I thought I was already being selective when choosing Groupons to purchase for dining out – checking reviews, menus, , etc. Atithi seemed like a no brainer. It was an Honourable Mention in Vancouver Magazine’s 2012 Restaurant Awards (Best Indian). It’s reasonably well-liked on Urban Spoon (84%). And I had heard that a cook or someone there was a former Maurya employee. Slam dunk, right? Sigh. I wish.
As soon as my friend and I were seated in the rather small and drab room, I presented the Groupon to the hostess (as per the directions written on the Groupon). We were immediately informed that because we had reserved via Open Table, they could not honor the Groupon. What? The Groupon stated that reservations were required. Nowhere did it say that you couldn’t use Open Table, which is a pretty common reservation system. My friend and I were rather taken aback. I shrugged and said, okay, we’ll leave. I guess we called her bluff, because we were then told that it was okay this time, but that next time we can’t use Open Table. Really?
What a fantastic start to the evening. Could we have been made to feel any less welcome? Hm. I wonder why Atithi is needing to use the services of Groupon…. It’s pretty ironic that they put this on their website:
“atithi devo bhava: means that guest is God and should be treated like a deity”
Truth be told, the stellar experience started on the way to the restaurant. I quickly scanned the Groupon to make sure there were not blackouts or other restrictions. In the fine print, it said that anything with lamb or prawns would be an additional $5. My friend had bought the Groupon ($20 for 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert) and hadn’t noticed. Our fault, we should’ve read the fine print prior to purchasing. But I strongly dislike being nickel and dimed. Are lamb and prawns really so precious that you feel the need to charge me an extra $5 per item? And as we would later find out, this even applies to the appetizers, which are only priced at around $5 in the first place. And the mandatory 15% gratuity that would be automatically tacked onto our bill didn’t please me either.
Anyways, onwards and upwards (or so I hoped). The sentiment was that since we’re already there, we may as well make the most of it.
This was a difficult mindset to maintain, as I found out from our server that they didn’t have a single gluten-free appetizer on the menu. Again, my oversight – I should’ve studied the menu more carefully prior to purchasing the Groupon. But from my experience, Indian food is typically a gluten-free haven. How is it possible for every single appetizer to have flour in it?
Fine, I wouldn’t be sharing the appetizer. On to the mains. I’m always drawn to the butter chicken, inauthentic as it may be. And we also chose the goat. We were informed that because it’s under the heading “Chef’s Choices”, it’d be an additional $5. SERIOUSLY? I did not remember that being stated on the Groupon, and after I got home I confirmed that it wasn’t on there. My first instinct was to pick something else, as a matter of principle. But I felt like I wouldn’t be getting a good feel for the menu without trying one of the “Chef’s Specialties”. So we ordered the goat.
But you can probably imagine how annoyed I felt by that point. Still, I didn’t want the shoddy service/policies to affect my perception of the food. I tried my best to stay unbiased. But experience-wise, you don’t recover from a beginning like that.
My friend ordered the Frankie (“House Specialty”: fancy egg roll stuffed with tender pieces of chicken or lamb cooked with exotic spices). He chose the chicken to not get penalized $5 on an $8 appetizer. I couldn’t try any due to the gluten, but my friend thought it was rather mediocre, and that the chicken was unnecessarily spicy.
The Butter Chicken curry was average. My favourite part was the random strawberry. You wouldn’t think this w0uld work, but strangely enough, it did.
Each curry came with a plate of rice, naan bread, and side salad. The Punjabi Style Goat Curry (in a light tomato and cilantro curry) was okay (picture at top of post). I could definitely see similarities between these curries and Maurya’s. They were enjoyable enough, but the portion sizes were smaller, and Maurya’s finesse was missing.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the mango mousse dessert. I couldn’t stomach more than a couple small spoonfuls – it was simply gross. Tasted like artificial mango powder. And there was nothing mousse-like about it.
So, first of all, I would never go back or recommend Atithi simply based on the terrible customer service. The food itself is okay, pretty decent even if you haven’t had better. The price point is only slightly lower than Maurya (though you do get the rice/bread/salad whereas you have to buy it separately at Maurya). Considering how much better the food is at Maurya, and how much nicer the actual restaurant is, not to mention infinitely better service, why would you ever go to Atithi? I’m starting to sound like some sort of Maurya rep. Too bad I’m anonymous and can’t get any free curry out of this… /rant