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Most profitable attitudes in top tier restaurants in France

Some "dilemmas" that come to mind:

1. Should you often ask the maître d' for advice? Will you be better treated if you chitchat with them as some customers do?
2. If you happen to dislike every choice available in a course in a ménu dégustation, may you ask for another item from the menu? Or will they think you're trying to be smart?
3. If you ask for “une carafe d’eau”, will they tag you as cheap and abandon you - or rush you out?
4. Does anything you say to the waiter ever reach the kitchen, or do they say “merci” but actually think “who cares, man, shut up and eat - or leave”?
5. Did someone say here in Chow that some restaurants will accept that you share one menu dégustation, if you think it will be too much food?

Thank you for any insights and personal tales.

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  1. Hmmm. Just my thoughts:
    1. Ask advice if you want it and if you are willing to take it. i.e., don't exercise the waiter. It is clumsy to ask for a recommendation then ignore it. Do remember to praise any dish that you find distinguished. This, in itself, will help establish a relationship.
    2. Few dégustations hit the bull's eye with every course. Unless you have a true allergy to a food, I would not ask for substitutions or exchanges. If you go with the chef's inclinations, you may learn that you do, indeed, like something that has been a bugaboo in the past.
    3. Drink your water. You will not be abandoned.
    4. If your comment truly reflects a problem with the food, your thoughts should definitely be conveyed to the kitchen.
    5. I would not try to split a dégustation. You may, however, create your own by ordering, say, 2 entrees and two mains and ask that they be served as four small plates to each of you.
    6. Not that you asked, but if you take a polite and positive attitude into the dining room, you will most often be rewarded by being taken care of by your waiter as well as the kitchen.

    1. (In my limited experience,)

      1. I don't chit-chat with waiters or maitre d'hotel; so I would'nt know.

      2. If you know the menu in advance or are allergic or do not like something in a menu, you can contact the restaurant in advance to let them know; or as soon as possible when getting in the restaurants. But if you go to a restaurant knowing that you dislike "high-end" products (foie gras, truffle, shellfish, butter, cream, wine) ... and want them to custom make a menu especially for you, you should not go to that restaurant.

      3. no. ( If I remember correctly, Pierre Gagnaire for example offer their own filtered water at no extra charge); and in any case, the cost of a bottle of water should not be "that" important considering the prices at the top restaurant in France (*)

      4. no, waiters in "top tier" restaurants are professionals, that what makes those restaurants "top".

      5. IMO sharing 1 tasting menu is tacky and the way the different courses are made and presented makes it difficult to share (small portions, 1 or 2 bites), ... A tasting menu should be constructed so that a diner will be able to go from start to finish without being over-stuffed(**)

      (*) IMO one must go to those restaurant with the accepted notion that it will be expensive and one should not "care" about money until way later after the meal.

      (**) contrary to popular belief, high-end restaurant offer a good amount of food for the money; you should not have to go to McDo to fill up after.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Maximilien

        Re: #3, Just out of principle, even when bottled water was free, I still asked for tap water. Sometimes it's not about the cost.

        1. re: kerosundae

          Agreed - only time I'd drink bottled water is if I'm in a developing or 3rd world country. In the developed world I feel that if the water is good enough for the locals it is good enough for me.

          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

        2. re: Maximilien

          Gagnaire actually talked me out of bottle fizzy to give me theirs gratis.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            ...and L'Astrance couldn't figure out what was fizzy and what wasn't. :-)

            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

        3. "1. Should you often ask the maître d' for advice? Will you be better treated if you chitchat with them as some customers do?"

          I ask the waiter and sommelier for advice, but would not describe it as chitchat. I don't know if it's the quote chitchat unquote that does it, but when the staff knows more about your likes and dislikes, they steer you better.

          "2. If you happen to dislike every choice available in a course in a ménu dégustation, may you ask for another item from the menu? Or will they think you're trying to be smart?"

          If I dislike every choice available in a course in a ménu dégustation, I order à la carte. -- Obviously one does not want to déguster.

          "3. If you ask for “une carafe d’eau”, will they tag you as cheap and abandon you - or rush you out?"

          I don't know what others think and have never been abandoned and rushed out.

          "4. Does anything you say to the waiter ever reach the kitchen, or do they say “merci” but actually think “who cares, man, shut up and eat - or leave”?"

          Dude, whether you are at home or travelling, especially travelling, it is best not to imagine how everyone hate you.

          "5. Did someone say here in Chow that some restaurants will accept that you share one menu dégustation, if you think it will be too much food?"

          I remember fellow hounds say that in some restaurants, one can share a dish. Could you give a link to the thread that you are talking about?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Parigi

            can't find the thread, but maybe it was Souphie referring to L'Arpège?

          2. 1. I often ask for advice if I need it, especially when choosing wine, and just about always when I want good wine at the cheap end of the list (it always works). We also try to get on with the staff, maybe not chitchat but something to build a relationship, for us it makes the meal fun. A good example was yesterday in a three star when the sommelier happily wrote down the contact details for the supplier of a wine we enjoyed.

            2. As other have said if you don't like why order it? I also think you have the term "degustation" mixed up. A degustation won't have choices, instead you are led through a structured 8 to 10 course meal by the chef (obviously kitchens substitute or amend dishes for allergies). I think when you talk about "choices" you mean from one of the (set) Menu's. Generally a top tier restaurant will have a number of menus at different price points if you don't like the contents of one Menu choose another Menu. Remember the Menu may be €80 for three courses but a single dish from the ALC can be €100 thus a restaurant isn't going to substitute ALC dishes for dishes on a Menu.

            3. No problem at all.

            4. This is top tier - complaints and issues yes. "Wow that was great" maybe less so - the clean plate is enough.

            5. Others have said it, on a Degustation (8 to 10 courses) the serves are too small to share, and I can't see any restaurant doing it. I doubt that many will let you share a Menu either as these are structured to offer good value to start with, and many offer a choice of two, three or four courses at different price points to suit different appetites and budgets. If you want to share then both order a two course menu, one chooses the starter and main, the other a different main and dessert, then share the four dishes. Or go ALC and ask for dishes to be split.

            1. 1. Depends on what you're calling "chit-chat" Talking about the weather, a big sporting match, or the news? No.

              Asking for details about something that's on the menu? Wine recommendations? Absolutely.

              2. If you dislike every choice available, don't order that menu. Period. Those courses are meant to go together, and requests for substitutions will be interpreted as an opinion that the chef doesn't know what he's doing...which is a really bad way to start a meal at a highly-regarded restaurant.

              3. If you want a carafe d'eau, ask for one. In France, they have to supply a carafe d'eau by law, believe it or not...they might try to bump you to bottled water, understandably, but if you ask for une carafe, they have to bring it to you.

              4. We're not talking about Pizza Hut here....waiters in nice restaurants are professionals (and in France just might be the owner's family) -- a compliment probably won't make it to the kitchen (it might) -- but any legitimate issues (not to include "my parsley is a little wilted" or something equally inane) will be communicated to the kitchen and handled well.

              5. Don't share a single menu -- it's tacky and just not done. Order and split as detailed elsewhere.

              And yes...get that chip off of your shoulder before you come to France. It's weighing you down and is way too much excess baggage.