Crystal Jade says it will improve its service and quality after its San Francisco flagship gets 1.5 star rating

A veteran American food critic has given Crystal Jade's flagship restaurant in the United States a scathing review.

"How can a group that sank US$14 million into an interior - probably the most ever spent on a restaurant in the Bay Area - come off as an amateur production?" Michael Bauer laments at the start of his review in the San Francisco Chronicle. He gave the restaurant a one-and-a-half star rating and concluded that the restaurant "at least for now, has little to recommend beyond its glitzy facade".

In response, the Chinese restaurant group said in a statement to The Straits Times on Wednesday that they are aware of the review, and "appreciate" the feedback given. They also said that a team had been put together prior to the publication of the review to improve service and quality at the restaurant.

Bauer has been at the San Francisco Chronicle for 25 years, and has won multiple national awards for his reviews, the newspaper's website says.

After panning the service, he went on to say that some dishes "simply weren't well prepared". He also criticised the restaurant for apparently pandering to western tastes by making the sauces sweeter and less spicy.

Crystal Jade admitted that further adaptation may be needed to meet the expectations of local diners, this being their first restaurant in the US.

"We would need to work on meeting the taste profile of the local diners... This will continue till our products is acceptable to the local palate," the statement said.

Baur also criticised the inconsistent service at the fine dining establishment.

He described an incident where the restaurant staff asked them twice if they were aware the prawns they ordered would be served in their shells.

"When they arrived - one on each plate for the five of us - the manager snapped on rubber gloves like a doctor preparing for a proctology exam and went from person to person to shell the prawns," he said, adding that the "pattern of superciliousness alternating with clueless service was repeated on each visit".

Bauer, the executive food and wine editor for the Chronicle, ate at the restaurant three times before reviewing it and said there may be "hidden gems" he did not try on the 85-item menu.

He has praise for some of the dishes, such as the scallops with special Crystal Jade XO sauce, beef brisket in clear soup, and the fried rice; and his favourite dish was the deep-fried tofu stuffed with shrimp paste, he wrote. But they were not sufficient to sway him.

The restaurant is more favourably rated on Yelp, a user-generated review site. It has three stars out of a possible five, from an average derived from 178 reviews. Users who gave it good ratings praised the stunning views, luxe interiors and the fresh seafood.

A Singapore team will be travelling to the US to work with Crystal Jade's San Francisco partner by end of the month and will be stationed there until the restaurant "delivers the expected fine dining standards", Crystal Jade's statement said.

Crystal Jade Jiang Nan opened in San Francisco's financial district to great fanfare in November last year. It serves dishes from Sichuan, Jiangsu, Hunan and Zhejiang provinces, as well as Cantonese roast meats and dim sum on weekends.

It is the group's first restaurant since it was acquired by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Singapore-based Crystal Jade has more than 120 restaurants in 21 cities and 10 countries.

chuimin@sph.com.sg