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May 11, 2008 05:17 PM

Brasserie Ruhlman and no substitution policies

I dined at Brasserie Ruhlman this past Saturday night. I thought the space and food presentation were great, but the quality did not quite match up (particularly to the prices). What slightly irked me was their blanket no substitution policy. For example, I ordered mussels and fries. Even thought the fries are a completely separate side dish (but part of the entree), I could not substitute for a different potato. One of my companions ordered another entree that came with a side of asparagus, but could not substitute for a different side of greens.

For the most part these sides had nothing to do with the integrity of the dish, so I don't think this is the chef standing on principle. And even a place like Trotter's will usually accommodate diners if they have a particular aversion or preference. Rather, at least here, it simply seems to be a way to hike up bills at an already (arguably) over-priced restaurant.

I wonder if anyone else has a take on this, and whether I am right to be irked by this policy, and whether there are other places in town that adhere to such a strict no substitution policy.

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  1. I would think it's within their rights to do whatever they want, it is their restaurant. On the other hand, kind of dumb, since it's pretty alienating to customers, yes?

    1. I respect the right of the restaurant to have, and stick to, whatever policies they may have regarding things like substitutions being allowed and/or being associated with upcharges. That said, I respect the restaurant MUCH more when they defer to the wishes of their patrons and exhibit flexibility as needed, especially when (in JJ's case) doing so doesn't cause much extra effort in the kitchen or significantly alter their costs.

      JJ, I would amend your other statement to substitute "especially" for "even", as in my experience Trotter's does their best to provide their guests with whatever it is they want. In a past visit my wife didn't want any fowl or red meat but was interested in the seafood options - placing her in between the vegetable and grand degustation options. They responded with a blended menu that presented her with "left-side" (veggie) courses when the right-side course didn't fit and right-side courses when they were seafood. With an attitude along the lines of "of course, no problem".

      1. interesting issue! i see the issues on both sides, as I worked as a server for awhile, and thus am completely aware of how frustrating substitutions can be. At the same time, I eat mostly vegan foods, which means I do a lot of begging servers to leave off the chicken, or the cheese, or to sub in this for that, etc. (i've completely given up on using the drive-through at taco bell, as I usually just get confused silence when I say things like, "can i get that with no meat, no cheese, and no sour cream?")

        i hate to mess with the integrity of the dish, but at the same time, if my food is slightly less delicious, but a million times more palatable for me, i'd like a chef to be able to roll with that.

        1. My opinion: The nicer the restaurant, the more willing they should be to offer substititions without additional charge and without any resistance. I expect to pay extra (or be refused) at a cheap diner type place, not at an upscale restaurant.