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Nov 1, 2011 09:13 PM

how should I respond to microwaved restaurant food?

I went to a thai restaurant. We're seated immediately, quite a few take out customers. OK so far...very nice ambiance and friendly staff...the only red flag is that there is an open kitchen, and two microwaves in full view. I order thai style BBQ'd half chicken. I watch them put something odd shaped in a bag into said microwave, and my entry was served a couple minutes after said microwave is emptied.

So I know my high priced BBQ'd chicken was microwaved. As soon as I was served, i could tell. some parts were way hot and some parts were just kinda hot. The yellow curry sauce was over reduced, like it had sat overnight, the skin was rubbery and the meat had that twice cooked texture. It tasted alright and since I was with my mother and tired, I did not complain.

I feel we shouldn't of paid for it. We were promised BBQ chicken and served microwaved chicken. I am quite sure this chicken was made yesterday, did not sell and reheated for service tonight. Do I have the right to refuse to pay for something like that? Should I complain now? No use to complain because any restaurant with 2 microwaves in full view of the dining room obviously doesn't care, right?

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  1. Lots of restaurants (both high end, and hole-in-the-wall) use microwaves to reheat sauces, food, defrost, etc.

    Most of the time you just don't know it.

    And, in fairness to the restaurant, you *did* get BBQ chicken (or at least Thai style BBQ chicken) -- it was just reheated BBQ chicken.

    Live and learn I suppose.

    1. I think the issue here is whether you ate it or not. You can't really order the meal, eat it, then not pay for it. The time to have dealt with it would have been before you ate it. You could have sent it back to the kitchen, saying that you didn't realize the BBQ chicken was microwaved and wasn't to your taste and asked for something else. I think if you didn't want a substitution, you might have been able to refuse the meal outright before you ate it. But if you eat it, you can't turn around and say you didn't like it and refuse to pay for it after the meal is over and done with. Kind of a question of timing I think? If its really bugging you, you could go back and complain but I wouldn't be expecting any money back or compensation. You'd just be venting at that point. The other thing is to vote with your feet and not go back. Usually if the food is really that bad, the writing will be on the wall for this place and it won't last terribly long.

      1. Reheated food is a mainstay of restaurant cooking, even in good restaurants. For example, one of the major upsides of sous vide is that it can be used to reheat foods with better results than other methods. Also - it's long been observed that braises and many soups taste better the next day.

        IMO the main questions should be:
        A) Whether the food is something that is appropriate to make in advance and then reheat. So a microwaved sauce is fine as long as it doesn't separate. But a microwaved burger = unhappy Cowboy.
        B) Whether the microwave itself was used properly - if the food is reheated unevenly, yeah that's a problem. But vegetables that have been steamed (well) in a microwave - that's fine use of your equipment, if you ask me.

        Or, in a more basic sense - was the food GOOD? For BBQ chicken - that's a borderline call. Obviously, it's not gonna have the crispy bits that fresh, well BBQed chicken should have. And there's also that reheated chicken flavor. But if I go to a diner or chain, order BBQ chicken drowned in sauce (so the flavor of the chicken is drowned out and nothing crispy remains anyway), I'm not gonna complain or be surprised that it's reheated. 'Smokin Joe's Authentic BBQ Mecca' - some specialist place that's all about authenticity - I'd be more disappointed.

        Also, generally I think it's fair game to complain about any food that's heated unevenly (a pit fall of microwaved food, but it's not always the case). That said, I don't think you can finish your plate and then demand to be comped. Complain as soon as you notice the problem or else just suck it up and don't go back to that restaurant.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cowboyardee

          Your last paragraph is the take home point here. I once took friends to a favorite restaurant and dined al fresco, enjoying buffalo wings. There were 4 of us. My first wing was a bit pink in the middle and I was concerned but didn't say anything. Everyone was enjoying. But my second wing was raw in the middle. Unacceptable and dangerous.
          Since there was 4 of us eating the app, at least half were gone by the time I waived down our waiter to get it taken back and taken off of our bill. He AND the manager turned down my request and of course we stopped eating them as soon as everyone took a good look at their raw meat (gets a little obfuscated with sauce, ya know).
          I was mortified to be treated so badly when I had been chatting this place up. Never went back.
          Those darn wings should have spent time in the microwave!

          1. re: monavano

            Yowza...the manager turned down your request? This wasn't a case of taste preference, it was food safety. Dude should have at least brought you another properly cooked round IMHO. Ridiculous...

            1. re: freia

              That was over 20 years ago and I've never been back. Can you imagine noticing that your wings are not cooked fully and being treated like this in front of friends? Yuck.
              I felt I pushed it as much as I could, then let it go.
              IIRC, I think we packed it up and went to another restaurant!

        2. Hold your breath until they refund your money?

          1 Reply
          1. I've returned a duck appetizer in a Chinese restaurant that was obviously microwaved. I didn't eat it first, however. I took one bite and gestured to the waitress. She was incredibly rude about it, too. So, choose your battles. I have never returned to that restaurant.