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Menu Item as "Market Price"

I went to Bangkok 54, a Thai restaurant in Arlington VA, the other day and ordered their steamed whole rockfish, which was listed as having a "market price." I usually don't order these items due to a variety of reasons, but knowing the average price of rockfish, and the fact that the server noted it would be perfect for two to share having had drinks and appetizers, I went ahead and ordered it. She also noted that it was based on weight, but that the average was around $25. It certainly made for a delightful dinner.

However, the price on the check listed it as $40. For one rockfish only large enough for two people's entrees (small eaters at that). I was somewhat miffed at the price. I assumed it would be around $20-$25 when I received the dish, including a 50% mark-up. There wasn't anything particularly extravagant about it; it came with the standard chili lime sauce. This experience only further justified not ordering "market price" items.

I do know my fish, and this certainly was not worth $40. I did not say anything due to the circumstance and ended up paying for the both of us out of embarrassment. What's the deal with "market prices" at restaurants? Should we assume a 100% mark-up? I'm having trouble grasping restaurant pricing with these things.

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  1. Market pricing is easy to understand when the price for an item varies. OTOH, there should be no hesitation in either asking for a price and for the server to give one. If you order the item without knowing the cost you've essentially said "anything goes".

    The excuse that the price varies by weight has, to me, a simple response--find out how much it is. Again, if you order the item without knowing the cost you've essentially said "anything goes". If you are afraid of looking cheap -- again...

    I was a waiter for years, and in some high end places. IMO there should be no hesitation or condescending attitude on the waiters' part.

    1. I'm confused: did the server tell you before you ordered it (or as you were in the process of ordering it) that it would be around $25? If so, you've got a gripe in my mind.

      1. Prices for seafood can fluctuate quite a bit. We buy Dungeoness crab a lot and have found the price fluctuates anywhere from $5/b to $9/lb in Chinatown. That's an 80% price increase.

        I don't know anything about the rules of mark-ups on Asian MP seafood.

        1. On the few occasions I order at "market price" I ascertain the price per lb and give the server guidelines.. such as "no more than 2 lbs -- I don't wish to spend more than $25" -- by communicating my guidelines the server and I both know there will be no hassle if they're obliged.

          I think you needed to have gone the step further and just said "please have the chef select one at $30 or less".

          1. I may be a bad shopper, or I may be going to outrageous places, but I have never ordered a market price item that was less than $40 in the end. I just assume that I will be paying through the nose if I agree to this item. It is an awkward way of dealing with pricing.

            That being said, I like Karmalaw's approach, and will try this next time...

            1 Reply
            1. re: moh

              I like Karmalaw's approach too, but would hestiate to employ it. I would not be sure for it to be followed, and wouldn't want the hassle in the end.

              I have always found 'market price' to be a sure indicator of a verrrrrrrrrry large bill and have, in these instances, gone along with giving the restaurant carte blanche on my bill.