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Dec 22, 2013 03:03 PM

Coquette Unhappiness

I have to start this thread by saying I've been a Coquette loyalist for some time now. Some of the best meals I've ever had came out of that kitchen. I love how innovative it can be...until last night.

As usual, we decided to go with the tasting menu and the wine pairings. About two minutes after we ordered I realized I needed to let our server know about my husband's nut allergy. I was kind of shocked at his reaction, as if he couldn't think how nuts would end up in the dishes. Nonetheless, I made it clear to nuts!

We were served two different lagniappes which were quite good. Then about 25 minutes after we ordered, the first course arrived...with nuts. I made it clear I had informed our server that nuts are not an option, and yet here they were in the first course. The young man that brought thee dish apologized and soon brought us another dish.

We continued with the dinner and the food didn't wow me, but the wine pairings were excellent. Then we got to course four...yep, more nuts. The woman that brought the plate was almost flippant when she said, "Well, did you even let your server know." I seriously almost came unglued. Long story short she apologized and had to bring us another dish.

We received a couple of extra dessert dishes and the chef did come and apologize with the last dessert dish, but at this point I had lost all enjoyment and enthusiasm for the $200+ dinner for two people. I was so disappointed and unhappy that I just wanted to leave. I suspect it will be some time before I go back.

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  1. Your server sucked, but I don’t think that’s indicative of the restaurant. You should definitely write directly to them to let them know. I doubt that server has been there long and I doubt even more that he/she will be there much longer.

    11 Replies
    1. re: shanefink

      beyond sucked
      it could've meant a hospital visit or worse!

      definitely let the restaurant know

      1. re: macsak

        I’ve seen stuff like that happen before. Epic failure by the server. There’s no way he told the chef. And after you complained the first time, he probably just went back and told them, “Uh, she doesn’t like her food.” So the kitchen probably didn’t know until it was too late. And, the manager and chef tried to do the right thing. They probably should have discounted your meal, but I bet you put on a happy face when the chef came out to visit your table.

        1. re: shanefink

          No, there was no happy face! I could barely speak because I was on the verge of screaming.

          1. re: FoodChic

            No offense, but that's your fault. The chef *was* apologizing, and attempting to repair the damage. I guess I don't quite see how the kitchen is any more or less innovative because a server failed to inform the chef of a food allergy.

            What happened -- I have no doubt -- is *exactly* what was described above: the server F'D UP royally by not telling the chef at the start of your meal's prep about the nut allergy. And when you complained -- justifiably so, to be sure! -- after the first dish, the served probably did go back and say something like "she doesn't like walnuts" (or whatever nuts they were), or "she didn't want nuts." In other words -- for the SECOND time -- he failed to notify the chef of the nut allergy. And thus, no one in the kitchen knew about the issue until the 4th course.

            I am NOT excusing the way you and your husband were treated. But the server is to blame, not the kitchen, and the extra desserts and the chef coming out were both efforts to apologize to the two of you.

            I *do* think you should write a letter to Michael Stoltzfus and/or Lillian Hubbard about your server's failure to communicate something as serious as a nut allergy to the kitchen. Quite right: someone could have ended up in the hospital! And the serving staff needs (apparently) to be reminded of that fact . . .

            But in the end, it's up to you to decide how to behave, and whether or not to ever return. I don't quite see how the kitchen is any more or less innovative because a server failed to inform the chef of a food allergy.

            (FWIW, they've always been very accommodating of my wife's allergies to mussels, kiwi and grapefruit.)

            1. re: zin1953

              How insightful for someone not paying the money, not fearing the need to pull out the EpiPen, or fearing a run to the emergency room. I should have been so grateful. How glad am to have YOU to tell ME when I AM wrong.

              I don't suppose you'd like to comp me for the $250 meal, because neither the chef nor the server offered.

              1. re: FoodChic

                I *HAVE* had to pull out the epipen -- twice! -- thank you very much . . . once for my wife, and once for my daughter.

                I'm sorry, but where did I say you should be GRATEFUL?

                >>> No, there was no happy face! I could barely speak because I was on the verge of screaming. <<<

                OF COURSE there was no "happy face," nor should there have been. But you could behave civilly and politely, rather than being "on the verge of screaming," and understand that the chef *was* trying to make things better.

                Were you in my restaurant and this happened, would I have comped you the entire meal? No, probably not. But I certainly would have taken something off the bill, *and* probably offered you a gift certificate or something similar to entice you back to my restaurant in the future.

                But as I said earlier,

                a) "I am NOT excusing the way you and your husband were treated";
                b) "I *do* think you should write a letter to Michael Stoltzfus and/or Lillian Hubbard about your server's failure to communicate something as serious as a nut allergy to the kitchen";
                c) "Quite right: someone could have ended up in the hospital"; and,
                d) "I don't quite see how the kitchen is any more or less innovative because a server failed to inform the chef of a food allergy."

                You are certainly free to do whatever you want. Since I do not have an ownership stake in Coquette, I really don't care if you ever go back there again. I will, and I have no doubt I'll be as delighted with the food as I've always been on my previous visits.

                C'est la vie.

                1. re: zin1953

                  You're correct, I'm absolutely free to do what ever I want. And nothing I said suggested the "kitchen was less innovative because of a food allergy." If you actually read my post, I commented that that is one of the things I've always loved about the restaurant.

                  Clearly, you're reading something far more and want to point fault at me for not being grateful of the chef showing up. Did I say I screamed? I'm not going to act happy for the sake of happiness because someone comes up and says sorry for the confusion. I wasn't happy. I was livid at the flippant attitudes given a serious allergy, and I wasn't going to pretend otherwise. If that makes you uncomfortable, that's your issue.


                  1. re: FoodChic

                    actually, you did say something that suggested the kitchen was less innovative. right here in your OP:

                    "I love how innovative it can be...until last night."

                    I'm pretty sure that's the source of the confusion.

                    1. re: kibbles

                      My point precisely! The kitchen is no less innovative because a server failed to inform the chef of a food allergy. The sin -- all the more egregious due to the truly serious nature of the allergy -- lies with the server, and in no way affects the innovative nature of the chef, the kitchen, or the restaurant.

                      What it DOES do is tarnish the restaurant's reputation for customer service at the very least, and in all probability has cost the restaurant at least one customer (totally understandable), and a lot of bad press -- neither of which a restaurant can afford.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Again, I didn't say it was less innovative! You're reading it incorrectly....I didn't love the nuts in the food. It didn't make it any less innovative. I wasn't thrilled with type of innovation when I specifically requested they be omitted. For the love of god!

                        1. re: FoodChic

                          we're not reading it incorrectly, you wrote it incorrectly. see above.

    2. I misread your title and was about to link you to the chicken croquette thread. Sorry, my bad.

      1. what unfortunate turn this thread has taken. Earlier efforts to post failed but what I had tried to say was that I would have returned rather quickly, while the whole business was still fresh. The House may have recalled it and made time to listen: the waiter (if still there) might have a chance to hear what went wrong. It is a rule of mine to never make an enemy when one can make a friend. I believe in going back and trying--without display of righteousness or superiority--to discern what happened. I am not always perceived to be right--even though I always am, of course.

        5 Replies
          1. re: hazelhurst

            Hazelhurst, given my description, please share where there is righteousness or superiority?? I paid for great service and a great meal. I got arrogant service that resulted in a dangerous meal for my SO.

            As mentioned above, I feel no obligation to be overly pleasant once I've been ignored twice, and then lash out at for "did you even notify your server?"

            I did take the time to write a note to the restaurant this week.

              1. re: FoodChic

                I don't see righteousnesss or superiority---that was a reference to being careful on the return visit because it is very easy to be categorized by the "other side" in such instances. The entire episode reflects a collapse of the restaurant's organization from multiple servers onwards. Naturally this puts people on the defensive and you, making a legitimate complaint, are more likely (but not perforce) to be seen in an antagonistic pose. I am just suggesting great care in approaching the "fence mending" because you are on the high ground. The original server may be a moron who resents needing a waiter's job (which means he has no idea of what being a good, let along great, waiter is)...who knows what other little dramas are playing out?

                This is in no way as serious as the situation you describe but years ago a friend was ignored by a young Xmas salesman att a large department store, despite several efforts to get the young man's attention. The man I know was furious at being ignored and stormed off. The matriarch of the store's owning family saw the whole thing, sent someone to mollify the customer and then calmly asked the offending salesman to come to the office...she did not upbraid the miscreant in front of the others. In privacy she asked him why he hadn't responded to the customer. "What customer?" She described the scene and the young man confessed that he'd had no idea, that he needed the Xmas job and he'd not told anyone he was going deaf. He was embarrassed by this for some reason. rather than fire him, the store paid to send him to Mayo Clinic and fix the problem.

                I don't know if you original server was deaf or clueless or just incompetent---and the wisecracking "did you notify your server" seems without any plausible excuse---but I don't know. I'd just try to find out. If, on inquiry, there was a repeat of the cluelessness, arrogance, and general disregard, then I might hop back on Chowhound and REALLY rip them apart.

                I certainly don't blame you for being furious. No one appreciates being ignored, talked down to and wholly insulted and being charged for it. But surely no restaurant would want to be known for that and all parties might benefit from further investigation

              2. Some friends have reviewed this thread and asked me to make an effort to ensure that you not perceive my remarks as challenging you nor your genuine affront. I am hopeful that the whole damn thing will work out and that it'll all work out OK.

                Fondly do we hope, ferverently do we pray

                2 Replies
                1. re: hazelhurst

                  It did work out. I've spoken and exchanged correspondence with the manager. He's been so gracious and was extremely unhappy with the attitudes we received. We're meeting him when we're in town next week.

                  He was genuinely happy I reached out to him. He commented that most customers just never return and they don't know about the issues with service or food. An interesting perspective.

                  All in all, I'd say I'm quite happy with the outcome. It is thrilling to find the world of customer service is still alive and kicking.

                  1. re: FoodChic

                    Good for you! I'm glad you were finally able to write to and speak with the manager. Glad it all worked out in the end . . .

                2. Too late to help you now, but my wife cannot do bi-valves, so no Scallops, Oysters, Mussels or Clams. While many restaurants around the globe have her issues noted, we always reiterate the problem, and especially for restaurants, where we have not dined, have not dined often, or have not dined recently. A call, or a notation on OT, or similar, has always worked well.

                  Even Euro 3-star chefs have been great, and quick to accommodate her. We have never had so much as one issue, and usually our servers will comment - "No bi-valves on Madame's dishes."

                  Some chefs will substitute a dish for her, or maybe for both of us (I have no such problems), and even the sommeliers seem ready to offer her different wines, just for her dish.

                  Good luck, and happy dining, plus sorry that things did not go, as you planned.