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Sea Harbour - overrated and I sure don't like being insulted by waiters...

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My wife and I went to Sea Harbor recently for dim sum for the first time and it will absolutely be the last time we set foot in the place.

I can't understand why this restaurant is a favorite for dim sum. Sure, you get everything hot from the kitchen, but much of it seemed mediocre and heavy on the MSG. We got the egg custard tarts, which looked fabulous, but tasted like it came from a box. Absolutely no egg flavor at all! The cheung fun with pork was all fun and cilantro with tiny tiny shreds of pork.

Meh.

But absolutely 100% worse than the food was the attitude of the waitstaff. My wife, for medical reasons, doesn't drink tea, so we always decline even if the tea is free (here it was $1+ per person). As we were being lead to our table, the waitress asked what kind of tea we wanted. My wife politely said (in English), can we sit down and take a look at the menu first?

The waitress replied, "Sure, what kind of tea do you want? Jasmine?"

My wife, again very politely, said "We want to look at the menu first"

Waitress, jabbing her finger at the menu, "Jasmine? Jasmine? Yes?"

I said, firmly, "We will let you know after we sit down, okay?"

So, the waitress turned around, and said to another waiter, in Cantonese (paraphrasing), "These d*ckheads don't want tea. Can you believe how stupid that is?"

We absolutely should have turned right around and left right then and there, but we didn't.

Totally and absolutely regret not walking out.

I will NEVER have ANYTHING good to say about the restaurant and will steer everyone I know away from there.

Very bad show, Sea Harbour.

  1. I had to deal with some pretty unacceptable behavior from the hostesses who refused to sit me at an empty table despite me having made reservations 3 weeks ago and despite more than 10 visits for dinner at $80-$100pp in a 2 year span. That was 2 years ago and the last time I set foot in that place.

    They will not miss our business. Life goes on.

    1. All my experiences at Sea Harbour have been exactly the opposite of yours. Wonderful food and polite service, even when I ask for a fork for my mom.

      5 Replies
      1. re: wienermobile

        Try declining the tea, see what happens!

        I really hate this trend of charging exorbitant rates for things that used to be taken for granted. $1 for tea and condiments is just padding the bottom line.

        Similar things happened at Elite a while back too, but at least they were kind of polite about it.

        Next time, we're going to give Lunasia a chance, but I'm not optimistic that it'll be any better...

        1. re: AtomicSuplex

          $1 for refillable tea is exorbitant at a yum "cha" house?

          What about being charged for soup bases at hotpotting joints?

          1. re: TonyC

            Well, ok, maybe not the best choice of word...but, it wasn't *that* long ago when you could get some tea brought to you without charge and maybe orange slices after the meal. It's was a "oh, that's nice!" kind of feeling.

            Now, it's "ice water? $1 per person!!!!" or "soy sauce? $1 per person!!!!". This is true...they wanted to charge the per person tea fee for soy sauce! That's overboard in my book.

            Just rubs me the wrong way and somehow doesn't set the right tone for a civilized meal.

            1. re: AtomicSuplex

              This is how tea houses operate in Hong Kong, and how many restaurants operate worldwide—the original term "cover charge" referred to a "couvert", meaning a place setting and the things that go with it, like water and condiments. I can't remember ever having got free tea here or in HK, and I'm usually asked what kind of tea I want. I usually order dragonwell, because one of my frequent yum cha companions loves it, but occasionally we will order tiet kwun yum. They're usually surprised that a Westerner would order either.

              It's still no excuse for rudeness—and these places tend to be famed for their rudeness—but there is some context.

        2. re: wienermobile

          Ditto.

        3. Rude people are everywhere and there is not a whole lot you can do to control their behavior.
          Unfortunately like you said, you chose to sit there and take it.

          If someone would have said that to me in front of my face I would not have tolerated it.

          I've only have had pleasant experiences at Sea Harbor so your post won't deter me from going there unless I get called a d-head and hopefully in English.:)

          Sorry to hear you had a bad experience luckily there are other places for you to get your dim sum on.

          1 Reply
          1. re: burntwater

            Exactly.

          2. "So, the waitress turned around, and said to another waiter, in Cantonese (paraphrasing), "These d*ckheads don't want tea. Can you believe how stupid that is?""

            You should have responded in kind and left.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ns1

              Yes, unfortunately, it was getting late and we didn't have backup plans. Plus, given the generally positive reviews of the place, we were hoping that the food would balance out the waiters. We were not rewarded.

            2. A rude waitress at a Chinese restaurant...the rarity of that must rank right up there with water being wet... ;-D>

              35 Replies
              1. re: Servorg

                Yeah, somewhere the ghost of Edsel Ford Fong is smiling (grouchily). A shame about the OP's bad experience--it's always disappointing when high expectations lead to low performance. Re the poor food, I wonder if was just an off day or something worse.

                1. re: PayOrPlay

                  Edsel's scowling at the hostess while muttering,"Dickhead? Is that all you got muddahpukkah?!"

                  Hostess's bad for among other things, assuming the OP didn't know Cantonese, but - just wondering - wouldn't a yes or no tea moved on the hostess to next question??

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    A few hours of letting this thread brew in my head... I don't know - it's fine that the OP didn't feel that Sea Harbour met their expectations. But my limited experience of the model or pattern of most traditional Cantonese restaurants calls for rhythm and efficiency. If a hostess or waitress/waiter at a yum cha joint of any caliber asked me what tea I wanted, I'd immediately fire back with some response - any response relative to the posed question. Deflection doesn't sit well with the New Yorkers of Chinese Asia - don't fuss, don't break the pattern.

                    If one even remotely looks like he or she can converse in Cantonese, one more demerit - they'll keep rolling with the assumption that you should know better relative to customs/traditions/patterns until one does or says something to belie one's true background. Cantonese-intense eateries (heck, imho, Hong-kies in general are the model of efficiency) are not known to fully embrace the American "I'm the customer so I call the shots here" culture ruling the roost here - it's a tradition-based and time-tested model that if someone who knows what "dickhead" (hum ga chan?) in Cantonese is, then that person should know to come up with a better response than what was given. The OP's given response seems to me to be tripping up the rhythm of the established process. Plus, Cantonese-speaking folks are known for their "colloquialisms," particularly Hongkies. I get that the wife of the OP has valid medical issues relative to cha, but the hostess doesn't. She just views the OP as being either extremely difficult or debating over a part of tradition that should be a given - it's yum cha. When going to a traditional (and normally raucous) eating experience like dim sum, roll with it.

                    My Mandarin-speaking wife who also speaks Cantonese and Hokkien has close friends whose first language is Cantonese, and my wife constantly is laughing at how vulgar their conversation can get. We had a Cantonese-speaking family stay with us for two weeks, and the Cantonese F-bombs were constant and abrasive - no matter where we were. Kind of refreshing actually - face value taken at face value.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      I learn so much from all of you. It does make me feel very white bread.

                      1. re: ebethsdad

                        People who go to Chinese restaurants expecting warm, accommodating service are the same folks who go to Alaska in December intending to work on their tan.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Hey, my parents Chinese restaurant was warm and accommodating. It also had a mostly non-asian clientele (commensurate with the local population).

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            My parent's restaurant definitely treated the "lau wai" worse, much worse.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              If my parents' restaurant did that, they woulda gone out of business. :-) It was one of only two Chinese restaurants in town, and I think I could count the number of Chinese kids at my school on two hands.

                              (They sold it, but they opened and ran it for over 20 years.)

                              1. re: PeterCC

                                I think the thing is, with Chinese restaurants in an area like SGV that has a dense mass of Chinese clientele, they *can* discriminate against non-Chinese customers. In part because they don't need them to survive and because in many cases non-Chinese customers can be much more high maintenance.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Oh I figured the demographic around our parents' respective restaurants were dramatically different. :-)

                                  How did their restaurant treat Chinese people who don't speak or read (much) Chinese... like me?

                                  1. re: PeterCC

                                    I think they were generally fine with ABC-types.

                                    I think they were generally the most annoyed with non-Chinese clientele who demanded a fortune cookie at the end of the meal, or the folks who would always ask, "what's a good appetizer to start with?" Sheesh.

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      Peter, how do you find you're treated at Chinese restaurants? Like you I don't speak Chinese and have a caucasian wife. We're not treate too badly though she gets mad she they instantly give her a fork but not me. Lol.

                                      1. re: granadafan

                                        Hah, my wife gets a little annoyed at that when it happens too, and she has better form with her chopsticks than I do. I think it depends on the Chinese restaurants, and how accustomed they are to treating non-Chinese clientele in general. We don't live near SGV, but we've not had a noticeable problem at places like Din Tai Fung, and Chinese restaurants on the Westside like Hop Li, though I'm sure they're used to more caucasian customers than ipsedixit's parents restaurant. :-)

                                        Also, it depends if we bring our adorable mixed-race kids. :-)

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      I rarely have rudeness issues, and I'm a 6' tall platinum blonde dude. But then again, I know what to order, and I speak Chinese :)

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        I have never had rudeness issues either, I am a 2 inches shorter, don't speak Chinese, as white as Wonder Bread, but then again I do know what to order.

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          A white dude who speaks Chinese is treated nicer in a Chinese restaurant than a Chinese dude who doesn't, in my experience. :-)

                                    3. re: ipsedixit

                                      Last time we had this debate, CH shut down the thread. I still maintain that I've been overwhelmingly treated decently at Chinese places in the SGV. When I asserted that in that thread, I was told "No!, you're too stupid to understand" which was far worse than anything I've picked up on in restaurants. Maybe it's because I don't behave like the stereotypical "white person" diner?

                                      What about when the whole staff comes by to watch the "white guy" eat something they wouldn't expect me to order? Some call it rude, but I'm somewhat amused by it.

                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                wait a second, at what point did this become the OP's fault they got treated so rudely? I don't care if it is a cantonese "quirk," rude service is rude service in any ethnicity. It's not like they were asking for soy sauce to put on their rice. They just wanted to sit down. Maybe the cantonese could do some introspection about their behavior in with other cultures and use their difficulty integrating into canadian society as a sign that sometimes people need to meet each other half way.

                                1. re: chezwhitey

                                  Isn't that the issue, though? That "rude service is rude service in any ethnicity" just isn't accurate? Clearly, there was a cultural gap over the tea issue. The waitress seemed to think the OP was rude and complained the OP thought the waitress was rude and complained on CH. I will say, though, her commentary seems at least 100 times ruder than anything the OP said.

                                  1. re: chezwhitey

                                    There's plenty of blame to spread around on this issue. My perspective is just that - my perspective. And how I view things in this situation is that, sure - calling someone a dickhead is crude. A front-end staffer calling a guest a dickhead is crude-cubed. Thinking she can say it in Cantonese and getting away with it is precarious even around apparent laowai or gweilo. In the context of what I've been exposed to among Cantonese-speaking circles? Matter of fact.

                                    The OP states, "So, the waitress turned around, and said to another waiter, in Cantonese (paraphrasing), "These d*ckheads don't want tea. Can you believe how stupid that is?""

                                    It's obvious to me that if the OP knows dickhead and conversational Cantonese, he should have a pretty firm grip on the ways of the Cantonese. So blowing off the question from the Cantonese waitress three times in the context of a yum cha house is not going to sit well. It's tantamount to throwing a wrench in the proverbial gears, and in this case, knowingly doing so. And it seems obvious to me that the waitress perceived the OP/wife as either not knowing the traditions of yum cha and therefore probably not knowing a lick of Cantonese f-bombs, or was just pissed about their inability to give some sort of response to a very direct and simple question. Assuming that the OP knows the rhythm of such places, "Because my wife is pregnant, her doctor has ordered her to not drink tea/hot drinks," or, "No tea - thanks. We will have water/soda/whatever." The waitress can move on and her instinct to keep moving and be productive is unaltered.

                                    "When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you."

                                    I know I'd be pissed if I was the OP, but I tend to be very retrospective, and I'd have some second thoughts about how I could handle this type of situation in the future. As for the waitress? I'd bet a dime to donuts that this issue in her mind was like one circle around the fish bowl.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Point taken, but I don't think you are giving the waitress's intelligence enough credit here. He's just asking to sit down first, god forbid he break protocol. She can figure out how to give them beverages even if it means her routine is slightly altered. It's not as if they're asking her to derive Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

                                      1. re: chezwhitey

                                        The waitress's intelligence? Sorry if I offended but if "one circle around the fish bowl " was taken as offensive, I meant that she probably blew it off and was ready for the next in line.

                                        Heisenberg's uncertainty principle obviously can be applied if one adheres to Einstein's belief that in this case, (human) nature is certain in that the outcome seems relatively predictable - yes or no. But I'd extend this reasoning via a nuanced version of Occam's Razor in that, the simplest approach be the most reasonable.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          LOL, +`1.

                                          I know what you meant, I just took much of your post to imply that she was so obstinate in her ways due to sea harbor's ability to defy the second law of thermodynamics that any perturbation to the system would cause the collision of the har gow's anti-matter and matter.

                                          1. re: chezwhitey

                                            Considering that the OP got into hot water over tea, Brownian motion might be the more apt analysis here.

                                            1. re: chezwhitey

                                              Chaos. We has it.

                                              And by chaos I don't mean a Chinese family with the surname Chao...

                                              This board has just the right amount of geek in it. Love it.

                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                              LOL. Only on Chowhound.

                                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                Nerd alert - nerd alert...

                                                "Alex, I'll take d!ckhead dimsumisms for $400..."

                                      2. re: bulavinaka

                                        FWIW, Asian but don't speak fluently and rely on parents to translate as needed. My mom doesn't drink tea. When we get that question as soon as we walk in, she just replies no tea, ask for hot water and it's never been a problem.

                                        No excuse for the rudeness of course. When I was in food service, if confronted with that type of customer behavior, I would have been all smiles and called them names after I walked away. Hahaha!

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          >>No excuse for the rudeness of course. When I was in food service, if confronted with that type of customer behavior, I would have been all smiles and called them names after I walked away. Hahaha!<<

                                          I'm guessing that the gutter-mouth waitress felt that by saying what she said in super-secret unintelligible Cantonese to her associate, that the effect was similar - not!

                                          I used to work in the supermarket business decades ago. Talk about having to accommodate all kinds of customer behavior - everybody has to eat so every nut job shows up sooner or later. When we'd get a real tool expecting far beyond what we'd consider reasonable, we obviously couldn't use the default "dickhead" line, so all within proximity would chime in saying, "Have a GOOD day," which in essence meant, "f#ck off." Most customers never got it - just thought it was strange that all this good cheer was still pervasive even after being dicked with. Some did, and they'd report it to the manager. Manager would shrug his/her shoulders. "What do you want them to say?"

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Yes, I have my years of food service background to thank for perfecting my "@#$! off and die" smile and nominally polite tone and words. Perfect for meetings when people are being idiots but you have to be professional but getting the point across that they are being idiots.

                                    2. re: PayOrPlay

                                      was just in SF and walked by the old fave, Sam Wo, to photograph the exterior as a memory...the beloved/feared Edsel is missed.

                                      1. re: lapizzamaven

                                        Sam Wo came real close to being permanently shut down, Maven. The community protested and a special meeting was held by the city to keep them open.

                                    3. re: Servorg

                                      Sure, I don't expect French Laundry service, but still, insulting a customer just because you think that they don't understand is excessive to me....

                                      1. re: AtomicSuplex

                                        They didn't insult you because they thought you didn't understand, be (probably) because you didn't answer the question.

                                        Now, they probably thought they would get away with it because you didn't understand. There's a joke in the beginnin of Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (the original) along those lines.

                                        1. re: AtomicSuplex

                                          Just go to Elite for dim sum. You'll be allowed to sit before ordering tea.

                                          The sticky rice in lotus leaves and bean curd roll are superior at Elite anyways. Har gow is the same in quality.

                                          And you don't have to be held in contempt of dim sum court.

                                      2. You don't think it's a *little* bit funny?

                                        Also, even though it's called a "tea fee", it's really just a service fee, no? I think if you're going to be too cheap to pay the tea fee (whether or not you want to actually drink caffeinated tea), you shouldn't then complain about the service. Order a pot of chrysanthemum tea or hot water, and just accept the $1 / person charge.

                                        That said, maybe you'd like to try King Hua or Elite before Lunasia? My eating habits are not broad enough to really fairly comment on the food at either place (my wife was not super crazy about the food at Sea Harbour), but everyone we've brought to King Hua has liked it, and the crowds are usually smaller. The service is also generally fairly good there.

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: will47

                                          Yeah, it is funny.

                                          Also, the answer to what kind of tea do you want is not - "we want to look at the menu first". AFAIC - you hit the ground prickly. She asked a question and you repeatedly refused to answer. All you had to say is "no tea" - but instead you framed it in a way to make them appear annoying.

                                          1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                            foodiemahoodie, I got the same kind of vibe from the OP, stubbornly not answering the question posed, not even an "I don't know, what kind do you have? Can you give us a minute to decide?" Instead, "We want to look at the menu first" seems rather obstinate a response.

                                            However, there is no excuse for the hostess to say what she said, even if she didn't think the OP could understand her.

                                            will47, to be fair the OP did say his wife can't drink tea for medical reasons, so he wasn't just trying to avoid having to pay, despite his nickle-and-dime-ing comment, but again he didn't decline the tea outright, which could have nipped the issue in the bud.

                                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                              Respectfully, ..I know nothing about yum cha protocol. Nothing. But how is saying you wanted to wait to order "repeadedly refusing to answer."?

                                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                Respectfully, ..I know nothing about yum cha protocol. Nothing. But how is saying you wanted to wait to order "repeadedly refusing to answer."?
                                                _____________________________________________________

                                                How is that "refusing to answer," you ask?

                                                Because the OP's wife cannot -- for medical reasons -- drink tea.

                                                From the OP:

                                                >>> "My wife, for medical reasons, doesn't drink tea, so we always decline even if the tea is free (here it was $1+ per person). " <<<

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  So, you're saying that the OP was required to give personal details about his wife's condition, to satisfy the waitress' curiosity as to why this "d*ckhead" doesn't want tea?

                                                  1. re: choctastic

                                                    "Let me sit down and look at the menu" isn't really an answer to "what kind of tea do you want?".

                                                    I think he (and other people) are suggesting that, since in fact, he knew that he wasn't going to order tea, he should have quickly, and loudly, said "no" (or "mou yu" / "bu yao") in response to the question, instead of "let me look at the menu". I don't think he needed to go into medical detail - just give a direct answer.

                                                    1. re: will47

                                                      Exactly. I understand why people are upset with the waitress - what she did was idiotic and wrong. But that doesn't mean the OP & his wife weren't being difficult. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Like others have pointed out, they stubbornly insisted on not answering a really simple question about tea. He writes that they always turn down tea, whether free or not. Yet, in this instance, they didn't. Would the waitress have turned around and called them d_ckheads if they'd just answered her the first time around? I doubt it.

                                                    2. re: choctastic

                                                      So, you're saying that the OP was required to give personal details about his wife's condition, to satisfy the waitress' curiosity as to why this "d*ckhead" doesn't want tea?
                                                      _____________

                                                      Um, yes.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Not at all. I'm not even sure where you're reading that. They knew they wouldn't be drinking tea. A simple 'No tea, thank you' would have sufficed. No need to give personal details about medical conditions. And no need to force wait staff to wait unnecessarily and be given repeated 'non-answers' to such a simple question.

                                                        1. re: prawn

                                                          Are you responding to me?

                                                      2. re: choctastic

                                                        > So, you're saying that the OP was required to give personal
                                                        > details about his wife's condition, to satisfy the waitress'
                                                        > curiosity as to why this "d*ckhead" doesn't want tea?

                                                        Saying: "sorry, I can't . . . doctors orders." has smoothed over many awkward situations, like refusing offers of food or drink or eating only small amounts.

                                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                                          Yeah, doctor's order is good.

                                                      3. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Again, I defer to your experience on protocol. And frankly if I walked in to the restuarant, I wouldn't know what was proper. But the answer was " I want to wait to decide." If was clearly not the answer that is typical, or the wait staff wanted, but it was an answer.

                                                        1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                          Actually, the answer was "We will let you know after we sit down, okay?". These people hadn't even had the chance to sit their butts down, when they were heckled for not having decided on their tea choice. WTF?

                                                          Hey, I've had really bad service at Asian restaurants. I find Korean restaurants to be way worse than Chinese, but that's probably because I'm Korean and my Korean language skills suck. But the type of behavior described by the OP is far beyond what even I have encountered.

                                                          1. re: choctastic

                                                            Not true at all. Most dim sum places will ask you as they lead you to your table which tea you'd prefer. You'd have an argument if OP and his wife were singled out for special (mis)treatment, but the fact is they ask pretty much everyone this very same question. This is far from being 'heckled.' It was a simple question that they could have put to rest with a simple answer, but it ended up being dragged out for who knows what reason - they knew they weren't drinking tea, why not just say so?

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Chrysanthemum tea even? Perhaps jujube?

                                                    3. re: will47

                                                      A $1 tea fee is the same as (and not as bad as) the bread fee in restaurants in Italy.

                                                    4. Very rude and inappropriate behavior and language indeed. Not that I condone this but does a bad apple spoil the bunch? This should have been reported to management.
                                                      I like Sea Harbour but it is not the only one out there.

                                                      1. I don't care what culture you're from or how exactly Atomic Suplex phrased his response, that server was inexcusably rude. However, I can excuse bad service, heck even hostile service if the food is good. To me, the most troubling part of the story is the fact that you didn't like the food.

                                                        Thanks for sharing your experience. I had an OK time at SH myself, but I didn't think it stood out from the other well-reputed dim sum places. Not that I'm some expert. Keep your chin up, I'm sure you'll have an enjoyable dim sum experience somewhere else like King Hua or Lunasia.

                                                        At the very least, this thread can teach you (and me too) about how to potentially avoid clashing with the staff at Dim Sum places. The lesson I take from this is to be direct with them, and don't waste their time. Eating great dim sum is one of the most enjoyable dining experiences one can have IMO, so I say don't give up on it.

                                                        14 Replies
                                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                          I don't think servers should have to tolerate rudeness from customers. But I notice 2 things about your post.

                                                          1) These servers you mention were dealing with rude, difficult customers. From the OP, it sounds like this guy's wife wasn't being rude, at least not intentionally or blatantly.

                                                          2) Those servers you mentioned also responded directly to the customer. That's quite a different scenario than dissing someone behind their back thinking they can't understand your language.

                                                          Not trying to argue with you, but those scenarios just seem much different than the one described in the OP

                                                          1. re: BrewNChow

                                                            Not arguing either. But the OP seemed a little rude to me. I read the OP's story to a friend over the phone - and he had the exact same reaction I had - why don't you answer the question! (and we both cracked up over the dickhead line!). He's a trial lawyer and we both came to the conclusion that if this was court - not answering a question three times in a row would get you very close to being in contempt.

                                                            don't know the tone in which it was it delivered, or the look, or the lack of look. Or a pregnant sigh, or a clucking sound or one of many little details which could contribute to pissing off someone. Also, why not just say why you don't drink tea? "What kind of tea would you like?" "I can't drink tea because of the caffeine." (or maybe there was another reason). See, the dialogue as the OP put it - didn't make sense.

                                                            The insult - not called for, sure, but it wasn't like there was no motivation.

                                                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                              It's absurd to call the OP rude. They answered 3 times. Maybe they were undecided. Didn't know what tea options were available. Sea Harbor has many. Maybe they didn't want boring Jasmine. Maybe they wanted pu'ur. No need to be called a d-head for wanting to wait to place an order.

                                                              The waitress was not a judge. She was a waitress. Big difference there.

                                                              Having worked in the service industry, I'm the biggest believer that the customer is NOT always right and very often wrong. However, it is not okay to call your customer a d-head within earshot in the service industry just because they are indecisive. If they are serious d-heads that's one thing, being indecisive is entirely different. Most Chinese restaurants I've been to have pretty acceptable levels of service be it here in LA, in NYC Chinatown and Flushing, or even in Beijing where everyone else seemed "rude".

                                                              Finally, it's easy to be calm and collected when it didn't happen to you. I'm sure anyone here defending the waitress probably would not have relished being called a d-head...even in a Chinese restaurant.

                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                Well Porthos, we disagree on one point - and you seem to completely miss the point on top of it. I could repeat it, but I doubt that's going to change your mind. But any student of dialogue could plainly see that those are not 3 answers. Which is why the server kept repeating her query about what tea.

                                                                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                  I get your point. I simply disagree with your view. I said she answered 3 times, not that she gave 3 answers oh teacher of dialogue. Ask me the same question 3 times and I will give you the same answer 3 times.

                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                    I wonder what the outcome would have been had she or he said "No tea, thank you." and had been seated?

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      Probably the same outcome as if she had been seated and allowed to look over the menu before placing a tea order.

                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                        Obviously different since she wouldn't have pissed off the server.

                                                                        Which she obviously did.

                                                                        Unless you believe she calls all the customers dickheads. (this entire thread sounds like an episode of Curb Your Enthusism)

                                                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                          If you've eaten at a similar establishment before (which the OP has), then you should more or less know the available tea options (they don't differ much between places), and that you'll be expected to answer that question right when you're being seated. And, if you're getting seated at Sea Harbour, you've probably had ample time to consider those options.

                                                                2. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                  DH and I speak only English, so we have learned to make some accomodations in the way we speak when we are in a restaurant where the servers have a native language that we don't share. I am way better at this than DH is, but he is starting to get it. I am real proud of him.

                                                                  First off, I keep my requests short and to the point. After all, my goal is communication. On her third try, the OP's wife flung 12 syllables at the waitress "We will let you know after we sit down, okay?" That's way too much language and too abstract considering that the waitress might not be a fluent English speaker and that frustration was ripe on all sides.

                                                                  The OP's wife doesn't need any reason not to want tea. That's beside the point. She should have either said "No tea please," or, since it seems to be SOP to bring tea in that restaurant, just let the waitress bring the tea and then consider it the price of doing business if she wantes to eat there. Life is short, choose your battles. I have been to enough Chinese restaurants to know that the really ethnic places sometimes have a few servers who are horribly rude by my standards. Fortunately I can't understand the things they are probably saying behind my back.

                                                                  We recently had an excellent Dim Sum meal at King Hoa in the SGV. The food was really fresh and good. fIt melted in my mouth. The place is clean and when we were there it was working like a well-oiled clock. This was our first time having Dim Sum without cart service and it went great. It was easy to see that the staff has a routine, and they stuck to it. DH asked for hot mustard (this request cansometimes bring some strange looks) and he was brought a small plate with mustard and 2 other condiments on it. Our service was just fine.

                                                                  I wouldn't be surprised if the OP's akward communicationat the get-go threw a monkey wrench into the routine at Sea Harbour. Most likely the waitress was instructed to get tea on the table FAST, and when she couldn't quickly understand what the OP was saying she was afraid that the boss would scold her. For all I know she may have had a clock on her. The wait staff that I saw at King Hoa were nearly running from table to table with a boss watching all the time. I don't mean to imply that they were under stress, I don't know anything about them than the fact that they kept busy.

                                                                  We are long-time Dim Sum lovers. Just wished that we had a place closer to us. Can't wait to go back to King Hoa. Got that tip from Chowhound and can't thank the list enough for the suggestion.

                                                                  1. re: Cheesed

                                                                    Did anyone else read DH as "dickhead"?

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555190

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      Shoot, when I go into Sea Harbor a week from today for my solo food tour, I'm gonna be muttering "dickhead" under my breath and chuckling to myself all meal.

                                                                      1. re: PeterCC

                                                                        PeterCC - I'll go with you. We can talk to Ms. Dickhead and get her side of the story. Except I don't speak a lick of Cantonese.

                                                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        LOL!

                                                              2. If someone insulted me like that I'd walk immediately and let them know why right away. Then I'd go to Chowhound, of course. I work hard for my money and when I spend it, the meal better be worth it, whether it's a down and dirty taco truck to a steak restaurant. I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, but just some common courtesy that goes both ways.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: granadafan

                                                                  "I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot..."

                                                                  I expect to be waited on "dickhead to foot"! ;-D>

                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                    I must have missed the whole dickhead thing in this thread, what's that all about?

                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      read the OP?

                                                                      "So, the waitress turned around, and said to another waiter, in Cantonese (paraphrasing), "These d*ckheads don't want tea. Can you believe how stupid that is?""

                                                                2. Don't really want to comment on who's right or wrong. I just find that if you can speak Chinese at most of the Chinese restaurants in the SGV, it usually helps them understand you a lot easier. Of course that shouldn't be a requirement for good service, but if you can do it, why not.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: andytseng

                                                                    If the OP knows what a cheung fun and lun tow is, he knows there's going to be a tea fee for dim sum and by avoiding the waitresses' question he knew trouble was on its way. The waitress is going to think he's trying to avoid the fee. I've had relatives brag about waiving the fee because they personally know the manager and complained to them. To make things easier, just go along with the program. Mo ee see (take the middle road).

                                                                    1. re: Galen

                                                                      I'm guessing he got plated the "rejects" from the kitchen because of his attitude with the waitress.

                                                                      1. re: Galen

                                                                        LOL lun tow....that's not the right term. It's either lun yeung or tsuht tow. Or maybe the waitress said "fun cheung" which is a hidden creative way of saying lun yeung using a word that sounds remotely similar.

                                                                        1. re: K K

                                                                          "Tow" is "head" correct?

                                                                    2. I still don't get why they couldn't just let the waitress know they can't drink tea, and water would be fine. Making them wait until you're seated and have looked at the menu accomplishes nothing. She shouldn't have insulted them in their presence, that was terrible. But she absolutely should have gone in the back and insulted them there, because these are the kinds of experiences that the service industry absolutely dreads, people who go out of their way to make even the smallest things difficult.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: prawn

                                                                        Sounds like she would have insulted them no matter what they said. Now I'm starting to wonder about all the times that I had to order ice water for my friend at Sea Harbour... Maybe this is why I have never gotten food there that was on part with Elite, LOL.

                                                                      2. The only time I've ever had anything like this happen, it was for violating the protocol. My bad. I just rolled with it. Me, I would have simply answered her question.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: JThur01

                                                                          To bring this back to the chowish, I really really really liked the dim sum here.

                                                                          though i think dinner here is even way better.

                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                            Di lun & chow hi is extra too.

                                                                        2. It seems that I started a little firestorm here. I don't know if I can respond to everything said, but I'll try to round out this conversation.

                                                                          Regarding "standard protocol", I understand there are certain cultural expectations for dim sum, but last I checked, this is Los Angeles and not Hong Kong, so there should also be certain allowances for Western culture as well. As I said before, we had no expectation of good service as we've experienced our share of curt and inattentive waiters at Chinese restaurants. But, there is a line where curt and inattentive turns into rude and obnoxious, and that line was passed, IMO.

                                                                          As far as telling them "no" up front, we've tried that before and it really doesn't make too much of a difference (most of the time...) as every subsequent waiter would ask the same question as we ate. But, at least, up until now, the waiters would accept it and move on. I do not think it is too much to ask for to sit down before being verbally assulted.

                                                                          As far as *us* being the rude ones, REALLY???? This was us saying, very plainly, we want to sit down first. That is all. We weren't being evasive. It really came across to us that the waitress was doing her best to extract that extra few dollars out of us and, when she wasn't successful, she resorted to insults.

                                                                          Finally, as one person alluded to , the nail in the coffin was that the dim sum really was pretty mediocre. Good food can smooth over a lot of sins, but bottom line, for us at least, SH did not deliver and were incredibly rude in the process.

                                                                          Thanks for all the responses though...

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: AtomicSuplex

                                                                            "I understand there are certain cultural expectations for dim sum, but last I checked, this is Los Angeles and not Hong Kong, so there should also be certain allowances for Western culture as well."

                                                                            Whether or not there should be, there simply isn't. Did you know that going in, and still think they were required to treat you differently?

                                                                            "As far as telling them "no" up front, we've tried that before and it really doesn't make too much of a difference (most of the time...) as every subsequent waiter would ask the same question as we ate."

                                                                            Yes, different waiters, asking once, and moving on. Not the same person asking three times, getting frustrated, and calling you a d*ckhead. So obviously it does make a difference.

                                                                            "As far as *us* being the rude ones, REALLY????"

                                                                            Rude isn't the right word. But you definitely broke protocol by not giving a simple "no" answer, as many have already said. I agree with those who feel you should have been more direct about not ordering tea. However, I also think you should have cussed out the hostess.

                                                                          2. I have lived in the San Gabriel Valley most of my life and the only Asian restaurants with consistently courteous service are Japanese.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Ernie

                                                                              Amen.

                                                                            2. There's something missing here. Three times you were asked about tea, and the last time you said (like the previous times) that you "will let you know after we sit down, okay?"

                                                                              But what happened then? Did you sit down and say "No tea?" Did you ever give her a decision after you sat down?

                                                                              28 Replies
                                                                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                I really find it highly amusing that the OP is being attacked for mearly wanting to sit down and look at the menu before ordering drinks. Once they said that, the conversation is over, let them sit down and figure it out.

                                                                                Why is this so difficult?? Sometimes you know what you want to drink right away and sometimes you are engrossed in a conversation and need a minute. At least wait until you are out of ear shot to call the customer a dickhead.

                                                                                BTW: Not that they care, but I would still contact management and let them know of your experience and why you will not be coming back. Maybe it can be a learning experience (but probably not!)

                                                                                1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                  It's a culture mismatch (the waitress' rude behaviour notwithstanding). The point of dim sum is to drink tea; the food is secondary. Most Chinese people do not pair tea with food; they pair food with tea, which means they go in knowing what kind of tea they want to drink.

                                                                                  Americans think dim sum is about the food, and the tea is just there for liquid, like any other Chinese restaurant, which is where the mismatch happened.

                                                                                  Again, though, rude waitress was rude.

                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                    Thank you DU. I did not know that.

                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                      These two General board discussions go a little bit deeper about the origins of dim sum/yum cha.

                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737634

                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/719520

                                                                                      and are worth revisiting.

                                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                                        And thank you KK.

                                                                                      2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                        Oh gimme a break, the teas at even a high end dim sum joint are nothing to write home about. To say that most Chinese are there for the tea and not the food is a gross overgeneralization that has very little bearing on reality, at least in my experience.

                                                                                        1. re: choctastic

                                                                                          Then you're not ordering the right teas. Most high-end places, even in Los Angeles, have up to five different grades of each tea. It's up to you, the discerning consumer, to order the correct grade of the tea you want. I have ordered 一流的立夏安溪鐵觀音 (yi liu de li xia an xi tie guan yin—first-grade spring Iron Goddess of Mercy from Anxi) at Sea Harbour—and paid for it, which is far more than $1 per place setting—when I was going to yum cha with someone who appreciates great tea.

                                                                                          "Pairing" wasn't really the right term, in retrospect. You order the tea you want and then you get some snacks. It isn't pairing, per se, because you don't choose foods based on the tea you like, but it's more like the snacks are secondary to the tea, at least in theory.

                                                                                          I enjoy being asked what tea I want. It means I'm free to pick something besides the jasmine bags that come standard. And the waitress was still rude and I'd have shouted at her.

                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                            I think the conversation / relaxed pace, and social interaction is the main thing for most people; tea maybe helps facilitate that (and, in the case of ripe pu'er, helps cut down the grease a bit from all of the food). But a restaurant, with tastes, noise, smells, little control over water quality, etc. is not really the ideal place for tea appreciation. Also, I think most people will drink tea for appreciation before, or after, a meal, but usually not during. I think the ideal for restaurant tea should be "not bad" more than "excellent". If you really want to enjoy tea (rather than snacks, or the company of your entire family), it makes more sense to enjoy it in a different situation.

                                                                                            I have taken left over leaves of some really good teas and brewed them at dimsum places, or brought my own tea, but I think people who are not tea lovers will just order it as something warm to wash down their snacks.

                                                                                            Yes, traditionally it's referred to as yumcha because you're going to "drink tea", but I don't think you can extend that to say that people are actually going to a dim sum place specifically for tea appreciation more than the food.

                                                                                            Yes, places like Sea Harbour will have higher quality tea for people who want to spend a bit more (or show off), but still, the quality is only going to be so good (and, even if the tea is perfect, the water is not that great). "First grade" just means someone decided to describe it that way.

                                                                                            While it's definitely targeted more towards westerners, I am impressed by the "tea program" at this place in London:
                                                                                            http://chadao.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/...

                                                                                            (FWIW, I'm not a big fan of scented teas, but I would imagine that Sea Harbour, like most of the other places at that level, does at least serve loose leaf jasmine tea).

                                                                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                          You may be right, but I am not buying it. If you wanted to pair your food with tea you would want to be even more careful about your choise and not rush it.

                                                                                          1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                            Dim sum is my excuse to drink beer in the AM..(Tea? We don't want NO stinking tea!)

                                                                                            1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                              Actually, if you accept the idea that it's the tea that's the important thing, you would "want to be even more careful" about your food choice, not your tea choice. You'd be ordering food to go with your tea, not vice-versa.

                                                                                              That said, I never worry about it. I eat what I want to eat, and drink what I want to drink, without thought to pairing. I agree with will47 - saying the tea comes first is overstating the role of tea in dim sum today.

                                                                                          2. re: AAQjr

                                                                                            No one would find this defensible in a Western restaurant. Can you imagine this happening at Hatfield's or even Denny's?

                                                                                            And since Sea Harbour and their employees have embraced the Western culture of 15-20% tips they understand the importance of good service as service is usually very good there. This waitress was just plain out of line.

                                                                                            Finally, expecting poor service from a Chinese restaurant is like expecting carts at dim sum. It's an outdated notion. There is generally surprisingly excellent service at these high end Chinese restaurants these days, both here and in China.

                                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                                              >> have embraced the Western culture of 15-20% tips...

                                                                                              Actually, my understanding is that the custom among Chinese people in the SGV is more like 10% (which admittedly is 10% more than what you would pay in China.)

                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                No one would find this defensible in a Western restaurant. Can you imagine this happening at Hatfield's or even Denny's?
                                                                                                _______________________

                                                                                                No, but then no one would find cleaning a table with leftover tea in tea cups from the previous sitting acceptable at Hatfield's or Denny's either.

                                                                                                It's a different environment.

                                                                                                It is what it is.

                                                                                                If you want to take the Denny's analogy a step further, this would be like if the server at Denny's asked if you'd like some ice water, and the response was, "I'd like see the menu first" Huh?

                                                                                                And consider that Sea Harbour on a typical weekend morning/lunch rush will turn easily 500+ tables. The server was simply trying to be efficient and churn through the number people going through the restaurant. Instead of answering the question, the OP decided to be coy. Well, the OP's coyness only slowed down the conveyor belt service setup at Sea Harbour, and the OP got bitch-slapped.

                                                                                                And whatever service issues one might think Sea Harbour may or may not have, it certainly has not hurt their bottom line. Have you seen the lines at 9 am. on a Sunday morning? If I'm Starbucks or a food truck, I'd park myself in the parking lot at 8 am. and make sure I was fully stocked ...

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  If you want to take the Denny's analogy a step further, this would be like if the server at Denny's asked if you'd like some ice water, and the response was, "I'd like see the menu first" Huh?
                                                                                                  ===================================
                                                                                                  And as "Huh?" as that may be, even at Denny's they wouldnt ask you 2 more times then call you a d-head. It's unusual but so be it. Let the person sit.

                                                                                                  Regarding efficiency, there have been plenty of times when one sits without placing a tea order en route to the table. The next busboy or waitress that greets you at the table or that happens to swing by will pick up the order. That's the efficiency and redundancy built into the dim sum "system". At that point, it's less efficient for the waitress to perseverate over it trying to make *her* point.

                                                                                                  I agree that it's not even going to be a micro blip on their bottom line. As I mentioned in reply post #1: they will not miss the business. Go somewhere else. Life goes on.

                                                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                    Two main issues here, cultural differences/expectations, and communication.

                                                                                                    I agree it was downright rude of the waitress in her response. Whether she was having a bad day or just not understanding the need of the customer. Given the fact that she was pointing at the menu, saying "Jasmine? Jasmine?" means she was likely forcefully recommending an answer so that she could move on, and/or her English skills just plain sucked (a hiring and training faux pas by the restaurant, and/or just randomly hiring due to lack of applicants willing to work in the Chinese restaurant food industry, despite the restaurant's reputation and stature).

                                                                                                    But it would have really cleared the air by saying "please give us some more time". Or just without divulging medical reasons, say "we are not drinking tea, a pot of hot water please". The argument is that by briefly mentioning that we or someone in the party cannot drink tea due to doctor's orders may have a case for not being charged for tea. No need for details at all here. Since AS understood Cantonese, we are assuming he can speak it too to some degree, in which a polite but firm response to the waitresses question could have avoided the issue tumbling down altogether, and if done in Cantonese, would have had a much better outcome, regardless if the Cantonese is limited, spoken with an Americanized accent.

                                                                                                    If this happened to me, I would have raised a stink with the manager right there and then. (Or for fun, cussed back at the waitress and use Galen's incorrect term of "lun tow" just to get a rise out of her). Not just a matter of walking out, but escalating the fact that the waitress said crap which is very unprofressional and rude for a restaurant of this caliber and reputation.

                                                                                                    Then again no place is perfect....you've been to Koi Palace, and you've heard about regulars getting walked right in ahead of others waiting in line, or regulars who know waitstaff and managers well enough to waive tea charges (who do drink tea btw), and get slightly more efficient service/ordering, but everything else staying the same during lunch. And like you say, these things won't even cause a surface ripple because people will continue to go there to eat and they will stay afloat.

                                                                                                    I expect nothing less with Sea Harbor or Elite.

                                                                                                    You've recently dined at some nice places in Hong Kong, including those that have received Michelin star...and likely have received top level service and scrutiny. It will be a long time before we get anything remotely close in California from quality of the food to service. It is just unfortunate that some bad cultural elements persist and some choose to adopt them here.

                                                                                                    1. re: K K

                                                                                                      I'll just say, as a "hakujin" who understands not one word of Cantonese or any other Chinese dialect I'd no more think anything is amiss when confronted by a "rude" waiter or waitress in a Chinese restaurant than I do when confronted by a "rude" waiter or waitress in a Jewish type deli. It just comes with the territory for the most part. In fact, it's part of the charm of going to these places. Sort of "street theater" which I don't feel is either out of place or leaves me feeling something is missing when I don't receive it...

                                                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                        The "rudeness" at Jewish style delis and old school New York steakhouses is often just for show; the waiters and waitresses are actually very friendly and very charming. This is very different.

                                                                                                      2. re: K K

                                                                                                        I don't expect the Cantonese food here to catch up to the Cantonese food in HK.

                                                                                                        But since service here in the US is better than the service abroad in part due to our tips being higher than the 8-10% service charges abroad, it's ironic that restaurants in China (including or excluding HK) have elevated their standards of service while here in the US, Chinese restaurants are "expected" to have poor service.

                                                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      I think a better example would be something I encountered in college at a Denny's-style diner. My friends brought in some textbooks to read, and the waitress said, "This restaurant is for eating. It isn't a study hall." But if you bring out a newspaper at most dim sum restaurants, they staff would pretty much ignore you.

                                                                                                      1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                                                        I think a better example would be something I encountered in college at a Denny's-style diner. My friends brought in some textbooks to read, and the waitress said, "This restaurant is for eating. It isn't a study hall." But if you bring out a newspaper at most dim sum restaurants, they staff would pretty much ignore you.

                                                                                                        ___________________

                                                                                                        What if you brought a textbook (or more like a laptop or iPad these days) to dim sum?

                                                                                                        They might call the cops on you ...

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          I think it has to be a Chinese newspaper to give some extra yum cha cred.

                                                                                                          Wonder if a Chinese character enabled Kindle will work.

                                                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                                                            Or you could be totally ballsy and bring in a Ma-Jong set.

                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                              ...Or one of these.

                                                                                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cRIM5...

                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                Next time I get dim sum, I think I'll bring a copy of the LA Times just to see if anyone notices.

                                                                                                                1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                                                                  Yeah, it has to be a Chinese newspaper for the street cred. Neither the LA times nor the NY times will cut it.

                                                                                                            2. re: K K

                                                                                                              Nope, I've seen folks with the sunday paper at dim sum. The LA TImes, at that!

                                                                                                              And their cred far topped mine : )

                                                                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                                                                The first time I had dim sum -- in a giant no-name place on Nathan Road in Hong Kong, in 1975 -- I was struck by the number of folks reading the newspaper as they ate and drank. And for a significant number of them the newspaper of choice was the South China Morning Post, in English.

                                                                                                  2. Actually I find the service outstanding. They always have two floor managers plus waiters and
                                                                                                    servers plus the girls that are at the front and take you to the table and ask for your tea order,
                                                                                                    whats the big deal let the party begin. I`ve seen more rude overdemanding customers in
                                                                                                    Chinese Restaurants than bad service and whats with the msg are you kidding. Bad food and
                                                                                                    bad service at Sea Harbour no way.

                                                                                                    1. Like the others, I don't think the waitress should have insulted you. BUT... was it so hard to just answer the question? She asked you what kind of tea you wanted. There were 3 appropriate answers: "____ tea", "no tea", and "we don't know yet". "can we sit down and look at the menu first?" does not answer the question.

                                                                                                      It's like asking your kid who broke the vase and he launches into a story about how his sister came into his room without asking. At the end, you still don't know who broke the vase. Same thing here -- you still hadn't answered her question.

                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                        " My wife, again very politely, said "We want to look at the menu first"
                                                                                                        Waitress, jabbing her finger at the menu, "Jasmine? Jasmine? Yes?"
                                                                                                        I said, firmly, "We will let you know after we sit down, okay?" "

                                                                                                        The OP's response above, sounds very close to your #3 appropriate answer:
                                                                                                        "We don't know yet"

                                                                                                        1. re: Steve Green

                                                                                                          Regardless, the OP seemed set for an exercise in futility:

                                                                                                          >>My wife, for medical reasons, doesn't drink tea, so we always decline even if the tea is free (here it was $1+ per person). <<

                                                                                                          So why all the procrastinating? Why not decline this time?

                                                                                                          The waitress asks a direct question:

                                                                                                          >>As we were being lead to our table, the waitress asked what kind of tea we wanted.<<

                                                                                                          A simple "No tea, thank you." would have moved things along but:

                                                                                                          >> My wife politely said (in English), can we sit down and take a look at the menu first?<<

                                                                                                          Why? Why? Why carry this on for three iterations? The OP already has stated they never take tea. Only the OP and wife know why they threw a change-up this time around.

                                                                                                          Hmm...

                                                                                                          - The OP knows Cantonese.
                                                                                                          - Tea is never taken - admittedly by the OP.

                                                                                                          What more does one need to make a call here?

                                                                                                          If the waitress worked for a big corporation, she may or may not get fired. But if she was disciplined up to short of termination, she would probably be mandated to take anger management classes as well as cultural sensitivity classes. However, the SGV is a culturally dense box that is for the most part immune to such silliness.

                                                                                                          The OP knows enough Cantonese to be aware that he's being dissed but doesn't understand the ways of dim sum or the cultural motivations of the Cantonese? Don't know what the remedy is here.

                                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                            Point A) The OP may or may not drink tea, His wife is the one who doesn't drink it.

                                                                                                            Point B) That doesn't mean they knew what they wanted to drink only what they did not want to drink.

                                                                                                            1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                              Point A:

                                                                                                              >>...so we always decline even if the tea is free (here it was $1+ per person)<<

                                                                                                              Point B:

                                                                                                              Fine - this general suggestion for a response has been already been suggested, but:

                                                                                                              "No tea thank you - may I see a menu or can you tell me what other drinks/beverages I can order?"

                                                                                                              And as The Black Knight from Monty Python settles with King Arthur, "Alright - we'll call it a draw..."

                                                                                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7...

                                                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                Maybe I am wrong, but in this case I am guessing it's the royal 'we'. Being supportive of his spouse and all that. I could very well be wrong though.

                                                                                                                1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                  I was thinking the same upon first read, but it still bugged me that a Cantonese speaker would not know to handle the situation more assertively. No one likes awkward situations - wait staff and guests included. So the waitress spoke straight while the OP seemed to stammer. Being belittled sucks but in this context, the waitress's outburst was simply, "WTF?" From my experience around some Cantonese speakers, that's on the mild side.

                                                                                                            2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                              "but doesn't understand the ways of dim sum or the cultural motivations of the Cantonese?"

                                                                                                              ABC or someone who left Hong Kong at a very young age that became more ABC than "FOB".

                                                                                                            3. re: Steve Green

                                                                                                              Yes, but that response was the third time around. The first response was that they wanted to look at the menu. the second response was also "we want to look at the menu first'. Finally, on the third response, the OP answered appropriately. That's when the waitress stopped asking. If they had given the answer the first time, none of this would have happened.

                                                                                                          2. This has been a really fascinating discussion, but (and I'm not trying to shut down conversation, not that I have the power to anyway) I don't think any one perspective is going to "win" or convince the other side that they're wrong.

                                                                                                            I am tempted to, when I go in on Sunday, not answer the question about what kind of tea I want (xiang pian, jasmine, is what I usually ask for at dim sum places) just to see what happens.

                                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                                                                                              Kind of off topic, but has anyone here ever ordered any of the more "exotic" or "high end" teas with their dim sum? For example: Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess) or Longjing (Dragon Well) or Pu-erh tea?

                                                                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                                                                Have tried pu'er and one of the "monkey picked" tea leaves at Koi Palace in SF. Interesting but didn't enhance my meal any like a wine pairing.

                                                                                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                                                                                  I've had tieguanyin but I think it's a bit too aggressive to enjoy with many dishes.

                                                                                                                  1. re: J.L.

                                                                                                                    High-end teas would be wasted at dim sum.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                      Agree. Just curious...

                                                                                                                    2. re: J.L.

                                                                                                                      I have.

                                                                                                                    3. re: PeterCC

                                                                                                                      Perhaps we should go in to Sea Harbour en masse - preferably with the OP - insist on that waitress and ALL avoid answering the question. Then all yell "D*ckhead!" Of course, we should tip fully. I mean, lead by example, right? Clearly, a point must be made.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                                        Heh...I like how this thread has metastasised into a mass sit in!

                                                                                                                        Unfortunately, we don't live in LA...but I still approve of this...

                                                                                                                    4. Can we please just let this thread die? Bad service at a Chinese restaurant? In other news the sky is blue. Calm down, eat your food, and don't expect service.

                                                                                                                      1. Yes, I thought terrible, rude service and an ABC grade of C was the imprimatur of a great Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                          Ive only been to Sea Harbour 1/2 dozen times and Ive never been treated with even a hint of rudeness, unless they were joking about how this gwei lo? was sweating from the chile peppers! and the food was always excellent!

                                                                                                                        2. Since you knew you weren't going to have tea, I'm confused as to why you didn't just say "Thank you but we won't be having tea."?

                                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                            I wonder if the OP thought that by admitting they'd not be having tea, the hostess might relegate them to some siberian table or inferior location in the room? I have only gone for dim sum twice in this lifetime, so I am not sure if location matters as regards a positive vs. negative experience...

                                                                                                                            1. re: silence9

                                                                                                                              It should matter less nowadays as dim sum places move to made-to-order model of operations rather than carts, but when carts ruled, it definitely could matter where you sat as where you were on the cart route would influence how quickly you could get an item or how fresh an item was.

                                                                                                                              1. re: silence9

                                                                                                                                Normally, you're already at the table when they ask you about the tea. However, Sea Harbour uses the menu-ordered dim sum model. It doesn't really matter where you sit.

                                                                                                                                1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                                                                                  It still does, but certainly less so than at a cart-place.

                                                                                                                                  I wouldn't want to sit next to the kitchen door, for example.

                                                                                                                              2. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                Escondido raises a great point.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                                  Actually, no. The question of "did the OP do anything wrong" is what has been argued. The question of why the OP did what he did is one only the OP can answer. The closest he has come to answering the question of why is this:

                                                                                                                                  "As far as telling them "no" up front, we've tried that before and it really doesn't make too much of a difference (most of the time...) as every subsequent waiter would ask the same question as we ate."

                                                                                                                                  This suggests he thought that, if he's going to get asked by multiple waiters what kind of tea he wants, he might as well give them a vague, indirect, noncommittal answer. But even that answer is more the OP's justification than his rationale.

                                                                                                                              3. I'm glad the tea fee was brought up since we gotten so accustomed to getting our Chinese tea free, we're taken aback when there's a cost to it - especially if all we're ordering is the standard jasmine tea. But go to a non Chinese restaurant and order tea, you might get a few wedges of lemon and a tab of honey but we're definitely getting charged a couple of dollars. Also, as it was brought up, there are other tea's (more expensive teas) you can order. But I don't recommend asking what kind they have if you thought that waitress/hostess in the OP was rude.

                                                                                                                                Just out of curiosity, are "soup nazi's" ok while "rude chinese servers" are not? They're both rude aren't they? Just wondering.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Yumyumcha

                                                                                                                                  THE Soup Nazi was stoic. He didn't say a darned thing so even he wasn't running around calling people d-ckheads.

                                                                                                                                2. I still don't get why if you "always decline tea" why didn't you decline it right away when asked the 1st time, let alone 3x?

                                                                                                                                  You wouldn't have had a rude remark made at your expense and you probably would have enjoyed the food more, now "tainted" by your experience.

                                                                                                                                  1. Folks, this thread is really more of a Not About Food etiquette topic than a regional discussion of a restaurant at this point. We're going to lock it now.