Amada – Master Class of Incompetence
The entire time I’ve been back in Jersey my mother has been requesting to go to one of our favorite restaurants Amada in Philadelphia. The baby of the Jose Garces restaurant empire has since its opening been one of our most frequented tapas places and like the dozens of previous trips anticipated brilliantly executed plates of food. However, last night was a disaster and probably one of the worst experiences I have ever had while dinning out.
From arrival to leaving after canceling the rest of the order and walking out (have never walked out of a restaurant before nor sent food back to the kitchen) it was a virtual showcase of epic self-destruction. Entering Amada 10 minutes before the reservation we eagerly went to the spacious bar to enjoy a glass of tempranillo until the being seated. If only that was possible. The two bartenders not only ignored us along with the entire third of the bar customers on our side for 15 minutes while they were dicking around not doing much of anything or making drinks. We were given drink menus and offered water but the table was ready. Normally something like this wouldn’t bother me, but it was a foreshadow of exactly how the evening to follow would go.
Finally we were seated in the backroom that we love in a quiet corner. The head server finally arrived then promptly disappeared after taking the order for a sangria. Once the order was placed we ample time to converse while waiting for what we hoped would be a steady flow of plates to the table as normal. Little did we know what we were in for. 25 minutes later the first dish arrived.
Food Plates Actually Were Served
Croquetas de Jamon Arrive
I use to love these Croquetas de Jamon so much. The plate has changed completely since my last visit. No longer were they gooey, delicious, lightly battered magical morsels of jamon and manchego with wonderfully acidic romesco. This current bastardization were over breaded, fried to death, as salty as salt-lick and had little romesco to speak of to foil against the barrage of salt. Crushed on first bite.
The wait begins….
20 minutes later Sangria finally arrives.
Where’s the Wine? Sangria and tapas go hand in hand. This sangria was a thing of beauty in the past and something we would order by the nonstop pitcher the entire duration of the meal. All I tasted was fruit mix, none of the typical spices and not one hint of wine. Just plain sugar syrup with cut up pieces of fruit and ice. Skip on the Sangria.
This was the single best thing we ate the entire meal and unchanged. If only they served it promptly and not with the 2nd wave of tapas. The crème fraîche and tuna just works amazingly well with the crispy cracker. Good Stuff.
Gambas al Ajillo is staple for a reason. Olive oil, garlic, chili and shrimp harmonize perfectly. After the delicious shrimp are consumed who doesn’t love to dunk break into the remaining liquid. These were way too salty (I love salt and salty food) even for me, the garlic flavor was absent along with any sign of chili.
The longest wait ever 40 minutes for the next 2 plates of food.
The potatoes were so unevenly cooked. Some borderline hard, others okay, but still not tender as they should be if prepared properly. There was virtually no salt or seasoning to the potatoes and the accompanying aioli was extremely bland. There was absolutely no spicy pimentón punch that patatas bravas have. Hard Pass.
We could not finish this disaster of a plate. In fact, I’m still chewing them as I write this review. Nothing annoys me more than killing an animal twice. The overcooked octopus was extremely chewy, desperately needed seasoning and coated only in pimentón. It was one of those “ah f*ck it” plates from the kitchen. Hard Pass.
The waiting continues. At 9:00 pm our inattentive waitress comes back to finally clear the plates, check on us and setup for the main course. Mind you we’ve had thus far only three plates of food. The Ensalada Verde, Albondigas, Scallops, Iberico Pluma and Chorizo a la plancha were never served and the larger plates ordered were going to be served next. She had no idea we had not been served any of those dishes, nor did it seem as well like the back room had any plates of food during the wait. This was the first time I have ever walked out of a restaurant as at this point we had no interest in the rest of the order. There was no justifying attempting to eat the next plates of food and rightly so the manager comped the bill.
The server was friendly and tried her best to be accommodating but I got the impression the staff is under trained and poorly managed. The head server had no idea what the runners did and didn’t bring, gave little attention to any of the tables in the back room. Tapas is a rapid fire and normally is an in and out meal from Amada in 90 minutes or less. There is literally zero quality control in this once great restaurant anymore. Out of four plates we received the bread which is complementary was the only thing that was delicious. The slow trickle of food is one thing, but the attitude, horrible execution and utter lack of pride in the plates going out from the kitchen was astonishing.
I normally give a rating of 1 to 10 with 8-10 range as worth of Michelin Stars, today I can’t place a number value on this restaurant as it was infuriating and depressing as all hell. I loved and respected Amada too much. Maybe Garces should be a little more hands on instead of expanding multiple new restaurants a year and properly training the staff.
R.I.P Amada June 5th, 2016