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Is an amuse-bouche usually free?

h
hsk Jun 12, 2009 10:05 PM

I normally expect to pay for whatevery I get at a restaurant, but whenever I've gone to a very expensive place and got offered something little before the meal starts it's always been free. To be fair, I've only ever had this maybe 4 times ever so "always" may not be meaningful.

I just had a very nice meal in a top-rated place (in the city where I live and hadn't been to in a while) where we were offered (and accepted) an amuse-bouche (although it was an Italian place and they used a different word). We ordered apps, pasta course and entrees, so it wasn't like we needed the extra food. It was a couple of tiny meatballs with a sauce and quite delicious. I thought it was offered as a bonus, although we were asked if we wanted it and we said sure, I'm pretty sure that previous times the amuse-bouche just came out without asking if we wanted it.

When the bill came we were charged $7 each for them. Everything was just great and the $14 wasn't worth talking about (given the size of the bill) so I didn't bring it up. I'm not upset at all, just curious whether it's common nowadays to charge for an amuse-bouche in high-end restaurants.

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  1. l
    Leonardo RE: hsk Jun 12, 2009 10:22 PM

    They have always been free for me.
    I've never heard of being charged.
    Sounds like a ripoff.
    But I wasn't there to witness the exchange, so can't be sure...

    1. al b. darned RE: hsk Jun 12, 2009 10:52 PM

      The few times one has been offered it has been free. Charging for it sounds bit cheap and tacky to me.

      1. c
        cimui RE: hsk Jun 12, 2009 11:10 PM

        Ugh, this does sound tacky. I have never, ever been charged for an amuse bouches. And they are frequently given in NYC restaurants.

        1. ipsedixit RE: hsk Jun 12, 2009 11:20 PM

          An amuse-bouche should never be charged to the diner.

          Unless the customer orders the item, if the restaurant provides it sua sponte, it should be on the house.

          1. x
            xanadude RE: hsk Jun 12, 2009 11:53 PM

            I wouldn't be horribly opposed to docking the tip in this case. Good service means no gotchas.

            2 Replies
            1. re: xanadude
              chicgail RE: xanadude Aug 31, 2010 01:12 AM

              Charging for the amuse buche would not have been the decision of the server, although, since it is usually an extra charge, it would have been very smart for him/her to make it clear to you up front that there was a cost to it. I wouldn't have taken it out on the server, but I would have hesitated to go back to that restaurant.

              1. re: chicgail
                syoung RE: chicgail Sep 12, 2010 06:43 AM

                That's one vew. Another view is that the server might have worded it in such a way as to imply no charge and thus was contributing to mislead.

            2. e
              ekdd RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 01:29 AM

              an amuse bouche is free... this must have been the restaurant trying to tack onto the bill probably asking if you wanted to try the special app of the house (or whatever they are trying to sell) regardless of the complete meal ordered. depending on how this is presented I could easily see how you felt it would be complimentary. The restaurant needs to be upfront about extra charges...especially if an item is "offered" like this

              1. hotoynoodle RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 03:55 AM

                an amuse bouche is a french custom, adopted by many american chefs, and there really isn't an italian "word" for it. cicchetti is the venetian name for very small tapas. was that the word used by the server? even so, not the same. italians would have antipasti before the 1st course.

                i have never served, nor received, an amuse as an option. it's given, or gotten, no charge, to start the meal. your server, possibly forced by his/her boss, pulled a fast one. bad taste in my mouth, even if the cost was minimal relative to the bill.

                14 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle
                  mbfant RE: hotoynoodle Sep 10, 2010 09:06 AM

                  The Italian word is "stuzzichino", though in Italy "appetizer" is gaining popularity for the tidbit that comes before the actual appetizer, which is the antipasto.

                  1. re: mbfant
                    Bill Hunt RE: mbfant Sep 11, 2010 07:25 PM

                    So, a pre-appetizer, appetizer?

                    Not quite the same as an amuse-bouche then?

                    In my experience, the amuse-bouche never appears on the menus, at least not where I have dined.

                    Thank you,

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                      mbfant RE: Bill Hunt Sep 11, 2010 11:14 PM

                      The stuzzichino at the top of a high-end meal is EXACTLY the same as an amuse-bouche and is usually presented with the compliments of the chef, lest there be any doubt. It is just that modern Italians sometimes use the English word "appetizer" to describe it, while retaining "antipasto" for what English-speakers would call appetizer. Waiters will often bypass the designation entirely and present the amuse-bouche as "il nostro piccolo benvenuto" or "il benvenuto dello chef" -- in other words calling it simply a "welcome," which couldn’t be clearer.

                      The verb stuzzicare means to stimulate or pique, hence a little something to whet the appetite. The so-called "stuzzi" mentioned elsewhere in this thread as bar snacks reflect the use of the word to mean yummy tidbits of indeterminate genre other than sweet (which would make them dolcetti). Elaborate bar snacks with aperitivi are a relatively new phenomenon in many parts of Italy, and rather than a Spanish word (tapas) or a Venetian (cicheti), evidently or a neologism, the appropriate Italian word, stuzzichini, has been adopted. I am assuming "stuzzi" is shorthand for "stuzzichini." I am not in the Happy Hour demographic so may have missed something.

                      1. re: mbfant
                        mbfant RE: mbfant Sep 12, 2010 04:41 AM

                        News from the front of Italian neologisms: I just bought the new Rome Gambero Rosso guide. One review complained that the stuzzichini served with the Champagne were banal and there was no "pre-antipasto". He didn’t specify what the stuzzichini were, but I am guessing that he thought they were banal because they were what a few years ago would have been called salatini, meaning salty things in a bowl like little crackers, perfectly normal to serve with drinks. That would have left stuzzichino to be used for the amuse-bouche. But the Happy Hour generation has bigger expectations of what should be served with drinks and thus needs a new term for the elaborate complimentary (the point of the thread) tidbit offered before anything arrives that the clients have ordered from the menu. That this restaurant didn’t offer it does not obviate the reviewer's need for the term.

                        1. re: mbfant
                          h
                          Harters RE: mbfant Sep 12, 2010 07:47 AM

                          FWIW, whilst "appetizer" is in common usage in American English; it isn't generally used in British English (not even with our spelling of "appetiser" - LOL).

                          I assume that Italians using the word are therefore nodding more towards the western side of the Atlantic, than the western side of Europe. Perhaps, it's because we Brits tend to use French rather than Italian words for things to do with food/cooking.

                          1. re: Harters
                            mbfant RE: Harters Sep 12, 2010 08:44 AM

                            "we Brits tend to use French rather than Italian words for things to do with food/cooking"

                            So does everybody, up to a point. However, "starter", the common Brit equivalent of appetizer, isn't French. We (US) also understand hors d'oeuvre (which, come to think of it, taken literally ought to be the proper name of the amuse-bouche, since it comes before the entrée, in the French sense). Often, of course, culinary French is altered (and don't get me started on what happens to culinary Italian). I forget how entrée is used in Britain, if at all, but in the US it means main course and in French it means starter. I refuse to use the word in English because I can't bear to misuse other people's languages, at least on purpose. So I'm a language snob. So be it.

                            Lord knows where or why the Italians picked up appetizer. The Gambero Rosso is particularly guilty of dragging in foreign terms when there are perfectly good Italian ones to do the job. But I think they are all big show-offs.

                            1. re: mbfant
                              h
                              Harters RE: mbfant Sep 12, 2010 09:12 AM

                              "Entree" isnt used in Britain at all (except for French restaurants and those assuming pretensions to be one). We would call it the main course.

                              In my youth, pseudo-posh restaurants used to describe starters as "hors d'oeuvres". But it was quite common for genuinely posh places to have an hors d'oeuvre trolley with a vast array of offerings - as a kid taken by my parents, it used to be great to point and have a waiter serve things to me.

                              I'm still quite taken by the trolley concept - but in recent years I've only seen cheese ones and then only in small town France.

                              1. re: Harters
                                pikawicca RE: Harters Sep 12, 2010 09:35 AM

                                Have you never encountered a "chariot of desserts" in France. Oh, my!

                                1. re: pikawicca
                                  h
                                  Harters RE: pikawicca Sep 12, 2010 01:20 PM

                                  Sounds good - but no, only the "chariot de fromage". Had a particularly good one at a place in a small village called Authuille (Pas de Calais) - about 20 cheeses, all from the region. It came after a ficelle picarde and ris de veau - and before a very disappointing "industrial" dessert. Bargain meal, in spite of the dessert, at €28 (about 18 months back)

                              2. re: mbfant
                                thew RE: mbfant Sep 12, 2010 10:00 AM

                                " I refuse to use the word in English because I can't bear to misuse other people's languages, at least on purpose."

                                i would say that, in this case, you are then misusing, or underusing, english, as entree is now an english word that means "main course"

                                1. re: thew
                                  mbfant RE: thew Sep 12, 2010 01:00 PM

                                  Yeah, but to me it sounds vulgar. I'm a dinosaur. Also, I live in a multilingual environment and, as a writer, editor, translator, and person who just has to get through the day, I tend to minimize use of terms that can be misunderstood. I live in a world without baseball metaphors. Even football. I will grant you this is a lot of baggage for a simple menu term. And I promise you that if I go to a restaurant in the US and my tablemate asks me what I want for an entrée, I don't say Oh do you mean appetizer or main course?

                                  1. re: mbfant
                                    o
                                    observor RE: mbfant Sep 13, 2010 11:58 AM

                                    I've lost the thread...did that OP get a stuzzi?

                                    1. re: observor
                                      Rubee RE: observor Sep 13, 2010 12:01 PM

                                      Yes...'It was listed on the bill as "stuzzi"':

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6274...

                            2. re: mbfant
                              Bill Hunt RE: mbfant Sep 12, 2010 05:14 PM

                              Thank you for that clarification. I am certainly learning something here, and will be putting it to use in May, when we head to Italy.

                              Appreciated,

                              Hunt

                      2. Sooeygun RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 04:51 AM

                        Could the OP clarify the phrase "we were offered (and accepted)". Do you mean the waiter asked you if you would be interested in it, you said yes and he brought it out? Or he brought it out unasked, and 'offered' it by putting it in front of you.

                        I am curious, as I have never been asked if I wanted the amuse bouche prior to it being brought out. It just shows up.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Sooeygun
                          jfood RE: Sooeygun Jun 13, 2009 05:38 AM

                          great question Sooey...will definitely change from an AB to a gotcha.

                          1. re: Sooeygun
                            thew RE: Sooeygun Jun 13, 2009 06:39 AM

                            this was my question as well. an amuse bouche is always just brought out. if they asked if you wanted it, and you ordered it, it isn't an amuse bouche, it's just a tacky sales technique

                            1. re: Sooeygun
                              h
                              hsk RE: Sooeygun Jun 13, 2009 08:08 AM

                              I was pretty sure I'd never been asked, either, the few times I've ever had an amuse bouche.

                              This time is was something like "The chef has a --- just a couple of bites of --- (described in detail), would you like to try it?" I can't remember the exact wording, I'm pretty sure there was no suggestion that it was free, I just assumed based on what was said. It was listed on the bill as "stuzzi" - I googled it and I guess it means tapa.

                              I wasn't upset at all, I paid the bill and tipped well, the service was very good. My dining partner had also assumed it was free and was pretty annoyed when I mentioned it afterwards, hence the reason for this post.

                              1. re: hsk
                                jfood RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 09:01 AM

                                Not AB. it was upselling. Live and learn.

                                " I'm pretty sure there was no suggestion that it was free" - then why the question when the bill included?

                                1. re: jfood
                                  h
                                  hsk RE: jfood Jun 14, 2009 06:58 AM

                                  Well there was the "impression" it was free.

                                  But I'm now subscribing to alanbarnes' very sage advice, "As a rule of thumb, if the server asks if you want it, you're going to pay for it." so no more dumb questions for me! :)

                              2. re: Sooeygun
                                al b. darned RE: Sooeygun Jun 13, 2009 11:45 AM

                                Good point, Sooeygun.

                                It sounds more like a sleazy sales tactic when you put it that way. The few times I have eaten upscale enough to have an AB offered, it was brought out and presented, not, "Would you care for...?" and never charged for it.

                                In the scenario described by the OP, I would have been "gotten" too. <blush!>

                                It's annoying to think an otherwise fine establishment has to stoop to such tactics. I don't splurge that often, and I would definitely vote with my feet the next time. I would also make it a point to call the place the next day and tell the manager why. And then I would tell all my friends. No, they won't go broke without my business, but I'd boycott them just the same.

                                1. re: Sooeygun
                                  pikawicca RE: Sooeygun Jun 13, 2009 12:45 PM

                                  I've never been asked, either.

                                2. s
                                  small h RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 05:46 AM

                                  If someone showed up at my table with a plate of food and asked if I wanted it, I'd assume it was free (and I'd be royally pissed off if it wasn't).

                                  I've frequently heard the the server say "this is a gift from the chef" when presenting the amuse bouche - then, I know for sure.

                                  1. p
                                    phantomdoc RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 05:58 AM

                                    On a trip to Rio I encountered the practice of placing some items on the table and charging if you ate them.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: phantomdoc
                                      s
                                      small h RE: phantomdoc Jun 13, 2009 07:15 AM

                                      That happened to me years ago in Frankfurt, with soft pretzels. I know not to drink the Pellegrino. And now I know not to eat the pretzels.

                                      1. re: small h
                                        pikawicca RE: small h Jun 13, 2009 12:45 PM

                                        Or the bread rolls.

                                        1. re: small h
                                          f
                                          FrankD RE: small h Aug 29, 2010 10:59 AM

                                          Yep, got fooled once with the mineral water on the table; never again.

                                        2. re: phantomdoc
                                          Servorg RE: phantomdoc Jun 13, 2009 09:23 AM

                                          Henceforth to be known as the "mini bar corollary" since these days all you have to do is open the mini bar in your hotel room and take something out to look at it and the computer charges you for it, whether you ate it or not.

                                          Me: "I didn't eat those cashews, I swear!" Hotel Cashier: "Is this result, from running your finger print and DNA off the cashew jar, through the National Mini Bar Computer Data Base your correct name, address and photo Mr. Servorg?" Me: "Well, yet but...." HC: "That's all I needed to know! Guilty!!!" "Pay up and get out" Me: "Mutter, sputter" as I pull at my shirt collar to release some of the steam rising up as I break out in flop sweat...

                                          1. re: Servorg
                                            jfood RE: Servorg Jun 13, 2009 09:32 AM

                                            jfood never takes the key for the minibar and every now and then still gets charged.

                                            1. re: jfood
                                              s
                                              small h RE: jfood Jun 13, 2009 09:37 AM

                                              I am working on my Indiana Jones quick-swap technique. Patent pending.

                                              1. re: small h
                                                boyzoma RE: small h Aug 29, 2010 01:18 PM

                                                I opened the mini-bar once at Le Meridien Etoile in Paris and put some food inside from dinner to eat in the morning. I not only got charged for the "bumping" of bottles in the bar, but got charged again in the morning when I took my food out! They had over $100 racked up on my mini-bar bill and I never even got to enjoy 1 single drink! (They did remove the charges later, though).

                                                1. re: boyzoma
                                                  s
                                                  small h RE: boyzoma Aug 30, 2010 01:51 PM

                                                  I did the same thing in the Paris Novotel. Where else am I supposed to keep my strawberries but in the fridge? I had a brief but intense discussion with the concierge and got the charge voided. It was unpleasant.

                                          2. re: phantomdoc
                                            c oliver RE: phantomdoc Jun 15, 2009 04:58 AM

                                            Yes, the "couvert." It usually had a couple of different bread, tapenade, cheese. And it was just brought, you weren't asked and you were charged. Unless we were really hungry, we would say no when it showed up. But if you didn't know, you'd have thought it was free.

                                          3. Caralien RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 07:18 AM

                                            I have never been charged for amuse-bouche; it has always been included in the price of the dinner (prix fixe or a la carte).

                                            I agree with others who have posted that charging is tacky, but if it was asked whether you'd like it instead of simply having it brought to the table? The charge is mildly justified, but still a turn off.

                                            1. h
                                              Harters RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 08:36 AM

                                              There is, of course, no such thing as "free".

                                              I normally see an amuse served when it's part of a table d'hote menu rather than a carte. Similarly a pre-dessert. On the rare occasions, when I've been served an amuse when eating off the carte, I havnt been charged separately but appreciate that the cost of it is built into the cost of other dishes I'm eating.

                                              1. alanbarnes RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 08:51 AM

                                                As a rule of thumb, if the server asks if you want it, you're going to pay for it. I've never paid for an amuse, but I've never been asked if I wanted one, either. The server just puts them on the table whether you want them or not. (And when DW doesn't - bonus time - I get two!)

                                                I've got an even more extreme example. At La Folie, a Michelin-starred place in San Francisco, we were asked if we wanted water. An affirmative answer got us a 1-liter bottle of Fiji - for which we were charged $19. The meal was great, but feeling taken advantage of left a bad taste in my mouth.

                                                If diners are already dropping $100+ per person, why does a restaurant feel the need to play these "gotcha" games? If you're gouging tourists, that's one thing. If you're the only upscale place in town, maybe you can get away with it. But when there is plenty of choice among fine dining establishments, I'm unlikely to return to the one that gamed me.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                  jfood RE: alanbarnes Jun 13, 2009 09:03 AM

                                                  you will find many water upsell threads.

                                                  how about an open bottle already on the table and as soon as you sit "would you like some water?" as server pours. That is a line in the sand auto-off the bill for jfood.

                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                    alanbarnes RE: jfood Jun 13, 2009 09:19 AM

                                                    I'm wise to the bottle of Pellegrino on the table. But this seemed particularly egregious.

                                                    First off, it was in SF, where it's technically illegal to serve water unless the customer requests it. Second, the water wasn't on the table, so there was no indication that the server was talking about bottled water. And finally, $25 (after tax and tip) for a bottle of water that's available at any grocery store for $2 is highway robbery, plain and simple.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                      jfood RE: alanbarnes Jun 13, 2009 09:22 AM

                                                      Oh absolutely jfood agrees with your assessment. HATES the bottled water upsell. He drinks San Jfood at home (nice well water) and does not need to spend $10-25 on others. MAJOR pet peeve and significant discussion.

                                                  2. re: alanbarnes
                                                    pikawicca RE: alanbarnes Jun 13, 2009 12:48 PM

                                                    Whenever I'm asked if I want water (in the U.S.), I reply, "tapwater, please" to forestall this type of shenanigans. I'm shocked, though, that the lovely La Folie pulled this.

                                                  3. Caroline1 RE: hsk Jun 13, 2009 11:19 AM

                                                    ... ... ... we were offered (and accepted) an amuse-bouche (although it was an Italian place and they used a different word).................................hsk

                                                    Maybe you should find out what the Italian word was? That could well be where the problem lies. '-)

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                      Sam Fujisaka RE: Caroline1 Jun 14, 2009 07:15 AM

                                                      "Un piatto quel costa mólto"

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                        Caroline1 RE: Sam Fujisaka Jun 14, 2009 07:31 AM

                                                        So it would seem!

                                                      2. re: Caroline1
                                                        Servorg RE: Caroline1 Jun 14, 2009 07:20 AM

                                                        I've always been under the impression (perhaps mistaken?) that the term is actually supposed to be "amuse-gueule".

                                                        1. re: Servorg
                                                          hotoynoodle RE: Servorg Jun 14, 2009 08:10 AM

                                                          that's actually considered the more "vulgar". in french, "guele" is slang, and is closer to the english "maw". technically translates to "animal's mouth".

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                            Servorg RE: hotoynoodle Jun 14, 2009 08:13 AM

                                                            Thanks. That's what I get for taking HS Spanish instead of French. Quel horreur!

                                                          2. re: Servorg
                                                            d
                                                            DeppityDawg RE: Servorg Jun 14, 2009 04:33 PM

                                                            "Amuse-gueule" is the original term; "amuse-bouche" was created later as a restaurant euphemism. But there's really no reason to avoid "amuse-gueule" in polite company, even though "gueule" by itself is kind of slangy. Just like you can say "cul-de-poule" or "cul-de-sac" in front of someone you would never imagine just saying "cul" to.

                                                        2. Boccone Dolce RE: hsk Jun 14, 2009 07:56 AM

                                                          It's not happened to us- if we are eating at a $$$ place (not often) they bring it out and say something about 'the chef extending a warm welcome' or whatever....

                                                          It reminds me of the time I was an upsold moron at a steak house- she offered fresh blue cheese or a sauce on everything (everything- even blue cheese stuffed olives in my martini) and we kept saying yes. At $3x 2 for each 'yes' - it was an easy extra $30 for her.
                                                          I have only myself to blame. Maybe this is why I hate blue cheese now?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Boccone Dolce
                                                            Caroline1 RE: Boccone Dolce Jun 14, 2009 09:45 AM

                                                            Hate the waitress! Don't waste the emotion on something as delicious as really good blue cheese! '-)

                                                          2. Karl S RE: hsk Jun 14, 2009 03:01 PM

                                                            The best approach when you encounter upselling like this after the fact is to inform management that, while you paid, it is a practice that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the customer. It does not amuse my bouche, and makes me reluctant to commend the restaurant to others.

                                                            You have to do this in a straightforward tone that does not appear to invite a comp or coupon - the point of this is not a negotiation but candid feedback, pure and simple.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: Karl S
                                                              Cheflambo RE: Karl S Jun 14, 2009 03:55 PM

                                                              This was not an AB -- which is usually delivered without your direct "acceptance". It was something offered (as in "would you like to start with an appetizer tonight?") and by accepting their offer, you agreed to pay for it. Its ALL upselling, subtle or otherwise. It is up to the customer to just say no (thanks).

                                                              1. re: Cheflambo
                                                                Karl S RE: Cheflambo Jun 14, 2009 04:57 PM

                                                                Actually, not everything is upselling. This was upselling.

                                                                And I did not suggest the customer not pay for it. I suggest the customer provide frank feedback to the management. The customer is entitled to say more than yes or no, right?

                                                                1. re: Karl S
                                                                  jfood RE: Karl S Jun 14, 2009 05:42 PM

                                                                  "Would you care for..." = upselling in most cases.

                                                                  Let the antennae rise before the anger.

                                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                                    s
                                                                    Sherri RE: jfood Jun 14, 2009 05:50 PM

                                                                    We learned this one many, many years ago when my son was asked "would the young gentleman care for some shrimp?" He answered in the affirmative. The table of twenty (eighteen adults and two children) was fully involved in conversation and no one heard the exchange between the waiter and the eight year old. Soon, several large platters of shrimp began to circulate. We all assumed that our host had ordered this and tucked in with gusto.

                                                                    This was upselling of the sneakiest variety and resulted in a $250 charge on the bill. The manager would not budge and if I could remember the name of the restaurant in Virginia Beach, I would post it in a heartbeat.

                                                                    1. re: Sherri
                                                                      pikawicca RE: Sherri Jun 14, 2009 05:55 PM

                                                                      I would've gone to jail before paying for this outrage. This is criminal.

                                                                      1. re: Sherri
                                                                        m
                                                                        Missmoo RE: Sherri Jun 15, 2009 12:23 PM

                                                                        That's disgusting. I won't even bring a kid a coke without getting the parents approval, and if I were you I would have been upset if it had only been a couple of shrimp for the boy, let alone platters for the table.

                                                                        1. re: Sherri
                                                                          s
                                                                          smartie RE: Sherri Jun 15, 2009 03:48 PM

                                                                          My dad taught us that we were NOT allowed to order or ask the servers for ANYTHING - all questions for more and our orders went through our dad. If we were ever asked if we wanted another drink or a dessert by a waiter we had to get our dad's attention first and he would make the decision.

                                                                          When I was waitressing and a child asked me for anything I always checked first with the parents.

                                                                2. g
                                                                  gryphonskeeper RE: hsk Jun 15, 2009 04:11 PM

                                                                  Yes it is, and what you experienced was tacky and lousy. Please name this restaurant so that we can vote with our wallets NOT to experience such low class, slimey upsells.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: gryphonskeeper
                                                                    thew RE: gryphonskeeper Jun 15, 2009 04:19 PM

                                                                    i dont think it was that slimey. they were asked. they did not inquire the price.

                                                                    something that will be free will not be asked about

                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                      s
                                                                      smartie RE: thew Jun 15, 2009 04:31 PM

                                                                      I guess it's a bit like being asked if we would like coffee at the end of the meal. We all KNOW we have to pay for it. I guess we need to be asked if we would like to 'buy' coffee or in this instance would you like to purchase some meatball apps?

                                                                      So you order a caesar salad and the server says 'would you like chicken on that?' It's not an offer of a freebie cos you know darned well that's an upsell.

                                                                      I feel the OP was duped in this example though.

                                                                  2. a
                                                                    akq RE: hsk Jun 15, 2009 05:04 PM

                                                                    As other posters have said, my experience has been that an amuse is simply brought to the table, with no question from the waiter as to whether we'd like it. If you don't want to eat it, you don't have to. I have seen one restaurant in Seattle with a price for the amuse *if* you order it as part of an ala carte meal. If you order a set menu, it's included in the menu price.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: akq
                                                                      e
                                                                      effang RE: akq Aug 27, 2010 08:32 AM

                                                                      very interesting topic. i feel like this is very shady, and i would definitely raise a ruckus.

                                                                      obviously, in a small establishment, i can understand the coffee comparison. however, at a find dining restaurant, where you expect some kind of "over the top" service/food, i would be VERY surprised to be charged when asked in such a manner.

                                                                      finally, if i refuse to pay, what recourse can i take? if i just walk? if i just leave enough for the meal less the amuse?

                                                                      for example, if i was charge 25$ for a bottle of water, there would be NO way i would ever pay that, nor 250 for shrimp that nobody wanted.

                                                                    2. o
                                                                      observor RE: hsk Aug 27, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                                      An amuse -bouche, by definition, is free of charge, so the OP could tell us the word used to describe this dish. Given that you ordered antipasti, primi and secondi dishes, I wonder what this could possibly be, let alone $7 for an amuse-bouche sized portion of meatballs.

                                                                      1. Caroline1 RE: hsk Aug 28, 2010 01:56 PM

                                                                        Okay. "Taxi Cab Remark" a year later, but here's my answer. NO amuse bouche is ever free, even when there is no charge for it on the check. If you don't believe me, try going into the restaurant, having the amuse bouche and a glass of water and leaving. Good luck with that one!

                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                          Servorg RE: Caroline1 Aug 28, 2010 02:23 PM

                                                                          A true amuse is "included" in the price of the meal...so if you get an "added" charge (over the price of what you ordered) for the unexpected an unasked for item then it can't be an amuse bouche.

                                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                                            Caroline1 RE: Servorg Aug 28, 2010 11:35 PM

                                                                            Okay. You're talking about price fix or tasting menus, not a la carte.

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                                              Servorg RE: Caroline1 Aug 29, 2010 01:37 AM

                                                                              Don't see why the rule doesn't work for a la carte ordering too? If you get an "unasked for, unexpected" bite of something, and there is no extra charge on your bill at the end of the evening for that "something," then it was an amuse bouche. Seems straightforward.

                                                                              1. re: Servorg
                                                                                chowser RE: Servorg Aug 29, 2010 09:42 AM

                                                                                What do you call it when you get an "unasked for, unexpected" bite of something, and there is an extra charge on your bill at the end of the evening for that "something?" An amuse is an extra part of the meal. the tap water is "included." Not everyone expects an amuse and not everyone will get it, so it's not included, it's extra.

                                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                                  Servorg RE: chowser Aug 29, 2010 12:29 PM

                                                                                  "What do you call it when you get an 'unasked for, unexpected' bite of something, and there is an extra charge on your bill at the end of the evening for that 'something?'"

                                                                                  I call that a rip off.... ;-D>

                                                                                  And when you say that not everyone expects or will get an amuse I have to say I've never seen that. Every fine dining establishment I have ever been to that serves an amuse does so for everyone. Whether you eat said morsel or not is up to you. But everyone at the table gets one.

                                                                                2. re: Servorg
                                                                                  Caroline1 RE: Servorg Aug 29, 2010 11:00 AM

                                                                                  You have completely missed my point, Servorg,. Let me try again. If you go to a restaurant that standardly serves "free" amuse bouche, eat it, drink some water and try to leave without paying anything, you will not get away with it. Just because there is no charge for an item on the check does not mean it is "free" unless you can have it and it alone and not have to pay for anything. Now do you understand?

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                    Servorg RE: Caroline1 Aug 29, 2010 12:23 PM

                                                                                    If you get up after water and an amuse and walk out I'm willing to bet the restaurant would let you leave without charge. They just wouldn't let you come back again. Let's call an amuse for what it is. An extra the restaurant gives you at "NO ADDITIONAL" cost. People can say that means it's free. People can say that you paid for it as part of your meal. I say you didn't ask for it. You weren't expecting it. And you didn't cough up any more money than you already knew about via the menu or verbal price you got when you ordered. YMMV

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                      j
                                                                                      joonjoon RE: Caroline1 Aug 31, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                                                      Caroline, have you tried this experiment? Without some kind of evidence I don't think you can make a blanket statement like that.

                                                                                      Either way I'm not sure what you're arguing for - an amuse is free for those dining at the restaurant. Let me give you a counterpoint - if I go to a restaurant with someone and we get served an amuse, then only one person orders a meal, the other person's amuse is still free.

                                                                                      1. re: joonjoon
                                                                                        h
                                                                                        Harters RE: joonjoon Aug 31, 2010 10:10 AM

                                                                                        That one doesnt really fly, joonjoon - you don't normally get served an amuse until after you've ordered (before then it's canapes, which will have been accounted for in the drinks prices).

                                                                                        That said, I have a sense that this thread is now going round in conversational circles. Have we not all agreed that, whatever else an amuse may be, it is not something that is separately charged for as detailed by the OP.

                                                                                        1. re: Harters
                                                                                          o
                                                                                          observor RE: Harters Aug 31, 2010 01:02 PM

                                                                                          Yes, but I am still wondering what the item was he was offered, if not an amuse. It seems particularly strange given all the other food he had ordered that there was this mysterious "other" course.

                                                                                          1. re: observor
                                                                                            j
                                                                                            joonjoon RE: observor Aug 31, 2010 01:12 PM

                                                                                            Good point - I've never received an amuse that could be mistaken for an appetizer. An amuse should be a 1-2 bite and done snack.

                                                                                            1. re: observor
                                                                                              h
                                                                                              Harters RE: observor Aug 31, 2010 01:34 PM

                                                                                              I think the OP explains it upthread. It seems to have been the Italian equivalent of a Spanish tapa and the diners were asked if they would like to try it. Now I agree that these are weasel words that might have suggested it was free, but really wasnt. That said, in the normal course of events, an amuse just appears without being discussed first - so one might assume that this was chargeable. It certainly wasnt an amuse by any standards normally applied.

                                                                                              And to take joonjoon's point, I've also never had an amuse that could be mistaken for a starter - although I have had starters that were small enough to be an amuse. :-)

                                                                              2. a
                                                                                akachopper RE: hsk Aug 29, 2010 10:54 AM

                                                                                This has been bothering me for awhile. As a birthday celebration a few years ago, 4 of us went to Manresa in Los Gatos CA. We got a 3 course dinner and dessert with paired wines and some champagne, but nothing too extravagant.

                                                                                The bill was $645.

                                                                                I was a bit tipsey that night and didn't look critically at the bill. The next day I started marveling about the price and pulled out the bill. We each received 3 amuse-bouches and were charged $10 for each - that added $120 to the bill total.

                                                                                As this was a few years ago, I recall the server asking us something about the amuse-bouche, perhaps "if we were interested in a little taste from the chef". Like most people who posted here I had never been charged for amuse-bouche before so didn't expect to be charged. It's been 5-6 years since this happened but I'm still annoyed about being charged for it!

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: akachopper
                                                                                  Caroline1 RE: akachopper Aug 29, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                                                  Since an amuse bouche is literally supposed to be one bite, if the entire meal was billed at $10.00 every time you put a bite of food into your mouth, can you imagine the HUGE mouthfuls people would soon be taking? You paid $120.00 for 12 bites of food. Ridiculous! Well.... Unless it was a nice bite of Iranian caviar or truffled foie gras. Was it? Do you remember? If it was a pumpkin ravioli, I would thrash the chef!

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                    o
                                                                                    ospreycove RE: Caroline1 Aug 29, 2010 11:32 AM

                                                                                    Hey, "Are you interested in a little Louis XIV?" After dinner, this is asked quite often at, "Build the order", table cloth places.......Do you think that will be free?? Think again, or "Would you like dessert? I think the answer is obvious. This works when there is an obvious, Alpha host at the table and the waitperson directs all comments to him/her, hoping to inflate the ego of "Mr./Mrs. Big". After a few hours of drinks/wine and several courses, when the "Louis XIV" question comes, does Mr./Mrs. Big want to seem like a tourist rube.....nope, so "Sure waiter, that sounds good".

                                                                                2. Bill Hunt RE: hsk Aug 31, 2010 06:50 PM

                                                                                  Was the word used, "antipasti?" If so, then you likely ordered an appetizer.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                    Rubee RE: Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 06:59 PM

                                                                                    I agree.

                                                                                    The OP later mentions it's listed on the bill as "stuzzi" which, when I've seen it on an Italian menu, are commonly "bar snacks"/small plates and not free. Unfortunately, this situation sounds like a misunderstanding as the OP said "they used a different word" than amuse bouche and was asked "would you like to try it?" before it was brought out to the table (neither which would lead me to believe it was an amuse). Stuzzi is basically an Italian tapa. Ex: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hellokit... The price point sounds right too as $5-8 dollars is what I've paid for stuzzi.

                                                                                    1. re: Rubee
                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: Rubee Aug 31, 2010 07:37 PM

                                                                                      Ah, I had missed "stuzzi." [Note to self - read every word, of every post.... ]

                                                                                      With a pure amuse bouche, I have never been charged. However, I do feel confident that the cost of such is built into my tab. Is it itemized? I have never seen that. Did I pay for it? Obviously. Same for the cookies, that the valet puts on the seat of my auto.

                                                                                      In the end, I do expect to pay for it all.

                                                                                      For some reason, I do feel better if the water, and the soiled teaspoon are not itemized on my bill. Let me wonder.

                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                        Servorg RE: Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 08:10 PM

                                                                                        "However, I do feel confident that the cost of such is built into my tab."

                                                                                        So that begs the question. Are the places that don't give us an amuse just dipping their hands that much deeper into our pockets? Shouldn't we demand our amuse?

                                                                                        As to the cookies. I keep sitting on them (not expecting cookies on my car seat) so I find that particular grace note a crumby idea.... ;-D>

                                                                                        1. re: Servorg
                                                                                          Bill Hunt RE: Servorg Aug 31, 2010 08:37 PM

                                                                                          Without demanding that all restaurants post their P & L statements on-line, for us to dissect, we will never know. We can only guess.

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                          BTW - great word play on those cookies. Glad that I did not have a mouthful of red wine, or I'd be cleaning the laptop. Well done!

                                                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                                                            h
                                                                                            Harters RE: Servorg Sep 1, 2010 02:29 AM

                                                                                            "Shouldn't we demand our amuse? "

                                                                                            No. We should demand the end to amuses (with their poncy French airs)and demand the return to real food.

                                                                                            What pisses me off most about them is that, often, when you've ordered, say, the soup for a starter, you then get an amuse of soup. Although it doesnt piss me off as much as the places that serve amuse-sized starters - like a recent meal where the starter was two black pudding & quails egg "Scotch egg". Delicious - but literally two mouthfuls does not a starter make.

                                                                                            1. re: Harters
                                                                                              l
                                                                                              Lizard RE: Harters Sep 1, 2010 02:36 AM

                                                                                              Erm, speak for yourself Harters. No one makes you eat the amuse bouche. I don't like ones that are poorly thought out, but I appreciate the brief displays of the kitchen's experimentations and alternative offerings (when I can afford to go to a high end restaurant that offers such a thing).

                                                                                              1. re: Lizard
                                                                                                j
                                                                                                joonjoon RE: Lizard Sep 1, 2010 07:21 AM

                                                                                                Amen. I love getting a little amuse at the start of a meal.

                                                                                              2. re: Harters
                                                                                                chicgail RE: Harters Sep 1, 2010 03:10 AM

                                                                                                Plenty of places to go to -- most of them well-known national chains -- where you don't have to worry about "poncy French airs" or amuse bouches. Perhaps you would be happier if you limited your dining out to those establishments.

                                                                                                1. re: Harters
                                                                                                  h
                                                                                                  Harters RE: Harters Sep 1, 2010 08:57 AM

                                                                                                  Apologies for my attempt at humour - I had thought it so blatantly obvious that it was a response to Servorg's equally light-hearted comment that no-one would take me seriously. Clearly I was wrong - but thanks in particular to chicgail - wonderfully snobby post which I assume was also mean to be humourous. LOL.

                                                                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: Harters Sep 3, 2010 09:19 PM

                                                                                                    Oops - the humour went completely over my head. Sorry that I was so daft there.

                                                                                                    Apologies,

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                  2. re: Harters
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: Harters Sep 3, 2010 09:18 PM

                                                                                                    My feelings are diametrically opposed to yours, in every way.

                                                                                                    I say that the chef should be able to offer little tastes of whatever they want.

                                                                                                    As said above, just refrain from eating it. Simple as that.

                                                                                                    I have found that often, those "little tastes" make their way onto many menus.

                                                                                                    Just did a "chef's tasting menu" at the restaurant of a classically trained chef, and between the 9 courses, we were treated to 10 amuse courses. Two of the regular courses had been offered in the amuse courses on our previous visit.

                                                                                                    Please do not share your thoughts with any chefs, as the rest of us will be as mad as you seem to be. Just keep those thoughts to yourself, and everyone will be better off.

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                    [Edit] Please see above. I missed the humour completely. I could not imagine that you had written what I read, but took you squarely to task, based on the comments themselves. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

                                                                                              3. re: Rubee
                                                                                                o
                                                                                                observor RE: Rubee Sep 5, 2010 06:48 PM

                                                                                                This is terrible. You go into a restaurant and they hand you a menu indicating what they are selling. There should be no additional questions from the waitstaff...you see what they sell and you order accordingly. The OP ordered appetizers and first and second courses, there is no need to sell additional "small plates". I get tired of businesses assuming that money is just coming to them without giving anything. I get tired of restaurants not feeling like they don't have to tell you what you are paying for (I love how even in a casual restaurant they will ask you if you want something and then - bing - it shows up as a charge without them feeling the need to inform you of that). It's really awesome for people who can just throw money around and don't give a crap, but for some people money is a thing to be managed carefully. To think that they don't need to inform you that there is a charge for something is sneaky and rude.

                                                                                                EDIT: And any place that charges $7 for an amuse bouche-sized dish is awful, unless that was one hell of an amazing bite of cuisine.

                                                                                                1. re: observor
                                                                                                  Servorg RE: observor Sep 5, 2010 06:57 PM

                                                                                                  "This is terrible. You go into a restaurant and they hand you a menu indicating what they are selling. There should be no additional questions from the waitstaff...you see what they sell and you order accordingly."

                                                                                                  That would effectively wipe out the off menu, verbally presented nightly specials. While it's true I have a bug about the wait staff giving me prices on the specials (appetizers and mains) as they present them (instead of making me ask the prices of each one), in no way, shape or manner would I want the practice of offering specials to be done away with.

                                                                                            2. Withnail42 RE: hsk Sep 6, 2010 05:10 PM

                                                                                              It was a very tacky move on the restaurant's part.

                                                                                              Clearly it wasn't an amuse--bouche but just some random plates they sent out in the hope of making a couple of quick bucks. Perhaps they were components of a bigger dish which they tried to salvage.

                                                                                              I'd be wary of a place that choses to operate like that.

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