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Flabbergasted in Little Saigon! [moved from LA board]

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Went to Nhu Y in Little Saigon with my family. They are known for their Ca 8 Mon, which is "Fish 8 Ways". This is the fish version of the better known Bo 7 Mon, which is "Beef 7 Ways". The food was at the very best sub-par, but here's the clincher. I was appalled when we were charged $6 for plain ol' white rice when my sister ordered a shrimp stir-fry dish. I know there are places in L.A. proper that do this, but I've never known restaurants in ethnic enclaves outside of L.A to do this, and if it is a trend I am quite aghast. The really sad part is that we didn't even touch any of the white rice since the shrimp dish was so underwhelmingly mediocre. Somehow, it infuriates me more that it's a Vietnamese place doing this since I'm Vietnamese. I know that might sound odd, but there you have it. Paying for white rice in Vietnam would be downright laughable. This is tantamount to paying for ketchup at McDonald's or salsa at a Mexican place. I won't ever go back there just based on the quality of the food, but the charge for white rice is borderline criminal in my mind. Down with this trend, if indeed it is one, and down with Nhu Y for their nerve. I hope Little Saigon locals are as offended as I am and help prevent this practice from spreading up and down Bolsa by not patronizing such establishments...

Ironically, Nhu Y translates loosely as "Just as you like it". . . . N O T ! ! ! ! !

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  1. hello, are you sure they didn't charge you for the rice for each person? some restaurant will do that say .60 cents for each person for white rice and if there are ten people in the party, they will charge you $6.00, still a bummer though i am sure.

    1 Reply
    1. re: curtiskan

      Hi there, my sister requested the standard pot of rice that we always order during any of our culinary jaunts in Little Saigon and that resulted in the $6 charge. The kind that comes in a red container and lid with a large flat "spoon" and several servings of white rice. A definite bummer, I assure you...

    2. Face it...sign of the times.
      If they do it in LA they'll do it in OC. If I'm in an Asian restaurant where the food is served "family style" and they bring rice and we don't need it because we have dishes with other starch like noodles I'll tell them we don't want it because I know there's going to be a charge for it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Hmmm....do they do this in SGV???

        1. re: hch_nguyen

          Can't say for Vietnamese restaurants, but most Chinese restaurants do.

          1. re: hch_nguyen

            Triumphal Palace in Alhambra does....I was horrified!

        2. If the rice charge irks you then you definitely would be offended by the tea charge at Chinese restaurants for dim sum. I was kind of irked when my daughter was an infant and they'd charged a tea charge for her, but then again they might call it a set up charge.

          Maybe a bad example comparing it to ketchup or salsa which I think are condiments...they wouldn't charge you for hot sauce or soy sauce would they? I remember being charged extra for salsa-- saying it was a side order at the Industry Hills Sheraton years ago..they didn't go for my argument that it was a condiment...and it was a Hispanic waiter.

          8 Replies
          1. re: monku

            The tea charge at dim sum never bothered me because this is all I've ever known, but being from Texas, the white rice charge is new (and shocking) to me. It would never fly there.

            While not exactly analogous, what offends me about paying for ketchup or salsa is the same as what offends me about paying for white rice, and that's my line of reasoning for using the analogy. As an Asian person, white rice is such a fundamental part of every dish that it seems ludicrous to tack on an extra charge for it. It's a bit like paying extra for chips when you order a spinach and artichoke dip. The two go hand in hand and the chips are "understood", if you will. I *think* that many non-Asians at Asian restaurants eat the entrees without the accompaniment of rice and, in that case, it seems a little less odd (but only a little), but I'm confident that this is decidedly not the case with Asians themselves in general. A meal without rice is an unusual one at best. Therefore, it seems odd that a restaurant catering predominantly to Asians (in this case Little Saigon) would partake in such a practice. As an aside, I don't recall being charged for white rice the last time I was at Sam Woo.

            1. re: hch_nguyen

              I like the comparison to paying for chips when you order artichoke dip. Really makes the problem crystal clear. I would think extra rice could have a fee, but not the first bowl.

              Also, I think they probably make a killing on that charge. How much is a big bag of rice? I don't know. Just thinking...

              1. re: katkoupai

                My apartment is always stocked with rice and a 25lb bag goes for about $20. That's a lot of dang rice....

                1. re: hch_nguyen

                  Definitely a good way to increase restaurant profit.

                  1. re: hch_nguyen

                    Just 25 lbs? We usually get 50 lb bags of Jasmine rice on sale for around $16. :-)

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      well I was going off memory :) I bought my current bag so long ago I don't remember how much it costs anymore. It lasts forever, point being that rice is relatively cheap so that don't have to charge much to recoup their costs.

                      1. re: raytamsgv

                        That's a lot of rice!

                2. re: monku

                  Tea charge in dim sum restaurants is standard practice the world over. Sometimes they waive the charge as a curtesy. White rice charge is also pretty standard anymore, esp. if you don't order a family style dinner. If you order just one dish we usually just order one bowl of rice. If you order a whole pot of rice they'll charge accordingly. Free rice will come with family style dinner.

                3. I think the reasons are two-fold. Most Asian restaurants are now in agreement that they CAN charge you for rice, as IT IS fundamental to having a proper meal, and begrudgingly or not, the customer WILL pay for it. Also, I know it may not seem like much of a financial hit to the average diner, but when the restaurant multiplies this unit cost by possibly hundreds or even thousands of units a day, the cost truly adds up. I remember not too long ago, when it was a given that most Asian eateries provided big communal bowls of rice without any charge. However, those days seem to be nothing but a fond memory now, along with full-service gas stations and Blue Chip Stamps... However, if you're in the Westside, you can still get loads of delicious "free" bread along with olive oil & garlic to accompany your meals at Alejo's in Westchester and MDR. A few glasses of Chianti, some fried calimari, a chopped salad, and you're set...

                  1. I was also very surprised the first time the entrees at a Chinese restaurant didn't come with rice, all my life I knew that rice was supposed to be part of my chinese food. The rice had to be ordered as a side dish!! And this happens at many restaurants, including my local Thai food places.
                    ....But, this is what really bothers me, one of my favorite Japanese food restaurants doesn't offer refills for hot tea. If you want more hot tea, you need to order another cup....this was so new to me when I was waiting and waiting for the waiter to bring me more hot tea, and he never came until I asked, then he said; Do you want to order another cup of hot tea??

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: lvgoodfood

                      Wow. Good point. You know, I remember getting a pot of hot tea with my meal at a pho place I used to go to. They would just keep coming by, filling it up, kind of like a water refill (no charge). Now, everywhere I go, I have to order tea, and of course, get charged. :)

                      1. re: lvgoodfood

                        I'll admit that I'm surprised; however I can't help thinking of how subtly professional he was to inform you that there was a charge. Good for him! After all, he's not setting the tea charges. I was just thinking of the previous thread on the "water scam."

                      2. I'm finding this thread to be very interesting. Here in Toronto, and in Montreal where I used to live, the vast majority of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restaurants do charge for plain steamed rice and for tea. Always have.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: FlavoursGal

                          Don't know what Chinese restos in TO you frequent, but in the 10 years I lived in TO, I was NEVER charged for rice, and I wasn't charged when I was up in TO last summer. Can't recall ever being charged for refills on tea, either.

                          1. re: mclaugh

                            Our family has always been charged for white rice whenever we went out in Toronto... we usually go to Cantonese places. If we knew the people the charge may have been waived... same with tea charges.

                        2. I've never been charged for white rice in Houston, and I don't recall being charged in NYC either, but that was many years ago. It wouldn't bother me so much if restaurants charged a nominal fee to prevent wastage or to recoup their costs. That's palatable, but charging for it like a side dish is abominable to me. Next thing I know Italian places will start charging you for a side of spaghetti when you order meatballs and sauce...Stop the insanity!!! Boy, I could go on and on about this. I better stop now before I get flamed! :)

                          1. I'd actually sort of like it if the local chinese place started charging for their rice. Then I would feel justified in complaining about how horrible it is.

                            1. I was recently at a korean soondubu house not too far from Little Saigon and it came with freshly made rice (in its own stone crock) as usual. I really feel for the Korean restaurant owners because not only do they have to provide rice but all kinds of banchan too. That stuff is pain to make and most people leave it on the table.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: choctastic

                                Wow, we never just leave it on the table, in fact we are always asking for seconds and thirds. Love it!

                                1. re: choctastic

                                  If I take my leftovers home, I try to dump my leftover panchan in the box too. I love that stuff, especially the kimchi and radishes. It seems like a horrible thing to waste. I'm often amazed by the amount of food people just leave to be thrown in the trash. It's very sad.

                                  1. re: choctastic

                                    me, too. I never leave food on the table, not even white rice :P I'm the to-go queen. Must be a chowhound thing. It is a horrible waste. I wouldn't mind being charged a nominal fee in order to prevent wastage or to recoup costs, but charging for it like it's another dish is taking it too far. Perhaps they should ask people whether they want rice or banchan first. That alone would prevent a lot of waste. Like when I go to a pho place, I don't eat mint, so I tell them to leave it off the plate. I hate watching them throw it out, but the plate of veggies still always comes with mint on top. Sigh....

                                    1. re: hch_nguyen

                                      I know. Sometimes, I take it all home anyway. The only problem comes when I'm dining with a large group of people. I have to let each person do it his or her own way, and usually that's when I see the most waste happening. I recently went out to eat, and the amount of food left on a not-yet-clean table next to me was enough to feed a small family of five. I couldn't really believe it.

                                  2. this is a trend that spread to nor cal years ago. i know bulk rice is cheap and fundamental (i'm asian, and buy 50 lb. bags too) but i'm afraid that isn't the point. a resto is a business, and asian restos in particular have viciously low margins. let's face it, we all know asian restos are generally cheaper than all others. they know that raising the basic price for their dishes from 7 to 8 bucks is going to send half their business down the block to their competitor. so they slide this charge in the back door and presto, we still feel we're getting the same bargain meal we got 10 years ago, and they get to afford their doubled insurance and utility bills.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: echo

                                      I don't think anybody is disputing a resto's right to earn money as a business. The fact is the line should be drawn somewhere though and me personally, I think the line should be drawn there. If you think about it, there is no end to what a restaurant could potentially charge you for, but that is not the point.

                                      "they know that raising the basic price for their dishes from 7 to 8 bucks is going to send half their business down the block to their competitor'

                                      The fact is I believe charging $6 for a small communal pot of rice is more likely to send customers down the block to a competitor especially if your customers are predominantly Asian, which I assure you is the case in SoCal's Little Saigon. Psychologically, I'd much rather pay a little more for a main dish than shell out money for basic white rice. There are those who will discount psychology, but there's plenty of it in effect with regards to selling merchandise, food included. It's like the proverbial marketing anecdote wherein a store could not unload any of its widgets for 50 cents a piece but they sold like hotcakes when they were advertised at 2 for $1. It's like $1.99 vs. $2.00. Financially, the penny is not the point. Therefor, to me profiting for white rice is a poor decision anyway you look at it, even from a business strategy perspective, which is the direction your post seems to be steering this thread toward. A restaurant that conducts this practice might gain in one regard but will lose overall IMHO. Again, I would be in favor of a nominal charge to recoup costs which is an entirely different altogether.

                                      1. re: hch_nguyen

                                        I went to Brodard's last week and ordered a pot of tea. when I signaled a server for a refill, they promptly brought it to us. When we went to pay for the bill, they charged us for two pots of tea. I was so surprised to be charged for tea twice. It was only $1 a pot, but that is not the point. I understand your point ms. nguyen

                                        1. re: justagthing

                                          That doesn't surprise me. I've despised Brodard's ever since they non-chalantly replaced the meat in my parents' Bun Cha Ha Noi with char siu instead, simply because they were out of the proper meat that the dish should come with. It was disgusting. They didn't flinch one bit. I still go back though for their Nem Nuong Cuon! It's just too good. :)

                                          1. re: hch_nguyen

                                            ms. nguyen
                                            i am not, nor have i ever been a restauranteur. nor has anyone in my family. in fact i am a value conscious food loving asian like you. but i sense that you are missing my point. i am a man who always tries to understand the other party, and the underlying reality of a situation. i am not wasting all my time and correspondence trying to antagonize anyone. i am just suggesting that there is a potentially valid explanation for the phenomenon you describe, and that it is not motivated by anyone's malice. as such, neither is it worth your ire.
                                            so just calmly consider my words, and see if you can't find it within yourself to at least understand, if not forgive their marketing decision.

                                            respectfully,
                                            ed ho

                                            but by the way, using char siu in a true viet dish? now that would piss me off!

                                            1. re: echo

                                              I don't think that I am missing your point. In fact I see your point. That doesn't mean I agree with it, which, since you brought it up, is the point that you are missing.

                                              I'm not trying to convince you of anything. Everybody has an opinion and different ways to support it and this board serves as a sounding board. It's still just an opinion though. It's not a soapbox and it's not a platform upon which I'm basing my political campaign. I'm not joining the bid for 2008. People don't see eye to eye on stuff sometimes and it's just fundamental differences in ideology that will never get resolved, nor needs to be resolved. That I feel strongly about my opinion doesn't invalidate yours, although I have a suspicion that the whole "subsidizing my free rice addiction" comment in your post below smacks of facetiousness which belies your claims of not intentionally antagonizing anyone, Mr. Ho. Anyone will appreciate something complimentary. To most Asians, rice is a fundamental and, therefore, inseparable part of the dish. To even refer to it as complimentary in that case would be a misnomer, much less to label it as an addiction. I did point out that most non-Asians do not feel this way about rice. In Little Saigon, though, 95% of your clientele will be Vietnamese. I am not happy with the trend or charge much like someone who would not be happy about a hypothetical trend that charges for ice water, which is another hidden cost of doing business. It's not even about your agreeing with me. I was unhappy with what happened, and I don't think it's a wise choice for them, so I vented. Not everyone will feel like I do, but so what. The opinons on this board run the gamut. While we're at it, I don't want to have to pay for chips when I order dip or spaghetti when I order sauce or dressing when I order a salad. I already addressed all this upthread if you haven't read it, which I gather you have not. Maybe that just means I have a free chips, free pasta, free lettuce, free water addiction....bring on the 12-step program!

                                              I won't eat at that restaurant again just based on the fact that the food was horrible. Perhaps if they focused on the quality and preparation of their dishes, they'd sell more of them and wouldn't have to subsidize their cost of doing business by charging for subsidizing people's addictions. In that case I would've gladly paid a little more for the shrimp dish we ordered had they done something besides slop it together. At least we would've gotten something edible to go with the rice we paid for.

                                              1. re: hch_nguyen

                                                Restaurants are just so much smarter, (or at least their ownership is) when they simply fold the cost of something so basic, like in this case the steamed rice, into their pricing of the entree. It's the nickle and diming that upsets people and generates so much ill will.

                                                1. re: tony michaels

                                                  we all know that restaurants MUST recoup costs. insurance, energy, and the minimum wage have all gone up, in some cases dramatically. this whole thread started when the OP objected to that money coming from a rice charge rather than something else. as we all know, it is a pure marketing decision as to where the manager decides to put that cost. but guess what folks, your bill is the same regardless! so what sense is there in getting riled up, posting this thread, and actually giving up on a resto just because one item went up in cost rather than another. as i said, your total bill is the same regardless.

                                                  and frankly, there is much logic on the side of accurate pricing. it prevents abuse, waste, and the inherent unfairness of one party gobbling up tons of "free" rice while the next table doesn't even eat rice.

                                                  finally, many asian restos are comoditized and very competitive. it's like a gas station. you drive by, see the prices on the big sign, and on the basis of that number you decide to stop or keep driving. as i said, except for a small fraction of people (all of whom seem to be posting here), that price determines business, not a few people taking offense over a rice charge.

                                                  peace.

                                        2. re: hch_nguyen

                                          i know you're miffed about the rice charge, the first time i encountered one i was too. but my assertion is still most probably correct. seeing the entire menu getting a price hike is impossible to ignore, especially when they whiteout all the old prices and handwrite all the new higher prices in.

                                          scenario 1 - you go to your old favorite asian resto where your family has been getting great dinner dishes for $6 each for 10 years. suddenly, it's gone up to $7 each. every dish, everywhere you look on the menu. all your old favorites, the specials, everything. you're surprised, a little miffed, and suddenly you think it's time to try your friend's favorite resto down the street. % of people who notice, who care? 99%

                                          scenario 2 - you go to your old favorite asian resto where your family has been getting great dinner dishes for $6 each for 10 years. you get the bill, and it seems a few bucks higher than it used to. you figure, oh, johnnie and betsy got a couple cokes or something, whatever, the food was as great as ever, and it's still a good deal after all these years. next week, you go back.
                                          maybe you check the bill more closely, maybe you don't. maybe you care about the rice charge, maybe you don't. % of people who notice, who care? 20-30%

                                          and guess what, some people don't order/eat the rice! should they subsidize your 'free' rice addiction? i don't blame you for enjoying such a situation, but to be honest, the answer is no.

                                          so will they charge for tea next? very possibly, and in some cases they already have. is this an outrage? no. rice and tea represent real costs for the resto. not so much the raw material, but the appliances, the energy to cook it, the containers to serve it, and most of all the labor for all the above. it is a pure marketing decision on the part of the resto whether or not they want to pretend not to charge you for these or not.
                                          but on occasion, a diner like me will linger over a meal with 2, 3, 4 pots of tea. should these be free? i really don't think so. i always tip extra when i occupy a table for extra time, but many folks may not. should the resto be able to recoup some of that cost, and remind the diner that courtesy goes both ways? absolutely.

                                      2. The first time I realized that The Mandarette on Beverly Blvd. and Orlando charged for a pot of tea and each individual rice serving (i.e., just enough rice for one person), I was shocked. Now, everytime I go in there I think about it and it bothers me. But maybe it's the norm... not sure.

                                        1. This has gotten interesting.

                                          For me, if I order it, I expect to pay for it. However, I don't expect to pay for something I didn't order. If they just brought it out, then it would be wrong for them to charge you for something that you didn't order and I would be pissed too. If I'm at a Mexican restaurant and they bring me chips & salsa, I better not pay for it if they brought it w/o me asking.

                                          But it's another story since your sister ordered it.

                                          "Paying for white rice in Vietnam would be downright laughable." Well this isn't Vietnam.

                                          You're using some strange analogies; ketchup, salsa, soy sauce, etc are condiments. Rice is not. Spinach dip is usu explained on the menu that it comes w/chips; did the menu explain your dish came w/rice? I'd be careful to make assumptions.

                                          Btw, if you boycott those restaurants b/c they're charging you for rice, they may have to resort to nickel & diming on other things b/c of lost revenue. It'll have the reverse effect as the one intended.

                                          I guess you're dealing w/shock right now, and so you're pissed. I guess if things didn't go my way, I might be pissed too...or I might reevaluate the situation and adjust my expectations and assumptions.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                            I equate the steamed white rice with your meal at Asian restaurants (without a separate charge) to the bread that is served (without a separate) charge in most non-Asian restaurants.

                                            1. re: tony michaels

                                              Only if the steamed white rice is served w/o being ordered, like the bread @ non-Asian restaurants, then I'd expect it to be free. But if you order it, I'd expect to pay for it; regardless of whether it's bread or rice.

                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                We have eaten at places that you can ask for bread or rolls (which are not brought automatically) and it is still not charged for separately on the bill. Which can make sense if the restaurant is trying to reduce waste.

                                                1. re: tony michaels

                                                  Why is it that when you go for b'fast, toast isn't free? Bread is bread.

                                                  1. re: OCAnn

                                                    None of it is free. It's just that toast isn't charged for as a line item on your tab. I just think if there has been a social convention to offer something and not have a "separate" charge for it you are going to suffer some customer ill will if you try and pioneer the upcharge for that particular something - whatever it is. Just smart marketing / merchandising to roll the cost of the steamed rice or the bread into the total cost of the meal and give the appearence of "giving something for nothing" to your customer.

                                                    1. re: tony michaels

                                                      Touche!

                                                      For whatever their reason, this restaurant (and others like it) are charging it (the rice) separately. It's either that or up the prices of other dishes.

                                                      So why bother getting knickers/boxers/diapers in a twist?