i sent my food back at spago
a few weeks ago my roommate D and i wanted to try bobby flay's mesa grill but we didn't make it there in time for lunch (2:30pm). so we wandered around caesar's palace and settled on spago. yes i said settled because D has been to spago in LA before and he did not like it. and he is not fond of postrio (another wolfgang puckery but in the venetian). but it was slim pickins so we settled on spago.
next comes the fun part. i started with the calamari steak with ponzu and chili lime something or another. D starts with the steak something quesadilla with some fancy cheese. we order voss water and a beer each. so the "calamari steak" comes out and it looks like mozzarella sticks from denny's (i know this because i used to go to denny's all the time in college to study late night). it looks like it came from wolfgang puck's line of frozen appetizers. D gets his quesadilla and it looks like something you can get at TGI but worse. the guacamole is this yucky green paste. the pico de gallo looks straight out of a jar.
but we eat it. because we are good sports. even if it cost a $15 for an appetizer (during lunch). we eat it. my calamari was so salty that the ponzu was out of the question and the accompanying greens were wilted if not completely lifeless.
our main comes to the table. i ordered st louis style ribs and D ordered a sausage/fennel pizza. ok maybe i ordered wrong (who orders ribs at spago, i know) but D's pizza should have been fantastic. he took two bites and had a foul look on his face. my ribs were barely edible. it was like cafeteria food. DORM food. we contemplate for a couple of minutes if we should send it back.
i call over our waitress and tell her my food is inedible. i say a bunch of other things, and D chimes in here and there. she asks if we would like to speak to the chef to let him know. i just told her that i did not want to make a scene. but of course the general manager comes up to us and says something like.. what were you expecting from pizza, it's just dough and cheese. uhh.. yeah. then the chef comes out and asks us for constructive criticism. what the. i did not feel qualified to give the executive chef of spago a crit. but i told him that the calamari was too salty and the food was just not up to the standard of what i thought spago was.
anyway so we wanted to get out of there and they say that they want to send us a dessert and that they will comp the entire meal. we felt bad so we told them that we would pay for our drinks and appetizers. we had the strawberry caprese for dessert (the strawberries were chopped up in small pieces but some pieces still had their stems on!) because they insisted. we get the bill (to pay for our drinks and appetizers) and they added on that damn dessert. UGHH. two thumbs WAY down.
I get that the calamari was salty, but exactly what *was* the problem with the pizza? The GM's comment seems a bit rude, but from the standpoint of the chef, it does seem fair to ask you to describe what is wrong with a dish when you send it back, other than just saying it isn't 'up to the standard of what I thought Spago was'. After all, you did say you 'settled' on Spago in the first place: so what should it have been?
as i mentioned, i did not feel qualified to give a critique to the head chef of spago in front of everyone sitting at the restaurant. i specifically asked to not talk to the chef as it would create a scene. with that said, and with everyone watching and listening in on our conversation, i held my tongue and tried to be as nice as possible.
the problem was that the pizza was limp, the crust was soggy and it looked reheated. tasted the same also. the calamari was yes salty and my ribs were swimming in a goopey sauce, seeming as if the sauce was to mask any and every flavor that could possibly come from the meat. the accompanying potato salad looked and tasted like it came from a huge economy sized tub. basically everything looked and tasted like it came from the wolfgang puck factory, not a wolfgang puck kitchen. that's what i meant by "spago" standards - i just expected it to be a bit more refined than mass-produced goopey saucey cafeteria food. but i dare not say that to the chef and in front of everyone - i did not want to cause a scene. i just wanted to pay the bill and leave.
if you read my post at all, it says that we went to spago because we had originally planned on going to mesa grill but it was after their lunch hours. we settled on spago because my friend had already been to spago in LA and hated it but after wandering around he decided to give it another go.
That was a weird way for the restaurant to handle the situation. It is uncomfortable to send something back to the kitchen, but bringing out the Chef to talk to you about it just makes it more uncomfortable.
Discretely sending over the manager is appropriate, but making you critique your issues with the chef is absolutely wrong.
I was recently at a restaurant, where we had a problem, and they forced us to take a free desert. While this was a nice gesture (and we didn't have to pay for it), I just wanted to get out of there, making me wait for another dish, just made me uncomfortable, and I really wanted to get out of there.