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Apr 16, 2011 03:47 PM

Is this normal

I was a a restaurant in Paris, asked for smoked herrings for entree, they served me a bowl, and while i was eating it, they took it away without even asking if I had finished. Is that common, something particular of the dish, or simply an irritated waiter because I wasn't fast enough?

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  1. Your post raises many questions before I can try to figure out what happened.

    Did they serve a big bowl with herring fillets in oil with sliced carrots, onions, herbs, etc., on the table? I mean a bowl from which you help yourself and put the food onto your plate?

    Or did they serve a bowl you were supposed to eat directly from?

    What restaurant was that?

    Filets de harengs pommes à l'huile is generally served on a plate. I have trouble imagining what kind of herring recipe could be served in a bowl.

    How fast can a waiter grab your plate and take it away before you have a chance to grab it and keep it on the table? Normally, when a waiter threatens to do that and I haven't finished, I firmly hold the plate down and show my teeth. It all happens in a split second. Think Spike the bulldog in "Tom and Jerry".

    And, um, could you by any chance have been eating from a serving bowl? In that case the waiter may have taken it back to put it on another table, but that would be a rude way of doing it.

      1. Remember Chez Georges serves in large container and passes to other tables. Perhaps wherever you were they allow it at your table until some other table requests it then is whisked away.

        1. Quite a few times we've been presented with a very large and heavy communal earthenware bowl of this same great dish (just as descibed by Ptipois) at "Le Languedoc" (outer 5th) -- along with a single-serving stainless steel tray of excellent creamy boiled potatoes. You serve just some of the herring to yourself (the bowl could feed at least five or seven), and then after 5-10 minutes, they whisk the bowl to another table. We've had similar experiences at other places (mostly outside Paris, in the countryside) with a large terrine set at our table. -- Jake

          5 Replies
          1. re: Jake Dear

            I don't know, I am waiting from a more precise description, but the OP really makes it sounds like he was eating directly from the communal terrine when the waiter took it away.

            1. re: Ptipois

              I wasn't in fact eating directly from the bowl. Like Ptipois discribes it was a very large bowl from which I helped myself. I did thought that it was too much food. But personally, I found quite bizarre to pass around a bowl of food, so that never crossed my mind.

              I think the problem is to assume that the patron knows the situation. When I was leaving, I saw another patron with the same puzzled look while they took away the bowl. The other patron was cleary french, so I'm guessing is not standard practice.

              It was in fact at "le Languedoc".

              Thanks for clearing that up!

              1. re: Rafaz25

                "I found quite bizarre to pass around a bowl of food" not that uncommon in France although becoming less so. Often it will be a big terrine sometimes a big bowl of dessert. I find it interesting some people don't realise these are shared dishes as they are so large - maybe it is the "supersize" generation used to large portions?

                1. re: Rafaz25

                  Thanks to you for clarifying.

                  The other patron looked just as puzzled as you were for one specific reason.
                  The waiter should have asked him, and you, whether you were done with the herrings before taking the bowl away from the table.

                  A bowl (more frequently a terrine) of herrings marinated in oil is a collective dish and thus is passed from table to table. But the minimal service etiquette requires that the waiter asks politely if he can remove it before he does.

                  The service at Le Languedoc was always a little bit rough, but it seems to be getting more so.
                  Next time that happens, clutch to the terrine if you're not done with it.

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    A couple of times, with waiters who started clearing the table without asking first, I did have to tell the waitstaff: "je n'ai pas fini !" Once I grabbed the chorizo plate back from the waitstaff at chez L'Ami Jean. The waitress was very apologetic and we laughed about it together.