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Jun 18, 2012 09:50 AM

Talula's Garden: report + comping question

The garden is a really lovely place to dine on a warm night, and much quieter compared to the lively dining room acoustics. Our server was very helpful and pointed out some of her favorites – there was a hard sell on the cheeses but as it was fairly late (9pm seating, restaurant was at capacity) we decided to skip and go straight for two pasta appetizers: Fresh Jersey Clams in Pino Gris Broth, Summer Herbs, Chile, Green Garbanzo, and Pasta alla Chittarra and Sweet Pea Ravioli with Goat Butter Sauce, Snap Peas, Shoots, and Grated Aged Goat Cheese. Both courses were very light, the pasta very fine, delicate and tender. The Jersey Clams were tiny and plentiful with a nice serving of the noodles – a light subtle summer dish that did not taste spicy at all. I preferred the Sweet Pea Ravioli, though from the description we were expecting a much richer, goaty dish. The sauce was tasty but again, very light, and very seasonal. This was a much smaller portion in comparison to the clams and noodle dish.

For mains we ordered the Halibut “Rockefeller” with New Potatoes, Creamed Nettles, Spinach, Chives, and Sherry Bacon Vinaigrette and the Rhubarb Glazed Muscovy Duck Breast with Confit Leg, Pickled Rhubarb and Beluga lentils served in au jus. The duck was hearty without being heavy, the tart rhubarb complimenting the slight gamey flavor well. The lentils weren’t anything special but hey, they are lentils. The Halibut was very tasty, a nice crispy filet served over a more veg heavy version of creamed spinach with a plentiful amount of twice fried bacon crumbles. This dish was very flavorful between the vinegar, bacon fat, fish and spinach/nettle puree.

Unfortunately, my fish was raw in the middle – not undercooked, but raw and pink to the point that the fish wouldn’t flake with a fork. I showed the server and asked if they could just refire the fish, saying everything tasted great, but the fish was raw – she agreed and apologized, no problem. As I waited, the manager came by and introduced herself, apologizing for the fish and said that the chef will be plating a fresh dish and to let her know if there were any other issues – ok great, no problem, I told her I was sure we wouldn’t need to bother her again and stressed how great everything else had tasted so far. It was probably another 15 minutes before the replacement dish came out, cooked perfectly and tasting great, though by now my partner’s duck was cold.

When the check came, we were not comped anything for the mishap and not offered complimentary dessert. At the time, I was a little surprised though I wasn’t too bothered since they did, after all, correct their original mistake. However, on our walk home, my partner mentioned he was a little upset, noting he had saved up for this special meal and it wasn’t just about the food issue itself, but the pacing of our meal was thrown off as he had to choose to either eat solo while I looked on as I waited for my fish or to wait with me and let his dinner get cold. I do see his point but I also wonder if it is unfair to come to expect comps when the kitchen makes a mistake such as this one. Chowhounders, what do you think? Should the restaurant offered something more than just correcting their error?

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  1. I would have expected a comp'd dessert or drink, especially at an SRO place. It's those kind of touches that elevate good service to great service and leave a lasting impression.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barryg

      I do not expect it. It is nice when it happens. My only other comment would be it sounds like the way you described your conversation with the manager that you were highly satisfied with the meal. Perhaps the impressoin you left was that all they needed to do is provide a perfectly cooked piece of fish. With regard to your DCs meal.. I always encourage people to eat without me if I am holding up the pace.

      At this point, I would write to the restaurant, making sure the letter is adressed to Aimee Olexy and describe your situation.

      Sorry you didnt have the perfect meal. Talulah's is a very good restaurant as part of your meal reflected.

    2. Comping for mistakes has become more common over the last ten years. I know you didn't, but many customers come to expect it. Yelp flows over with complaints of not being comped when issues occur.

      I think Tablua's Garden handled the situation nicely - at least by late 1900's standards. The server was apologetic and made a point to notify the manager. The manager stopped by. The kitchen fired up a new entree. Good reactions all around.

      One person having their entree and one not is awkward. I sometimes don't send back minor issue dishes, such as a steak ordered medium rare and served medium, to avoid that dilemma. When both are willing, the person with the food might offer to share some of their entree and then share the other entree when it arrives. Other than that there is really no good answer. It would be classy if the server offered to return both entrees to the kitchen and serve two fresh plates, but I've never seen it happen.

      It would have been nice if the restaurant did offer up a bit of penance. Back when I had my place, it was usually a round of wine - or sometimes we sent out a quickly available appetizer to an entree-less diner to tide things over. Or maybe an after-dinner drink.

      The most savvy response would be a future comp, "Next time the two of you come back, the appetizers are on us." That might bring you back, when you weren't intending to give the place a second chance.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Holly Moore

        Your idea of a quickly available app brought to temporarily replace the troubled main is so intelligent, IMO best solution, have never seen it, drats.

        1. re: Holly Moore

          well said, I think you echo most closely what i was thinking about the whole thing after having some time/sleeping on it. some form of comp (even my bf's coffee) would have been nice, but I think writing them about this particular experience is kind of awkward unless I can think of a way to constructively frame the note without coming across as fishing too hard

        2. Serving raw fish is a mistake worthy of a comp, something, anything. Understand about throwing off the pace of the dinner being annoying. When it has happened to me I have asked about the time required to produce a replacement. I have often opted for an item which could be produced in a timely manner, perhaps even a second appetizer; canceling the original item. It is more than just the food, They are selling the entire experience for which you pay big bucks and they blew a big portion of it! Perhaps your profusely positive comments did obviate a comp. It would have shown both respect for the customer and a bit of upscale attitude to offer something.