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Would you send it back? [moved from General Topics]

Was out for dinner the other night and ordered a dish that the menu described as...

"Fiocchi pasta with house cured bacon, english peas and cambozola cheese."

It sounded amazing, the flavours all compliment each other.

When it arrived it was drenched in tomato sauce. I didn't know what to say. I have nothing against tomato sauce but it ruined the dish and, I felt, it should've been mentioned on the menu. Debated sending it back but didn't want to be the fussy diner in the group.

Would you have sent it back? Or is one to expect that a pasta always be served in a tomato sauce?

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  1. This is such a difficult dilemma. If you get an improperly-cooked steak, always send it back, IMO, because there's really not a lot of room for discretion where the term "medium-rare" is concerned. I think the menu or the server should've made clear that it was a tomato based dish. From reading the ingredients, my assumption would've been identical to yours; that it was a white pasta dish that the cambazola would sauce. But therein lies the rub; the word "assumption." I do tend to ask a lot of questions when I'm going over a menu if I feel the service is under-informed or unenthusiastic to avoid situations like this, because I don't like to be the fussy one either. Since you said you had nothing against tomato sauce, if you're not allergic, if it tasted good despite your missed expectations, I think I'd have just let it go. And on a passive-aggressive moody kinda night, I might just sit there ostentatiously eating bread only, hoping that the server would ask me if something was wrong. : ) In which case I would be really happy to tell them.

    1. Absolutely send it back. It reads like a white pasta sauce dish. You didn't assume, rather, they mislead. That difference would lead me to send it back. Now if you're perfectly groovy with the red sauce, then mangia.
      You would have been well within your rights to re-order.

      12 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        Don't see how the description was misleading or how you could assume it could be a white sauce.

        1. re: monku

          Really? It totally reads like an Alfredo sauce. Peas? Gorgonzola? It does not read like a red sauce pasta dish.
          I'll agree to disagree, but I'd still send it back.

          1. re: monavano

            Nothing surprises me.
            I guess my disagreement is your statement "they mislead".

            1. re: monku

              Misled-correcting my misspelling. But yes, they misled by leaving out a key ingredient. It comes across as a white sauce dish. No way, no how would I be expecting tomato sauce.

              1. re: monavano

                If the restaurant did mislead, one has to wonder why would the restaurant want to mislead.

                Does it have extra red sauce laying around, but fears that people actually prefer white sauce?

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I doubt it was intentional. The restaurant needs to do a better job with describing the dish. I wonder if anyone else sent back the dish for the reason the OP describes. That may have prompted a more accurate re-write.

                  1. re: monavano

                    Agree, it wasn't intentional. More information was necessary.

                2. re: monavano

                  it's not misleading. all you have to do is ask. just as if you had a food allergy it is *YOUR* responsibility to tell someone. you can't order something, ask no questions, and then complain when something is in it that you didn't expect. customers in restaurants have gotten out of control with their nonsense. expecting the restaurant to eat the food cost for this person's mistake is craziness.

                  1. re: gatorhistory

                    So we cannot rely on menus to give us an idea of what the food is we are ordering, even when they offer descriptions that would seem to do precisely that?

                    1. re: gatorhistory

                      Oh, please. It's a red sauce pasta dish that is not described as such. Big oversight and they need to rethink how they describe their dishes. Look at the responses here! I'm not the only one who would read it as the OP did. So, don't go there with me and spare me a sanctimonious lecture from whatever pedestal you're on. I'm not asking for minutiae, or a thesis, or being particularly needy, I just want the basics m'am.
                      In that, they failed.

                      1. re: gatorhistory

                        It is misleading, and it's ridiculous to put on the diner the onus to ask about every possible sauce a dish might have that isn't mentioned in in the menu description. Now, if the OP actually had a medical condition of course it would be the sensible thing to ask, but if a dish is described as having bacon, peas and Cambazola cheese, then I would not expect it also to have to have a tomato sauce.

              2. re: monavano

                When I read the description, I thought the ingredients were the sauce... maybe with olive oil.

                I personally would have sent it back if I was dining with friends or family. But if it was a business dinner, I prob would have just picked at it, unless others returned their food.

              3. I'm afraid that years of dining out and enjoying great food coupled with a general passion for all the tastiest of food and drink have thoroughly developed my inner food prick. Sure, sometimes my outer Dr. Jekyll prevails, but I have a feeling, in your situation it may not have turned out that way.

                You see, a food prick never sends food back. Instead, anything below par sits uneaten on the plate to be cleared by the server in as close to the state in which it was served as possible. It is to be a testament to the kitchen's inadequacy. Refusing to send a plate back is simply his way of saying, "You f*cked up once, I have no intention of encouraging you do so twice."

                Similarly, a food prick does not devote much time to discussing the inadequacies of an unacceptable dish. He simply notes the basic problem, gently pushes the plate away, and waits patiently while his companions finish their food (assuming they want to do so). If asked by the server, a matter-of-fact explanation of the flaw(s) is provided.

                22 Replies
                1. re: MGZ

                  Oh, goodness. I'm a food prick. Completely different situation, but same emotional scenario: I got a sandwich with a few hairs in it and when I sent it back the server asked me if I wanted another one.
                  Seriously? Ah...no; what with the two bites I had and the HAIR IN MY THROAT, I couldn't eat another bite. thanks anyway.

                  1. re: MGZ

                    I can't afford to be a "prick." Paying for something that I don't use is a waste of my fixed income. Sending the food back sends a message to the kitchen and wait staff that an order is unacceptable. Of course, it makes it hard on you because your dining companions will have finished maybe, before you even start. However, asking to have the whole table sent back so everyone's food can be eaten at the same time -- that's being a prick. Or asking the manager to comp to unacceptable order and then go hungry, that's cutting off your nose to spite your face.
                    Send it back.

                    1. re: MessyVirgo

                      Ha! you took the words right out of my typing hands!
                      When a foodie cuts of their nose to spite their face, doe they eat it?
                      C'mon folks, who wins when one behaves in such a manner? Maybe I just don't have money to burn like that.

                      1. re: MessyVirgo

                        there's that, and then there's the fact that the kitchen won't ever find out that you didn't touch your meal -- the bus staff will dump it in the garbage, the server will count his/her tip and total table sales, and the manager and the kitchen will go on, completely unaware that you were unhappy with the meal that you ordered but didn't eat. And even if they *do* get the message, that "Hey, the guy at table 6 didn't touch his pasta marvelosa" -- they have no idea why. Did you get an attack of indigestion? Decided you weren't hungry after all? They're wait staff and kitchen staff...not mindreaders.

                        They can't know there's something wrong unless you open your mouth and say so.

                        They can't make it right if they don't know there's something wrong.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Servers, bring your crystal ball to work with you, and your powers in divination.

                      2. re: MGZ

                        Does it occur to you that your behavior might make your table mates uncomfortable? It just seems self-indulgent and pointless.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          MGZ,

                          How does being passive-agressive in your example get you anything in the long-run?

                          Sure, you've made your point, but you've left the restaurant hungry and out the $$ you paid for the dish.

                          Maybe there is some satisfaction in shaming the restaurant (assuming the waiter even cares and relays your concerns to the kitchen and/or management), but when I go out to dine, my primary goal isn't to "make a point" but to ... (you know) ... eat!

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            A food prick subscribes to the notion that life is too short, and tasty morsels too available, to eat lousy food. Similarly, he believes that the cost of an entree is typically below that of his convictions. And, keep in mind, food pricks rarely have much money, that's what makes them so unforgiving.

                            Unmet is the server who is not intrigued by an almost untouched plate and thus compelled to inquire. As noted, a simple, matter-of-fact explanation is always shared, ā€œIā€™m afraid these scallops are quite cold and significantly overcooked.ā€ No complaints, no bitching. Tales of such aberrational behavior are quickly shared by staff and kitchens seem to always learn of the presence of a food prick.

                            Remarkably, it may seem to some, a food prick is rewarded. The price of the offending dish is never on the check, nor is that of the apologetic drink sometimes sent from the back of the house. Tales are even told of one food prick who was given a tour of the kitchen, in addition to a digestif, for his frankness. Moreover, because he does not clamor or whine he is never punished by adulterated substitutes or hard feelings from a server.

                            As for payment, a food prick leaves a tip equal to his usual percentage of the total. One has a habit where he supplements the base tip with the cost of the rejected item.

                            Recall that a food prick breaks bread with those he knows and who know him. An offensive dish is taken in stride as he values cool and stays light of heart. In fact, a food prick (like his outer Dr. Jekyll) never pouts and continues to entertain his guests - "It's just food," he comforts. Those who know him and his standards are not uncomfortable. People generally are not when confronted with affability and graciousness, particularly from a man born with his tongue partially implanted in his cheek.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              and the food prick wears his martyrdom like a cross so that all may know his suffering and patience with the unwashed cretins who dare appear in his presence.

                              1. re: MGZ

                                MGZ,

                                What does a food prick do when he goes and buys a lottery ticket but the counter person does not provide him the numbers he requested, but he eventually wins the lottery with the incorrect ticket?

                                Does the food prick then sit at home and just let the lottery ticket lay there in waste as a sign of protest for incompetent counter person service?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Et tu, Ipse. (You're taking the fun out of this.)

                                  As to your analogy. When a food prick orders Osetra, but is served Beluga, he says "Bring on the Mother-of-Pearl."

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    MGZ,

                                    I'm glad we can all take this in good spirits. (After I posted, I was worried you might take it the wrong way)

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      For six months a year this skin tolerates the Atlantic without a wetsuit.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        now that's a thick skin.

                                        if "foodie" is to be used as a pejorative, I think I prefer "food prick"

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          Indeed. Hence the inherent humor in using the term for self-reference (or so I thought).

                                          A food prick certainly views the term "foodie" as a pejorative. To him, it's like being 15 and having someone say he's "a cute little boy."

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            "who's grown up so big? who has? I bet you'll have the girls throwing themselves at you! won't you? won't you?

                                            yeah talk to me like I'm your dog.

                                            although I did sort of like (despite its inherent pretension) the term used on the WashPo food chat "gastronaut" at least it implies a level of adventurousness.

                                            I'll stick with "food prick" I appreciate the self-deprecation.

                                2. re: MGZ

                                  You, my friend, get it.
                                  All hail the gracious food prick .....

                              2. re: MGZ

                                I'm curious how you tip in this situation. Do you tip?

                                1. re: monavano

                                  Why wouldn't you? Surely not the server's fault.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Oh, I know. I would tip, but then again, I would not sit there like a pouty child and let my food go untouched.I'd speak up and GIVE THE RESTAURANT THE OPPORTUNITY to make things right.

                                    1. re: monavano

                                      On a tour of the NY CIA the tour guide, a recent graduate told us that a restaurant would gladly replace a substandard meal rather than have an unhappy guest. It is much more expensive in bad will than the cost of a meal. She used the example of a hair care commercial. You will tell two friends, who will tell two friends...etc.. If you just sit there and pout, hoping someone will notice, you are the one who suffers. Its like carrying a handful of crap in your pocket waiting to throw it at whoever you think is responsible. That way its your pocket that stinks all day, and maybe theirs for a second or two.

                              3. I would've sent it back, simply because I don't think tomato lends itself well to the other ingredients mentioned.

                                1. The description of the dish should have mentioned the sauce's most basic component, the tomato. Failure to do so justifies sending it back.

                                  I had a similar, although less egregious experience a while back. I ordered a slice of NY cheesecake and it arrived with a strawberry sauce atop it. The description made no mention nof a strawberry topping, nor did the waitress mention it when I placed the order. And I'm not a strawberry fan. Nevertheless, I scraped the sauce aside and ate the cheesecake dutifully rather than send it back. The difference between my situation and yours is that the cheesecake was not completely compromised. If it had been, I would have sent it back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    The first sentence of Perilagu Khan's describes the situation and remedy perfectly.