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Please help settle debate! [moved from New Jersey board]

Tonight four of us ate at a fairly new place (opened Dec 2011) two of us have become regulars there and the two of our guests (family) were 1st timers. It's an upscale restaurant with a sommelier, wine room, semi-known chef, etc. but not crazy expensive. Say $50pp wih 2 drinks.

I ordered two apps as my meal: salad and shrimp. I loved the salad; and hated the shrimp. I ate two shrimp and was done. There was nothing wrong with the execution of the plate but I didn't care for it.

My table carried on about me not eating it....and the server comped my shrimp. I was so embarrassed.

My table said, "if you don't like something you should complain."

I say, "if the kitchen messes up, I will complain; but if I just decide I don't care for something, that's on me."


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  1. As someone who has worked his entire life in the food industry, my thoughts are .....given the details you provided, you were correct and the others were wrong.

    9 Replies
            1. re: PotatoHouse


              and your companions should not have carried on like that. (coming from a person that hates it when people pay too much attention to what I have or have not eaten for no other reason then to use it as a topic of conversaton)

      1. re: fourunder

        I agree, if the food was correctly done, and you just happened to dislike its taste, it is not the restaurant's fault. I would not wish to be comped, if the management offered the chance at another dish and the timing would work well for the group, I would consider that. FOH should have offered.
        I am sorry you were embarrassed. But you were correct.

        Part of being a CH is that we like to try new things, some are hits for our tastes, some are misses. The only fault for that is our palate. But no, you don't complain to the restaurant, for how your taste reacted.

            1. Personally, if I simply don't like something due to my own preference, I don't eat much of it (it's rare that I dislike anything so much that I can't give it a chance). Honestly, I can't stand people who are generally inclined to bitch - those who have embraced being the squeaky wheel to gain advantage in their daily lives. It's simply distasteful to me.

              It reminds me of a time we were out to dinner and a pair of women were seated nearby. One, in particular, had her volume set a few notches above pleasant so that the entire room had to try not to hear her. As she shared her meal selection with the waiter, most of us were also made privy to it. Personally, I thought she had made a good choice with the gazpacho . . . .

              We watched the waiter bring the ladies their soups as I awaited my chance to ask for a digestif. He stopped by our table, and I began to order when we were interrupted. "This soup is awful. It's ice cold. My God it's horrible." She shouted in our direction.

              This thread may get moved to another board, but somehow I wonder if the Jersey perspective may be a bit different than others.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MGZ

                Same basic experience. Guy orders steak au poivre--then calls back waiter later to say--you got it, someone put too much pepper on my steak.

              2. You are right. Actually, I applaud you for your behavior. If you don't like something, it is not always the restaurant's fault.

                1. If you don't like a well executed dish, it is not the fault of the restaurant, nor is it your fault either.

                  it just happens.


                  1. In retail, if one buys a dress one likes in the store and then gets it home only to realize one does not really like the color at all, one may return it within a specified amount of time. This is because the retail establishment is able to return it to the sales floor and eventually sell it. This cannot be done with food that has been cooked. If the food in question is prepared in such a way that it is inedible, the restaurant should be notified of it immediately and the dish remade or something else offered in its place. Sometimes a restaurant will comp the dish. That said, your situation is very different. You did not like the dish based on personal taste. You acted in the absolute right way, while your dining companions took the "customer is always right" edict to a level that it was never meant to rise to.

                      1. I knew all the CHs would agree with me. :) I left a very nice tip, didnt want the server thinking I was trying to scam to save $15 LOL

                        1. I think you did the right and honorable thing. So many people use the "I didn't like it" approach in an attempt to get something comped or reduced in price.

                          1. You absolutely did the right thing.

                            As I dine out often with a fair assortment of adventurous eaters, and we often want to try the most interesting or unique dishes, it occasionally will happen that a preparation, while executed as the chef envisioned, will not appeal to the person that ordered it. I and those I dine with always handle it the exact same way that you did.

                            At the better restaurants (and I don't necessarily mean upscale) it is surprising how often the server will offer to comp the dish or bring something else out quickly, gratis, regardless of how you try to convey that the dish was prepared well, just not to your taste.

                            1. You are completely right, absolutely and positively 100% RIGHT!!!

                              Was it the first timers who made the biggest stink?

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: Jersey Girl227

                                  I think THEY owe you a dinner!!! (but maybe not at a restaurant? ;)

                              1. You were 100% correct. Go the the head of the Chowhound ambassador line, please.

                                1 Reply
                                1. I agree that if you don't like a dish, you shouldn't be comped for it. However, if the dish turned out to have a major ingredient that was not listed on the description (I once had that happen with a dish that came out covered in fresh cilantro which tastes like soap to me) I would hope the restaurant would offer me an alternative. But I wouldn't demand it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    That is totally understandable, I hate eggs...so if a menu leaves off a running dripping egg on a plate, I'd say something!

                                  2. Hi... You were correct.

                                    As for your dining companions (with a humble nod to the film Spinal Tap):

                                    - Question: " How wrong can your friends be?"
                                    - Answer:: " None more wrong!"

                                    Your friends need to spend more time around sane people like you. And you need to spend less time around nutjobs like them :-)

                                    1. Assuming the shrimp were prepared as described and you simply didn't like them, I think you were fine... But the flip side is that the restaurant may appreciate the opportunity to get you something else you like. As it is, all you can say about the place is that you had a salad and a shrimp dish you didn't care for. If the restaurant comps your shrimp and lets you order something else, you'd be able to not only rave about their service, but also the replacement dish. The goodwill and praise may be worth it to the restaurant...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: akq

                                        I believe if I sent a full dish back to the kitchen someone would have come out of the kitchen and asked about it on his own. I once before sent a full plate back at the same place (pasta was really mushy) and the bartender bought me a glass of wine. I was just so embarrassed that my table 'bitched'

                                      2. Some people have the attitude that "for $50pp, I had BETTER like it!" Those people would be wrong. Your companions are wrong, and they were wrong to 'carry on about it', too. You're right, and you know it...you probably just wanted validation. And akq makes an excellent point about how a truly well-run restaurant would handle it.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ricepad

                                          I do agree. Actually, as the price climbs, I become more critical. In he example below, he meal was about US $ 500/person, including he wines. If I am dining at a US$2.00 "taco truck," I will probably let more slide, unless it is unhealthy, or dangerous.


                                        2. I have had many instances, where something was wrong. If it was just that I "did not like it," then I pass that on, but qualify it.

                                          If there was something wrong, then I whisper to the server, my concerns. I am quiet, and no one else knows what I am talking about.

                                          In the not too distant past, we had "bad" crab cakes. I explained that, and hey were both replaced and comped.

                                          In another situation, we had some crab shell (tiny bits) in a crab cake (is there a theme here?), and I whispered about those, so that no other diners would encounter them. [We are from New Orleans, and have had blue crabs every way possible, so a bit of shell is meaningless to us.] The service captain not only replaced the dish, BUT she delivered another dish, with a wonderful wine to accompany her replacement. I complained to her, that this was NOT what I wanted, and stated that I just wanted to point up a potential problem, that others might not overlook, as we did. Her reply was "We strive to be perfect, and we thank you for your comments, as they will help us toward perfection." Wow. She then comped the entire dish, and the wine to pair with it, plus comped the replacement dish, plus its wine - great, BTW. I did not intend for that to happen. My concern was only for the next table.

                                          I speak to he service captain, and I share my observations, whether it's about a dish that does not meet my satisfaction, or has a flaw. It is for the restaurant's good, and could impact their next diner. I qualify, where necessary. "Too salty" for me, might be "too little salt" for the next diner. It can be very personal.


                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            This person posted "There was nothing wrong with the execution of the plate but I didn't care for it. " I think this is different from shells in a crab cake or a dish that's too salty, no? I feel you should get a dish free when there is something wrong with it, not that it turned out to be something you didn't like.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              He said "If it was just that I "did not like it," then I pass that on, but qualify it" and then later gave an example, 'Too salty' for me, might be "too little salt" for the next diner."

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Yes. I agree that they ordered the wrong dish. The same happens with wine, all of the time. Unless the sommelier, or wine steward has recommended it, if one orders a wine, but decides that they made a mistake, it is THEIR mistake, and no the restaurant's.


                                            2. <I say, "if the kitchen messes up, I will complain; but if I just decide I don't care for something, that's on me." >

                                              I agree with you. If the chef wrongly execute a dish, then you can and should complain. If you simply do not like the "style" of the dish, then it is difficult to complain.

                                              1. I agree with everyone, your attitude was correct.

                                                This reminds me of something that happened over 20 years ago. Went to a somewhat trendy (at the time) restaurant and ordered fettuccini alfredo. Pasta came but tasted like the chef used the pepper mill and forgot to stop after 20 turns. Really not edible after the first few bites and I don't like much pepper anyway. Waitress comes at the end of the meal (I forget if she came to check on us after entree drop off) and noticed my plate was barely touched. I told her about heavy pepper and she said something like "well you should have said something." It never occurred to me to complain. I don't remember if she comped it but again that wouldn't have occurred to me either.

                                                Kudos to you.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                  If food is truly not edible, I will send it back. I remember getting a pasta dish at a very famous restaurant that was so salty it was inedible--and I like salt. The waitress said 'Oh your eyes were bigger than your stomach and now you want to send it back?" I said "Taste it." She took a bite and took it back to the kitchen...it wasn't on the bill.

                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    I cannot believe she actually said that to you. ::::shaking my head::::

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      "And your mouth was bigger than my wallet, too." Any time a server accuses me of trying to rip off the house, they'll get a very tiny tip from me....just enough so they know I didn't forget to tip them. If I'm feeling particularly bent out of shape, I'll complain to the MOD, too.

                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                        OMG...you are my hero! I wish I had the nerve to say "taste it" recently! I was at a very small party with a very famous Chopped chef who made the risotto plate himself. It was crunchy...needed two more minutes. I pleaded with myself to say "taste it" to him and I just didn't have the nerve to.

                                                        But he was so sweet and accomadating all night, I felt like I'd be calling him out in his home. (wasn't at restraunt....private party.)

                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                          And the kicker was they had served too quickly and so the pasta was followed in just a couple minutes by the main course and our table was really too small to hold it all. When I asked if either of the owner/chefs was in the kitchen they said "No." Then I knew exactly why there was a problem.

                                                          1. re: escondido123

                                                            I can't say for sure that it was inedible, I just didn't like it. I have a low tolerance for heat in food, whether it be pepper, spices, etc. So highly spiced food (Indian, Hunan, etc) is out for me. All I taste is the fire and I don't enjoy it. Yesterday there was chicken curry in our employee cafeteria. One bite was all it took, and I headed for the main kitchen and got a sandwich.

                                                            I was also much more timid then, and less likely to speak up in such matters. I've learned alot since then, so might flag the server to discuss, not complain. In fact, I can't think of a similar situation occuring in the last 10 years or so.

                                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                              This is a curiosity question, not one meant to be critical in any way.....so please do not take it as so. Since you have a low tolerance for heat and spice, do you order your outside meals in restaurants specifically with instructions not to include any pepper, or very minimal at most? I ask this only for the reason if you did so, then you would have every right to send the item back if your specific instructions were not met or followed.

                                                              I used to have a GF who could not stand the sight, smell or taste of Parsley. For the first three meals I had with her (while dating), she would always order a meal without any specific instructions to omit the parsley. When here dinners came out, she always showed disappointment...although she never sent the item back. I would see her try to push aside the parsley and make the best of her situation. On future meals, she would order again, always without mentioning to omit the parsley garnishes. Whenever the server turned to me for my order, I always told them to make sure the parsley to be left off her plate, otherwise we would have to send it back. This went on for eight years......

                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                Oh, I don't take it as being critical at all. I never think to ask about pepper, but if it were a repeat visit and I had previous problem with a dish there, I might ask the server if it could be done. I'm pretty trusting that my food won't be overseasoned or prepared incorrectly. I just remembered another time I had a problem with a dish (again, many years ago). Used to go to a casual bagel place in LA for breakfast. I would usually get eggs over easy. One time I sent the dish back twice as the yolks were cooked past "over easy." Third time the cook delivered it himself and we had a little conversation about the definition of "eggs over easy." Anywhere else, the egg whites are cooked, and the yolk runny!

                                                                I think (after working for a catering company for 23 years) I can identify ingredients in almost any dish on a menu, and if in doubt I always ask the server. There are ingredients I don't enjoy and one specific mushroom I'm allergic to, so I really do ask. But who would have thought a basic pasta dish had waaay too much pepper? Unless listed as "diablo" or "au poivre" there's no reason to suspect it would.

                                                                Sorry about your past GF. I'm not sure what to make of it, but who knows where these culinary aversions come from if not specifically from taste.

                                                        2. On Sunday, ate at a well-known place in Cape May, NJ (L-house). Three outta 5 people ordered fried flounder. When it came to table?? Looked awful thick?? Have a feeling it wasn't really flounder, but it was tasty, at least to me and one other diner. Third person kinda "whined" about it thru whole meal... BUT ate it all?? Have rarely sent food back to kitchen and definitely not in a snobby/snooty way.