Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

When good restaurants fail to please


Curlz
 Share

Recommended Posts

I just returned from a few days in Las Vegas, and had an experience that is still p*ssing me off 48 hours after it happened. Although we were watching our budget, my friend and I decided we would splurge on one show (Cirque du Soleil's O--DON'T MISS IT) and one great meal while we were there (unnamed restaurant). Sadly, although the food was terrific, it was completely overshadowed by poor service and attitude. :angry:

I don't want (or need) to 'out' the place here, because I am sending a letter to the internationally-known chef who is attached to the restaurant, but trust me that there was nobody we could have complained to on site. The head chef was participating in the same "I'm giving VIP treatment to these folks and could care less who else is in here" that our waiter(s) were involved in, so it seemed pointless. I'm not afraid of speaking up when there is an issue, and thought that our numerous verbal and non-verbal messages would help, but they didn't.

The point of this post isn't necessarily to get a solution for what ticked us off about our $350+ meal for two--it's to ask what others have done when a NAME/REPUTATION doesn't live up to its billing. I'd be curious to hear opinions, especially since I normally don't drop that kind of cash. So--for those of you with the bank and/or expense accounts who do, please weigh in!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd name the restaurant here. If that's their attitude, wouldn't you want to warn other members? But of course it's up to you.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

$350 is my monthly grocery bill so I'm definitely not in the camp you're seeking answers from, but just how bad was it? Do you feel like you were totally ignored or do you just feel like service could have been better or you should have been given more attention?

Honestly, if I felt like I was treated like crap while spending that much I'd have walked out. (Half way thru so I was semi-full, and after I'd chugged my wine glass. Or at least I'd like to think that's what I'd do but ......)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The great thing about poor service -- as opposed to poor food -- is that you can retaliate by giving the waiter exactly the tip they have earned through their incompetence and condescension.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like to show up the next day, pull down my pants and return the meal on their doorstep... :biggrin:

C'mon Curlz!! name names! Give us initials!

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The closest I can come to comment on this is the fact that I have a few friends who frequent that level of restaurant. Frankly, I often find that their batting average at those places isn't any higher than mine is simply hitting the local somewhat high end spots. ($100 for two). At the heart of the issue is that a large super expensive place demands perfection from a ton of staff. That seems to be a tall order.

The food would seem to be the easiest part to pull off because I'm sure they're starting with top notch ingredients. However, it seems inevitable that something would fall through the cracks.

Beyond that, that $350 goes to pay for a lot of stuff that you may or may not care about. Someone's got to pay for the water show at the Bellagio. It's pretty cool, but your neive if you don't accept the fact that a good chunk of your bill is subsidizing those things. Now you're not talking about a $350 meal but a $250 meal (at least the food/wine/service part of it). Which, of course, is still a good deal of scratch but you probably get the point.

Thus, unfortunately, I don't think one can expect to immune oneself from a less than stellar experience by paying that much. That's basically why I don't do it. If I was to do so, I think I'd choose a smaller, owner-operated place so I could feel like it had a better chance of living up to it.

This isn't meant to give the place a free pass. However, the good news is that the food was great.

Another question. How bad could the service have been? After all, in order for the food to be great, it had to at least been delivered in a somewhat timely manner or it would have been cold, wilted, dried out, or otherwise reflective of poor service. Was it was simply a manner of not feeling pampered (which is a completely fair expectation given the price)?

One of the biggest complaints I often get with those places revolves around the dining room. Either the waitstaff knows far less about the food than my friends who are dining there or the wine list is total robbery. A list where you feel like you're bottom feeding to find something less than $100. Not, mind you, because the list is filled with high end Burgundies, but because they mark up $20 and $25 wholesale wines 4 to 5 times. So you're getting basically good quality, but hardly exceptional wines for what you'd expect to pay for ambrosia.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In response to some comments/questions...

$350 is probably double my monthly grocery bill--which is why this really was a splurge.

detlefchef, the comment about doing as well or better at the $100/couple local places that I love definitely rings true--I said as much when we left the restaurant. And likely why it will be a long time before I'm willing to go this route again!

Let's talk specific issues:

We decided to have the tasting menu, and having asked the waiter if there were recommended wine pairings, we were told "Not specifically, but I can show you the wine list." Great. We looked, and determined that we wanted to stick to the by-the-glass route so we could change wines throughout the meal. I asked him if he had specific recs in that department, and mentioned that I'd like to start with some bubbles. There was only one choice--champagne at $20/glass, and we went for it. He had mentioned a few whites for mid-tasting, and a pinot noir for the later courses. We said that sounded good, but we wanted to start with the champagne and decide where to go as we went through the tasting. (In my mind, I might have had a 2nd glass of champagne and then gone to the pinot noir--but hey--I never got that chance!) We received the first course, and sat and waited for champagne to be poured. Oh, and water, too. Literally sat back and didn't start eating until we finally got his attention and asked again for the champagne and a full description of the course sitting in front of us. (VERY good) Bread showed up after the third course was put down.

Courses came ridiculously quickly (note: it was an 8:15 reservation--not a late-night one). I kid you not that we didn't have 3-5 minutes in between each course! At one point, he started to put the next course down, and since I was still eating the previous one (fork in hand--no question there), I told him I wasn't ready for it yet. Back it went, but that's just sloppy.

I'm not going to go through every detail of all of the courses, but in the mix were folks around us, some of whom were getting the ROYAL treatment from the head chef, who was continuously in front of them, chatting, bringing different bottles of wines during and after their meal. When a group of five sat down next to us and we overheard one of them say "He's a winemaker," we knew we were officially doomed. After that, whatever meager attention we had been receiving went completely in their direction. Chef was brought over to meet them, as we sat there observing. Another chef was brought out to meet the people next to us (folks who, I might add, didn't know what an amuse bouche was--when the runner put it down, the woman practically bit his head off with a "we didn't order that!" and when he said it was an amuse bouche, she looked at him like he had three heads. I finally leaned over and said "It's just a little something for you to start with, compliments of the kitchen.") So we're surrounded by uneducated diners (there was more from the couple next to us, but not worth sharing) and VIPs, and I guess it never occurred to them that perhaps we fell somewhere in the middle instead of at the bottom.

Numerous times, we grabbed another (helpful, at least) waiter to describe a course to us b/c the waiter had dropped it and run off to kiss *ss with the group next to us, or b/c he was just MIA. We also had to ask for water, and gee, we're still waiting to be asked if we want more champagne or if we'd like to order wine. That's right--it NEVER happened. We were never asked if we wanted coffee or tea. Or an after-dinner drink. I mean SERIOUSLY--if you're at a bad chain restaurant, aren't the waiters taught to to try to sell you more to eat and drink? We were just flabbergasted, and by that point, we tried to enjoy the food and do our best not to spend any more by making requests.

We left 15%, which is more than I would have done--but my pal Jim waited tables at a well-known NYC restaurant for many years, and he JUST. CAN'T. Leave less than that, knowing that busboys et al will suffer in the end. He did say "Well, if they pegged us for light tippers when we sat down (WHY/HOW, I ask?), we're just going to prove them right. We agreed to disagree on that part.

So, yes--service issues galore. And I'm not even mentioning the things we just didn't care for at the restaurant, things that would have gone in to the "It was fantastic, but I hated their silverware" category if the overall tone of the meal hadn't been so rushed and uncaring.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should have clarified that--I have no problem with VIPs getting VIP treatment. Just don't do it at the expense of everyone else in the restaurant! I didn't go in wanting or expecting VIP treatment--I just expected a great meal with service to match.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should have clarified that--I have no problem with VIPs getting VIP treatment.  Just don't do it at the expense of everyone else in the restaurant!

your server would have sucked even if the VIPs weren't there. and a chef hanging out with a VIP will have little to zero affect on your service, or your food for that matter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

your server would have sucked even if the VIPs weren't there.  and a chef hanging out with a VIP will have little to zero affect on your service, or your food for that matter.

Agreed again---but with the chef out there VIPing people, we had nobody to complain to. There was no manager evident, and the hostess was hardly a go-to person. That's why I mentioned the head chef.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

your server would have sucked even if the VIPs weren't there.  and a chef hanging out with a VIP will have little to zero affect on your service, or your food for that matter.

Agreed again---but with the chef out there VIPing people, we had nobody to complain to. There was no manager evident, and the hostess was hardly a go-to person. That's why I mentioned the head chef.

if the chef was in the back expediting would you have had someone to complain to? :huh::raz:

Edited by tommy (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly not, my wisecracking friend...my point is/was that the chef was the only person of authority to whom I might have turned--but that seemed pointless when he was busy VIPing others.

NOW am I making sense? :raz:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly not, my wisecracking friend...my point is/was that the chef was the only person of authority to whom I might have turned--but that seemed pointless when he was busy VIPing others.

NOW am I making sense?  :raz:

so, assuming chefs are generally in kitchens, you would normally go to the kitchen to complain to the chef when the service/experience isn't good?

stick to managers. if you ask and there are none, do exactly what you did: vent on the internet, and, more importantly, write a letter.

Edited by tommy (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

At $350 a head anywhere, including Vegas, that bums rush with the dish delivery and shabby wine service just sucks. At $100 PP or $50PP I would have freaked if a dish came in while my fork was digging in one already. :blink:

I would out them loud and hard here. It is the beauty and power of the internet and places like egullet. Restaurants that practice this kind of selective service should beware that a good name will only get them so far, the rest must be earned daily. There are too many choices. It may have worked when the easily impresionable Bruni's of the world were the only opinions to draw from but now you can help save 1000s of readers like me from the same piss poor experience at what sounds like an overrated, inconsiderate restaurant. If they did it to you, you can be sure it is happening to others like you.

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sounds like people are drawing a hard correlation btwn the VIPs at the other table, and the lousy server at Curlz's. *sigh*

"outing" the restaurant won't matter a bit. if the have consistently horrible service (and i don't for a second think they do), they won't stay in business. just my guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sounds like people are drawing a hard correlation btwn the VIPs at the other table, and the lousy server at Curlz's.  *sigh*

Yes and No. The VIP table just provides a point of reference and comparison to Curlz's service. I think Curlz's service was obviously very bad. I can also infer from Curlz observation of the VIP table that their service was very good. Was Curlz's bad service due to the fact that there were VIPs in the house, I don't think so, my impression is that service is in this establishment is potentially uneven and bad in general based on Curlz's review and the fact that the other table was VIPs was responsible for their good service. So, do I need to go out $350 pp AND be a VIP to get good service? :biggrin:

Maybe Curlz experience is a one off, someone had a bad day, out of left field thing but its doubtful.

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As to your original question of what do you do, other than complaining while on-site, and if that's not possible or you're too uncomfortable, writing a letter, as you're doing, is about as good as you can do.

When the place is out of town and particularly out of state, unless you plan a return trip there some time within the next year, all you can really do is write a letter to let them know of the bad experience and hopefully they'll write back with an apology. I also tend to let friends/family know about the experience should they mention they are visiting this particular restaurant and/or city. As another poster mentioned, if this is not some kind of fluke, they won't stay in business long by delivering poor service, esp. at those prices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly not, my wisecracking friend...my point is/was that the chef was the only person of authority to whom I might have turned--but that seemed pointless when he was busy VIPing others.

NOW am I making sense?  :raz:

It's possible these VIPs you were surrounded by were, in the vernacular of Las Vegas, "high rollers", which, in the vernacular of the rest of us, means "lose a lot of money in the casinos". I once worked with a lady who loved to go to Vegas because she was considered a HR and was comped things...IOW, they left their money at the tables/slot machines, and so were rewarded for making the casino richer.

Not that this offers you any comfort, Curlz...just want you to realise what you seem to have been up against. Guess you've gotta be a loser to be a winner in Vegas, baby!

PS: There is still no excuse for poor service at that level of dining, and they should be called on it.

"I'm not looking at the panties, I'm looking at the vegetables!" --RJZ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering the profit margin on wine and booze, and that the waiter's tip is calculated as a % of the total tab, its completely mind-boggling that you werent offered the chance to spend more of your hard-earned money.

Write that letter, and best of luck to you. BTW, in the letter, name names if you can. Names to praise (the waiter who helped even tho not 'your' waiter) and names to point a finger at (the bad waiter).

editted for posting before proofing...

Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Tip! You left a tip? The waiter is in the back 2 minutes after you leave counting his sucker money. Well respected tips for well respecting staff.

"I drink to make other people interesting".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Considering the profit margin on wine and booze, and that the waiter's tip is calculated as a % of the total tab, its completely mind-boggling that you werent offered the chance to spend more of your hard-earned money.

Thanks! Great minds--I did mention that in my letter...here's an excerpt:

Here’s the pièce de résistance …we were never asked if we wanted another glass of champagne, or if we wanted to order any wine. Please read that again. We were NEVER asked if we wanted to order anything else to drink. Not even a drink after dinner! Nothing. Service aside, isn’t this where a restaurant’s profit margin comes in to play?!? At that point, we were already so miffed by the lack of service that we consciously decided not to request any more champagne or move on to the wine. Why should we spend any more? The champagne glasses remained empty in front of us for most of the meal.

I did mention our waiter by name, and the helpful one by description. I also said up front that I since I don't have plans to return to LV any time soon, that I'm not looking for special treatment on my next visit.

I'm VERY curious to see what kind of response I receive, if any.

Raoul, while I agree with you in theory, it would be very hard for me to leave without tipping something. I would have left a blatantly small amount, though--i.e., $10. If nothing else, our plates were cleared, silverware changed, and we were fed. And fed well--I just keep forgetting that part. SIGH...

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...