I went to the new Red Star on Jinhua PuLu last night (they've moved across the road) hoping to have a good steak and a chat with some friends.
From the moment I walked in I had a bad feeling about the place. There were swarms of fuwuyuan all over delighted to welcome us with synchronized yells but nobody seated us. We found a table upstairs and ordered three of their French Steaks and some beers. After waiting 15 minutes our beers hadn't arrived so we called over an indignant waiter who bluntly told us we hadn't ordered any.
Having re-ordered our beers and confirmed how we wanted our steak cooked we began our discussions only for the speaker next to us to crackle into life at full volume. Unable to hear a thing we moved to a table away from the speaker where we still struggled to hold a conversation. We asked the staff to turn the music down which to our surprise they did. Within 5 minutes, however, they cranked the music back up whereupon we again complained that we were eating and unable to hear a thing. Another indignant (and this time belligerent) waiter told us that after 8pm Red Star turns into a bar and thus loud music was a pre-requisite.
We ate up quickly and left.
Whatever charm the Red Star used to have has gone. The new place is huge, the staff are beyond useless and completely unable to answer the simplest question, the bathroom is brand new and looks like it's already been through 30 years of use, the food average and the general feeling is that they don't care at all about customer experience.
After all this time it seems that Bernie was right!
28th Jan 2007
Whilst I'm loathe to defend the Red Star I must point out that 'niche' doesn't equate to 'standards'. If I may point out a few similarities between the two:
1. Both Bluebird and Red Star are multi-level bar-restaurants with roof gardens.
2. Both Blue Bird and Red Star have live music in the evenings (BB a Filipino keyboard-crooner couple and RS a guitarist)
3. Both BB & RS are quiet drinking venues outside eating times.
4. Both BB & RS serve western food, chinese food, Thai food, Italian etc. In fact the menu content is surprisingly similar (RS is perhaps a third or quarter of BB's price).
5. Both BB & RS were designed rustic-style. BB just renovated and RS was renovated badly.
And finally whilst BB may have a 'chef' to RS's 'cook', the RS's cooks, in the most part, used to work as chefs in BB.
The RS is quite plainly an imitation of BB with lower standards. It is the Wimpey to BB's Burger King.
Next time (of if) you go, try the French Steak at Red Star and then head over to Bluebird for the same. Sour and Spicy Noodles, iron-skillet squid, spicy devil fried rice, pizza, pasta, the list goes on....
Pretty much the same recipes but made with lower quality ingredients, presented less professionally and delivered by waiters with a quarter of the IQ, in a setting that as Bernie rightly states could have been knocked up in a couple of hours on Wenlin Jie.
Red Star is very much in the same niche as Bluebird but not quite as expensive. The restaurant is on 3 floors, I'd recommend going up to the roof terrace for the best atmosphere especially if you want to eat. The second floor is more of a bar with lower ceiling and smoky atmosphere.
I had some pretty good food last time I went to Red Star. In the past though it has been hit or miss. I'd recommend the steak and the chicken burrito isn't bad.
The one thing that brings the Red Star down is the service. The waiters look like they've been pulled out of the Firebird, thrown into uniform and told to stand around and ignore customers. They are masters at avoiding eye contact.
If you like Red Star get one of their VIP discount cards for 100 kuai. The savings tot up pretty quickly.
Oh and don't try the house wine. It's foul (makes Yunnan Red seem like premier cru bordeaux!)
3 1/2 stars for food
0 stars for service