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A small rant...

I need to know if I am unreasonable or justified. We decided to try a new Thai restaurant on East 77 and 1st ave. It is not brand new because I understand about getting settled in. It has been open about 5 months. The appetizers came out at different times, but we were sharing so that was fine. Then my dining partner was served his entree and I was served nothing! I waited...and waited...and after about 5 minutes I said to start eating because it was getting cold. After 15 minutes of watching my partner eat, I quietly told the waiter to cancel my entree. The waiter was polite but very shocked. I will never go back there. To me that is one of my top no-nos regarding service at a restaurant. You always serve everyone at the table together. Any thoughts? Am I unreasonable about never returning because of this practice, or do you all feel the same way about this?

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  1. Seems that the waiter screwed up.
    Probably forgot to put in your order.
    Did you ask for the manager / owner?

    1. I believe it's a Western practice to serve everyone together. Then again, it's definitely a Western practice to have individual entrees. I'm in Hong Kong right now and it's not uncommon to have a table full of dishes, some of which get cold and arriving in no particularly sensible order. Since you were at a Thai restaurant, it's not something that surprises me in this regard.

      By the way you acted (at the restaurant, not this thread), you have had absolutely no experience with this not uncommon practice elsewhere in the world. Usually if you've been waiting longer than expected (10 minutes perhaps) you should check up with the waiter (maybe they forgot your order), instead of waiting 15 minutes then cancelling your entree.

      As far as service in general, I believe people do not set their expectations correctly with the place they are going as often as they should.

      6 Replies
      1. re: fooder

        I agree. It would have been expected for you to share every dish, or most of them, anyway.

        1. re: Pan

          that's not necessarily the case in many restaurants. if the waiter first asked HiM what she wanted and then asked her partner what he wanted, it should be assumed that they're each ordering separate entrees. it should then be expected that they'd want their entrees served at the same time.

          1. re: coasts

            I haven't noticed similar assumptions in Chinese restaurants, regardless of who ordered what. For the most part, it's the norm in Chinese, Thai, Malaysian (etc.) restaurants to share most of what is ordered in restaurants. One exception would be plates on rice or small bowls of soup or congee, sometimes. Do you disagree?

            1. re: Pan

              i'll say this as an American that eats in a lot of asian restaurants...when ordering, if I say "I'll have the...and she'll have the..." the waiter should understand that we're each ordering our separate meals. if I say "we'll have the...and the...", the waiter should understand that we're sharing. unfortunately, Ms. Coasts and I struggle to share many dishes, as she prefers seafood and i won't eat it.

              some places, Fatty Crab for one, will say that they serve family style and that entrees will be served when ready.

              1. re: coasts

                we'll versus I'll & she'll? bah! I think that is estimating someone's understanding of both etiquette and english highly. I come for the food, not the english. ymmv.

            2. re: coasts

              That is the way it has been in every restaurant I've ever eaten in.

              They do sometime have a "family style" option, but you ask for it - and most of the time that I have seen that used (such as for office outings) they STILL bring all the dishes out pretty much at the same time (in waves as fast as the waiter can carry them out, usually with the help of other waiters they come out pretty much all together).

        2. yawn. you do what you like. but it was poor service because the waiter did not tell you/your partner to eat. that should have been noticed within five minutes.
          I agree that many place expect you to eat when food is done. A very nice place in Vermont puts that on the menu -- food is served when food comes off the wok, not "all together."

          1. I think in that situation I'd assume that it's the practice of the place to serve everything as it comes out, as will often happen at restaurants serving small plates, also, since it's assumed that things are being shared. In fact, at restaurants where things are shared, I've seen people complain about too many things coming out together.

            I think you had a learning experience and would know to communicate that you are ordering separate entrees and would like them to come out together in the future, but, apologies, if you want my honest opinion I think you were entirely out of line in cancelling your entree, and I think it speaks awfully well of the place that they apparently didn't give you any trouble about it. I hope you didn't let your feelings reflect the tip you left....

            I am, however, assuming that you had utensils and a plate and so could have shared your dining partner's entree. If not, totally different story.

            1. you're being unreasonable.

              thai food is served to be eaten family style no matter who orders what. in thailand, most restaurants only have 1 or 2 woks and food comes out as it is cooked. also, the starters and mains are not necessarily served in that order. if you don't want to eat family style or separately, i would recommend not going to thai restaurants. alternatively, you could find an americanized version of a thai restaurant that serve food western style.

              1. I think you should have at least asked the waiter what was going on instead of just sitting there. If it was indeed a "as the dishes come out" situation, then at least it's restaurant practice and you knew it wasn't deliberate bad service. But at the same time, most restaurants that do this have some sort of sign in the establishment or on the menu, or the server warns you when you order.

                It's unreasonable that you never talked to anyone to see what was going on and assumed it was something wrong with the restaurant, but if you don't want to return because you don't like the practice, then that's a reasonable choice for you.

                1. we eat in local southeast asian places often. the food comes out when it's ready. no signs, no disclaimers, no warning on the menu. who knows if the waiter noticed your dc not eating? maybe he thought you guys were being weird.

                  yes, i think you're being unreasonable, especially if the food was good!

                  1. I used to go to a vietnamese restaurant because I love pho, but SO hates it. I would order pho, spring rolls and salad rolls and specify that we wanted them all at the same time because the pho was for me and the rolls were for SO. Never happened. The rolls always came out first and then the pho. I just sat there and waited for my pho. Maybe half a dozen times, despite being very clear each time we wanted them served at the same time because the pho was just for me.

                    Now we never go together, I only go with friends who also like pho. Some things you just can't change.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hsk

                      My dining mate ordered a single piece of chicken in a sauce that was much too hot for me, so it was not a "share-able" dish, like a stir-fry might be, for example. It would have been like sharing a steak! and yes i did politely ask about my entree, and was told it was coming but never did. When we ordered, my dining partner made a point of asking for exrta-spicy, and I did say I could not eat it.

                      1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                        Did you ask directly if it's standard practice to just bring out what's done as it's done, or did you just ask, "Is my dish coming soon?" ? Because to be honest, what else are they going to say to the latter question besides, "Yes, of course." Whereas if you were specific in asking the waiter/manager/whomever what you so carefully articulated in your OP, then the only answer they can really give you is "Yes, it's served whenever it's cooked instead of all at once" or "No, we try to serve it all at once and there is a problem with your dish."

                        I wouldn't expect servers to catch the many "hints" that may or may not have been dropped during what is assumed to be private conversation between two or more diners, especially if the culture of the cuisine I'm eating is not usually known for great restaurant customer service.

                        1. re: yfunk3

                          My partner ordered a single piece of chicken. Unless we were given a carving board and a carving knife, there was no way that dish was to be shared among the table! The server would have to be dense to not realize that!

                          1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                            Well, I'm not sure what to tell you or exactly what you want to hear except the "Well, you are 100% justified and correct in every way in this situation", which I am quite frankly not comfortable telling you (didn't mean that to come out as snarky as that came out).

                            As I said before, if there is ANYTHING about a restaurant that would keep you from coming back, then that is the reasonable decision FOR YOU. Not sure what the point of this thread was except for you to have others say, "Oh, yeah, you had horrible service and you should totally tell everyone you know not to go to this place because they are clearly incompetent." I just think from the way you handled it and didn't say anything DIRECT to either the server or the manager that I know of, it was just all one big misunderstanding.

                            1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                              Well, that's not true. I order tapas - clearly meant to be shared - that are single pieces of chicken all the time. I have managed to share, and - yes! - even eat, a chicken breast without a carving board and knife on several occasions!

                              If you want a take away lessen it's speak up and be clear, i.e. "Excuse me, I'm sorry, but I understood that our entrees would be coming at the same time. Can you arrange it so that this can happen? And would it be possible for the entree we have to be kept warm? Thank you."

                              If you just want to be told to not go back to the restaurant, don't back to the restaurant.

                      2. I don't think you were being unreasonable at all. This isn't Thailand and it is the norm for people to order separate dishes which they then eat together, whether or not they choose to share.

                        I eat at lots of Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. restaurants, and this has never been a problem in any restaurant. You CAN order family style, but it's not assumed that's what you are doing. As far as "eating when it comes out of the wok", that's fine - but a well-organized kitchen will cook the dishes in order so that people dining together will get their food at roughly the same time. If they're cooking one item from one table and then another from some other table, just scattered willy-nilly all over the place, that's a lack of organization on their part.

                        I wouldn't patronize any place that can't serve people dining together in a reasonable amount of time, and 15 minutes after your friend was served (actually more because that's when you gave up) is not reasonable.

                        I would have asked where my food was long before 15 minutes had elapsed, though. The waiter may have seemed shocked because he didn't realize he had dropped the ball on your order.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          > I would have asked where my food was long before 15 minutes had elapsed

                          Hungry, you are in Manhattan after all. If it were Fargo, then reticence would be expected.

                        2. I think it's a reasonable action, but something worth reconsidering. I too would have been upset and would have brought it to the attention of the host. If the host understood the issue and apologized I would give the place another chance, but only if I thought the dishes I had were good and my dining companion(s) enjoyed the food. I just find it to easy to overlook a service error. Because, while service is a factor, it still comes down to the food.

                          1. I would have to agree with those that have said that sharing IS assumed at almost every Asian food restaurant, at least every one I've ever been to in the US, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore,or Thailand. But, that said, whether or not the OP's situation was different could be diagnosed by one simple thing we don't know yet from this discussion: where was the single entree placed when it was brought to the table. If it was placed in front of a single diner, and there were no individual empty plates placed for the two of them to share to........... then the server most certainly knew they had ordered separate entrees.

                            It certainly sounds as if the diners ordered separately, but even the spiciness of one entree versus the other wouldn't necessarily presume separate entrees unless the server, accustomed to diners sharing or even to one entree being shared and another not, really understood the intent. I'm just sayin'........... family style is family style even if someone at the table doesn't eat every dish..

                            1. one other question - what was ordered? i understand one item was a piece of chicken in sauce but was it an entree or an app ordered as a main, lost in translation? did they maybe think one was ordered as an app and the other an entree?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: pie22

                                both entrees. No plate for me. Just a half uncut chicken placed in front of my dining partner. The waiter absolutely knew we were not sharing.

                                1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                  Why didn't you ask if you could get them both at the same time? I don't mean that you were supposed to be psychic and do it upfront, but after they put his entree out, why not just say "hey, sorry, but we'd like to be served both the entrees at the same time - could you take this one back and bring them both out together when the other entree is ready?"

                                  Other than that, it's one of those situations where I wouldn't go back, given what you describe, but I still deem it less than full rant-worthy - as did you, in your title :-)

                                  1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                    yeah that nulls my theory - i guess if it was me - i know i wouldn't assume right away to ask them to take the other entree back to keep warm but after a few minutes if they haven't said anything about mine i would ask where it is.

                                    if this is a place that you were excited about and wanted to try - i say give them another chance and if it still doesn't work out just don't go back. if it's place you were excited about it is silly to have one bad experience (on hopefully an off night) ruin it for you. but if you don't care then yes, like the others said don't go back if you don't want to.

                                2. Pretty harsh to 'never' return for a small slip up. I'd return and let the waitperson know what happened last time and suggest that it can't happen again.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: treb

                                    Yeah, depends on the market. If it wasn't in my neighborhood, there are so many places where I live in D.C. that I want to try and haven't been able to yet, that I would probably not be in a hurry to repeat anything that wasn't a really, really good experience or in a terribly convenient location. And it is just kind of grating when things are sort of confusingly unpleasant when you're eating out that if I have to run though more than a couple "if x, then why not y" (i.e. if you thought we were sharing, why only one plate?, if you didn't, why serve us separately?) then I don't bother.

                                    I don't like having to explore game theory to figure out what's going with my dinner. But I have promised myself to always address the staff and tell them exactly what's going on with me before I do this, because sometimes I walk away with a more positive impression than I would otherwise, and I want no guilt when I trash them on the internet later. ;-)