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Primal Eats Vancouver: Atithi

January 8, 2013

Atithi-Punjabi-Style-Goat-Curry

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.

Atithi-Frankie

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.

Atithi-Butter-Chicken-curry

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.

Atithi-Rice

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.

Atithi-Mango-Mousse

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

Atithi on Urbanspoon

Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron January 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM

So, I’m confused … did you like the service? ;)

Reply

admin@primalist January 9, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Sorry, Aaron. I’ll try to be less subtle next time. lol

Reply

Jim kniest January 13, 2013 at 10:38 AM

We also had same situation when we booked through open table and had groupon. So i did some research and found out open table charges the restaurant whenever there is a booking through them.Thats why lots of restaurant do not combine any offer with open table reservation . Also their website mentions it very clearly that groupon holders call restaurant directly.
Atithi is more kind of cheap eats, while maurya is a upscale restaurant.You should give them one more chance by visiting during dine out 2013… $18 per person.
Jim.

Reply

admin@primalist January 13, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Hi Jim, thanks for your comment. If a restaurant wants to have exclusions on their Groupon, that’s up to them. It’s then up to me whether I decide to buy the Groupon. So if they want to nickel and dime me about the lamb and prawns, fine – I don’t like it, but I can choose not to buy it. The Open Table exclusion was not printed on their Groupon – I shouldn’t have to go read their website to try to figure out any additional rules they might impose. Also, at their regular non-dine out, non-Groupon prices, I wouldn’t consider Atithi to be cheap eats – the value is not there. Which is kind of my point. If the value isn’t there, and the customer service isn’t there, and the food isn’t above average, why would I go there? I’d rather pay the few extra bucks and go to somewhere like Maurya, where my business is appreciated (shown by great customer service, reasonable value, and fantastic food). There’s a reason why Atithi is needing to use the services of Groupon.

Reply

Jim January 13, 2013 at 7:37 PM

I think you are right, Atithi has a reason to use groupon services.
Last year Maurya was also on team buy (I had a bad experience there!)the ownership was changed within month for fourth time in 8 years.We will wait and see what happens to Atithi, in the meantime you stick to Maurya and we will ordering delivery from Atithi.Believe me they were good last night, better than lot of places and no charges for rice and naan. .keep up the good work..cheers…Jim .

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