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Disappointed by Nicholas

seal Jan 22, 2012 04:09 AM

Big birthday for me this year and as part of my celebration I wanted to have a special dinner for 4 at Nicholas. The birthday is in two weeks so I took no chances and began my inquiries near the beginning of November. I wanted truffles as part of my meal so I told them I would be flexible with the date - any time between then and now would be fine.

The short of it is that we went back and forth through November and December with nothing accomplished. I couldn't get a straight answer from them. Finally a few private emails to the chef also went by with me no closer to having any kind of answer.

All I wanted was a nice meal, maybe at the chef's table, with at least one truffle course. After trying again for the last time with no luck again I was forced to make other plans. I can't believe such a simple request from a regular customer would have been hard for them to do. This was a really big deal for me and they dropped the ball. I am beyond upset.

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  1. angelo04 Jan 22, 2012 05:38 AM

    Not to upset you more, but fairly recently I read an email about an upcoming truffle dinner. $110 per person I think. Seems like an Easy request to accommodate.

    Happy Birthday. Hope you ha e a chowhound worthy meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: angelo04
      j
      joonjoon Jan 23, 2012 05:14 PM

      Maybe it's just be but I'm not a fan of truffle menus...I find with truffles, less is more.

      Went to a truffle tasting menu thang at Nicholas a few years back...I'm not going back again. But I will sit at the bar and enjoy my truffles there.

    2. Deb Van D Jan 22, 2012 06:08 AM

      Disappointing indeed since you made the effort to have it happen.

      I recently enjoyed a carne cruda (tartare) with black truffle bruschetta at Manzo in Eataly and it scratched my truffle itch. It's not one big celebration meal, but when I have a big birthday (although I have decided not have any more of these), I spend the whole year celebrating. It seems like the best revenge.

      Happy birthday!

      1. a
        aklein Jan 22, 2012 06:54 AM

        Gee, and I was under the impression that Restaurant Nicholas could do no wrong. It doesn't sound like an unreasonable request, but if they saw it that way they should have immediately told you so instead of putting it off and giving you a runaround (from the sounds of it).

        I've never thought that a restaurant had to honor all requests, but it certainly should do what it can and be prompt and clear with the customer with a decision.

        1. r
          RGR Jan 22, 2012 07:36 AM

          There is absolutely no excuse for their behavior. You've dined there with some regularity and also had a private party there. They should have (a) answered you promptly, and (b) gone out of their way to accommodate your request. Not that it was even a particularly extraordinary thing to ask for. As has been mentioned, Nicholas does an annual truffle tasting dinner in January which sometimes continues into early February. And even if not so this year, black truffles are available through the winter. Sounds as though they are suffering from the proverbial "two big for their britches" syndrome. Disgraceful!

          I hope wherever you are going instead, it's a memorable celebration.

          Happy Birthday!

          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

          1. j
            joonjoon Jan 23, 2012 05:12 PM

            Happy birthday Seal! What exactly were you hoping the restaurant would do for you? I'm having trouble understanding from your post. Hope you had a nice bday celebration anyway.

            10 Replies
            1. re: joonjoon
              seal Jan 25, 2012 02:35 AM

              Tyvm to all for the birthday wishes.

              Joonjoon, I really wasn't asking for anything special. According to their website, the chef's table at Nicholas is a private, personal experience with a special tasting menu created just for the guests. I simply wanted to include a truffle course or two in that menu. And, I would have been fine with a quick, "no" or something along those lines. The part that galls me is that I feel like I am dating again and was just strung along for three months.

              1. re: seal
                j
                JerZ Wine Geek Jan 25, 2012 04:36 AM

                Seal, were you asking for white truffle dishes, or black? If white then it's possible they didn't want to bring them in for just one table being that you're talking about minimally a few hundred dollar investment. Now I'm not saying this makes what they did right. If my line of thinking is the case then there is absolutely reason that someone couldn't have expressed that to you early on rather than stringing you along for weeks or months.

                1. re: JerZ Wine Geek
                  r
                  RGR Jan 25, 2012 08:06 AM

                  JerZ Wine Geek,

                  I don't recall ever white truffles being offered at Nicholas. But regardless, the white truffle season ended well before seal intended to go there. So, I'm guessing he had black truffles in mind since it is now that season.

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR
                    j
                    JerZ Wine Geek Jan 26, 2012 06:43 AM

                    RGR, occasionally Nicholas will bring in a small quantity of white truffles in season and create a couple of dishes that highlight them, at a hefty supplement. Seal had mentioned in his original post that he was flexible with the date of his dinner, anytime between November and January, and since white truffles are still in season in November I figured it was a fair question to ask. Of course after early December it would be black truffle or bust.

                    1. re: JerZ Wine Geek
                      r
                      RGR Jan 26, 2012 06:57 AM

                      I guess we've never been to Nicholas during white truffle season. Ergo, didn't know that they've been available there. A hefty supplement is certainly not unusual. We've added white truffles to dishes at other restaurants, and the supplement has always been substantial.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                2. re: seal
                  r
                  RGR Jan 25, 2012 07:59 AM

                  seal,

                  bgut did the chef's table several years ago and, iirc, what bothered him was that they wouldn't allow him to bring a special bottle of wine for which he was willing to pay corkage. While it may be their policy not to permit corkage in the dining room, I think when it comes to the chef's table, they should be more relaxed about such things.

                  Also, when we asked about the tasting menu at the chef's table, we were told that it is composed of dishes taken directly from the regular menu and not one specially created just for the chef's table. That decided us against ever doing it because we don't see any reason to pay a lot extra just to sit at a table near the kitchen.

                  So, where are you going?

                  Happy Birthday!

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR
                    seal Jan 26, 2012 02:18 AM

                    Tyvm RGR!

                    It's not like I am accusing Nicholas of doing anything wrong... Maybe I was spoiled when EMP took such good care of me that I thought I might be able to get those same, "Anything you like" kind of answers locally.

                    So what happened was that all our celebrations are now in the city. Besides EMP we are also having the burger at DB Bistro and the Dover Sole at La Grenuoille (sp?) as well as an unstructured walk through my favorite foodie areas in the city.

                    1. re: seal
                      Duppie Jan 26, 2012 03:57 AM

                      Happy Birthday and good for you. I've lived in NJ for close to 20 years now and have been disappointed too many times to take a chance with my time and hard earned cash when it comes time for that special meal. Perhaps we expect too much,maybe we're spoiled living so close to arguably the best restaurant city in America. I haven't been to EMP as yet,but have a March reservation at Le Bernardin for the wife's birthday and Picard's excellent Cabane A Sucre outside Montreal next month. Hell we even drive to Queens for Thai.I'm sure Nicholas is a fine restaurant and worth every penny....most of the time,I'm just not willing to chance it.

                      1. re: seal
                        a
                        aklein Jan 26, 2012 04:49 AM

                        can we come with? sounds like a great plan... have a good b-day

                        1. re: seal
                          r
                          RGR Jan 26, 2012 06:09 AM

                          seal,

                          That's my kind of plan!! :)

                          Enjoy! And, again, Happy Birthday!

                          P.S. You've got the spelling almost right. It's La Grenouille. And that Dover Sole au Sauce Moutarde, c'est magnifique!

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  2. l
                    LEOFONT Jan 24, 2012 07:23 PM

                    This is what happens when an upscale restaurant gets rave reviews from reviewers who's taste is no better than yours or mine.....the owner/chef start to walk "on air",...thinking their restaurant is above it all and feel like anything they present should not be held to scrutiny or evalued because they are "the best". and what does a customer know compared to their expertise .......

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LEOFONT
                      b
                      bones57 Jan 26, 2012 07:22 PM

                      Well, i totally disagree with you. I ate at the chefs table, and it was phenomenal. They asked me if there was something i was allergic to, but truly had dinner created especially for the three of us. We eat here 25 time a year and it is superb.

                      1. re: bones57
                        fershore Jan 27, 2012 12:31 PM

                        Welcome to Chowhound, bones. I look forward to hearing more about your meals at Nicholas. Wish I could dine there twice a month rather than two or three times per year.

                    2. MGZ Jan 25, 2012 04:15 AM

                      As my various posts over the years may have made clear, I am no cheerleader for Restaurant Nicholas. On the other hand, I am a fan of fairness. The instant discussion serves to illustrate one of the fundamental problems with this site: the restaurant, it's management, and it's staff are never permitted any sort of explanation or rebuttal. Consequently, assumptions are freely made and articulated - perhaps unfairly.

                      Given seal's statement, it appears a reasonable request was made in a reasonable way. That, however, is all that any of us have been presented with. Making the leap from one 'hounds assertion to the underlying motivations of even a single person at the establishment is simply unwarranted.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: MGZ
                        a
                        aklein Jan 25, 2012 04:36 AM

                        Is there really anything stopping Nicholas or someone else from getting onto CH and posting a response? At least, if they are now aware of this issue, someone could contact Seal and try to make it right. CH is public and I would be shocked if someone from Restaurant Nicholas wasn't keeping an eye on the site on a regular basis.

                        1. re: aklein
                          The Chowhound Team Jan 25, 2012 05:48 AM

                          We allow restaurant management/staff to participate in discussions on their restaurants as long as they disclose their relationship to the business and limit their contributions to answering a specific, factual question about their business, or correcting a factual mistake in a discussion about their business. In general, we do ask that restaurant insiders stay hands off on the conversation and refrain from arguing back re: consumer opinions or experiences.

                          You can see our full guidelines for restaurant insiders at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760... and ask that if you have any questions or comments on these or any policies, please head over to the Site Talk board, so we can keep this board on track and discussing local chow.

                        2. re: MGZ
                          p
                          Picnicchef Jan 27, 2012 02:10 PM

                          Disclosing: I own a restaurant, not this one! I just want to say in defense of the restaurant that some things fall through the cracks, and some requests are very hard to accomodate. The chef gets the message, thinks long and hard about how to make it happen, realizes he/she can't, thinks some more, then gets cooking and forgets to return a call. Requesting a truffle is a tough order. You can't guarantee they are available, or the quality (this year's white truffles stunk, I only kept them on for two weeks). It is a very tall order, and unfortunate that so many people think it is easy as snapping your fingers.

                          1. re: Picnicchef
                            fershore Jan 27, 2012 03:54 PM

                            Of course some requests are hard to accommodate. Is it a tall order to simply answer a regular customer's request in a timely manner? It's not as if only one phone call or email were not returned. Seal was strung along for months. That's just plain rude.

                            1. re: fershore
                              tommy Jan 27, 2012 09:13 PM

                              It could be read as the restaurant trying to accommodate, but simply not knowing if it could, based on the availability and the price of truffles at that point in the year.

                              Perhaps the customer should understand just how tall the order is before getting so upset when it's not met.

                              "such a simple request" is perhaps not so simple.

                              No ball was dropped. The request couldn't be met. There was communication between the chef and the customer. That's not a ball drop. A ball drop is a promise that truffles would be served, and truffles weren't served. As far as I can tell, that wasn't the case.

                              picnicchef knows how these things work. I wish others would.

                              1. re: tommy
                                j
                                Jerseygirl111 Jan 28, 2012 12:28 AM

                                No, you are missing the fact that Seal was never given an answer to his/her question regarding the truffles. Seal would have been satisfied even with a no answer, but they never gave a definitive answer. Finally, Seal had to move along and make birthday plans elsewhere. I don't think there is a BETTER example of a restaurant dropping the ball. Seal tried for months to get an answer. This is a customer that is even willing to put considerable effort into his/her relationship with the restaurant. Seal's money walked right past them to another restaurant and they let it go by. Sorry, but if someone wants to spend money at your business, it is poor business practices to let your customer go elsewhere. Not only did Nicholas lose Seal's business for the evening, then they got bad word of mouth on a website big with frequent restaurant patrons. Crappy management, IMHO.

                                1. re: Jerseygirl111
                                  angelo04 Jan 28, 2012 05:48 AM

                                  Give that they recently offered a black truffle menu, it seems like a fairly easy request to accommodate given Seals flexibleility around dates.

                                  1. re: angelo04
                                    tommy Jan 28, 2012 06:40 AM

                                    You might think, sure.

                                    1. re: angelo04
                                      b
                                      bones57 Jan 28, 2012 05:24 PM

                                      Were truffles in season? nicholas is usually very accomodating.

                          2. r
                            rcript Feb 2, 2012 10:48 AM

                            We went in early January and they had about 4 items with black truffle on the menu. We tried the hen egg and black truffle, good, but the truffle had very little flavor, tasted like the canned ones, preferred other dishes we sampled over that.

                            1. r
                              rcript Feb 2, 2012 10:52 AM

                              We went in early January and I recall several items featuring black truffles. We ate at the bar and did samlpe the hen egg and black truffle. I must add that these were the dullest black truffle I have ever tasted, very bland with almost no taste, not what you expect from truffles. This was the most expensive dish we tasted and the worst dish we tasted, in the future I will stick to their regular offerings.

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