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Unpleasant experience at Bestia

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Last night I hosted a dinner party for four people at Bestia. Our reservations were at 5:30 pm and we arrived about 8 minutes early. My husband was stuck on the 5 freeway and the hostess said the policy of the restaurant was to wait until all parties were present until seating us. We were not offered the option of waiting in the bar and it was strongly implied by the hostess that we would lose our reservation if we waited over long.

It was explained to us, by her, that it was the chef's preference because of the order by which the food comes out. I could understand this. We asked again if we could please sit at out table, as the restaurant was empty. We were told that we HAD to order all our food at once. So I thought I would choose some food for my husband and under those conditions, we were seated.

Then our waitress come by and tells us it's "family style". This mystified us as to why then, we had to wait for all parties to be present, if there were not set courses.

We did not want family style. If the website had mentioned this I may have chosen somewhere else. Even when we told the waitress we preferred to have our own dishes, the succession of dishes were plopped onto the center of the table.

My husband arrive ten minutes late when only a piece of crostini had come to the and was unable to order anything in addition to what I had chosen for him. The restaurant was still largely empty.

The wait staff was good, but the hostess was really rude. Her attitude shaded the evening. And this whole policy of having everyone present before seating, yet serving family style seems incredibly incongruous and contradictory. And the fact that it is compulsory is also unpleasant

My guests and I are not people unacquainted with dining. Collectively we have traveled to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Bhutan, India, Turkey, Greece, Italy (Sicily, Rome, Florence, Venice, Padua and Bologna), Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, the UK, Malta, Tunisia, Australia and Brazil. We were all puzzled by the situation.

The food was really good, but I would prefer to patronize places that are more flexible and amenable to the traffic travails people endure in Los Angeles at around 5 pm.

Everyone I know has raved about the food, but has anyone else ever been put off by this?

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  1. Lots of places I've been to don't want to seat until the entire party is present. Had the same thing happen at Tasting Kitchen the other night--even though it was ten o'clock and we were just a party of two.

    Lol, are we really listing the countries we have traveled to? That seems a silly game to play.

    5 Replies
    1. re: set0312

      We didn't mind the policy of having everyone present before seating. I have eaten at many restaurants with the same policy, restaurants that serve courses. I think it's a bit much when it is "family style."

      Sorry if you take issue with the list, it was only meant to illustrate that our dining experiences have been wide and varied. It's not like I'm from Nebraska and that this is my first trip to LA.

      Also, we were never directed to wait at the bar while we waited for our last person, and they threatened to cancel our reservation, because my husband was tied up on the 5, and turned up 10 minutes late. And that was something I have never seen anywhere else. EVER.

      Among the things we ordered were 5 different pastas, the pork chop and the lamb neck. I prefer the lamb neck at Chi Spacca.

      1. re: mmontgomery

        Fair enough. I think Bestia has a bit of a reputation as thinking quite highly of themselves.

        It sounds like the hostess was quite unpleasant and set the tone for an awkward meal.

        1. re: set0312

          The food was very good and our waitress was excellent, given the policy set forth by the restaurant. I have no complaints about the waitstaff.

          1. re: mmontgomery

            You should contact the management and give them a measured account of your experience and why it made you uncomfortable.

            My one and only time eating there seems to directly contradict your experience. We arrived in dribs and drabs and me, being the early guy, was sitting at the table alone for at least five minutes before the next diner arrived. We also added to our order later in the meal.

            Sounds to me like the hostess was just in a bitchy mood and making up arbitrary rules.

            1. re: JeMange

              Thanks. Good suggestion.

    2. No one can stop you from eating an entire dish by yourself, certainly not a hostess.

      And I'd be damned if some line cook is going to come up to your table and say: hey, you're not sharing that pasta, GTFO.

      User error.

      19 Replies
      1. re: TonyC

        Okay, they put the dishes on the middle of the table, and gave us each our own dish. This made that very difficult, and my guests, who were down from the Bay Area, found it awkard and cumbersome. We felt it was made compulsory in a way I have not felt in other restaurants that do the same thing, like Acabar.

        So yeah, as a host, I was really disappointed. I wanted my guests to have a better time.

        Also, we were never directed to the bar to wait. And we were unable to order additional food. I just think that is strange.

        Disagree with me all you like, I'm not here to convince you. I only wanted to know whether anyone else had a similar experience.

        1. re: mmontgomery

          Not seeing a huge problem here....seems a simple solution would have been to move the plates around. Bestia is a casual dining establishment. I think moving plates around to accommodate sharing or non-sharing of food is perfectly acceptable and probably encouraged. Hell, this is LA; I think moving plates around is perfectly acceptable in 99% of dining establishments. It's not like you're dining with the queen. The host behavior does sound a bit heavy-handed and unwelcoming, but I think you could have easily worked around it.

          1. re: soniabegonia

            If it is so casual, then why insist all the parties be there before seating? Why not let people be able to order later in the meal?

            Also, I was hosting a dinner party. I usually entertain by dining out and this was a very awkward experience.

            And it would have been a LOT better if the hostess had not acted so imperiously to us in such a casual place. Her attitude really marred the experience for us.

            And again, I just want to know whether anyone else has had the same thing happen to them.

            and YES! We actually worked around it, but it was ALL these details that cumulatively detracted from my enjoyment of the place and will keep me from returning.

          2. re: mmontgomery

            "Okay, they put the dishes on the middle of the table, and gave us each our own dish. This made that very difficult, and my guests, who were down from the Bay Area, found it awkard and cumbersome.
            -------------------------------------------------
            stack plates on top of each other. ask server to remove additional plates. problem solved.

            While I understand the issue here, there were workarounds...

            1. re: ns1

              As I said before, we did work around it.

              If it had been just one of these details, it would have been fine. It was the cumulative effect that put me off.

              Please tell me you have never had an unpleasant restaurant experience. It is allowable.

              1. re: mmontgomery

                Please tell me you have never had an unpleasant restaurant experience. It is allowable.
                ----
                to be clear, I definitely appreciate your original post and don't mind the complaint at all. I just thought ya'll "sat there and took it".

                1. re: ns1

                  Well, it's not like I'm not a trooper.

                  I just may not go back.

                2. re: mmontgomery

                  I haven't been to Bestia yet, but I tend to sympathize with you. I'm pretty sick and tired of imperious, or even diplomatic but self-indulgent, chefs and proprietors who insist on customers doing things the house's way or not at all - whether it's that food must be ordered all at once or its food that may not be tampered with or modified in any way or can't be photographed. They forget who's paying to keep them in business. And don't bother responding that I have a choice and don't have to eat at places that I find off-putting. Maybe I do want their food, but I want it delivered with the type of accommodating attitude so many other fine places manage to achieve.

                  1. re: Wayno

                    Whew. well, yes.

                    And my primary concern was for the enjoyment of my guests. I do like everything to be perfect, and I am often pleased by other restaurants. I have hosted very large dinner parties at Night+Market and they were perfection.

                    It can be done.

                    1. re: Wayno

                      I don't get your way of thinking. You are consciously choosing to go out to the restaurant. Restaurants barely make any money anyway in the fine-dining sphere, so your dollars are meaningless to them, they are more like artists. The solution is not for the artists to change their style, but rather for you to find a different artist that you appreciate.

                      1. re: BacoMan

                        I beg to differ: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...

                        " The world has had Pierre and Marie Curie, and Leonardo da Vinci. The former couple started a revolution against disease, advancing humanity, and the latter was a man whose genius we're are still trying to understand. Chefs, on the other hand, are just artisans. If nature doesn't give us vegetables, if the fisherman didn't supply us with fish and the farmer with meat, we wouldn't exist. We are simply the bridge between nature and our clients." - Alain Ducasse

                        1. re: mmontgomery

                          The hell?

                          The is one of the most vacuous things I have ever read. It's just meaningless feel-good rhetoric.

                          What exactly does Ducasse think that scientists, engineers, and artists are working with? Does he think they're gods that make their own matter? Last I checked scientists rely on materials from the natural world to do their experiments, or formulate medications. Engineers would be entirely unable to construct even the most basic things, much less magnificent bridges, or huge, creative machines, without first taking a massive amount of natural elements out of nature.

                          Completely ridiculous.

                          Even in this kind of mindless rhetoric though, I see absolutely zero argument that a chef ought never to take any kind of stance about the type of food s/he prepares.

                          Would Ducasse tell Picasso to stop being a Cubist because it was distasteful to some people?

                          1. re: BacoMan

                            People so often speak of others in terms of themselves.

                            And as far as culinary art goes, I've dined here: http://dobianchi.com/2011/02/04/the-b...

                            Bestia doesn't come close.

                            1. re: mmontgomery

                              Ok...so go live in Italy? Don't go to Bestia?

                              Your options seem to be pretty wide open.

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                You do me well kind sir, for by continuing to comment, you have placed my post yet again on the top!

                                Bravo! It is so lovely to see such a display of tolerance towards those with whom you may disagree.

                        2. re: BacoMan

                          If you don't get it, then I think trying to explain it to you would be an exercise in futility. But, pretentious chefs and proprietors will do just fine because there's a sufficient base of pretentious patrons who buy into their nonsense.

                          1. re: Wayno

                            And there are many wonderful restaurants where the chefs/proprietors are really nice people who try very hard to please all of their guests. Taco Maria is Costa Mesta s a prime example, as are all of Danny Meyer's excellent restaurants in NYC.

                    2. re: ns1

                      But why the hell if you're the guest should you have to put up with a "workaround"? Is it such a big deal to allow each guest to order what he/she wants, set the plates down in front of the appropriate guest, and perhaps put a few extra plates on the table for those who might want to share. I think it's become a crappy trend in some of the newer trendy spots to arrogantly forget that the customer is paying the bills. When a restauranteur/chef refuses to try to reasonably accommodate guests, to me it's a place that I'll not frequent. Aren't restaurants in the "hospitality" industry?

                    3. re: mmontgomery

                      I did think it was annoying the last time I was there that we had to wait for the whole party, even when I said the last person was just parking the car. That sort of Vulcan rule-following is tedious.

                      You keep saying you weren't directed to wait at the bar ... but why didn't you just, you know ... wait at the bar? And there's no possible way you were "unable to order additional food."

                      Everyone, don't be scared of your server! They put empty plates you don't want on the table, you tell them to take them back! Ain't no thing, it's your night out!

                  2. My experience has been much different than yours. My most recent dinner at Bestia wasn't a planned one. My girlfriend and her friend were having dinner, while I was off taking care of something else. My schedule freed up, so I stopped by, and even though they had pretty much finished dinner (hadn't had dessert yet), the restaurant had no problem with me joining them and ordering a few things.

                    I also have no problem with restaurants that don't seat until the entire party is there. I've been witness to plenty of (and been part of) parties where the diners say, "He's 5 minutes away," but really he just hopped on the 10 in Santa Monica. And then it's not like the late guy shows up and eats super fast to make up for it. So if they've allotted for a table to be occupied from 5:30 to 7:30 and someone shows up at 6, and now takes until 8, that's 30 minutes of a disgruntled customer who showed up on time for his 7:30 reservation being pissed off.

                    And if someone says, well it's a restaurant, they should account for that. Well they can. They can have less seatings and to make up for that they can charge me more for the food.

                    The shared plates and being pointed towards the bar are things that are easily remedied, and not something that really should be made a big deal of. To me, it's like if someone complains about having an empty glass of water for 30 minutes and being really upset about that. After minute 3, you could just flag someone down and have them take care of it. Just clear the plates yourself and put them on an empty table if they aren't doing what you want. Just walk up to the bar and order a drink.

                    And I don't even love Bestia that much. The hostesses have been aloof before. But I just don't care that much about her attitude. Would it be nice if they were pleasant and welcoming? Sure. Will that keep me from having a good meal? Not in the slightest. I think it's a very solid meal, but these complaints, I just don't jibe with.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: andytseng

                      A friend of mine had a great time too, sitting at the charcuterie bar.

                      As I said, it was the cumulative factors that diminished the experience for me.

                      as for the seating things, I addressed that above. It think it is incongruous with "family style" dining. You are welcome to disagree.

                      I would also have liked to be able to order additional dishes once my husband did arrive, a mere ten minutes later. This was not possible.

                      1. re: andytseng

                        "The shared plates and being pointed towards the bar are things that are easily remedied, and not something that really should be made a big deal of. To me, it's like if someone complains about having an empty glass of water for 30 minutes and being really upset about that. After minute 3, you could just flag someone down and have them take care of it. Just clear the plates yourself and put them on an empty table if they aren't doing what you want. Just walk up to the bar and order a drink."

                        I basically agree, but out of curiosity, do you still tip when you do all of that?

                        1. re: BacoMan

                          We generously tipped the waitstaff. They did a great job.

                          1. re: mmontgomery

                            What is your definition of a great job? In these circumstances, they literally completely failed to deliver good service...

                            If you have to get your own water, and drinks, and clean your own table...what exactly has the service staff done?

                            1. re: BacoMan

                              In conforming to the protocol set forth by the establishment, they did an admirable job.

                              It is not in my interest to dock those doing their jobs.

                      2. At their price range, a rude hostess is not acceptable. There is nothing to indicate on their menu it is family style – not cool to enforce something like that at the last minute

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Ernie

                          Does sound odd. What exactly is family-style?

                          I feel like when I've been solo I was always allowed to order as I went along. How strange that they don't do that anymore.

                          Guess they've gotten a bit too popular for their own good perhaps.

                          1. re: BacoMan

                            Everything is brought at once, or in clipped stages and set out on the table to be shared. Asian restaurant traditionally serve family style. Think of a lazy susan on on of those round tables, where everyone can help themselves at once.

                            1. re: mmontgomery

                              It kind of seems like Bestia is not well-suited to that type of dining. Portions aren't exactly huge there...

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                I thought they were quite generous, especially the lamb neck and pork chop.

                          2. re: Ernie

                            We did the family style, and as I said, the food was very good. It was just the whole thing. I'm glad, for Bestia's sake, that other people are not put off by this. But restaurants with long term success cater to a multiplicity of temperaments.

                            One law for the lion and ox is oppression. -William Blake

                            1. re: mmontgomery

                              How did they "enforce" family style eating? If you had moved a plate in front of one person, do you think they would've come over to move it back to the center?

                              Also, did they really not allow you to order anything after the initial order? I can't imagine why a restaurant would do that, since one would assume that they'd *want* the extra $.

                              Hostess sound rude. I'd send an e-mail to the restaurant about that.

                              1. re: ilysla

                                well... enforcing family style.... hmmm.... My friend from S.F. didn't want it and asked nicely if her choice could just be put in front of her. It was put in the center of the table instead.

                                We asked if my husband could order more when he arrived but were told this was not possible.

                                He arrived ten minutes later.

                                1. re: mmontgomery

                                  IMHO, that's not enforcing family style. Just move the plate back in front of yourself. ::shrug::

                                  Lots of restaurants won't seat you until the party arrives, even relatively casual ones.

                                  The policy of not being allowed to order more food is bizarre.

                                  Sorry you had such a bad experience. But thanks for saving me the time and expense of going to the place for myself.... =( I would not have the hostess's attitude or the "can't order more food" policy tolerable at all.

                                  1. re: ilysla

                                    I do know people who sat at the bar and had a great time.

                                  2. re: mmontgomery

                                    Just re-read your post. Did you try to order food once your husband had arrived, or did you just take it at face value that you couldn't order food? Because, truth be told, it simply sounds like you had a horrible hostess but that the rest of the experience was fine.... ::shrug::

                            2. Sounds like it was the Bestia times, and the Worstia times.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Tripeler

                                Please Lord, let this thread on a high and humorous note.

                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  What the Dickens are you talking about?

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    Actually, it was all I could to avoid mentioning ~ality when referring to the flawed name. Sort of like what happened on the Asian Box thread.

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      If u can't lick em join em

                                2. I haven't been to Bestia (so maybe I should just stop typing now . . .) but I think that when restaurants of this ilk say they serve "family style" what they mean is they don't do traditional courses and dishes will come out in a somewhat random order whenever they're ready. So if the members of your party want to each order their own dishes, it doesn't mean that you will forced at chef's knife point to share with each other, but the result could be that the 3 dishes that diner A intended to be her 3 courses all arrive first, followed 10 minutes later by diner B's 2 dishes, etc. And that is awkward. Several other restaurants that I frequent serve this way, but they will permit you to order dishes in multiple rounds, which allows a group to control the flow of the meal somewhat and make sure everyone has something to eat at about the same time. But apparently Bestia wouldn't let you do that either.

                                  1. Y'know, just my $0.02 here but I've been to many of the "foodie scene-y" type places in LA, including several trips to Bestia, and I can't think of a single time that we were turned down when we ordered several more dishes mid-meal. No one, and I mean NO ONE is going shut you down when you ask to spend more $$$.

                                    "I'd like another bottle of that Chateau Lafite"
                                    "I'm sorry sir, you should have thought of that when you sat down"

                                    That said, it does sound like some poor customer relations up front soured your experience, so I'm not saying you're entirely wrong here either. Please do try Bestia again, I think it's one of the best places around. Or don't, maybe I'll get a reservation that much easier!

                                    1. Am I the only person that's annoyed by Bestia calling the small plate format "Family Style"?

                                      My last experience there was average enough that I won't be back. That being said, the first one was amazing.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Helper Monkey

                                        No, it annoys the shit out of me as well.

                                        Family Style refers to something quite different to me...

                                        What was had at the recent Clusi Batusi dinner is family style dining to me.

                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                          We were given the "family style" rap the last time we were there and some of the dishes were small enough that it was basically one bite per person. (Not all, as the pastas are a bit bigger.) There's a reason none of the other small plate places use this verbiage. Bestia really seems to have its head up its own ass.

                                          1. re: Helper Monkey

                                            I think to most of us "family style" means a meal served one course at a time, but on large plates or platters which are to be shared, and which contain sufficient food for each guest to have a full portion.

                                            1. re: josephnl

                                              family style
                                              noun
                                              (of a meal) with the serving platters on the table so that all present can serve themselves.
                                              Origin:
                                              1930–35, Americanism
                                              http://dictionary.reference.com/brows...

                                              Or in other words: "small plate family style" is clearly an oxymoron.

                                              BTW: Oxymoron is derived from the 5th century Latin oxymoron, which is derived from the Ancient Greek: ὀξύς oxus "sharp, keen" and μωρός mōros "dull, stupid", making the word itself an oxymoron.
                                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxymoron

                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                Served one course at a time? That doesn't jibe with my understanding of the concept. I would see a meat platter, a vegetable platter and potatoes or rice or noodles, all served at one time so you can have a complete meal on your plate. The most common example I can think of is a family Thanksgiving dinner and the platters or bowls go back and forth until everyone has what they want on their plate.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  On the Italian side of our family, family style meals were the norm...and they were served by courses. First came the antipasti/salad and bread, then came the pasta(s), then the meat(s) which were accompanied by vegetables and potatoes, then dessert which in our family was typically a wedge of Gorgonzola, some fruit, some cookies...and always coffee and anisette. Sure all of the entree components were served together, but there still were courses served separately. (And...as you might guess, we were all about to bust when we waddled away from the table!)

                                                2. re: josephnl

                                                  I think to most of us "family style" means a meal served one course at a time, but on large plates or platters which are to be shared, and which contain sufficient food for each guest to have a full portion.
                                                  ---------
                                                  that's not the asian description of family style - "it comes out when it comes out and it's going to be put in the middle of the table".

                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                    Clearly there are cultural difference re what is considered family style. Nevertheless, I think to most of us the term implies portions which are large enough to serve everyone adequately, and not "small plate" dining.

                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                      no arguments here.

                                          2. I was very put off by it. It's why I'm not rushing to go back. I appreciate a place that "allows" me to say "let's start with that and see what else I'm hungry for after that".

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: OutshinedLA

                                              That is one of the reasons I love AOC.