Bee of Rasa Malaysia has written about more congenial experiences at Belacan. To be fair to the restaurant, I include her articles here and here. Food Marathon also had a good experience, which she writes about here.
I invite the owner to weigh in on this article and defend his behavior. I will post his response complete and uncensored.
Edit 08/24/2013: This restaurant has closed, and moved to Tustin, CA. They took over Tropika.)
Running a restaurant is hard. Dwindling profit margins from rising food prices, high staff turnover, increased local and state licensing fees, and increased insurance fees all serve to squeeze independent restaurateurs. A decrease in clientele as a result of the current economy has only made an unforgiving job that much more difficult.
However, when a restaurant is suffering, the last thing it should do is pass that hardship on to its customers. Customers are the lifeblood of any eatery. Discourage them from frequenting your establishment at your own peril.
Belacan Grill in Redondo Beach is arguably the best Malaysian restaurant in LA or Orange County. That's not saying much, given the dearth of Malaysian restaurants in the LA/OC area. With Tropika in Tustin as its main competitor, Belacan is essentially the only game in town for South Bay residents. That virtual monopoly has bred a disturbing arrogance in both the owner and members of his wait staff.
The food quality ranges from decent to good, and the flavors are authentic. Belacan has garnered rave reviews, and no small amount of criticism, on Yelp, and is enjoyed by several of my foodie friends, including Bee of Rasa Malaysia. Bee is my guide for all things Malaysian. I value her taste and judgment, and her favorable evaluation of Belacan's food is spot on.
Where Belacan fails to make the grade is in service and price point. Let's cover price point first. Their lunch portions are tiny, barely enough to feed most people. A lunch order of Beef Rendang ($7.95) gets you about a cup and a half of rice, and a cup of curried beef. Not exactly a hearty meal. The dinner portion of the same dish ($13.95), clocks in at just over two cups, and barely feeds one. In fact, when dining with large groups on several occasions, we found ourselves ordering double portions of dinner items in order to have enough food.
Now the service, if you can call it that, is where Belacan really drops the ball. Their wait staff ranges from brusque to downright rude. I'm used to what's jokingly referred to as "San Gabriel Service", but what Belacan offers fails to meet even that low standard. In one notable and recent instance, they kept my friends, a pair of tiny Asian girls, waiting for two and a half hours for two orders of Hainan Chicken. We kept asking our waitress about their orders. She gave us attitude and told us, "It's coming, it's coming," but never went to check. Two and a half hours later, when everyone else was done with their food and we were ready to leave, she finally informed us that the kitchen had "forgotten" to make the Hainan Chicken, but that we could have it packed to go if we wanted. When asked if the restaurant would take if off of the bill, given the long wait and the fact that the two girls had been reduced to soliciting food from other people's plates, the waitress said she'd have to ask the male owner.
The owner's response? Aggressive, rude, and defensive. "Do you know how hard it is to run a restaurant?" he asked angrily. "Why don’t you pay for an apartment for me?" We pointed out that we'd just bought $400 worth of food, and that given the way we were being treated, it was likely he'd lose any repeat business. His reply was “I don’t care. I don’t want you guys to come back.” After more arguing, during which he kept demanding that we buy him an apartment, he finally agreed to take their food off the bill. However, he glared at our group the entire time, particularly at the two tiny Asian girls who still hadn't eaten lunch.
You know what? I've worked in a kitchen before and I do know how hard it is to run a restaurant. I also know that when you make a mistake, you should apologize and try to make it better for your customers. They also worked hard for the money they spent at your restaurant. You don't start shouting at them and giving two innocent girls the stink eye, especially when they were the victims of your staff's incompetence. Absolutely unacceptable.
Belacan Grill - Their craptacular service is un-freaking-believable. The male owner is an asshole. If you have a choice, do not eat at this restaurant. I sure as hell won't.
(Ratings the result of 5 visits. I wanted to give this restaurant an overall F rating, but the food is tasty and the ambience is pleasant. They've earned a C+ despite their rude service and poor ROI.)
2701 190th St # 100
Redondo Beach, CA 90278