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Jan 25, 2009 10:58 AM

Acacia Restaurant in Lawrenceville

I recently had dinner in Acacia's Restaurant. The quality of the food was very good as usual but I was very disappointed in the appetizer. I ordered their grilled poached pear and cilantro marinated shrimp appetizer for $12. Another member of my party (we were six diners) ordered the fried pumpkin ravioli appetizer for $10. My appetizer consisted of only 3 shrimp that appeared to be medium shrimp. The pumpkin ravioli appetizer consisted of only 3 ravioli. I told the server that I was disappointed to receive 3 shrimp for $12 and the size of the shrimp was fairly small. She said she agreed with me. When I received the bill, no adjustments had been made for the appetizer and a 20% gratuity had been added on for a party of six. On the way out, I spoke to the manager who apparently had not been informed about my comments on the appetizer. He said that was a standard menu item and no one has ever complained. I decided to take it a step further and called the owner the following day. She told me these dishes were appetizer sized portions and reiterated that no one has ever complained. She said that the shrimp were 16/20 shrimp. She did offer to buy me an appetizer the next time I came in for dinner but I felt that my feedback as a customer was not valued. I was very surprised that they were not more accommodating, especially in these difficult times.

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  1. Sorry to hear that. We were there on our actual anniversary and had great service and a great meal. Good food and great service. We actually celebrated our anniversary thought at Gordon Ramsay's London that following Saturday.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. BelleJo - While I'm sorry that you were disappointed with your meal at Acacia, I believe the manager responded appropriately to your feedback by offering to buy you an appetizer. You respond that you were "surprised that they were not more accommodating. especially in these difficult times." What may I ask were you expecting them to do? To be honest , three shrimp and three ravioli sound appropriate for an appetizer portion and the pricing does not seem out of line for an upscale restaurant like Acacia (granted the last time I dined there was over 10 years ago).

        1. re: bgut1

          I think the manager should have done something like remove the price of the appetizer on the spot. Instead, I had to take it a step further and call the owner. Frankly, I found her a bit defensive and thought that her response was presumptuous that I would return there for dinner considering their lack of interest in my concerns at dinner the night before. I have been a long-time customer of Acacia (about 15 years or so). These are fairly new owners. The previous owners were more hospitality oriented.

          1. re: fletchphil

            Any idea what happened to Acacia's old chef/owner Brian Brodowski ?

      2. I don't know BelleJo.... while price vs. value is one thing, I fail to see the major issue. You ordered it, you apparently ate it, you apparently liked it enough to not send it back, the owner, once she found out about it, offered you a free appetizer... what more could have been done? I will admit; I was, once, long ago, a restaurant owner, and while my opinions are probably shaped by that, I know of no restaurant that would give money back on a dish that was actually eaten.

        7 Replies
        1. re: George St. John

          What's the difference between comping an appetizer that has been eaten versus offering a free appetizer the next time you come to the restaurant? I fail to see the distinction.

          1. re: BelleJo

            Fair point, though -- and again, speaking as someone who used to own a restaurant -- owners are hesitant to comp food after it's been eaten. We have no problem taking the food back, but if you've already eaten it... Look at it from their perspective -- it may "seem" like the patron is trying to get one over. You'd be surprised how often I would get word that someone thought the steak was too tough, the fish undercooked, etc., only to go to the table to find the dish licked clean. It can be.... aggravating. (Not saying that was your intent; clearly it wasn't. But you can understand the point, especially considering the server failed to inform the manager about your issue.) So she offered you a free app next time. Take it or leave it, I suppose. I don't think there was any malicious intent behind it, though!

            1. re: George St. John

              I agree with BelleJo that it was handled poorly. When I have complained about the food in a good restaurant or the waitstaff recognized the service was lacking, I received a comp at the same time I dined. In the past 2 months, I went to the Frog and Peach and they were kind enough to give 2 extra deserts because the service was slow. Due Mari in New Brunswick, immediately gave me a new appetizer, when the first one had too much oil it. Having to come back to pay for a full meal just to get an appetizer reminds me of the coupons in the local pennysaver.

          2. re: George St. John

            George: In your experience, is it common for diners to complain about portion size?

            Not suggesting that BelleJo is unreasonable in her objection to the serving (let's stipulate for the sake of discussion that the three shrimp serving was not good value) -- just wondering how common a complaint this is. It seems like a really hard one for a restaurant owner to handle, particularly where the quality of the food is good and diners have different subjective expectations of how much food is enough and what sort of premium they're willing to pay for someone else to buy, cook and serve their food.

            (Directing this you, George, with the thought that you may have some insight on this based on conversations with other restaurant owners -- I have no doubt that your restaurant served unquestionably generous portions! Of course, all comments very welcome. I think this is interesting.)

            1. re: trent_onion

              Of course I'm not George, but I kinda feel like with regards to amounts the diner is the one obligated to ask what the situation is before ordering, especially with appetizers if it is not spelled out on the menu. But I'm a big eater, so I guess I tend to be more concerned with this point than most people. Three shrimp for that much money is NOT good value, but I definitely see George's point about eaten food being a done deal. Probably BelleJo should have asked to see the manager when the food arrived rather than mentioning it to the waitress and complaining about it after the meal to the manager. She needed to express her expectations in this situation more clearly. I'll probably try Acacia eventually, but I definitely won't be ordering the shrimp!

              1. re: trent_onion

                In my experience, diners complain about.... everything! Just kidding, mostly. Portion size is not something I generally had to deal with. Generally speaking, if someone is unhappy with portion sizes, most restaurants will do "something." I would bet that had the server gone to the manager in the first place, this would have been avoided. Something would have gotten done, probably an offer for something free, dessert, coffee, something like that. But to answer your question... no, not really. It's a rarity. Generally speaking, people keep quiet if they're unhappy about the portion size. You may overhear them compaining to their companions, but to call the restaurant the next day seems slightly.... excessive. Never happened to me, at least concerning portion size. (though I have had some doozy "next day" calls that resulted in firings, changes to the menu, and in one memorable moment, the realization my sous chef had two wives in two different countries) And while I haven't actually said it yet... three "medium sized" (BelleJo's words) shrimp for $12 is right about in line, within a buck or two. Think about what satay chicken skewer apps will run at a Thai place, or, for that matter, what a shrimp roll (one large shrimp or two small shrimp) costs at a Japanese restaurant. BelleJo's complaint -- in my opinion -- was not really valid.

                1. re: George St. John

                  It's probably less about the shrimp and more about the lack of interest in feedback from a customer. When you, George, state that "to call the restaurant the next day seems slightly excessive", I am surprised to hear that from a former restaurant owner. No matter what the industry, it seems to me that we all should invite feedback from our client base. Based on such feedback, we all strive to improve what we do. I found the owner and manager of Acacia uninterested in hearing what I had to say and somewhat dismissive. Even if they did not agree with me, it would be in their interest to keep me happy. Otherwise, I go off and start posting about what I consider a negative experience on a message board like this one.