Trader Vic’s- Smashed Potatoes And Astronomical Prices

People are always asking me about things to do in Riyadh so I have begun writing more specific reviews of restaurants I went to. One of the best things to do in Riyadh is dining out! There are just so many restaurants to go to and new ones are popping up all the time. This is my review of Trader Vics restaurant in Riyadh which I previously thought to be one of the top restaurants in Riyadh..but now it would not rank anywhere near my best restaurants in Riyadh list! Read on to find out why..

I’ve been a frequent visitor and fan of this restaurant since Trader Vic’s landed a branch in Riyadh a few years ago. Previously I had gone to their branches around the ME, my favorite being the one on the beach at the Oman Intercontinental Hotel. I love the exotic concept of this restaurant and the decor and music reminds me of holidays spent in the Pacific Islands and Caribbean..

The Saudi version of Trader Vic’s is similar to its
counterparts worldwide but it has certain “Saudi modesty” to it. Believe or not they actually have a separate bar complete with a long table and bar tender accompanied by an impressive range of cocktails, all non-alcoholic of course. Surprisingly open to females as well.

Trader Vic’s is a refreshing change to the usual restaurant set ups in Riyadh. It’s laid back and the atmosphere is relaxed. Background music is played although they don’t have live bands like some of the other branches do. That might be pushing it too far for conservative Riyadh. Keeping true to Saudi
culture, customers can choose from open area or the closed booths. There’s even
a large room which can be reserved for parties and the restaurant can also do
birthdays at request.

The restaurant is located at Panorama mall and it’s hugely
popular with families and young Saudis, especially groups of women often frequent the family
section of this restaurant. It’s a little problematic to enter, because the entrance is actually outside the mall and you have to walk some while to get to it and by car on weekends this area is always very packed.

This restaurant has an indo pacific cuisine mixed with
international foods. The selection of mock tails is broad and probably the best in

As an avid fan of this restaurant I was excited to visit
again. To my disappointment there were many changes that had taken place from the last time I visited and all for the worse.

First off they had changed the menu. It used to look nice and match the theme of Trader Vic’s, full of creatively named and exotic foods.
The new version however reminded me of something that would be handed out at a
cheap American diner. It was plasticky and ugly and the foods were all tackily pictured. I
found it off-putting especially with the price tags that came with it.

The prices had all been hiked up a notch. Trader
Vic’s was always on the mid to high side of the price range but now we were
talking about five star hotel prices. I asked the waiter and he confirmed the change to the menu and
prices occurred recently. To my disappointment many
of the main courses and appetizers had been removed from the list and replaced
with boring stuff like spaghetti bolognese and burgers, as if Riyadh needs any more restaurants that serve a range of burgers.

My all time favorite dish from Trader Vic’s, the Norwegian
Salmon had a new price tag of 125sr. One of us ordered it to be able to compare it
to previous times. The service here has always been immaculate and there are
plenty of waiters present. A young and very polite Filipino waiter attended to
us. We ordered some mock tails from the extensive selection. The Blue Tea was so syrupy and sweet I couldn’t finish it but the other drinks were much better, albeit
borderline too sweet.

When the main courses arrived it became apparent the waiter had made a mistake
on the order, bringing a STEAK instead of the ordered fish. He said he had heard “steak” instead of “hammour”. Hmm..
To replace it took around 15 minutes during which I was drooling over my friends salmon

Another setback for Trader Vic’s, the salmon was not served the same as it was on
previous occasions. The taste was still good but the mashed potatoes, instead
of being served on the side fluffy and whipped, were literally SMASHED underneath the fish in the most unappetizing way. So small a pile it was that we didn’t even
notice it at first and asked the waiter where the mashed potatoes were! Hiding under the fish and served with a few pathetic pieces of carrots and squash a portion size more suitable for a midget. Being a
Scandinavian I have a good idea how a Norwegian salmon should be served and
this was a far cry from it.

When the hammour filet finally arrived it was yet again another
disappointment, it was extremely salty. The fish had the same pile
of smashed potatoes under it and was served with those few tiny sticks of
vegetables. Thankfully the pasta dish was much better in appearance, taste and
the size of the dish was satisfactory.

The desserts were all delicious but the waiter made two more
mistakes on our order, bringing one wrong dessert and coffee. We thought he
might have been new but he also made the mistake of not repeating the order
back which might have prevented the mishap. They did offer our coffees free of charge but regardless the bill for three persons was 550
sr. The price tag seems astronomical compared to what kind of food was served.

All in all I must say, sadly Trader Vic’s can no longer be placed on my favorite restaurants in Riyadh list. Although the place is great for the décor and
the atmosphere, the hacking of the prices and the new style of menu and foods
just seem to me like the place is only trying to cash out on its popularity,
forgetting what made it popular in the
first place.

The only reason I would go back to Trader Vic’s is for some of those drinks at the cool bar!

For more restaurant reviews go here:
Overall: ** 3/4
Ambiance: ****
Decor: ****
Food: **
Service: ***
Value For Money: *
Kid Friendliness: ****
Romance Sector:***

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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010.  Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 70 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia!

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  • ZaynabSeptember 18, 2012 - 11:01 pm

    Love you’re blog ! The drinks look gorgeous !
    Nose around my blog ? It would mean so much xoxoReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 19, 2012 - 5:40 pm

      Hi Zaynab thanks for the comment! I “nosed around” your blog, very nice :)ReplyCancel

  • NoorSeptember 19, 2012 - 6:17 am

    We went to eat there but I the menu did not impress me at all so we left.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 19, 2012 - 5:41 pm

      Noor that was a good decision!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 19, 2012 - 7:15 am

    Hi Layla,
    In my opinion,your decision to completely alter your blog is most unfortunated and sad.
    But I understand your struggles and the need to preserve yourself in the not so magic kingdom.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 19, 2012 - 5:42 pm

      Hi there, I think you have misunderstood something because I am not planning on altering anything completely, just rearranging stuff and tying to make it easier to find information on here.ReplyCancel

  • American BeduSeptember 19, 2012 - 4:24 pm

    Hi Layla,

    You wrote an extensive and informative review. I think it would merit sending your review on to Trader Vic’s corporate hqs since I believe all Trader Vic’s have to meet the corporate standards regardless of location.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 19, 2012 - 9:37 pm

      Hi Bedu! That’s a good suggestion so they could facilitate improvement. I have tried to search for a site or email to send it to with no luck yet.ReplyCancel

  • ShimshimSeptember 19, 2012 - 3:10 pm

    Hi Laylah, thanks for another instalment! I have written about you in my blog and have set a link to yours – hope you like what I have had to say! It should appear in a couple of hours. Kind regards, as ever :)

    • LaylahSeptember 19, 2012 - 5:53 pm

      Shimshim I am really touched by your post and want to say a heartfelt thank you for following my blog and I’m so happy to hear how you’ve benefited from it and even that it changed your mind about coming to visit Saudi-Arabia!!ReplyCancel

  • AnumSeptember 20, 2012 - 11:09 pm

    hey layla…ive bin following u religiously man and its sooo sooo much helpful coz am new in riyadh..this is as always a great guidance-blog!!..
    however i ws wanting ur help in somthing i dont know who else to ask…out of literal context to this blog…but can u guide me of a place frm where i can get a baby record/memory book for my baby…ive tried some of the very few book stores in riyadh and cant seem to find it…plz any help from other readers would be highly appreciated…i want to record each n every thing my first baby does and learns :)…ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 21, 2012 - 1:14 pm

      Hi Anum thanks for the comment!
      I will try to help you, but I have not seen those books in Riyadh and brought mine from Finland.. Have you tried Jarir bookstores? How about Toys R us and Babies R us or Mamas and Papas?
      Anyone else have suggestions?ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousSeptember 28, 2012 - 8:20 pm

      Hi Anum, you can find the memory book at Pottery Barn. I actually just bought one for my friend and it was super cute. Pottery Barn is located in Sahara Mall right beside Hayat Mall. Hope that helps!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 29, 2012 - 8:43 pm

      Thanks for the info never thought of that!ReplyCancel

  • DOSSeptember 22, 2012 - 11:20 am

    Hello Madame. I hope you post more reviews on restaurants in Riyadh. I love them. Have a great day.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 29, 2012 - 8:43 pm

      Hi DOS, I sure will, I have plenty but just need time to watermark the photos :)ReplyCancel

  • UnknownSeptember 23, 2012 - 10:05 am

    Hey Blue Abaya ,i red several articles from ur blog and ur amazing blogger ! Lol ,I am new expat from Eastern Europe and i love to meet expats like me or whoever likes to meet me ,my skype is c a l i e n t e _ 8 6 without intervals! this resteurant sounds top natch ! thank u for the info! seems u love Saudi culture!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 29, 2012 - 8:44 pm

      Hi there thanks for the comment and welcome to Saudia!ReplyCancel

  • DianneSeptember 29, 2012 - 3:33 am

    Hi Laylah!

    Just wondering, are they under new management (as if I could go, or I'm living there lol!)? Although I do not live there, it seems like they are under new management because of these changes. From reading your blog, I felt like they downgraded.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahSeptember 29, 2012 - 8:45 pm

      Hi Dianne! That might be the case, or the management got really greedy and wanted to cash in from their success!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 12, 2012 - 7:16 pm

    We are moving to Saudi next year and I just love your blog. Keep us updated on living in Riyadh. So looking forward to it!ReplyCancel

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