Though I was glad that the restaurant's interior was (almost) completely overhauled, it was all show, no substance. Two weeks before the wedding, we went to talk to the restaurant/banquet manager and he gave us a little tour. He was so proud of everything (pointing out several times how they brought back the gold?/brass? phoenix & dragon wall hanging from China and that it cost a great amount of money) but he neglected to show us the bathrooms downstairs. When I snuck away to check them out at the end, I saw that they were the same dark, dank, slippery cesspools that they were before, a major concern of mine. Alas, there was nothing I could do about it but sulk (which I didn't do!).
And because the renovations were not completed until less than a month before the wedding, we couldn't set anything up ahead of time, like the menu, nor the accompanying menu cards. Thankfully we didn't need additional decorations b/c I really wouldn't be able to handle thinking about that. It was a great touch, though, how the manager casually mentioned on our walk-through that the little room in the back with 2 tables would be "left open" for "special guests." He said it was a possibility that some "special guests" may want to eat at the restaurant that night so if anyone happened to come that night, they couldn't turn them away. That turned out to be a bunch of hogwash b/c there was a planned birthday party going on in there but he was too chicken to tell us that they wanted to maximize their profit for that day and booked the little room for a party too. I wouldn't have minded so much if 1) he was honest about it and 2) the freaks from that party didn't ogle as if they were in a zoo, but seemingly crashed our wedding instead of just quietly making their way to the back.
I was also pissed that the restaurant gave us the wrong info! They said that they'd change their name after the renovation to "Crystal Palace" so that's what was printed on the invitations. But a month before our wedding I walked by and they put up the old name of the restaurant (Grand Harmony) in big red letters outside. When we asked, they said technically the name of the restaurant is "Crystal Palace" b/c that's what they printed on their menus. But I don't give a flying hoot about the menus b/c no one would be looking at it that day but ppl will certainly be looking at the outside of the restaurant to know where to go! To alleviate our fears, they said that they'd put out a big sign outside saying this is Crystal Palace restaurant but they never did.
We were also promised that certain things would be refrigerated (like the wine for the tables) which weren't. After the fact I was also told that all the juice that Dear purchased for the bar went missing and mysteriously reappeared after the manager made one of his workers go get some. Dear also said he saw one of the workers swipe a nearly full bottle of liquor as he casually traversed the length of the room. There were also reports of the restaurant help partaking of the dim sum/appetizers we had for the cocktail hour (which we had to pay for by the piece, btw, so they were essentially stealing from us and our guests b/c the food was gone in a matter of minutes), instead of doing their jobs. One of our guests also said that he wished they didn't clang all the plates so loudly (though I suppose that is one of the "charms" of a Chinese restaurant, kinda like MJ tiles). I'm sure all the leftover stuff (like the favors we labored over!) were swiped too b/c a few of our friends said that when they came back to their seat, it was gone. And I've already complained about the lack of tea for the tea ceremony (we were told a few times that it was going to be brought to us but it never came).
BANQUET at GRAND HARMONY aka CRYSTAL PALACE: B-
I'd give a lower grade but I really don't expect much from Chinese banquet halls. It's long known that you either sacrifice service/decor for good food or sacrifice good food for the service/decor. Instead of going to one of the restaurants in Midtown, we chose Ctown and got 2 of the 3 aforementioned qualities at GH/CP -- I was pretty satisfied with the food and the decor was alright (sans the bathroom). Every banquet I've ever been to, the fish is overcooked, except at Grand Harmony (or is it Crystal Palace?!). All the other food was good too, with just the right flavors (not too salty, etc.) and there were no complaints (that I heard). Writing this review reminds me of how those Chinese wedding salons were so sneaky (as well as my hairstylist) and it just goes to show how you really can't trust Chinese vendors, but in this instance, we really had no choice since we wanted a Chinese banquet. Let me also add that FIL's friend at the restaurant didn't really do anything for us, though I wonder if we would have been treated worse if we didn't know anyone on the inside. We did however, score an extra lobster for each table when Dear brought over the customary bribe of liquor the Wednesday before, along with the money for half the cost of the banquet. (You read that right, you're supposed to bribe the restaurant staff with stuff the week before so that they'll remember you and treat you well; this is in addition to the tip.)
Another vendor that I was less than satisfied with was the DJ/MC. It's confusing what to call him and his company since he never gave us a straight answer. He supposedly used to work at OUO but struck out on his own and started some weirdly-named company but when he introduced himself to everyone at the wedding, he used some other permutation of that name. In any case, I am very reluctant to actually publish his name/company since he's known Dear for a really long time and I'd like to think that part of the reason why I was quite unsatisfied is b/c we were really bad customers (hardly followed up with him, didn't always get him what he asked for) and I think in some ways he treated us less professionally b/c he was so familiar with us. For example, he said we could get him the song lists 2 weeks before the event (he tells everyone else he needs the lists 1 month ahead). I guess he trusted us to actually get back to him on time (or made a huge exception for us) so he didn't really hound us. What happened instead was just chaos (see what happens when I don't micromanage?! :D). I have to admit, though, I didn't really care about this part (I really just wanted to use an iPod -- and maybe we should have) so I didn't put much effort into it (we didn't do much research, and I kept pushing for the iPod but we also felt a bit guilty for not giving business to the friend). Aside from our dropping the ball, at times, I felt the DJ/MC wasn't really listening to us, like insisting/pleading with us to "pump it up" when we told him we were more mellow people and didn't really want rap and hip-hop. I also wanted a different DJ b/c I had heard less than stellar reviews about him, but the MC convinced us to stick w/ him and I just didn't want to fight it anymore.
On the day of, there were quite a few complaints about the decibel level of the music and each time we told them to bring it down, the MC placated us by saying he would (but didn't really) while the DJ would ignore the request (saying he couldn't turn it down but that if it bothered people so much, he'd turn the speaker to face him only, which is just nonsensical). I think in some ways, the loud music caused everyone to leave early, which was both good and bad (didn't mind the old folk leaving but wouldn't have minded our friends staying behind).
And my biggest complaint, as I've mentioned before, was the MC not relaying the info about the cake. As my MIL put it, he was just too busy dancing and having fun himself that he didn't do his job. I heard that he did make for some good eye candy for some friends though (the flirting went both ways, I think, which is somewhat unprofessional).
A final thought: my cousin told me weeks later that she went to a wedding a week after ours and they used the same MC. She said he had the same exact schtick, including the incredibly loud music. I don't know what their deal is with loudness (they started off at a tolerable level) but I think they think you need loud music to have fun -- get a clue!! I know this particular review was probably not very helpful to anyone, but if you really want to know who the MC is, I can relay it to those interested if you email me at rm47of450 at yahoo. I guess you can also learn from our mistake -- just use an iPod!! :P
But to end on a sweet note, I was happy with the bartender we hired. The restaurant doesn't have a liquor license so if you want a bar, you have to provide it yourself (Dear bought massive quantities of alcohol the week of). They could, however, hire their own bartenders for some exorbitant amount and they suggested having 2. So instead of shelling out that money to someone who would probably be stealing half the liquor as they served it, I turned to my alma mater for their bartending service. They are a bargain at $20/hr (minimum of 3 hours), plus tip and cab fare back uptown. Since they are students, it wasn't always easy to contact them (email seemed best), but I did get info on how much liquor to purchase and they were quite amenable to my demands. They are quite professional too.
Since we had heard that the bar could get quite busy during cocktail hour, we supplemented the bartender with some of Dear's relatives who helped with simpler drink requests like juice and such. After that first hour or so, the lone bartender was fine on her own. We also felt good being able to help out so-called starving students (remember your days scraping by in college?) -- she was sooooo grateful that I asked her whether or not she'd like dinner since the restaurant was providing all vendor meals. And I guess she didn't expect much b/c she seemed thrilled at all the tips she was getting, plus we tipped her 20%. And in the end, we still paid much less than what the restaurant wanted (I think in total, we spent under $150 for about 5 hours).
PARTY HELP with BARNARD BARTENDING AGENCY: A
To hire them, you just have to give at least 2 weeks notice (they actually don't assign someone to you until 2 weeks before but I asked them to book someone for me a month ahead) and sign the one-page form the day of. Of course I was too busy to do so on that day, so our coordinator took care of this for us. I think they also have general party helpers if you need people to pass hors d'oeuvres or anything like that. For more info, check out their website.