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Oct 12, 2006 11:31 PM

Special requests and the quiddity of a restaurant dish

... when do special requests go too far as to essentially strip away what a dish is all about?

For example, at lunch today in a rather tight and crowded setting I could clearly overhear what the table next to us was ordering.

The entree in question was a pecan-crusted salmon, with couscous, sweet corn and ginger shallots.

The gentleman ordering this dish asked that the pecan crust be served on the side, white pilaf be substituted for the couscous and if there werer other veggies available instead of the corn and shallots (he got instead what the server called "a grilled medley").

Ok, now I understand not liking certain items or preferring the dressing on the side, etc., but what this person did was essentially re-make the dish.

The only resemblance to the original was the salmon!

At that point, why not just request the kitchen to grill up a piece of salmon with some veggies.

Anyone out there have a tendency to make extreme requests? If so, I'd like to get your thinking on it.

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  1. Personally, I never order something and ask that everything be changed. If I want salmon and don't like the accompanyments, I order something else which has all the ingredients of my liking. The chef has obviously thought through what combinations he /she wants to serve. Why not respect that.
    My husband and another dining companion ordered a lobster special and asked that it be served without the sauce. I said, it won;t be good without the sauce. Sure enoough, they complained that it was not good. Give me a break. It is like the people who murder recipes by substituting half of the ingredients = which is fine so long as you don't then complaint that the recipe didn't work!

    1 Reply
    1. re: emilief

      Yeh, I agree. I remember eating with someone who asked that the anchovies and something else be omitted from the sauce. OK, fine. But then the person spent most of the meal complaining abouut how the sauce really wasn't very good. Duh?!?!?!

      When I eat out, I want to taste what someone thinks is a great meal; it doesn't seem fair to the chef to reconfigure the dish. And certainly if I did suggest changes, I would shut up about the result if it wasn't as savory as I wanted.


    2. When I met my husband's son for the first time, we were in a neighborhood Italian restaurant. He ordered "Veal Parmesan, sauce on the side, no cheese". I asked why he didn't just order a veal cutlet and the answer was that he liked Veal Parmesan better. ??????

      Certainly a case can be made for someone with an allergy or religious prohibition requesting that the shellfish be omitted from a dish but that is completely different from ordering Sole Dieppoise without the traditional garnish.

      For some, it is a control issue that is thinly disguised under the label of Food Likes & Dislikes.

      1. I can not define pornography, but I know when I see it. So said our Supreme Court. Likewise this is hard to define. Sause on side, no prob, swap the veggie, no biggie, rice for potato, still on this side of the line, light on the oil and butter, totally acceptable. Asking for a total change in the prep versus the plating process is where I think it would cross the line.

        Love the chick parm post.

        1. I think one request for alteration should be the limit. Either crust on side OR sub rice OR sub veg, NOT all three.
          Occasionally I'll ask for no onions, like on a pizza, not like pick them out of the stew for me. Also acceptable can be the 'I'd like the halibut with the tuna prep', i.e. just switching the protein for a different set of sides that already go together with something else, not picking and choosing from all over the menu, or asking for things that aren't on the menu.

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