Last Saturday was the National Day public holiday in Hong Kong and we had organized a huge family gathering at Isono. We have been to Isono many times before, and for this occasion, it was our venue of choice as it has 2 large private dining rooms which we could book (with no minimum charge) and the size was just perfect for 8 adults and 6 children!
It also offered a good deal on its weekend set lunch menu so we were pumped!
I’ve always enjoyed the food at Isono – I regard its seafood paella as the best in Hong Kong and its Apple Tart Tartin a sinful delight. I like their seafood paella so much, deep down, I really prefer not to share and would be happy if I consumed it all alone!
The main courses were also full of flavor and cooked to perfection. The Spring Lemon Chicken was tender, accentuated by its tasty zesty marinate. The delicate Slow-cooked Beef Cheek has always been a hit on our many visits, and it was no different on this occasion. I was glad I picked the Suckling Pig as the crispiness of skin and the juicy meat underneath were a definite highlight for me!
Unfortunately, the appalling service and misleading menu were the real let downs here. We arrived at 12 noon, and with 2 other tables out in the main dining room area, we really couldn’t figure out why it took 20 mins for ordered drinks to arrive, and an eternity for the bread to come. When we ordered bread refills, I’m quite sure I got an eye roll from our waitress.
When it came time to order, our waitress walked into the private room with this grumpy indifferent facial expression that screamed “I don’t want to be serving you at all!”.
The weekend menu offered 2 choices: “3 courses w/ dessert” or “4 courses w/ dessert”. Whilst we understood that we had to choose a dessert from the menu, nowhere written on the menu required that one of the other course must be an appetizer. So this caused huge confusion as our group had made our individual menu decisions already without knowing about this additional condition. We raised this with our grumpy waitress, and her response was a disinterested “that’s how the menu works”.
Next was the order of the Suckling Pig – the menu had “(min. x2) add HK$58 per person” as an additional condition for ordering this dish. We had 5 people who wanted to order the Suckling Pig. So, for us, 5 orders is above the minimum of 2 orders as stated right? However, the waitress argued with us that the order of the Suckling Pig must be an “even number” order, and not an “odd number” order, reminding us that 5 is an odd number.
I think this was when we lost it, and asked to speak with the Manager! They either needed to seriously train their wait staff or have a smarter person writing their menus! The Manager who came (who actually was the barman and whom we later found out was not the actual manager) was useless and had no decision making power.
To make matters worse, they got our orders all wrong!! They missed an appetizer order, 2 main course orders and a drink order. This was later realized when some of us had to watch everyone else eat their meals whist theirs didn’t come. By then, they had replaced our grumpy waitress with a denying waiter – who denied it was his fault as he was not the one taking our order.
In all of this mess, my husband had to take the initiative to play the role of waiter and we confirmed our orders ourselves with a show of hands all around!! When the actual manager finally turned up, his excuse to this mismanagement and poor service was that he had only started this job at Isono very recently!! What the?
When the bill arrived, I gave the manager an opportunity to redeem his restaurant and perhaps to apologize. I asked him: “With that level of service you and your team just gave us, is this the bill you are going to charge us?”. He looked me in the eye and said “Yes.”. No apology. No concession. No nothing. With that, I simply replied with a “Okay, duly noted.”. We for sure will not be returning to Isono.
Isono’s big sister restaurant, the more expensive fine dining VASCO on the upstairs level, closed down on 30 April 2016. Since then, Isono has been trying to reinvent itself with a new concept by inviting influential chefs from around the world to present their menus to diners in Hong Kong.
With this type of indifference, appalling service and mismanagement of the front of house, it is such a shame. This is because however hard, talented and passionate their in-house chefs and international chefs present their fine cuisine and however great the food (and it is really good), customers’ dining experience will be darkened and overshadowed by the ill performance of its front of house.
Isono’s new concept as a matter of priority should be to fix its service attitude and its management – otherwise, it may meet the same fate as VASCO before long.
Date Night Worthy? No. Even with the great food, our happy family group gathering was marred by sub-par service and waiters/managers who don’t give a damn. You are better off bringing your date to another place where you will have an enjoyable night all round.