Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month for Gut Check.Nipa Hut1810 Woodson Road
314-423-1850Time to Call in the Extra Server
This may be a Dinner Club first. Our group of twenty-three was too big for one server, so a pinch hitter was called in to help. She must have lived nearby because she arrived right away.Run Server, Run
If you're going to have two servers working a large group, it would be nice if one of them has been working at the restaurant for more than three weeks. (New restaurants excluded, of course.) Our "veteran" server had three weeks on the job. I'm not sure how long the pinch hitter had been there, but it was fewer than three weeks.
When someone has been on the job for a while, they are able to make difficult tasks look easy. Nothing looked easy for our two servers. I wanted to give them hugs as they ran around our table trying to figure things out and dealt with a kitchen haphazardly sending out -- or forgetting to send out -- our dishes. To their credit, they kept our water glasses full at all times.
We Needed a Little Schooling
User "Emir214," Wikimedia Commons
An actual nipa hut in the Phillippines.
The Nipa Hut menu was sorely lacking in dish descriptions. One person in our group was a Filipina and a couple of people had eaten Filipino food before, but the rest of us were virgins when it came to lumpia
(a Filipino version of the egg roll) and siopao
(a doughy bun filled with meat).
When asked about dishes, the pinch hitter didn't always know what they were and had to lean on the veteran for help. The veteran did a decent job when asked direct questions, but her answers weren't enough to keep our group from ordering poorly.
Maybe the onus should be on the customer to familiarize themselves with a cuisine before trying out something new. Had I done my homework, I would have known that "Number 7: Pork Sinigang (pork, daikon, taro root, green beans, okra, green pepper)" was a soup. In fact, some members did try to study up beforehand, but found that Nipa Hut didn't have its menu online. Studying is harder without a syllabus.
As the only Filipino restaurant in town, Nipa Hut should consider making education a part of the dining experience. An online menu might be a good first step for the restaurant to take, but it could also clarify the dish descriptions on the menu and their servers to take extra time to explain Filipino fare to newbies. Wait, Wait, Wait Some More
One and a half hours after the first person was served, the last person received a plate. 'Nuff said.
Worth the Wait?
Despite a wait that bordered on comical, two people commented that the delay was worth it. Several others commented that their meals were tasty enough that they would love to come back and try Nipa Hut with a smaller group. "Six people, max," remarked one member.
Karaoke to End the Night
Toward the end of the evening, Nipa Hut broke out the karaoke. There was only one karaoke participant, someone who worked there. If only he had listened to the sad songs of our hungry bellies (or the music of our servers trying to figure out who ordered what and which dishes had been forgotten), maybe he could have helped to make our night go more smoothly.
Try Nipa Hut if you would like a taste of Filipino cuisine -- the Filipina in our group said that it was somewhat authentic -- but go with a small group and ask lots of questions so that you understand what will be emerging from the kitchen.