Posted 29 March 2002 - 02:15 AM
I'll try to answer Fat Guy's questions to the extent I can in my limited experience of eating at expensive restaurants:
-- If you had infinite money, would you care more, less, or the same as you do now about imperfections in an expensive restaurant meal?
As a musician and professor, I have no reason to ever expect to be rich; however, if I did have infinite money, I would undoubtedly care somewhat less about imperfections in an expensive restaurant meal. Given my current situation, I can't have expensive meals more than a few times a year, so any bothersome imperfections are magnified. I'm not the fussiest customer in the world, however.
-- Have you ever had a restaurant meal you considered flawless in every regard?
> If so, has that experience ever been repeated consistently over time at a single establishment?
Hmmm...Well, I think that my first three meals at JoJo were pretty nearly flawless. By my fourth meal there, unfortunately, they had gone downhill - more in terms of service than anything else, it seemed to me, though it's hard to make firm conclusions about a single meal.
The other flawless meals have been at places I didn't have a chance to return to. Some have reportedly since gone downhill, and one no longer exists. One was at a restaurant between Tarquinia and Tarquinia Lido whose name I don't remember (ask a cab driver when you're there). Another was an absolutely incredible experience at Viognier in San Mateo (it reportedly went way downhill since then). And then there was the delicious early dinner at Cena, a restaurant whose quick departure from the New York scene I very much regretted. I'd have to say I've had other flawless meals at restaurants that were not expensive, including the Khyber Pass and Madras Woodlands in Delhi in 1977. My dim sum breakfast at the train station in Guangzhou in 1987 was pretty damned wonderful, as well.
-- Do you think the customer has the power, within the range of the restaurant's capabilities, to influence the outcome of a meal experience?
Sure. A customer's attitude accounts for a lot. It helps to have a reasonable idea what you want, to ask questions, to be willing to speak up politely, when necessary, and to have a little patience with service when a restaurant is crowded, for example. It also can make a big difference to order food that corresponds to a restaurant's specialties. This might be even more true at cheaper restaurants. It's generally a mistake, for example, to order dishes that are not Shanghainese at a Shanghainese restaurant.
-- If a restaurant messes up, do you complain?
Only if the screwup is really bothersome. I complain if the waiter doesn't come to take my order for 20 minutes (worse: 30 minutes) while I've been trying to get his attention; if I've been waiting 30 minutes for my first course to arrive and wasn't warned it would take that long; if dishes which are supposed to be hot arrive cold; if silverware or cutlery are dirty; if the food is so bad that I can't eat it. It takes something serious like that. If the food tastes funny but I think the taste might be intentional, I may ask the waiter a question about it but will not demand it be sent back forthwith.
> Do you forgive if your complaint is addressed to your satisfaction?
Yes. If I'm satisfied, I couldn't very well hold a grudge, could I?