confusion that it was not intended to keep track of who ordered which dish. We dived into our food, not overly impressed but not terribly disappointed either. Our server didn’t seem too concerned with our opinion of the food, as she spent the duration of our meal flitting about the restaurant in a panicked disarray. While we understand the stresses of an understaffed dinner rush, a quick scope of the restaurant revealed the potential for an efficient trajectory for such instances. The tables are organized in a loop, providing a missed opportunity to effectively attend to every guest. Forethought clearly was not a part of the training process at aMa.

About half way through our meal, we were told that we would receive our check shortly. At this point, we had grown weary of the experience as a whole, yet were still relatively offended, although unsurprised, that our server’s top priority was to empty the dining room as quickly as possible. Her attitude toward other patrons was similarly apathetic, as evidenced by the palpable discomfort surrounding us. During our meal, we witnessed a customer next to us being cut off while attempting to order, another looking disgruntled at the temperature of his soup and several tables rubbernecking in a vain search for service. It quickly became clear that the server was no longer concerned with providing hospitality, but was instead inconvenienced by our presence.

Our check was presented separately, though we had made no indication that we would not be paying together. For the first time in our hour-long experience, there was a glimmer of interest when Tucker could not justify paying for a half-finished soda that had taken an exorbitant amount of time to reach our table. Even then, there was no apology or acceptance of responsibility for her lack of timeliness and our dissatisfaction. Fortunately, our change arrived quicker than anything else we’d requested. Unfortunately, this only served as an emphasis of her indifference towards the unwelcome occupants of her domain.

It saddens us to say that the refinement we had been hoping for was neither present nor something we foresee happening in the near future. There is no satisfaction in receiving poor service, and there is especially none in writing about said poor service. However, we feel it is our self-appointed duty to report the truth (as pompous as that may sound). We want to emphasize that we have been in her shoes, but she’s not the Cinderella we were looking for. We deeply feel that as a server, even at the point of extreme stress, it is not just a courtesy, but your obligation to assume responsibility for anything that goes wrong during your shift. Were we to focus our reviews on the food itself, we may have a more positive outlook on aMa, however, until the servers are properly trained and the management makes the appropriate staffing adjustments, we regret to say that we would not recommend dining at this establishment.

We hope that this review has been enlightening, and that our next will be less of a downer. Thanks for checking us out, look forward to our next post this Wednesday!

Your Humble Servants,
Arina & Tucker

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