Dear Nuba

I love a good, fact-based rant, and that is what we have for you this evening. Served rare and spicy, with a side of “here is why your bookings have gone down this year.” The near-legendary Nuba at the Gastown-adjacent location on Hastings at Cambie is, according to correspondent Caddie T’Kenye, not what it used to be.

Vegan Falafal Plate at Nuba by Jennifer on Flickr

Vegan Falafal Plate at Nuba by Jennifer on Flickr

Dear Nuba: I went to visit you for a group event arranged by a workplace. Not a huge group–a small group. Had we split up and come in separately, we could have occupied three tables, but we wanted to sit together, so we came as an Acknowledged Group.

So we came, we ate, we drank, we paid our bill and we went away.

But after we went away, we talked about you. It wasn’t pretty.

First off, we talked your prices: a piece of lamb that weighs less than 2 ounces is not worth $9.75–especially when it arrives naked on a plate, accompanied by a wee pile of tabbouleh, like one teaspoonful in size. SMALL.

In the same vein, three thin slices of halloumi that have mysteriously been grilled into dry wood chips are also not worth $9.75. Three is your magic number, it appears, but that said, three prawns are also not worth $9.75.

Two rounds of appetizers, one cold and one hot, consisting largely of peasant foods made out of chickpeas and lentils ought not to cost more than $16 per portion. I mean, seriously, Nuba, how much are you paying for chick peas, anyway!? You need a new outlet.

Then we talked about flavor and preparation. When the choices are few (enforced set menu) and the vast majority of what is being served is pre-prepared (hummus, stewed lentils, mixed stewed vegetables, tahini, mint sauce, tzatski) or requires absolutely minimal preparation (cubes of cheese, olives, pita bread), it seems reasonable that anything else could be and would be meticulously prepared for freshness and flavor. Not so.

The aforementioned halloumi tasted pre-grilled and left to sit around waiting for other items to be prepared. It wasn’t soft, it wasn’t hot. No amount of sugary nuts tossed on top will cover up that ‘old food’ flavor. The sauces mysteriously lacked much in the way of flavor, and of course, stewed lentils are stewed lentils–except yours were jalapeno-hot-sauced. A little weird.

But back to our chat about you. We came up with a great idea: why don’t you share some of proceeds of your highly inflated prices (see point 1) with your staff so that you don’t gouge your customers with an 18% gratuity imposed for ‘large groups’?

(As a side note, where do you get off with the idea that 8-10 *is* a large group anyway? Asian restaurants seem to manage this number with aplomb at any time, but I digress.)

So we talked about how you had already punished our group by not allowing us to choose from anything but a set menu. You informed us what appetizers we are going to get. You enforced an 8 item ‘entree’ selection. You told us that serving us was *so much more trouble* than serving a group of, say, 7, that we have to topping up the wait staff and cook staff to the tune of 18% to get poorer quality service and lesser quality food than we would have gotten had we split up into two parties and come in separately.

Had we done so, we would have been able to choose what gratuity to give, as well as choose our food and we wouldn’t have been thrown out the door at a preset ‘end of reservation’ period, either.

Oh, Nuba, Nuba, Nuba! We were not happy campers when we got done talking about you. Your message to us was clear: Nuba.Does.Not.Want.Groups. Fine, then. You won’t get any–at least not from us.

And honestly, speaking on my own behalf, given the mediocrity of the food selection and preparation, the ridiculously high prices for the ridiculously small portions, and the conspicuous lack of gracious welcome, you won’t see me back at all.

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5 thoughts on “Dear Nuba

      • How the mighty have fallen. I think it’s a matter of expanding too fast; a chef and a FOH manager can only deal with so much at a time. Some people still report that location is terrific, so I’m thinking it’s really related to which chef is on that night.

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