My wife and I decided to check out this Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Restaurant recently. It is a highly rated restaurant as per reviews in Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google, Hungrygowhere and other sites, so we thought we could not go wrong. We had earlier selected this place for the New Year Eve Dinner, but switched to a Turkish Restaurant at the last hour due to some traffic constraints that evening.
This restaurant is located at an unlikely place – a small mall called Zhongshan Mall in Balestier Road, which would not be my choice for such exotic dining. However, we went wrong in two of our key assumptions.
One assumption is that such a highly reviewed restaurant will indeed be good. But Pistachio Grill was not even a restaurant!
It takes up a common space on the mall’s first floor, which means that there is no restaurant in the strict sense – it is more like an elegant hawker centre. More than that, they have very limited spaces, being part of a large corridor. Worse, they do not take orders at your table – it was very awkward (and probably, the first time for us) when we were asked to go to the cashier counter, place our order, pay for it, and then return to the table! I have not seen this practice in any restaurant – yes we pay in Coffee Shops in advance, and pick up the coffee, but Pistachio Grill claims to be a restaurant from an exotic land, where gourmet diners will die if they see such an environment. What about changes to the order, or additions to the order – you better get up, go back to the queue, and wait to order/pay. This is nothing short of ridiculous in my mind.
Secondly, they did not have the items on the menu, and offered an equivalent – while I can understand that happens some times, it occurred twice with Pistachio Grill, forcing us to drop food items that we would have enjoyed otherwise.
The service by waiters was just OK, but I do not see the need to pay the Service Charge of 10% when we could have easily picked up the food by ourselves in this restaurant-as-a-service (!!!). Any such restaurant needs to have waiters who are educated in the culture of the cuisine, and explain the items when asked, instead of dropping the menu cards on our table and expecting us to walk up to the cashier counter! Totally laughable!!
No wonder there were always couple of folks trying to get seating, but that is not surprising on a Friday evening and also not surprising when this restaurant (!) has taken up so much of visible space when you come up on the escalator to the first floor.
Well, let us come to the food part. Given the above experience, we were already below our benchmark hunger level. The Moroccan Mint Tea was just horrible with no unique taste or ingredients (just mint) – what is so special about such a tea which the Chef is touting on the menu, like all the other items? The pita bread was just OK, but could have been prepared better. The saving grace was Baba Ghanoush, which my wife said was fine. The chicken item we ordered was dripping with oil, soaked so much in it that we immediately felt so full. The saffron rice was decent, but the quantity was so small in a dish which costs SGD 17.90!
This is not fine Middle Eastern or Mediterranean or Egyptian dining. There are far better places in locations such as Arab Street for enjoying that timeless cuisine. We are going to give a total miss to Pistachio Grill in future, given the abundant choices we have in Singapore. I am totally surprised by the reviewers who seem to have gone overboard with their unstinted praise for this restaurant and its Chef.
Hopefully the restaurant will learn from its mistakes and challenges, and provide a better ambience for its diners coupled with serious quality of food. All the best!
03 February 2018