I’m a sucker for service. So I’ve to disagree with the answer given to the Sunday Times (Aug 2) by Sabrina Ng, who runs European restaurant Ember on Keong Saik Road with her husband, chef Sebastian.
In reply to the question “What is the most important factor when opening a restaurant?”, she answered: “The food. It has be be consistently good. That is what brings people back again and again. If the standard drops, they will stop coming.”
While I agree that the food is important, even more important is the service, something Sabrina seems to deliver as if by second nature.
To be honest, Ember serves decent modern European style food but so does Au Petit Salut, in far more charming surroundings and NUSS outlet at Suntec City, (which tho ranking below Ember and Au Petit in its menu pretensions win hands down in price).
But every time I’ve been to Ember — about five or six times over the years — I was struck by the excellent service, delivered by none other than Sabrina herself.
Every dish that’s ordered, from starter to mains to dessert is delivered by her to the table. I don’t know whether it’s because of my hosts (I’ve only been to Ember as a guest) or whether she does it for everyone, with no exception.
Whatever the case, Ember’s quality of service, in particular Sabrina’s, is a constant in all the reviews that I’ve chanced upon on the Net, with the following two representative examples:
- “The service is fantastic. I believe the lady dealing with me is the boss of the place or at least an in-charge and she was very professional and friendly, making a good first impression
- The service was exceptional for a bistro – the maitre’d took care of us all, chatty without being annoying, warm and friendly. She even helped the old folks at the table next door to cross the road – ok, corridor to the toilet.
As an indication of what a sucker I’m for good service, I signed up for a ThaiExpress Orange card — even tho I hate such “privilege” or “discount” with purchase cards, because for the privilege of upfront spending, I’m tied to spending more.
Yet I signed up because the service mum, me and the maid (even tho we were dressed more for hawker than shopping centre fare) received at the ThaiExpress outlet at Thomson Plaza was so exceptional that I couldn’t resist the low-key sales pitch — and that was even be4 I had ordered my food!
And no, I don’t regret it because the 2 times I’ve been to ThaiExpress outlets (at Tiong Baru Plaza and West Coast Plaza) since signing up have been positive experiences. And I’ve recovered the initial $30 outlay, leaving birthday privileges to be claimed next year.