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Aug 14, 2007 05:51 PM

Blind Date With His Entree - a comedy in three acts, but one course

This one's fairly long, but when something this goofy happens, one needs to give a slightly fuller account of the faux pas in question.

You may have heard of the "Monty Hall Paradox". It says that if you are on Let's Make A Deal, and Monty gives you the choice of three curtains, with the prize behind one, and after you pick, he reveals one of the curtains (leaving two to choose from), and he gives you the chance to switch your selection from the one you originally picked for the other one, the odds are better if you switch. No need to get into the math (it works, but don't ask me to explain why), the point is that it works for restaurants, too.

I'm sure we've all had instances where the waiter has brought something other than what we ordered. Mistakes happen. Last night at the Blue Pointe Grille (This must have been a simple job for the sign painter, he completed every word with "E"s!), I saw an episode unfold before my eyes unlike anything I've ever seen in a restaurant before, and I've eaten out a lot over the years.

Two friends and I were there for the Monday night Pre Fix dinner special. Yes, that's how they spelled it. Thank heavens there weren't any "suffixes" or "dangling participles" on the menu, or perhaps they were subconsciously trying to warn us that something is in serious need of "Fixiong", but we had arrived before said fix.

In any case, the Monday Night deal is that $38 bucks gets you two house salads, a shared appetizer form a specified set of choices, two entrees (they don't have to be the same item) from a specified number of choices, and a shared dessert. Dining alone gets you a single three course dinner for $20, or something like that (actually a better deal than the "for two", if you think about it) Assuming you dare to go there after reading this, you may also want to check our the "Greek Dip Trio" option on the "Pre Fix" menu - I've had it a couple of times, and so far, I'm pretty sure it's actually the $11 (IIRC) Mezze plate appetizer from the regular menu, in disguise - another bargain. Anyway, back to our tale.

Our waiter arrived, introduced himself, and we went through the ordering rituals. We found out later this was his first night - a detail soon to become important.

To cut to the chase, one of my friends ordered the pork chop, I ordered the swordfish with "peppernada" and curry-coconut sauce, and our third diner the orange roughy. The waiter went off, brought our appetaizers, our salads and so forth. Much chit chat (and backgrond noise from a rather boisterous table nearby) ensued.

Time passes, and the entrees arrive. Roughy? Check. Swordfish? Check. Pork Ch...
Wait a minute, there seem to be too many bones sticking up.
"Excuse me, but I think that's the rack of veal, not the pork chop."
"Sorry, sir, I'll take it back."

And so the two of us who had not gotten surprises start in, not wishing our food to get cold. Unfortunately for my other companion, it's too late for the roughy. It's already warm, bordering on lukewarm, but she doesn't wish to send it back. One problem per table is enough.

After some delay the replacement plate arrives. I note the "peppernada" (julienne of multi-colored bell pepper) on top. I say "I take it you're not going to say anything?" My companion, however, is tired from a long day at work and a bit upset by now, and perhaps doesn't catch my meaning - that this is another order of the swordfish that I'm having, not a pork chop.

Munch. Quizzical look. Second bite. "Waiter!"
"Yes sir?"
"I think this is not a pork chop."
"It's the swordfish", I interject.
"They told me it was the pork chop. I'll take it back, sir!"

My companion looks puzzled.
"It tasted like fish, but it didn't taste like either curry or coconut, like the menu said."
"Neither did mine! But it is the only entree from the 'Pre Fix' menu that has peppers on it, so it must be the swordfish"

Finally, the porkchops emerge. My companion begins his assault with the steak knife provided. Perhaps a circular saw or a tactical nuclear device would have helped. Judging by the impervious-to-penetration texture, it seems a safe guess that the chop has been cooking or at least sitting under a heat lamp all the while. Perhaps we should have taken it to a cobbler and gotten a pair of new soles out of the deal.

At this point, we've either gotten slap-happy, or reached the point where all one can do is find humor in the situation. My friend with the pork chop has dietary restrictions and is not able to eat most desserts. My other companion is somewhat concerned about the dessert choices. While she can have sugar, she doesn't prefer it. She's not really fond of overly sweet things, even for dessert. She states that all she really wants it ice cream.

"I know how you can get ice cream" I whisper conspiratorially.
"How?" she asks, "It's not on the dessert tray."
"Order the chocolate cake!"
My friends both laughed, and we begin riffing on what else could possibly be screwed up, or what items on the menu are most improbable to be mistaken one for the other.

Shortly thereafter, the hostess arrived, expecting to ge the usual "Just fine" in response to her query of "And how was everything this evening?"
Instead, she heard very firm declaration of my friend's unhappiness about the problem with not one, but two, mistaken entrees, and the "not even close" aspect - a rack of veal, swordfish, and a pork chop should be distinguishable, even for a rookie.

A moment or two later, we hear the waiter being scolded severely, and in his defense about the second error, he states - "I thought that it was wrong, so I asked. They said it was the pork chop and told me to take it out!"

Here's what I think happened. The first problem was an honest rookie mistake, or perhaps a mistake by the kitchen. Either the pork chop was ordered incorrectly by the waiter, or he took the wrong plate. In either case, I suspect that when he brought it back the first time, he managed to seriously annoy or insult somebody in the kitchen (or had already done so previously), and they set him up for the second mistake, knowingly sending him out with the swordfish, not the pork chop.

It's also possible that there were subs or "second string" working in the kitchen - if you're making ratatouille, and you cut the eggplant into chunks *that* big, PLEASE cook it until the eggplant is done, not just the zucchini!

Even if my theory is wrong, there's a big problem when the same waiter and kitchen get a single customer's order wrong twice. Not on something subjective like a steak done "medium" rather than "well done", but a rack of veal and *Swordfish*!?!?! sent out as a pork chop.

So, for what it's worth, Blue Pointe Grille - Three strikes on one entree, and they're out, in our book. It's nights like this that put the RANT in restaurant!

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  1. How do you do it? You not only avoided returning with a gang of thugs to rough up everyone involved, you found a way to smile.

    Wish I knew more folks like you!

    As an aside, the "pre fix" should have been the signal to turn around and leave. Bet they also offered beef "with au juice."

    1 Reply
    1. re: wayne keyser

      Or "carne asada steak."

      I went to Blue Pointe once and wasn't impressed with the food at all. Even worse, the place reeked of stale cigarette smoke, and they had some kind of karaoke thing going on in the bar that was competing with the piped in music in the dining area. It was driving me nuts.

    2. One note that I had forgotten. Even after becoming aware of the problem, the only response from the hostess (the "person in charge") was to "take the waiter to the woodshed" - that poor fellow got a "lesson" on his first night that he will likely never forget. There was no offer to comp the one dinner that had gone so horribly wrong, or even my friend's beer. There wasn't even much expression of regret or apologies. There were no inquiries of what could be done to make things right.

      In fact, the hostess seemed mildly offended that we were upset, and she briefly attempted to convince my friend that it was no big deal - which brought a firm response indicating that yes, it was a big deal, and that the way the incident was being handled was making it very unlikely that we would ever return.

      I should note that my friend is a gentle soul, and not one to make a scene. Even all the mistakes could possibly have been forgiven in time, but the attempt to dismiss the problem was a step too far.

      In such cases, even if the restaurant staff truly thinks it was not their fault, or that the diner is over-reacting (he wasn't - he never raised his voice, there were no histrionics), most are at least wise enough to put on a show of remorse. A show of humility costs nothing, and a simple "I'm very sorry. I hope you will give us another chance on another night." is often sufficient to convince the diner that the establishment at least ackowledges that such things should not happen, and that the staff feels it is their duty to do better.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Warthog

        The best experience I had with a restaurant going out of their way to be nice in the face of problems was at Bluestone in Timonium. We went, got our drinks, made our order, and were almost completely ignored. someone came by and whisked ourplates onto the table, but no one asked if we wanted more water or drinks, and when we were finished, no one came by at all to bring us our check. After about 20 minutes I got up and found a manager and calmly told her that we weren't too happy with being ignored, but that we would like our check. I said that I wasn't asking for compensation of any kind, just pointing out the problem. She said she'd have the check to us in a few minutes and apologized profusely.

        A couple of minutes later our waiter showed up with the check and apologized, claiming he'd been run ragged by an overly demanding party of 12 (which was true). He gave us the check, which had our drinks and appetizers comped, charging us only for the entrees. While he was there the manager showed up and added a gift certificate for $30.

        The compensation (which was essentially the entire meal) was nice, but their attitude was more important. They were genuinely friendly and apologetic. It made a huge difference in my feeling about the place.

      2. It's funny to me, and also painful to hear your Blue Pointe Story. My boyfriend worked at the blue pointe grill at one point. Although the chef is decent the service has a very high turnover rate. The owner Teddy is a tough cookie, but makes all of his deserts from scratch and they are really good.
        Ive personally never been impressed by any of the food, and being in that restaurant reminds me of being at a great aunts for an uncomfortable dinner.
        the only thing ive liked there was the cream of crab soup, but that isnt always on the menu. everything else was mediocre.