Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trader Vic's- Smashed Potatoes And Astronomical Prices

People are always asking me about things to do in Riyadh so I have begun writing more specific reviews of restaurants I went to. One of the best things to do in Riyadh is dining out! There are just so many restaurants to go to and new ones are popping up all the time. This is my review of Trader Vics restaurant in Riyadh which I previously thought to be one of the top restaurants in Riyadh..but now it would not rank anywhere near my best restaurants in Riyadh list! Read on to find out why..

I've been a frequent visitor and fan of this restaurant since Trader Vic's landed a branch in Riyadh a few years ago. Previously I had gone to their branches around the ME, my favorite being the one on the beach at the Oman Intercontinental Hotel. I love the exotic concept of this restaurant and the decor and music reminds me of holidays spent in the Pacific Islands and Caribbean..

The Saudi version of Trader Vic's is similar to its counterparts worldwide but it has certain "Saudi modesty" to it. Believe or not they actually have a separate bar complete with a long table and bar tender accompanied by an impressive range of cocktails, all non-alcoholic of course. Surprisingly open to females as well.

Trader Vic's is a refreshing change to the usual restaurant set ups in Riyadh. It's laid back and the atmosphere is relaxed. Background music is played although they don't have live bands like some of the other branches do. That might be pushing it too far for conservative Riyadh. Keeping true to Saudi culture, customers can choose from open area or the closed booths. There’s even a large room which can be reserved for parties and the restaurant can also do birthdays at request.
The restaurant is located at Panorama mall and it’s hugely popular with families and young Saudis, especially groups of women often frequent the family section of this restaurant. It's a little problematic to enter, because the entrance is actually outside the mall and you have to walk some while to get to it and by car on weekends this area is always very packed.
This restaurant has an indo pacific cuisine mixed with international foods. The selection of mock tails is broad and probably the best in Riyadh.
As an avid fan of this restaurant I was excited to visit again. To my disappointment there were many changes that had taken place from the last time I visited and all for the worse.

First off they had changed the menu. It used to look nice and match the theme of Trader Vic’s, full of creatively named and exotic foods. The new version however reminded me of something that would be handed out at a cheap American diner. It was plasticky and ugly and the foods were all tackily pictured. I found it off-putting especially with the price tags that came with it.

The prices had all been hiked up a notch. Trader Vic’s was always on the mid to high side of the price range but now we were talking about five star hotel prices. I asked the waiter and he confirmed the change to the menu and prices occurred recently. To my disappointment many of the main courses and appetizers had been removed from the list and replaced with boring stuff like spaghetti bolognese and burgers, as if Riyadh needs any more restaurants that serve a range of burgers.
My all time favorite dish from Trader Vic’s, the Norwegian Salmon had a new price tag of 125sr. One of us ordered it to be able to compare it to previous times. The service here has always been immaculate and there are plenty of waiters present. A young and very polite Filipino waiter attended to us. We ordered some mock tails from the extensive selection. The Blue Tea was so syrupy and sweet I couldn't finish it but the other drinks were much better, albeit borderline too sweet.
When the main courses arrived it became apparent the waiter had made a mistake on the order, bringing a STEAK instead of the ordered fish. He said he had heard "steak" instead of "hammour". Hmm..
To replace it took around 15 minutes during which I was drooling over my friends salmon dish.

Another setback for Trader Vic’s, the salmon was not served the same as it was on previous occasions. The taste was still good but the mashed potatoes, instead of being served on the side fluffy and whipped, were literally SMASHED underneath the fish in the most unappetizing way. So small a pile it was that we didn't even notice it at first and asked the waiter where the mashed potatoes were! Hiding under the fish and served with a few pathetic pieces of carrots and squash a portion size more suitable for a midget. Being a Scandinavian I have a good idea how a Norwegian salmon should be served and this was a far cry from it.
When the hammour filet finally arrived it was yet again another disappointment, it was extremely salty. The fish had the same pile of smashed potatoes under it and was served with those few tiny sticks of vegetables. Thankfully the pasta dish was much better in appearance, taste and the size of the dish was satisfactory.

The desserts were all delicious but the waiter made two more mistakes on our order, bringing one wrong dessert and coffee. We thought he might have been new but he also made the mistake of not repeating the order back which might have prevented the mishap. They did offer our coffees free of charge but regardless the bill for three persons was 550 sr. The price tag seems astronomical compared to what kind of food was served.

All in all I must say, sadly Trader Vic’s can no longer be placed on my favorite restaurants in Riyadh list. Although the place is great for the d├ęcor and the atmosphere, the hacking of the prices and the new style of menu and foods just seem to me like the place is only trying to cash out on its popularity, forgetting what made it popular in the first place.
The only reason I would go back to Trader Vic's is for some of those drinks at the cool bar!

For more restaurant reviews go here:
Overall: ** 3/4
Ambiance: ****
Decor: ****
Food: **
Service: ***
Value For Money: *
Kid Friendliness: ****
Romance Sector:***


Zaynab said...

Love you're blog ! The drinks look gorgeous !
Nose around my blog ? It would mean so much xoxo

Noor said...

We went to eat there but I the menu did not impress me at all so we left.

Anonymous said...

Hi Layla,
In my opinion,your decision to completely alter your blog is most unfortunated and sad.
But I understand your struggles and the need to preserve yourself in the not so magic kingdom.

Shimshim said...

Hi Laylah, thanks for another instalment! I have written about you in my blog and have set a link to yours - hope you like what I have had to say! It should appear in a couple of hours. Kind regards, as ever :)

American Bedu said...

Hi Layla,

You wrote an extensive and informative review. I think it would merit sending your review on to Trader Vic's corporate hqs since I believe all Trader Vic's have to meet the corporate standards regardless of location.

Layla said...

Hi Zaynab thanks for the comment! I "nosed around" your blog, very nice :)

Layla said...

Noor that was a good decision!

Layla said...

Hi there, I think you have misunderstood something because I am not planning on altering anything completely, just rearranging stuff and tying to make it easier to find information on here.

Layla said...

Shimshim I am really touched by your post and want to say a heartfelt thank you for following my blog and I'm so happy to hear how you've benefited from it and even that it changed your mind about coming to visit Saudi-Arabia!!

Layla said...

Hi Bedu! That's a good suggestion so they could facilitate improvement. I have tried to search for a site or email to send it to with no luck yet.

Anum said...

hey layla...ive bin following u religiously man and its sooo sooo much helpful coz am new in riyadh..this is as always a great guidance-blog!!..
however i ws wanting ur help in somthing i dont know who else to ask...out of literal context to this blog...but can u guide me of a place frm where i can get a baby record/memory book for my baby...ive tried some of the very few book stores in riyadh and cant seem to find it...plz any help from other readers would be highly appreciated...i want to record each n every thing my first baby does and learns :)...

Layla said...

Hi Anum thanks for the comment!
I will try to help you, but I have not seen those books in Riyadh and brought mine from Finland.. Have you tried Jarir bookstores? How about Toys R us and Babies R us or Mamas and Papas?
Anyone else have suggestions?

DOS said...

Hello Madame. I hope you post more reviews on restaurants in Riyadh. I love them. Have a great day.

Unknown said...

Hey Blue Abaya ,i red several articles from ur blog and ur amazing blogger ! Lol ,I am new expat from Eastern Europe and i love to meet expats like me or whoever likes to meet me ,my skype is c a l i e n t e _ 8 6 without intervals! this resteurant sounds top natch ! thank u for the info! seems u love Saudi culture!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anum, you can find the memory book at Pottery Barn. I actually just bought one for my friend and it was super cute. Pottery Barn is located in Sahara Mall right beside Hayat Mall. Hope that helps!

Dianne said...

Hi Laylah!

Just wondering, are they under new management (as if I could go, or I'm living there lol!)? Although I do not live there, it seems like they are under new management because of these changes. From reading your blog, I felt like they downgraded.

Layla said...

Thanks for the info never thought of that!

Layla said...

Hi DOS, I sure will, I have plenty but just need time to watermark the photos :)

Layla said...

Hi there thanks for the comment and welcome to Saudia!

Layla said...

Hi Dianne! That might be the case, or the management got really greedy and wanted to cash in from their success!

Anonymous said...

We are moving to Saudi next year and I just love your blog. Keep us updated on living in Riyadh. So looking forward to it!