Stuff to click on

Tuesday, May 20


I really, really wanted to like the Bungalow. I'd seen the "coming soon" sign for months (which begs me to question, how long is "soon"?) when shopping at the Cascade Village Mall. The tropical theme looked appealing - similar to Rainforest Cafe but a little more low key and upscale.

The ambiance is right on. When you step inside you are surrounded by tropical flowers, etched glass, waterfalls, and fish tanks. Tables are cozy and the "bungalow booths" (raised, deep booths with curtains) are great touches. The dining patio overlooks a busy pedestrian area that has a fountain and little traffic. Bright red umbrellas and large heaters keep diners happy in any type of weather, and the large sofa area with a fire pit looks like a great place to lounge on a warm summer night.

When we arrived it took a few minutes to seat us. I didn't mind waiting but I did mind being ignored. The gal at the "welcome cabana" didn't ever look up at us (or the guy in line in front of us). I don't care if it's not your job to seat us... you could at least look up and say "hi"!

We were seated on the patio and then we waited some more. Luckily water was delivered quickly - it was a warm evening. We perused the food menu and the wine list but there was no drink menu. My friends and I wondered about the specialty drinks but didn't see anything at any of the surrounding tables. Finally a bus boy arrived to refill our water glasses, and deliver bread so we asked him if there was a specialty drink menu. He looked confused and had to go get a waiter. This one said our waiter would be with us shortly, but he would at least get us a drink menu. He came back with one (for the four of us to share). We made our decisions... and waited again. Finally the original waiter (not ours) returned making excuses for "our" waiter and said he would be serving us tonight. We placed our drink orders, asked questions about the food and specials, and placed our food order at the same time.

A word about the menu. Bungalow is "one of those places". You know, the type of place that does not include salad as part of the meal. Yes, you can order one separately but it will cost you. So keep that in mind when you look at the AMAZING list of side dishes (generally one or two are included with your entree). The appetizer list looked very appealing but we passed. No one ordered salad either. The entrees are varied and there seems to be something for everyone. If you are feeling adventurous they offer Wild Boar chops in addition to steaks and a variety of seafood dishes. Paella sounded good but with the warm weather something lighter, like fish, was what I had in mind. I ordered Marlin and my friends all chose Ahi (though two different preparations). For sides our tastes varied - I stuck with vegies and selected grilled asparagus and corn on the cob with "chili lime butter". Other selections at our table included vegies with pan-fried noodles, wasabi mashed potatoes, and jasmine rice. No one ordered exactly the same thing!

Finally our drinks arrived... but one by one with a few minutes in between each. This was puzzling to us as the restaurant wasn't all that crowded. I took a sip of my mojito (supposedly a house specialty) and grimaced. I really don't think there was any rum in it, and without rum a mojito is a sprite with lime and muddled mint. Blech! My friend that also had a mojito told me hers was similarly weak. When the waiter returned to ask things were we explained our problem. To his credit, the drinks were whisked away and quickly replaced with new mojitos that had PLENTY of rum in them. Delicious!

Minutes after we received our replacement drinks, dinner arrived. The Marlin was firm and sweet and had a nice sauce with it that was very good. The asparagus tasted fresh and slightly crisp. The corn was crunchy and sweet with lots of butter. I expected a "kick" from the chili but tasted no heat - there was definitely a hint of lime though. My friends were all happy with their selections as well.

Since our drinks arrived shortly before our food we decided against a second round, and we were all too full for dessert. So... keeping in mind that we each had an entree and one beverage... AND that we were sitting at a restaurant at A MALL... I think everyone at our table had a bit of sticker shock and agreed it was overpriced.

In summary - the food and ambiance are excellent. But this place has some SERIOUS service, organization, price point, and bar issues to work out if they are going to be successful.


Melissa said...

Thanks for the run-down! Service, organization and price point seem to be ongoing issues with a lot of Bend restaurants. The concept is there but the execution isn't. I'll stick with Merenda myself . . .

:: becky said...

Sounds like you had a similar experience with the Tropical Bungalow as we had. We ate there on mother's day. I agree that the atmosphere is great. I felt like I was eating in a restaurant in the tropics even though it was freezing outside. The only problem was the lack of blinds on some of the windows where the sun was directly in ours and many of our neighbor's eyes.

Most of our food was great. The crab cakes, marlin, fries and rum banana desert were wonderful. The only food I wouldn't recommend is the very salty teriyaki chicken.

The service was awful and the first thing that irritated us too was the lack of a drink menu when we sat down. Our waitress forgot to place my dinner order, so my steak arrived well after everyone else was eating and it was rare (instead of medium). Very disorganized service.

Most of the drinks on their menu were $10 and up, so we could only afford one. We had sticker shock too, so even with the great atmosphere, I don't think I'll be frequenting the Tropical Bungalow.

Deby said...

Very nice critique. I appreciate the heads up as when I do get a chance to go to dinner with my hubby sans kids, I really need for it to be nice. (It only happens every few months)

I think I'll pass on this place. What did you think about Kababa? That is next on my list to try as well as Makahana's. We tried Ariana for the first time a coupld of weeks ago and I LOVED it. The service was perfect and my food was excellent.

MDKS said...

I keep hearing bad things about this restaurant. I don't think we will even try it. Someone needs to do a mandatory class on customer service. Thanks for the heads up.

Bend Oregon Restaurants said...

Nice review Jen. How much did you spend though?


Keeneye said...

I hate to think of our very first customers who might have had lousy customer service when we first opened.

14-hour days, a computer entry system that didn't work, and running out of our most popular dishes.

I wish that I could send each and every one of them a hand-written invitation to try us again - 6-months later.

$10-dollar drinks, though, are enough to scare me off right off the bat.

The Lady with a Cuppa said...

Thank you for the review! I have to wonder at a restaurant that offers valet parking at a mall. We walked past the 'valet stand' a couple of times while shopping last weekend and our comment was 'they're trying to hard, I bet they're charging an arm and a leg'. Nice to have that confirmed and to know what that the service isn't jibing with the price.