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Would you ever feel comfortable asking for ...

... a salt shaker at a place like Alinea, or the French Laundry, or a sushi/Japanese place like Masa or Urasawa, or a Chinese place like Koi Palace?

What if you just felt the food was under seasoned and just needed that little dash of salt to round out the taste (to your liking)?

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  1. If I am paying French Laundry prices I would have no problem asking for anything.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jpc8015

      I tend to agree, mostly. As much as some chefs love to believe that their food is perfectly seasoned, in the real world we all have different tolerances, especially for salt. What I find perfect my mom finds underseasoned.

      That said, if I was at the French Laundry, I'd probably draw the line at asking for ketchup.

      1. re: JonParker

        I don't think I could keep a straight face if I tried asking for ketchup at French Laundry.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            [Quote] I'd ask for Miracle Whip. [/Quote]


        1. re: JonParker

          <<if I was at the French Laundry, I'd probably draw the line at asking for ketchup.>>

          Though I do enjoy ketchup on some things, I do agree with you.


        1. Probably not.

          I assume that, at that level of pricing, the chef knows what's what about her/his dishes and I'd want to eat them as they were intended to be eaten.

          That said, dining has come a long way since the 1980s whenMichelin 3* chef, Nico Ladenis, would order customers out of the restaurant for asking for salt.

          I'm assuming the OP's question about salt is intended to be more generic about condiments rather than just salt and I've answered on that basis. If it was just about salt, then I would never ask for it. I neither cook with salt, not add it to my food at the table.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Louis' Lunch in New Haven - ask for salt or ketchup and you're out. At least that's how it was when old man Lassen ran it. It's the oldest hamburger restaurant in America.

            1. re: Veggo

              Hasn't changed and always great.

            2. re: Harters

              I think that's the crux of the matter. If I was on a competition cooking show I'd probably be eliminated early for underseasoning. I'm highly sensitive to salt, and while I like my food seasoned, what I consider fine is what many people consider bland.

              1. re: Harters

                To me, the chef prepares a dish to their personal tastes. However, as I am the patron, if I feel a need for something more, I do not hesitate to request it. If the chef wishes to do battle, then I am ready.

                Still, regarding salt, we almost never use it, beyond the prep, and more often wish that less had been used - that is our tastes, and not some other motivation.


              2. I would ask but, not for your standard table salt, rather a finishing salt. I don't feel I'm being critical of the chef or establishment but, maybe a line cook. Then again, it could be my worn out taste buds!

                1. I never add salt to anything, so...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    I am almost always with you - but there HAVE been a few exceptions - the same with pepper (have a collection of a bunch of them, as well).

                    I can recall many more times, when I wish that the chef had gone lighter on salt, than times, where I wish I had more.


                  2. If salt and pepper aren't offered or on the table then I would not ask. Very seldom has something been under seasoned.

                    1. I honestly don't recall ever adding salt to any dish. (with the exception of french fries)

                      Pepper, that's another story, yes I would ask for it.

                      1. At Koi Palace the waiters are the ones fulfilling customer requests of wanting salt, soy sauce, pepper, chili oil, napkin, more water, more ice, more tea etc. Won't affect the chef's feelings one bit, unless his character is called into question or a huge ruckus occurs requiring management to intervene, or if a dish is sent back unreasonably. Also like others have said, if you end up ordering the high end stuff like the $500 emerald lobster (with spinach), or braised abalone with four digit priced bottle of sour grape, they will probably lay down on the tracks and die for you too... I'm guessing the same goes for Elite or Sea Harbor or even Hakkasan SF. So yeah if that were to happen and if I really needed it, I'll ask for it, but that probably won't happen to me.

                        Koi Palace is nice, but honestly I wouldn't even put them in the category of Masa, Urasawa, Alinea, French Laundry of this discussion. I think even at 2 to 3 Michelin star Cantonese fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong, they will be glad to give you a salt shaker. But if I were to be at Sushi Yoshitake, Saito, Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten etc...I wouldn't do it (and frankly no need to)...like Yoshikazu said in the movie, that they hope their customers have some basic knowledge of sushi before coming. That's just me.

                        1. The larger the tariff for a meal, the less apt I am to alter the taste of the meal. A case in point was an espresso I had at a local Emeril restaurant. Well crafted cocktails, great meal, spot on advice on the wine. And I couldn't stand the espresso. Told the waitress, and she replaced it. Still tasted oily/off. She said he took pride in his espresso, but she would gladly take it off the bill. I said I was there to try new things and would have it.

                          I am far more often to add salt and pepper at friend's dinners than eating out. Salt free, butter free, etc.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            That said, I was at a very expensive restauraunt and ordered veal carpaccio. When it came to the table it was frozen. I summoned the waiter and told him I still wanted the dish, but maybe it would be best if I took it to go. He packed it up for me, took it off the bill, and brought me a replacement dish.

                            The better the restaurant the higher your expectations are.

                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                              I have yet to eat in Luanda, but I might still want some gindungo on the side...

                            2. The taste of salt freshly sprinkled on food is quite different from the flavor that cooking with salt imbues. Now it may be that Alinea or French Laundry sprinkle salt just before a dish leaves the kitchen, but I would not be ashamed to ask if i really thought It would make a difference.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                You are so correct. Our "gourmet salts" are just for sprinkling on foods, and NOT for cooking. Totally different situations, IMHO.


                              2. I'm pretty sure I saw a video of Thomas Keller where he carries and shows a salt tin which is always in his pocket. If he feels he can add salt to food from others....I don't think he would be opposed to others adding salt to his.

                                1. Come to think of it, and oddly enough, I never, ever season restaurant food. Perhaps that's because it tends to be quite salty to begin with.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Exactly. I scrape salt off my pretzels. Salt is not a spice. It's a mineral.

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      As stated above, that has been much more of a problem, at least to us.

                                      Under-salted has almost never come up.


                                    2. While dining at Kajitsu (A vegan, Buddhist Zen restaurant)last week we had their 8 course tasting menu. The servers are professional and take their job very seriously.
                                      When the 4th course was served I did ask for a side of bacon. It took a moment for the server to react. She laughed. My odd sense of humor did not get me in trouble, THIS TIME!

                                          1. re: mwhitmore

                                            So, a small dish of salt would be OK, so long as it was not in a shaker, or grinder?


                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Somehow, in my wee little brain, yes. A grinder, maybe. If it was an attractive grinder :)

                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                I would HOPE that it would an attractive grinder.

                                                OTOH, if I received a tiny dish of salt, and another of pepper, I would gladly accept those. Still, neither of us usually even look to the table for additional salt..


                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  To me, an attractive grinder is built on bread about 10 inches long, more or less, equipped with several kinds of cold cuts, crisp lettuce and thinly sliced onions, slices of fresh tomato, and vinegar-based dressing with lots of herbs and a good dash of salt.

                                          2. If I'm paying the price these places charge and the food needs help, then absolutely yes I'm asking for additional seasoning.

                                            I'm not so stupid as to struggle through a bad meal simply because some chef wanted to serve me mediocre food. If I'm paying for it, I want to enjoy it.

                                            1. would they even have a salt shaker? seriously.

                                              1. I love salt. With my low blood pressure, I'm in a decent salt place and yes, I will ask for anything and feel comfortable about it. It's funny though, last time I was at Parc, in Philly, my food was too salty. I let it be known.

                                                1. I asked for salt at the French Laundry and they brought out the most fab fleur de sel and it enhanced the course tremendously.
                                                  Love quality salt from around the globe.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                    Now, that is what I would have expected!



                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt


                                                      Are you and the lovely wife still going to HNL in Sept?

                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                        Yes, though it will be split between Honolulu and North Shore.

                                                        When you have a moment, drop me an e-mail.

                                                        Mahalo and aloha,


                                                  2. I would take a second bite and think long and hard about how it was seasoned already and if the additional salt would significantly impact my enjoyment, and then ask. I would not be the first nor the last person to make such a request i'm sure.

                                                    1. Yes, if I felt that salt was needed.

                                                      Now, we are not big salt folk, but then I do have a collection of "gourmet salts," and will use those, when we feel that they might enhance a dish.

                                                      Same in a restaurant - any restaurant. Now, the chef might take offense, and that is allowed, but I will look them in the eye, and explain that I need a bit more.

                                                      Just my way, though it has very seldom happened.


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        The guy that runs my favorite local Belgian beer bar has a fabulous salt collection that runs the gamut from pink rocks of Himalyan salt (with a grater) to funky black stuff reeking of sulphur. Maybe 14 kinds of salt in all.

                                                        With the range of complex Belgian ales he has, it raises the level of experience in enjoying great food with great beer.

                                                      2. No, but I'm not really one to add salt to anything.

                                                        When I lived in Dallas there was this pizza place - it was good for the most part, I had a few "meh" experiences there - well they started posting on their business Facebook page about how people were asking for ranch dressing for their pizza and were disgusted by these diners. Ok, not MY thing, but at the end of the day - these are your paying customers and if they ask for ranch dressing, they shouldn't be mocked or singled out. Especially at a $10 or so per pizza joint. You're not Alinea, get over yourselves. I never went back. I grew up in the service industry - within reason, you're there to serve and please your patrons. If they want ranch or salt - well, my opinion, so be it. Not everyone that finds themselves in these places are serious foodies, or perhaps they are new to exciting food, unaware of how this could come off, etc. I'm all for making people feel welcome and such and ensuring that they want to come back.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                          I have never heard of Ranch Dressing on pizzas, but had never heard of French Dressing on them either, and I grew up dining at the location, that claimed to have created that - Hugo's Pizza in Biloxi, MS. There is even a Hugo's thread on the Central South CH board. I was there during that time, remember Hugo's well, but the French Dressing was totally unknown to me. Guess that I was too busy sprinkling red peppers on mine? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5226...


                                                        2. We solve the problem by carrying a small vial of fleur de sel with us when dining out. Taste first, then season to taste. Very simple solution without raising eyebrows or insulting the chef.

                                                          1. if I'm expected to pay the price expected, I would not hesitate in asking for salt or pepper. I would not ask for a condiment such as ketchup or similar insult considering the reputation earned by the establishment. but I like flavor
                                                            and I like what salt does for food if we're still talking salt.
                                                            if I was made to feel in any way uncomfortable, that would be very telling at least to me.

                                                            1. How much salt it takes to properly season something varies not only from person to person, but for any given person it fluctuates from day to day or meal to meal as well. If you're a little dehydrated, you'll crave more salt. If you're deficient in electrolytes you'll crave more salt. If you just ran 15 miles, you're going to crave more salt. Medications and biochemistry affect it as well. If you ate something really salty like french fries for lunch then you'll probably want less salt for dinner. I could eat the exact same thing two days in a row and it might taste too salty one day and the next day it's just right. There's no magical "correct" level of salt for a dish any more than there is a "correct" amount of water to drink in a day. If you're dehydrated you become thirsty, if your body needs more salt you get salt cravings. Getting offended at someone asking for more salt doesn't make any sense. If they asked for ketchup to put on their prime rib on the other hand...