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Off the Menu at 15 Restaurants


Jinmyo
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The obvious point at which the suit analogy breaks down is that a tailor advertises his offerings -- off the rack suits or custom suits. If a restaurant advertised "menu or off-menu meals", or "standard service or VIP service", then I would absolutely withdraw my last reservations about the practice.

But this would only be the case if we were talking about a bespoke tailor where custom tailoring was apparant. But for example, if you were to go into Bergdorff and found a hand-tailored cashmere suit from Naples that you like, there is no sign or advertisement anywhere in the store that they can order it for you directly from the manufacturer, in either any size you like that would be off the rack, or custom tailored. They can even take the same fabric and make a different model suit for you. But you can't tell from looking at the price tag and there is no signs anywhere saying that. Yet it is possible to do that with almost every suit on the 2nd floor. Now you might get a good salesperson who offers it, or you might not. In fact you might not see a salesperson at all and you might just leave without ever knowing. The point is, there are all kinds of services available which are not apparant, both in restaurants and in other kinds of shops that cater to a certain type of consumer. And to get that service you have to inquire about it.

SuzanneF - I accept everyone's way of doing it. And I accept what everyone wants. What I do find odd is that people place more importance on non-food related items then they do on the food. This whole notion of "seeing what everyone else gets," why would anyone want to see what that is if it means it lowers the quality of your meal? If you want to view things from the standpoint of a professionals and see how they handle certain situations, well I can understand that. But you are speaking about the motives of a professional and to be honest, I couldn't give two hoots how they handle it. I just want the best possible meal available. But it's that not everybody here wants that, and I find that curious.

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To disassociate yourself from the VIP process, or from any process that helps you from get the best possible meal, it means you will probably eat less well then others. Yet everyone states that they go to restaurants to eat well. A restaurant should be about getting the best possible food.

Steve -- I couldn't agree more with that statement. VIP benefits are to be embraced when available, for me. I'd like to add that it is sometimes not possible, without appearing ungrateful or downright rude, to "disassociate" oneself from VIP benefits that a restaurant would be kind enough to offer. :hmmm: When something special is undertaken by a restaurant, it initiates a dialogue that unilateral termination might be seen as a rude ending to. :hmmm:

I not only strive for a tailored pantsuit, I would hope the tailoring team would come to appreciate, over time, my quirky subjectively preferences. Perhaps most women like their pants a certain length length. Well, I like mine slightly longer, in part because I wear high heels quite a bit. My tailor should know that and immediately make the adjustment. I might like a certain type of horn button or a certain type of stitch for hemming. My tailor should know that over time, if I keep on frequenting that tailor shop. That is not being demanding -- that is having a working relationship and arguably a type of friendship with the tailor; that is called having sufficient admiration for the suit to be produced bythe tailor to care to communicate such preferences and exhibit them over time; that is called noticing the difference between this particular tailor's skills relative to other tailors whom one might not find as acceptable.

It would be useful for a cuisinier at whom I dine with some frequency to know that I adore egg dishes, for example, and that I strongly dislike chocolate-based desserts. :laugh:

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I accept everyone's way of doing it. And I accept what everyone wants.
Thank you.
What I do find odd is that people place more importance on non-food related items then they do on the food.
Really? Who? When? Or do you mean the general level of service? Or the wine? :wink:
This whole notion of "seeing what everyone else gets,"  why would anyone want to see what that is if it means it lowers the quality of your meal?
:unsure: What are you trying to say here? Would you mind putting that into standard American English, please, so that I can understand it?
If you want to view things from the standpoint of a professionals and see how they handle certain situations, well I can understand that. But you are speaking about the motives of a professional and to be honest, I couldn't give two hoots how they handle it.
No one asked you to care. :biggrin: But remember, you are at the mercy of such professionals :shock: unless, like Carol Channing, you bring all your own food and drink.
I just want the best possible meal available. But it's that not everybody here wants that, and I find that curious.
Oh, Steve, sweetie, of course we want you to have the best possible meal available. Just please stop telling us that we are wrong if we disagree with whatever else you say.
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Well let me see if I can ask it in the simplest possible way so I can avoid the snide comments. If asking for VIP treatment means that you get better food and service, why isn't everyone willing to do it? Isn't the point of going to a restaurant to get the best possible meal? Or do people prefer the average meal over the best possible meal? I'm having an extremely hard time understanding the motivation for making that choice because it seems to contradict the reason we go to a restaurant in the first place.

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If it's not too much of a digression, what do y'all think about the practice of arranging a special dinner in advance with a restaurant. I have done this many times, for personal special occasions or for clients. Either by phone or, preferably, by calling in at a convenient time, I discuss a menu with the manager or chef, and agree prices, wine and so on. In fact, don't we all do this from time to time? In this process, one might well end up with items not on the regular menu, or which walk-in customers might not know about.

This practice is unobjectionable - surely, surely?

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If you have to ask for VIP treatment, if it is not automatically accorded you, then you have demonstrated that you don't deserve it.

That is something quite different from trying to obtain the "best possible meal," however one defines that phrase.

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
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[it bears repeating that different people have different ideas of what constitutes good service or good food.

without sounding too grandiose about the whole thing: one of the annual anniversary challenges for my wife and I is where to go to dinner. On this one night out of the year, anyway, we really prefer to go someplace where we're not known so we can eat by ourselves without having the chef come to the table to chat. After 20 years writing about food in one city, it gets harder and harder.

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"If you have to ask for VIP treatment, if it is not automatically accorded you, then you have demonstrated that you don't deserve it."

That's absurd. I don't walk into a restaurant with a t-shirt with VIP written on it. If I want the best that the kitchen can turn out, whatever that means for a given restaurant, I have to do something to signal the staff that I'm worth the effort. That means telling someone - giving someone an indication of my seriousness, of my level of experience and appreciation, my intention to spend money. How would special treatment be "automatically" accorded to me without my communicating my desire for it?

Edited by La Niña (log)
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Wilfrid -- I generally haven't done that because (1) discussing the menu with the chef might imply less than entire confidence in his judgment and his selection of dishes for my meal, (2) sometimes, a pre-discussed menu might be modified by the chef according to last-minute availability of certain products (e.g., game brought to the chef on the day of my visit), and (3) I am interested in seeing what the chef will think is the best progression of dishes. But perhaps I should be thinking about discussions with the chef more. The furthest I've gone is to ask for a specific ingredient to be included in a meal, or to ask for a specific dish I like within the context of a meal to be determined by the chef.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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If you have to ask for VIP treatment, if it is not automatically accorded you, then you have demonstrated that you don't deserve it.

Please let's forget the labels and lets let go of the value judgements. Here it is as simply put as I know how.

What is the argument against a diner taking steps to ensure that he/she will get the best possible meal and/or service that is available at a restaurant?

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Steve -- What steps are you suggesting, short of just going there a lot and waiting for the restaurant to respond accordingly? Are we still addressing going up to an unfamiliar restaurant and asking for VIP treatment (which I believe is an unusual scenario)? :hmmm:

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Steve -- What steps are you suggesting, short of just going there a lot and waiting for the restaurant to respond accordingly? Are we still addressing going up to an unfamiliar restaurant and asking for VIP treatment (which I believe is an unusual scenario)?  :hmmm:

i think plotz and others are saying that you can possibly receive the best a restaurant can offer even on the first visit. the steps one might take include, but are not limited to: showing an interest in the menu, doing a bit of research ahead of time, asking specifically if the chef would have the time and feel comfortable choosing the meal, etc.

Edited by tommy (log)
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Let's drop this "VIP" thing and talk about eliciting the best of a restaurant, even the first time you visit. First, I start with my appearance. If it's an expensive and elegant place, I dress accordingly, to indicate my seriousness, and ability to afford potentially more expensive items than might be listed on the menu, depending on what I may end up negotiating.

I look at the menu, I think about ways I might combine things, I think about what *I* prefer, and I start talking to the staff about my thoughts about the menu. Invariably, in a good restaurant, the staff will be interested in what I"m observing and thinking about, and a creative conversation will ensue. In the best case scenario, these conversations result in "special treatment," meaning that I get brought different things, different combinations of things, extra things...in a good restaurant, the staff (both front and kitchen) *want* to please an appreciative, experienced diner. I also get things that *are* on the menu, hopefully based on the recommendation of the staff, once they understand my preferences and expectations somewhat. It's actually satisfying for all concerned - and it also many times results in a larger gratuity for the staff.

I, like Steve, can't understand why anyone thinks there's anything wrong with this.

Edited by La Niña (log)
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The point I was trying to make is that no-one turns a hair at the idea of arranging a special, off menu meal in advance from a restaurant (and Cabby, it doesn't really matter for my point whether I leave all culinary decisions to the chef or not), yet people seem terribly concerned about the idea of making appropriate and courteous enquiries on the day. As I said pages back, I can't see any point doing the latter unless one has already sampled what is on the menu, but I also can't see anything very shocking about it.

(I think we've all agreed that asking rudely, complaining about being refused, and generally behaving like a jerk, are negatives.)

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(I think we've all agreed that asking rudely, complaining about being refused, and generally behaving like a jerk, are negatives.)

no no, i'd still like to discuss this.

Haven't you perfected this? You have to demonstrate that you are entitled to VIP treatment. I know some names you can drop.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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i, who have of late bemoaned the absence of the good old egullet in-your-face, am now just wanting to clarify what exactly we are talking about?

because i'm lost. wilfrid, could you please take the spotlight and do a professorial dance? what is the central issue now?

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Let's drop this "VIP" thing and talk about eliciting the best of a restaurant, even the first time you visit.  First, I start with my appearance.  If it's an expensive and elegant place, I dress accordingly, to indicate my seriousness, and ability to afford potentially more expensive items than might be listed on the menu, depending on what I may end up negotiating.

I look at the menu, I think about ways I might combine things, I think  about what *I* prefer, and I start talking to the staff about my thoughts about the menu.  Invariably, in a good restaurant, the staff will be interested in what I"m observing and thinking about, and a creative conversation will ensue.  In the best case scenario, these conversations result in "special treatment," meaning that I get brought different things, different combinations of things, extra things...in a good restaurant, the staff (both front and kitchen) *want* to please an appreciative, experienced diner.  I also get things that *are* on the menu, hopefully based on the recommendation of the staff, once they understand my preferences and expectations somewhat.  It's actually satisfying for all concerned - and it also many times results in a larger gratuity for the staff.

I, like Steve, can't understand why anyone thinks there's anything wrong with this.

This seems like a reasonable and perfectly legitimate approach. Also one that is likely to result in the desired consequences.

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One does not have to be a regular or VIP at a restaurant to get something different than the regular menu offers. One just needs to politely ask and see what happens.

My uncle is the last person in the world who would think of himself as a VIP or try to get VIP treatment at a restaurant. However, when he took me out for lunch and had his heart set on fried oysters (at an upscale Seafood restaurant that didn't have it listed on the menu), he simply asked the waitress if they could do that for him. Somehow they did happen to have fresh oysters in the back and gladly made them for him, and everyone was happy. But he never felt that was VIP treatment. He was just assertive enough to ask for what he wanted even though is wasn't listed on the menu. If they had not had oysters, he would have just ordered something else.

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