Airing of Grievances: John’s Shanghai & the Ambrosia Bi Bim Bap

I try my best not to be too negative on this site, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vent. Every once in awhile I’ll share some of the more angry useful emails I get in a post called “Airing of Grievances”. (If the Eater Complaints Dept. would like royalties, I’ll be happy to pay up…)  These are both a week or two old, so apologies to both places if they’ve managed to miraculously fix their issues since these emails were sent.  I’m guessing they haven’t.

John's Shanghai

Please warn fellow Midtown Lunchers [about John's Shanghai on 46th btw. 6+7th).] Here’s the review I posted on MenuPages: “I’ve ordered here many many times before and have never been so disappointed. Sure, restaurants have their off days, but today’s food was a complete insult. I had 6 orders in total, none came close to mediocre. General Tso’s chicken was just a pile of red chicken, no broccoli on the side or anything. Chicken and Brocolli was sweet. Double Sauteed Pork was sweet rather than spicy, and pork slices were too thick. Thought that was bad, here’s the icing on the cake. Soy Sauce Chicken over rice, they had the nerve to give us re-cooked chicken. I’m Chinese, I know! It looks like leftover soy sauce chicken reheated in the steamer. The skin on the chicken had shrunken a bit and the color from the soy sauce had come off already. Why would you dare serve something like that to a customer?!!?!?!??!?!!! I will NEVER order from them again!” Thanks, Lily.

Wow… I don’t even know what to say to that.  Luckily, John’s Shanghai has never really been considered a Midtown Lunch, so I don’t even really need to waste any time trying to interpret that rant.  The email I got about Ambrosia was a little more upsetting.  Why the generic deli (that became a ML favorite by adding Korean food) might have me re-thinking my ”Best Bi Bim Bap in Midtown” claim- after the jump…    

Bi Bim Bap @ Ambrosia, Midtown NYC
The Bi Bim Bap from Ambrosia (45th btw. 5+6th), April 2007.

I check out the site everyday (awesome site btw) and have never really commented but I just HAD to today. I decided to order the Bi Bim Bop from Ambrosia. So I called in to order pickup. When I got there to pick up my food, I found out the prices had increase!! AGAIN!! I’ve only been working in midtown for a year now. So the bi bim bop use to be 6.95. Then late last year, it increased to 7.95, and now its 8.95!!! What really gets me is that the banchan comes in smaller portions now and they give you less variety! You use to get like 4 side items w/ soup and now its only 3! Lastly, they have gone production line style. When I got there to pick up my food, there was a huge stack of maybe 10 premade bi bim baps. Which is actually okay with me as long as the food is the same BUT they have actually stopped doing the over-easy fried egg with the yolky goodness and have now replaced with it with the non-superior version of a sliced egg omellete. This place used to be my favorite, but now with the subtle changes in the food and the two price hikes in the last year. I just don’t know anymore.

Bi Bim Bap @ Ambrosia Deli, Midtown NYC

The same dish in August 2007. Definitely more banchan in the April 2007 photo, but more variety in the August photo- although where’s the beef!?! I’d hate to think what it looks like now… photos don’t lie people.

Thoughts?  Feel free to contribute in the comments. Got a grievance you’d like to air? Email it to zach@midtownlunch.com

10 Comments

  • I love John’s Shanghai. If someone meets me for a “nice sitdown lunch” this is always my go-to. No complaints.

  • I’ve given John’s Shanghai two chances, and they let me down both times (one time I even felt sick afterward).

    For the huge difference in quality it’s worth just hopping on the F train one stop (or walking) to Joe’s Shanghai at 56th street. Their crab & pork soup dumplings are ridiculous good.

  • Since we’re doing complaints, I ordered from Ambrosia a short while back (when it was still $7.95) . I had my bi bim bap to go, and when the guy in the kitchen reached over to add the banchan to my order, the woman at the cash register said something to him, and he ended up giving me the bi bim bap as is. No banchan. I was lucky to get soup I guess. Mine was premade with the omelette egg so I won’t be going back there for bi bim bap. I know times are hard, but this is horrible. No banchan. =(

  • I’ve been fine with John’s Shanghai. Ever since Vega House closed a few years ago on 45th street, I’ve gotten the lunch special from there (I usually get pork lo mein) and been fine with it. Are there any other good Chinese places near 6th and 46th I should try?

  • Funny, I’ve never had a problem with John’s Shanghai either. I usually just order dumplings to go, tho. The one time I ate at the restaurant I actually really enjoyed it! Of course I prefer C-town, but if I’m stuck in the theater district with unadventurous eaters, and it happens more often than I’d like, John’s is a good choice. That or Bond 45, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

  • Anyone know of good chinese places around 57th & 10th? Thanks.

  • I just got the Kimchi Chigae from Ambrosia, depite the warnings of reduced banchan, and while the number of banchan items was indeed reduced (3 including the Kimchi), they came in nice portions. Two of the items came in 1/4 lb plastic containers (the kind you’d buy macaroni salad in) – obviously not filled to the top but still. BTW their chigae is pretty good for being a deli.

  • I was craving Korean and had to have some today so I slid by the closest one I could find, Ambrosia. Ok I ordered the pork Bi Bim Bap, or what I thought was that, it was translated as that and what I got looked nothing like what I know Bi Bim Bap to be, unless she got my order confused because she did pause for a min and looked at her reciept before she turned the bag over to me. What I got was pork, very tasty and well seasoned with SALAD!!!!!!!!!!!! This was in one container then kim chi, red sauce, seawead salad, rice and soup in other containers for like 10 bucks plus tax. It was good as far as quality but def not the Bi Bim Bap I was craving.

  • oh yeah it came with soup too.

  • I ordered the beef bi bim bap and what I got was fatty beef with salad (Kim chi, soup, rice, etc too)? and No egg whatsoever. I don’t know if they just got my order wrong or what, but defintely not what it used to be and for almost $12…No thank you!

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