Sato’s, how to NOT run a restaurant!


We thought we would go to a special and different dinner to celebrate our daughter Amna’s 18th birthday a few nights ago and decided to go to the oldest Japanese restaurant in Bahrain; Sato at the Gulf Hotel. As it was mid-week, it wasn’t difficult to get a table.

We were received on arrival by the maitre d’ and led to one of their Japanese rooms where you sit at the table with your legs in a hole beneath it giving you the impression that you’re actually sitting on the floor Japanese-(or Arab)-style but you’re actually just sitting “normally”.

As the restaurant wasn’t that busy, we were soon attended to and placed our orders. We were all looking forward to a nice quality family night. Unfortunately, Sato’s had other plans.

I must admit that our knowledge of Japanese food is minimal. I prefer some kinds of sushi and teriyaki, but couldn’t tell you the contents nor do I know all the names; however, the minimally explained menu somewhat indicated what we can expect to get. We all stuck to the teriyaki side of the house that night, thinking better be safe than sorry. Amna, probably did the best thing and chose a set menu.

We chatted a bit after placing our order thinking that – as in a normal restaurant of its ilk – the order will take a while to arrive – something I generally enjoy – but I was mistaken. No sooner than the drinks were served then the first course arrived. Amna’s course, that is, while everyone else was left waiting much longer to get theirs. One would have thought that the arrival of food for all patrons at the table would be coordinated; not this one. That mish-mash of mis-coordination was symptomatic of the whole evening, leaving us at various stages of dinner, capped by them forgetting to bring my main course until almost everyone had finished!

That could all be forgiven of course had the food at least been acceptable. It was far from it.

I don’t think you will find me at that restaurant again by choice. If I ever want to enjoy Japanese food again, I would be much better served by picking up a Japanese meal from Al-Osra and enjoy it at my own pace rather than be hurried and harried as we have been at Sato’s. What a disappointment.


  1. amjad

    On an occasion like this, the 18th birthday of your eldest daughter, you shouldn’t have really tried something “different”! 😛 You should have just went for your favorite restaurant to enjoy the food & atmosphere rather than going to a restaurant for the first time & then get disappointed if it wasn’t that good.

  2. Post
  3. Oscar

    Similar experience at Sato, since then I go to Kei in the Hilton for Japanese. Also there sometimes co-ordination is not perfect but the food is excellent. Agreed the Sushi from Al-Osra is very good!

  4. Barry

    How unfortunate. I hate when food for one diner takes forever to get there. I believe no dish should be delayed more than a minute or so from the other dishes.

    Japanese restaurants are a dime a dozen here, and their quality varies from delicious to “Ok if you stick with the California Rolls (crab and avocado)”. I probably wouldn’t visit that restaurant again if that had happened to me.

  5. M.M

    How about i share with you my story , I’m a big fan of sato’s but one evening a while ago me and my sister went for dinner after we orderd , sitting and chatting waiting for our rolls a stampede of security guys and staff members barged in running behind a raging cat which i have no idea how the hell it got into the hotel ! Ofcourse with my fear of cats pulled my sister ran out cause that cat was running jumping flying u name it !

  6. Hamad

    You Should follow the indian advice cheap and best 😆

    AlOsra the solution

  7. Post

    M.M: waiting for our rolls a stampede of security guys and staff members barged in running behind a raging cat which i have no idea how the hell it got into the hotel !

    Are you still wondering why your rolls took so long and why sometimes they’re a bit chewier than normal?! 😈

    Oscar: I go to Kei in the Hilton for Japanese.

    That was my first experience with Japanese food actually, in the early 90s. But for some reason I never thought of going there first. I seem to remember that the quality there was indeed much better. But it was Amna’s choice this time, so maybe next time I’m in the mood I’ll check Koi out again.

    Barry: Ok if you stick with the California Rolls (crab and avocado)

    I never was a fan of crab, my dad loved the stuff but the rest of us are indifferent, until I got hooked on the California Rolls that is!

    Thanks CW!

  8. Lee Ann

    Poor Mahmood

    Dont you know that customer service is an unknown quality in Bahrain…most places dont act as if they care much whether you come back or not based on their service…its doing Bahrain a terrible diservice.

  9. Grace

    I am not sure what is happening with the restaurants at the gulf hotel since they started their refurbishments. I too went to La Pergola during the Italian week festival… OH MY GODDDDD!!!! The food was terrible!! Simply terrible!!!! The menu was a smaller version of the original. The food was not cooked properly and the waiter was upset cause we didn’t like anything on their special menu… Someone should tell the Gulf Hotel Management that they are no longer on the list of best cuisine providers in Bahrain.

  10. Post

    Lee Ann, I somewhat agree with you but I know from personal experience that this is changing. Slowly but surely. Unfortunately the human ego of not accepting criticism is the greatest impediment to going beyond this situation.

    I have a friend who used to live in an island off the Caribbean and used to go to Florida for shopping etc once in a while. He told me a story that I shall never forget; it goes something like this:

    His family went into their regular restaurant and one of those times they struck a conversation with the owner about customer service. The owner – an American – was adamant in his views to the surprise of my British friend:

    Owner: You English are some of the worst customers a business hopes to get.
    Friend: Oh, how come?
    Owner: Well, no matter how bad the food is, when asked about your meal you never say the truth but just hum and haw and say that it’s okay. However, immediately you leave the restaurant you spread the word about how atrocious the meal and/or the service was; thus spreading a very bad reputation about the establishment which directly affects the business to the worst.
    Americans patrons; however, are some of the best because not only will they raise hell and complain immediately about how bad the food/service is, but they will make sure that they come back in a while to see for themselves if the situation improved!

    The essence of the story is that constructive criticism (which sometimes can be ugly and unsavoury) is essential in the growth of a person, business or even country.

    We, as Arabs, are generally not good at criticising nor are we good at receiving criticism by taking it personally in most situations. We need to get over that. And that’s happening already.

    I look at criticism as unpaid consultancy!

    So allow me to disagree with you on this point. I suggest that we are changing as a society. All you have to do is compare what’s in the papers today and a few years ago.

  11. Post

    Grace, we should have a ranking system for these places; how about starting a restaurant review and give them our own star ratings? That should be fun!

  12. SoulSearch

    Speaking of restaurants, any one know what happened to Chilli’s food? it used to be my family’s favorite but lately its soggy salads every time? any comments?

  13. m.noor

    First of all: _ :mrgreen: _H_ :mrgreen: _A_ :mrgreen: _P_ :mrgreen: _P_ :mrgreen: _Y__ :mrgreen: __B_ :mrgreen: _I_ :mrgreen: _R_ :mrgreen: _T_ :mrgreen: _H_ :mrgreen: _D_ :mrgreen: _A_ :mrgreen: _Y__ :mrgreen: __M_ :mrgreen: _O_ :mrgreen: _O_ :mrgreen: _N_ :mrgreen: _I_ :mrgreen: _!_ :mrgreen: _
    Mahmood-Bey, now, since your baby sugar reached legal age, you’ll be like ‘Robert De Niro’ in ‘Meet the Parents’. 🙂 (lol) Always keeping an eye for creepers who might want to take advantage of her innocence.

    Second: I totally hear your, Mahmood-Bey. After all, I was there myself, and I reached the same conclusion after my experience: “I don’t think you will find me at that restaurant again by choice.” 😯

    Here’s how it goes. Because I’m a guy with very limited leisure, I want to be entertained and fed at the same time. I thought that the only place you can do that in is H(O^O)TERS (too bad we don’t have that in KoB 😳 ), but then I remembered a very dusty memory of a place where you can watch your food cooked in front of you; although the memories were very vague, I remembered the live-cooking chef performing amazing tricks with the food and stuff. He flips the salt and pepper shakers like a professional circus juggler; to sum it up: its more just regular dining experience.

    So, I called and reserved a table for me and my wife. I remembered that they had regular tables too, therefore I emphasized greatly on them giving us the live-cooking table. Frankly, I was surprised how easy I got the reservations, because I thought an exciting dinner like this wouldn’t be missed in a country like this, where lack of activities forces people to scout for restaurants and bal3eh all-you-can-eat (O@O;).
    But I was wrong, apparently no one is going there anymore because of the word-of-mouth that is spreading against it; wtf!? Why didn’t I hear about how bad this place is when it’s been here in KoB for as long as before I was even born! 🙁

    Anyway, we got there and went in – fortunately no flying cats or goats so far (-_-‘) – but no one was at the door to escort us in. Where is the Japanese hospitality & great respect? Not here I guess, since the waitress looks Filipina?!?!? 😯 (lmao) We were showed to our table by an Indian 🙄 (lol) and we sat down to a big steel table and suddenly the blood was rushing through my vies anticipating the heart-gripping show I’m about to witness.

    We got the menu. It contained dishes which if you don’t understand what are they from their name or from the section they’re from, then may God be your comforter on what unknown living you’d be devouring 🙂 . Thus, as Mahmood-Bey said: “…better be safe than sorry.” We ordered something that clearly doesn’t talk, so it wouldn’t accuse us on Judgment Day of what we were about to do to it. 😎 (rofl) The big table-frying-pan-thing had 12 bar chairs around it, so I though the preparation are at pause to expect at least 4 more audience before Show Time. I thought the Star of this show was in his trailer back there (lmao) wearing makeup and getting into his tights and long hat and was late on purpose to give the chance for anticipation to build up in the audience before he releases it with an orgasmic dinner show. I was wrong, again.

    They brought the food we ordered (cold) in regular dishes. wtf? 😯 Where is the SHOW ❓
    I asked for the waitress and asked her why wasn’t this food cooked in front of us?
    She told that the food we ordered isn’t live-cooked, but regular order… (huh?) 😕
    I told her: then why did I emphasize on sitting like this on a bar chair, when I’d feel more comfortable eating on a regular chair at a regular table? Basically: why am I sitting at this LIVE-COOKING table??
    She said: I don’t know, sometimes people just like to dine like this… (I was speechless)

    I asked for the manager (which was Italian, by the way… :mrgreen: lmfaorofl) and told him how this night was ruined for me.
    Then I said: what are you going to do now to fix this?

    (Because of how sophisticated this place looked, I was expecting the: “Don’t worry sir, everything you ordered is free of charge.” reply)
    Again, I was wrong.

    He said: Would you care for some desert now? (…)
    I though he didn’t understand what I’m saying so I explained it again, but because of his weak English communication he thought I was ready to pay and I was requesting the bill. (OMG!)
    I got frustrated and gave up explaining, so I handed him my cow (credit card) and told him to milk it.

    We got out and went for Shawarma Hummus at Al-Roushah, it was 7aram to miss it since it was so near…

    P.S. Me and the wife went to ‘Fire of Brazil’ last night, now that’s worth dining in, however take my advice: go on a very empty stomach and don’t touch the salad bar, cause you’ll need every bit of space for what’s coming to you in the main course. Hint: stay away from this if you’re a vegetarian!

  14. Michael

    Mahmood –

    I lived in Japan for a few years and I have to tell you that the serving of dishes as soon as they are ready is very much the style there. It used to drive me crackers at times – watching other people tuck in while you starved, or guiltily taking mouthfuls of your meal while your dining companions eyeballed you while they waited for theirs! So your experience at Sato in that respect is likely to be because they choose to adhere to Japanese style on purpose.

    Doesn’t make up for the fact that you didn’t enjoy the food when it came however – although I have to say that I think Sato is one of Bahrain’s better restaurants. Can’t beat that Japanese beer!

  15. naddooi

    Happy Bday to Amna, of course!

    Now i really don’t know how you managed to get such terrible service at Sato that night… usually they are pretty good, and the food IS decent, although, as actual japanese will tell you, not as varied as it used to be!

    You should have tried Mirai, Yummmmmmy food 😆 (you need a smily that drools…) If you go there, order the popcorn shrimp! Guaranteed to clog your arteries, but OOOOH SOOOO GOOOOOD! And they have some pretty yummy dishes, its not pure japanese, mostly fusion.

    Of course Kei (as mentioned before) brilliant selection, good food, though, i find that sato’s food was of better quality (least in my experience…)

    Then there is this place behind exhibition road, Edo-Arirang, great for lunch, take the bento boxes 😀 Its a mix of japanese and korean, looove the kimchi! Must warn you, doesnt look too impressive though! hehe

  16. Salman

    You should have gone to the Japanese restaurant in the Hilton (is it Golden Tulip now?)

    I used to frequent there every Thursday for a nice meal. A portion of cold noodles, some soup with clams, Sashimi, Sushi and a bowl of ice cream for desert.

    The food is cooked right in front of you if you want to sit by where the Teriyaki is prepared, or the Sushi bar, or in a private table. Its not a big place, but the service is great.

    I used to go to Sato before, but it got boring and lame after a while.

    Now days I don’t go for meals, just get me a Sushi meal and take it home and munch on it.

    And of course, nots of nerve stimulating Wasabi!

  17. Barry

    Mahmood: I loooooove crab, in fact I love most shellfish. My favorite dish is called Cioppino, which was invented in San Francisco, but based off of southern Italian seafood soups. Anyway, it’s spicy, tomato-ey and just delicious.

    As for California rolls, the crab can be of two types – real crab, which is flakey, and imitation, which is made from the same fish the Japanese make fish cake out of (called “surimi”). Interestingly, California Rolls are usually the sushi that pretty much anyone, except very picky eaters like.

    I am now reminded of a similar experience to yours at a restaurant in San Francisco. A few friends and I had reservations at a restaurant called E&O Trading Company. I’d eaten there before so I knew the food was tasty, but the time my friends and I ate there, our waiter was pretty unattentive. We were seated late, and the water left the servers to figure out who had what (he was the only one who took our order). They mixed up who had what, and one of our friends waited until almost halfway through the meal to get his plate. My friend Kara, who was the one who made the reservation was incredibly pissed off, and you really don’t want to piss her off either. The food was good, but it was such terrible service, I don’t think any of us went back there after.

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  19. sillybahrainigirl

    Happy Birthday Amna..
    On another note Mahmood, I am really sorry about what has happened to you at Sato 🙁
    They are always really really really good to me.
    I should take you with me next time 🙂

  20. Jenna Thompson

    The title of this post should be “how NOT to run a restraunt” not “how to not run a restraunt”…sorry im nitpicky like that

  21. seroo

    Happy Birthday Amna (my doppleganger – according to her father) =) best wishes to the beautiful birthday girl and apologies for a horrible meal, I quite like Sato’s sushi but I have heard that Kei at the Hilton is far better…

  22. Mavis

    Many happy returns on your daughters birthday.

    I went to a Japanese restaurant on Oahu. I ordered the teriyaki chicken. Well, that’s what I got, fatty pieces of chicken, dipped in teriyaki, surrounded on a bed of alfalfa sprouts. Not even rice or tempura veggies. Very disappointing.

    I will stick with the hole in the wall Japanese restaurant near my house.


    sushi is more of an acquired taste, i guess. i dont really like it, neither would i want to. if i wanted uncooked fish, ill jump into the ocean.

  24. Ibn

    I was never a fan of sushi … why cant they cook the damn thing?… Ok, maybe ill try some more before generalizations. I hear there are like a 100 different types.

    (And is it true they have a seaweed salad?)


  25. Mavis

    “And is it true they have a seaweed salad?”

    They have seaweed everything.

    There is a sushi called “California Roll,” I don’t remember the fish, maybe salmon, rolled in rice, covered in seaweed.

    I actually like seaweed. Salty, but good.

    At the hole in the wall I go to, they have a Miso soup and it has seaweed in it.

  26. Ibn

    Thats very interesting Mavis – how do they get the seaweed though? Doesnt that grow at the bottom of the ocean? Well – no that cant be because there wouldnt be any sunlight – so its probably some plant that grows on the surface of the ocean like algae or very shallow waters I would presume…

    Well, my interest in Japanese food is up. Thats what ill try to have for lunch tomorrow. :mrgreen:


  27. Anonny

    sushi is more of an acquired taste, i guess. i dont really like it, neither would i want to. if i wanted uncooked fish, ill jump into the ocean.

    I got pretty close to that in Hawaii
    once. Damn that sashimi was fresh!

  28. barry

    Mavis: California Rolls are crab (or imitation crab) with avocado rolled in sushi rice (I mentioned this in a previous reply here). You can get reversed California rolls where the nori (seaweed) is on the inside with the rice outside, and also rolled in tobiko (Flying fish roe, which look like fine reddish orange grains).

  29. barry

    Clarification here guys, particularly

    Sushi refers to the rice seasoned with vinegar and sugar, actually. There are a great deal of rolls without any fish at all. Futomaki (big roll) is generally all vegetarian. Kappa maki is cucumber only. You can get sushi with just egg (tamago), or pickled plum (ume, which is very sour and salty, although in the roll it’s more of a seasoning than the main player. Any sushi with shrimp (ebi) or octopus (tako) will be cooked. Unagi rolls always have barbecued eel, which is done teriyaki style.

    Sashimi is raw fish and is served without rice. You can also get nigiri-zushi, which is a piece of fish, shrimp, or other seafood served on top of an oblong piece of sushi rice, and sometimes wrapped with a thin band of seaweed. In nigiri-zushi the fish is raw, and much bigger than in sushi rolls (such as tekka maki which has a sliver of raw tuna). There is also a type of sushi which appeals to most picky eaters, inari-zushi, which is sweet fried tofu pouches filled with sushi rice.

    So, sushi is not just raw fish (which was the common misconception in the US before sushi turned trendy and then commonplace).

    What I find interesting is, aside from the seaweed, everything in sushi is usually very mild in flavor compared to heavily spiced dishes from India or Thailand (though, the Japanese do like curry rice and eat a lot of it, I hear).


    The seaweed in sushi is a species of alga which grows close to the surface (Porphyra genus). In commercial operations, it is farmed by growing it on nets suspended at the sea surface. The alga grows naturally on rocks at the zone which is exposed at low tide, but covered at high tide.

  30. Hani

    Sushi? I can eat that morning, noon and night! Give me a stack of tuna nigiri, soft-shell crab rolls, smoked eel (unagi), spicy salmon rolls and I’m a very happy dude!

    PS: Happy Birthday Amna! We’ll bring a Wentworth Miller poster/mug/tee/towel home with us next time we’re over. Unless you want something else?

  31. Kazarr

    Hi Mahmood,

    sorry to hear about your experience, especially on this special day.

    I went two times the last two months to Sato’s and it was very good.

    We only went for the Teppenyaki(?) “Live” show and we had a lot of fun.

    I even managed to catch the piece of egg the “performer” chef was throwing at each of us. 😉

    So maybe do as the guys in the story above and check back at a later time and give it another try?

  32. Post

    I think I’ll try others first and maybe start with Mirai… I am really hesitant to consider Sato’s again after they ruined the experience for me on this occasion.

    Let me tell you something, I asked them to prepare a cake so we can present to Amna after dinner, their response is essentially “bring your own”! I kid you not. Now there’s customer service for you!

  33. Redbelt

    Go to “Kie” in Golden Tulip (ex Hilton)
    Its been there for ages and is excellant. Most of the Japanese in Bahrain dine there frequently, must be close to authentic if not is.
    I reccomend it.

  34. barry

    A good way to tell if the food is close to what it is like “back home” (this goes for anything) is if you see lots of people who are from the same culture that food comes from. My favorite Japanese place is like that. It’s not fancy, but it is nice, and the food is good. A large group of Japanese seniors go there. A place like Beni Hana has very few Japanese people going since the food is nothing like authentic Japanese.

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