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Disapointment at Oceanos - how would you have handled it? [moved from New Jersey board]

Last week, my fiance treated me to dinner at Oceanos to celebrate our "anniversary". I've been there a few times before and love the fresh seafood. The owner, Peter, was very nice and came to our table a few times. He readily recommended the black sea bass, saying it was swimming the day before. I love sea bass, and was leaning that way, so that's what I chose.

When he came over to check on our dinner, I told him that mine was not hot. You could tell it had been sitting around for a while, and pretty dried out. He offered to take it back and heat it up for me, and I said, pointing to areas of the fish, "No thanks, it is pretty well cooked here and here, I don't want it to dry out anymore." He smiled, asked my fiance how his meal was, and left the table. WTF?

I helped my fiance finish his dinner (isn't he a sweetie?) which was much hotter and very good. Our waitress didn't come around to check on our dinner, the busboy took away my uneaten dinner and that was the end of it.

I was really disapointed. I love black sea bass, and was so looking forward to fresh fish!!! What a waste of a beautiful fresh fish and my fiance's hard earned $37.

What do you do when you tell the owner about a problem and he ignores it? Anyone would have been able to look at my fish and tell it was overcooked - I would have overlooked/forgiven it not being hot if it had been properly cooked, it would still have been tasty. Can anyone give me some advice for I could have handled this better? Would you have pursued it, or just chalked it up to an off night, like I did?

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Oceanos Restaurant
2-27 Saddle River Road, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

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  1. I too would've been disappointed with the lack of response by the owner. However, your words could've been interpretated as willing to accept the fish the way that it was served. Instead, I would have handled it by asking them to take my plate away and replace it with another item. I'm sure the owner doesn't want you to be dissatisfied with your meal and therefore recommend that you call or write and advise of your dissapointment. Good Luck.

    1. An entree costing 37$ better be pretty close to perfect...I would have asked to have it sent back.

      1. Peter is a sweetheart, he did not understand your request I am sure.
        This is a great restaurant but it has gotten too pricey for me but quality costs more but I am broke.
        I am sure the next time you go back he will make it right.

        1. "No thanks, it is pretty well cooked here and here, I don't want it to dry out anymore."

          I think the other responses here are correct - this was perhaps not the best way to put your complaint. I would have flat out said that not only was it cold but it was overcooked, so heating it any further would not do it any favors as the meal was already ruined. Instead, your stated response seems potentially passive-aggressive in a not-quite or veiled-complaint, which the owner either did not know how to deal with or was confused about, whether you were ok with what you got or actually wanted a replacement.

          At that price point, I think you have every right to complain about an improperly prepared meal directly and pointedly. Don't tip-toe around it or expect your less-than-direct words to be interpreted the way you meant it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sockii

            I agree, you would have been better off saying what you thought - "it's already overcooked here and here so heating it up will dry it out further, I'd prefer a new one cooked properly and hot".

            1. re: hsk

              I would have just said "It's overcooked and already cold besides", not to be rude but because he asked, and you're paying a premium.

              It really is hard to come up with just the right words at times like that, I understand completely. you don't want to be nasty about itm and it can sound like an insult to the restauranteur, which most people don't want to do.

              1. re: EWSflash

                I agree its hard to phrase that without feeling that you are insulting the owner. BUT thats a good amount of $$ being spent for an entree ..even by nyc standards. He should have taken your cues and brought out a new properly cooked piece of fish. I personally like Oceanos but stopped going due to the prices.

          2. I've been in this same boat before. I ordered an ahi tuna that came out brown and mushy. The server came over and asked me if I wanted a to go for it. I said, "No. it's not fresh." She took it away and I was charged for it. I was surprised by that because I was working as a server at the time. When someone voiced their displeasure with a dish, for whatever reason, I'd try my best to let them have the kitchen re-make it, order something else, or get it comped. Luckily, I worked at a place that knew that comping $30 was better than them never coming back again.

            I know that I should have spoke to the manager and asked them why they are charging me for fish that was so bad I couldn't eat it, but I just didn't feel up to it. My feeling is that you SHOULD voice this, but I understand the numerous reasons why it doesn't happen.

            I also think that a server who doesn't come by a few minutes after you taste your meal and also fails to notice that you didn't eat your meal isn't a very good server at all and it should be reflected in the tip.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Azizeh

              I was going to ask why you didn't say that when she checked on your food but based on your last line I guess she didn't. Bad service. I get a teeny bit annoyed having to say "it's great" with my mouth full but not as much as when a server doesn't notice that I'm NOT digging in. Although I would have flagged her down, is it different if you're a server yourself? I would have thought you would be more critical.

              1. re: hsk

                I don't really have an answer for why I didn't speak up and say my food sucked. I guess it was mood based. For whatever reason, I didn't want to deal with it.

                When I was a server (before law school took over my life) I worked very hard. My restaurant beat good customer service into us. We were known for it. So, I am critical in the sense that I don't tolerate bad service. Being rude or disinterested isn't going to get you far with me. I worked very hard for my tips, so I wont reward outright bad service. Being busy and doing your best, another story. So, I am understanding when I see someone running around like a maniac.

                In regards to a re-cook, I lose a lot of respect for a place that doesn't stand behind their food 100%. I'd never return to that restaurant that served me the bad Ahi because I don't trust the quality of their ingredients. On that same vacation, my friends and I went to a different restaurant that had an apricot chicken. Sounded good, but the execution failed. It tasted like pie on chicken. Sickly sweet. They comped the entrees, we tipped a huge amount, and I would return to that place even though I didn't like my entree the first time. I wouldn't be afraid to try something new because I know they'd take care of me.

            2. With regards to your specific situation.....once someone comes over to the table to ask how everything is and you reply with disappointment, the house has a definite obligation to address your concerns. He/They should have provided you with a new dish. Personally, I would not expect him to take away a companion meal, but it would not be outrageous to expect him to do so and also provide a new dish for the companion meal as well when your new meal is brought out.....especially at Oceanos.

              My response would have been.....This fish is unacceptable, as it is both overcooked and cold. Either replace it with a new dish or take it off the bill.

              If no one had come to the table to ask how everything was (even the server) and I did not raise the issue of an improperly prepared and served dish......then I would either eat the overcooked and cold fish, or not, and weigh my consideration whether the restaurant was worth a return trip in the future.....given the facts, probably not, especially since there are other places like Varka, Nisi and Axia that could fit the bill for similar seafoods.