Good fortune did not smile on us the night we dined at New No Da Ji. In fact, she barely grinned.
Although our first impression of this newly relocated Oriental restaurant was good, my husband and I encountered a mix of abrupt service, an unrelenting computer glitch and general ineptness that left us a bit disgusted.
Not with the food, but with the coldness of the staff and the experience as a whole.
Times are not good, but even in the best of times restaurants should not be run as was No Da Ji on a recent Monday. Let's hope it was a fluke.
New No Da Ji serves Japanese, Chinese and Korean fare in the former Love's Restaurant at 25th and Charles streets.
The restaurant has a sushi bar at the front and two dining rooms, one up a few steps, giving the whole place an interesting split-level effect. We were seated at the back of this upstairs room, close by the fire door -- not the best of tables. But the restaurant was quite busy and someone had to sit there.
With three cuisines to offer, the menu is predictably large. We perused it at length over cocktails.
My husband and I both began with Wonton Soup ($1.25). This proved to be the high point of the meal. It was delicious and warmly soothing with a rich chicken broth.
We also ordered Egg Rolls ($2), but they were served only after our entrees, which themselves came at different times. We noted that the diners at a nearby table were also treated to staggered entrees.
My Yaki Tori ($10.95) arrived first. The pieces of broiled chicken on a skewer were tender and flavorful. The ''salad'' that was supposed to accompany it was really just a little lettuce and a couple of broccoli florets. The rice gave new meaning to "sticky."
My husband was served his Shrimp and Scallops with Garlic Sauce ($12.55) several minutes later. Although the menu indicated that this was a hot and spicy dish, it turned out to be more sweet and sour. It was beautifully presented and colorful, but neither of us cared for the sauce, which more concealed than highlighted the shellfish.
In addition, the scallops and shrimp had been breaded, a touch not noted on the menu, and had gone soggy under the weight of the sauce.
The tardy egg rolls were good. They were not the least bit greasy. The thin wrapper held a finely shredded filling with tiny shrimp. The mustard sauce was a sure-cure for sinus problems, but I liked it and even found it captivating.
We were not offered dessert, but were served two fortune cookies and two pale slices of watermelon, which had more flavor than color. We were served tea only after three requests for it. And then not in a small pot as is customary in Oriental restaurants, but in coffee cups. The tea was ordinary.
The service throughout had been abrupt and confused as two women, neither friendly, were serving us. I find this tag-team approach to service -- common in many restaurants -- disconcerting, as the person who serves the food usually is not the one who takes the order and doesn't have much of a clue as to who gets what.
The bill, with three scotches ($12.35!) and the tea, was $42.40.
Here's where the evening got interesting.
We tried to pay by credit card, but the restaurant's credit-verification machine couldn't connect with the MasterCard computer. We discovered this when a waitress slapped the card on our table and wheeled away, muttering that our card didn't work and we should ''find another.''
The manager, likewise, asked for another credit card, not
understanding that if he couldn't connect with
the MasterCard computer to check card No. 1, he also couldn't connect to check card No. 2.
My husband, irate, asked the manager why he couldn't take our word that the card was good for $42.40. His answer: a blank stare.
For 10 minutes or so, the manager then tried explaining the problem to people at various MasterCard phone numbers. Why he couldn't get a verification -- or a rejection -- orally became another of the evening's mysteries.
The machine was tried again. It still wouldn't connect.
Several other people were now in line to pay, all -- you guessed it -- with MasterCards.
My husband and I eventually threw principle -- we knew the card was good -- to the wind and paid in cash. The family behind us paid by check. The couple behind them pooled their money and, like the rest of us, escaped.
New No Da Ji
N. Charles St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, except Wednesday when restaurant is closed.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: Major credit cards (usually) accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: Separate areas designated.