11/19/2012 03:56:00 PM

Your 10 Most Pretentious Dining Moments

Whether it's over-the-top dish explanations, outrageous policies or just straight-up snooty servers, we asked you to share your worst tales of restaurant ridiculousness. Below we've rounded up 10 totally pretentious dining moments from commenters and colleagues that are sure to inspire you to respond with 10 more of your own. Shout out your stories in the comments.

84 comments :

  1. The restaurant in slide 3 is the pretentious hipster douche scene known as "Fathers Office" in Culver City.

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  2. Who pours their glass out onto the carpet of a restaurant? They should have kicked you out!

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  3. why can't you just chop your own salad? You want the chef to cut up your steak and chew your food too?

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  4. At the Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower in the early 90's only my menu had prices. Ladies did not need such information. The waiter was shocked when I leaned over to help translate and, horrors, exposesed her to THE PRICES! Of course he feigned no English, which was Ok with me, but there was only one native french speaking customer in the whole restaurant and he was at a table of Englishmen. The waiter then poured the wine so sloppily that he dripped it on my wife sleeve (white fortunately). But the coup de grace was the ladies room. THERE WAS ONLY ONE SQUARE OF TOILET PAPER IN THE ROOM, AND IT WAS ON THE FLOOR!

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  5. I hate that we don't get the names of the restaurants.
    David

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  6. I think we've all had bad experiences but some of those mentioned above? Sounds to me like the only bad experience was the customer. Pouring ANYTHING onto carpet is unacceptable...water or otherwise. Don't like the published rules...don't go. And insisting someone cut your salad for you? Do you also expect Mommy to make your bed? Unbelievable.

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    1. seriously? what happened to the customer is always right? i'd pour the liquid (whatever it was) out as well, or ask for a new glass. for someone that has such a nice looking website (really, i like it) pretty harsh comments.

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    2. because, more often than not, the customer is an entitled man-child, this does not mean "right". Rather than pour out the liquid (very classless, by the way), why not ask (politely) for new glasses? I've never worked in a restaurant, but I've been to my fair share at nearly every price level, and honestly, the bad times I've had, more often than not, are due to ridiculous requests and absolute rudeness from patrons like you around me to their servers.

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  7. When I lived in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg I discovered a restaurant that had a beautiful crudite plate which was an amazing selection of salads accompanied by anchovy toast points. That's all I wanted for lunch and I ordered it every day. Every day the portions got smaller and smaller until it was so ridiculous I asked the waiter about it. He responded that the chef did not want to serve people who only ordered an appetizer!!!

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    1. So basically what you are saying is you went to the same restaurant every day, ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, and are surprised that this staff was not overjoyed to see you. I bet your tip was commensurate with the price of your appetizer.

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  8. I have no sympathy for the diner in Slide 8. He clearly did not understand the UK meaning of "smart". So instead of asking someone what it meant. he took out his insecurity on the restaurant. As a guest in an English speaking country, he should have studied ahead. He probably made the terrible error of asking for a napkin, too.

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    1. I agree. Perhaps they should have looked up the definition instead of flaunting their ignorance by complaining.

      A decision to frequent a restaurant where the staff have a smaller vocabulary would have probably been better.

      'Would you like fries with that'?

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    2. What a cretin. I feel I didn't ask what things meant I would never get things done. And in talking here in America. you're in a foreign country you might want to ask the definition of a couple of words

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    3. I've never been to the UK, explain the napkin comment.

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  9. An expensive restaurant that often makes top ten in the LA region charged me extra after I asked for anchovies on my Caesar Salad; not only that, my wife was on a diet and asked for crumbled blue cheese on her salad instead of dressing and they charged extra for that too!

    Bill R, Newbury Park CA

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    1. Charging extra for anything extra is fine as long as they tell you in advance so you can change the order if you want. Otherwise I take it out of the tip and tell the waiter why.

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  10. Some years ago I took a party of 6 to a very expensive restaurant in London (I won't name it). After we had finished our meal I asked who wanted an aperatif. # of the men opted for congnac and I asked the sommelier if he would bring us 3 Delamain (my personal favorite). I could see from the look on his face that he didn't approve and I asked him whether he disliked my choice. He responded "Well it's alright for cooking with but there is only one brandy/cognac and that's Hine". I said well in that case would you please bring us three Hine. He promptly did so and stood over me while I heated it, smelled it and slowly drank it. After I had finished he said "Well sir". my response was "I must admit that Hine is a very fine brandy. Now would you please bring us three Delamain".
    Needless to say, we were not charged for the Hine!!!!

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    1. Just FYI, an aperitif (that's how to spell it) is something you eat or drink prior to the meal to encourage an appetite. I think you re trying to impress your sommelier by ordering a digestif. Just sayin'

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  11. pre·ten·tious: "Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed."
    C'mon Zagat, most of these aren't pretentious stories at all!

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    1. serioulsy. people on here are so bitter.

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    2. yup. "entitled" and "rude", mostly.

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  12. ANY restaurant, no matter how chic or special they want to be is still a SERVICE industry and should NEVER embarrass a client or place the staffs preferences (even a chefs) above the client. Charges for, or outright refusal of reasonable requests are insulting, obnoxious and as the title says, pretentious.

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    1. Have you ever thought of opening a Quizno's franchise, if you don't own one already? They would love to bring you aboard.

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    2. Go to Burger King if you want to have it your way.

      Chefs work too hard and for too long for you to come in and tell them how they should be making their food. If you don´t want what they have, go somewhere else.

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    3. Chefs aren't little Gods. Do they open restaurants to glorify themselves and their techniques? Bricklayers work harder and do it the customer's way---so should the chefs. Such pomposity. What happened to genteel customer service?

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    4. chef here. zagat gave me ( my work) 28 in food and service. the bricklayer analogy holds no water. here is why.
      bricklayers work harder how? union jobs?
      bricklayers don't EVER do it the customers way. they do it the way that works, or people will be injured. all respect to bricklayers.
      if chefs do it the customer's way, we will 86 an entire industry of creative craftsmen/ artists who have spent lifetimes understanding food and techniques that the customers come to them to experience in the first place.
      you're allowed your opinion of course, and opinion makes and breaks restaurants and chefs. but that's all you're allowed. because leonardo, donatello michelangelo and raphael didn't do it for you, or for the world, or for art.
      they did it for them.
      and if you don't like, go away to somewhere that allows the neophyte to steer the ship.
      "pomposity" incoming.

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    5. I TOTALLY AGREE. WE ARE NOT SERVANTS BUT WE ARE HERE TO SERVE. BUT IT IS MORE THAN A SERVICE INDUSTRY...ITS THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY! WE ARE HERE TO ACCOMMODATE OUR GUESTS. OTHERWISE WHY ARE YOU DOING IT? GO HOME AND COOK FOR YOUR FAMILY. OUR GUESTS ARE TO BE ACCOMMODATED. IF YOU THINK YOU ARE TO GOOD TO CHOP A SALAD OR LEAVE PEPPERS OFF A DISH (FOR EXAMPLE)FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESNT LIKE PEPPERS...YOU SHOULD BE IN ANOTHER PROFESSION. AS MUCH AS I RESPECT CHEFS FOR OUR HARD WORK (AND MOST PEOPLE JUST DONT UNDERSTAND THE HARD WORK AND DEDICATION IT TAKES IN OUR INDUSTRY) PRIDE IN PRODUCT & CREATION..YOU HAVE TO BE HOSPITABLE. YOUR GUESTS ARE SUPPORTING YOU-GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT AND STOP WHINING ABOUT IT

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    6. exactly. these aren't major faux pas here, they're pretty basic. a knife for a pizza isn't telling a chef how to cook. asking a chef to cut his salad, even if he says no, big deal. and chef here i'm sure you make beautiful amazing dishes, but w/o customers, you're cooking at home.

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  13. NO catchup on hot dogs is a given tho and the way it is in many Chicago joints.

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  14. Chop a wedge salad? Then it's a chop salad. loser customer

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  15. I do feel for wait staff sometimes. At a very upmarket restaurant in Hong Kong a while back, a rather too exuberant diner was shouting very loudly he wanted to see the 'Semillon'. Of course the waiters, all of them Chinese, did nothing. They didn't know what to do. The guy merely shouted louder. I motioned to a waiter to 'translate' that he was, in fact, looking for the 'sommelier'. Customers can be jerks too.

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  16. At 1 star Michelin restaurant in Barcelona last summer, we were asked if we wanted bread, and we said yes. Rec'd sone decent but nor remarkable bread in a basket. Only when we got the bill did we see we were charged 8 euros EACH for the bread. At 1.4 dollars to the Euro, do the math. Plus the rest of the meal was pretentious and bossy, telling us how to each each bite of the tasting menu. Give me a break!

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    1. Duh you are not dining in the US you should learn that other countries do things differently.

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    2. People like you are the reason the term "ugly American" exists. Have some manners. McDonald's is everywhere if you're forced to go abroad -- stick to those.

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    3. So you shouldn't be warned if something has an extra price, after all they are offering. This is a bad practice anywhere in the world, to any customer. And I'm not an US citizen.

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  17. A large group of us went to dine at a Mexican chain restaurant. One of our party was blind. He wanted to order the hamburger so he could eat it easily. The waitress refused, and said it was for children only. We were appalled. One of the children solved the problem handily. She asked if she could order the burger. Yes, she was told. She then told the blind man what she would like to eat, so he could order it. When the plates came, they swapped plates. But we never went back.

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  18. We returned to a favorite restaurant with a party of 10. Unfortunately, this was a particularly busy time, and (after we arrived) were informed that no substitutions were allowed. We explained that one of our party has severe dietary issues and would require some substitution. The chef came out to argue with him about what he was able to eat. Only when we all started to leave did they agree to make a dish for him.

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  19. We went to a restaurant in Corona Del Mar that is a non-substitution restaurant. The chef is very proud of the fact he only uses the freshest ingredients but puts eggs on quite a few dishes. I don't like eggs and asked them to leave it off. The waitstaff said he won't substitute. I haven't been back since.

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    1. I don't understand why such picky eaters go to nice restaurants.

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    2. So, you knew you wouldn´t be able to substitute before you went, asked for substitutions anyway, and were then surprised when they wouldn´t do it.

      I´m betting they don´t miss you.

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    3. I am stunned by the replies to this one. The idea of a non-substitution restaurant is ridiculous. It implies a high-volume, cookie-cutter operation that is inconsistent with the notion of fine dining. To know whether to go, one would have to scour the website in advance - my guess is that vegetarians, vegans, those with celiac disease and others (we're now up to about 20% of the population) would have to go elsewhere. It's the chef who's being picky - lighten up!

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    4. and to you anon
      vegetarian- social/"healthy" CHOICE
      vegan- moral/social/"healthy" CHOICE
      if you choose a lifestyle that places you in a the minority, expect your choices to be minimized.
      for those with LEGITIMATE restrictions such as celiac disease and others, my condolences, you will never be truly safe eating in restaurants. learn to protect yourself, cook at home or other trusted places.

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    5. if you have special needs CALL AHEAD! (What ever happened to common sense?)most allergies and special restrictions can be addressed easily if you just ask ahead of time.

      For the lady who doesn't like eggs: if they won't substitute, just ask for the eggs on the side.

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  20. My son and I went to a steak restaurant known for their prime rib. Their normal prime rib cut is about $35.00, but they offer an extra-cut end-cut for $85.00. It is about 3 pounds of meat, is fantastic, and the doggie bag provides about three days of additional meals. I ordered the extra-cut end-cut for the two of us. The waiter told me they do not split entrees, that one of us would need to get another entree. I told him he had to be kidding, that this was an $85.00 entree, and they have other entrees for about $19.00. He said that was their policy. We decided to order two of the cheaper entrees, totaling $40.00. Amazing.

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  21. 4, 9, and 10 made me laugh. The rest of them sound really infantile and petty.

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  22. An Italian restaurant in Frankfurt a few years ago (1 Michelin star) had such complicated rules about ordering (each person could not order what he or she wanted, there were group rules) that it took 4 of us with 6 advanced degrees among us half an hour to figure out how we could order. Completely ridiculous, but it makes for a good story (in the long version).

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  23. Zagat, why did you select those stories? As others have said, almost none have anything to do with pretention on the part of restaurants and a majority have to do with aspirational ignorant customers with a chip on their shoulder. The story about the various body parts that Mexican spices are supposed to affect was funny though.

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  24. I agree with the previous comment, why did you select those stories? This is funny only inside USA, where people don't want to slice their pizza. In the rest of the world, it gives a totally different impression. Now I wonder if the Zagat reviews have the same bias

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  25. Went to a burger place in village. Waitress says, yes, may I take your order. I told her what I want. She's like, can you repeat again? Turns out she was texting on her phone. I repeated again. Then she ask wait did you say you want this and that?

    Burger was great and finished that really quick. Haven't touched my fries and onion rings yet. Waitress comes over, are you done? I was like huh? Then told her no. Now I'm half-finished with the sides. She comes over again, are you finished?

    Anyways, it was a good burger place...

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  26. #1 has happened to me before... eating at a rib joint in the '80s, I ordered the beef ribs, and when they came, there was no meat on any of the 4 bones. I sent them back, and the waiter re-appeared saying that they "tasted fine to the chef." I countered with "what tasted fine? The marrow?"

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  27. At a very new and upscale Japanese restaurant in Dubai, they have a policy of making diners leave their reserved table if not finished eating within the allocated 2 hours. Staff will actually remove your food from the table and move it to the bar area (assuming some space is available). And one of the staff actually ridiculed a guest when they asked what noodle dishes the restaurant had. The response was "this is a Japanese restaurant, we don't do noodles here." This was a shock to me since I visit Japan often and noodles are a big part of my diet there. Won't go back to such a pretentious restaurant.

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  28. Had a similar wine pretentious event at an Italian restaurant. We ordered an expensive bottle of a Montalcino. The waiter poured not the usual 1 ounce, which I expected he would present to me for my tasting and approval, but about 4 ounces into the first glass and swirled it around to remove any “lint” and then transferred the wine to the next glass, performed the same ritual and repeated until all the wine glasses had been so “cleaned”. He then proceeded to drink the last glass, pronouncing the wine fit for consumption.

    At the end of the meal, we informed him that his $40 taste of our wine was his tip.

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    1. A large group of friends went to a certain 3 Michelin star place in the MGM in Vegas, and we all got the 12 course prix fixe. Various plates were served with gold glitter and bathed in the 'smoke' of dry ice. Each course was described in such breathless hushed tones, dripping with superlatives, you would have thought that they were cooked by God himself. No one asked for ketchup.

      But the killer was the sommelier. One of our party made the mistake of asking for recommendations. Each time, three bottles of this or that were brought out, and as in your story, the sommelier poured herself a good quarter glass to taste. This went on for 4 or 5 rounds. Dinner worked out to $600 per person.

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  29. Probably 30 years ago, I took my sister to Lutece for a birthday lunch. I had been there once or twice, she never. We looked over our menus and carefully selected appetizers and main courses that looked the most intriguing. Our waiter was horrified and pointed out that we had chosen seafood for both courses. When we stuck to our order, he made it clear that he did not approve.

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    1. I ate at Lutece many times, mixing and matching whatever I chose, traditional or not. The waiters were always gracious and charming - never judgmental nor critical. The establishment was completely unpretentious. As a matter of fact I used to bring Andre Soltner Corned Beef or Pastrami from Katz's on his birthday, which he always loved.

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  30. Who's pretentious here? The restaurants or the customers? Most of these examples say more about the "ugly American" than the restaurants themselves.

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    1. Actually they are examples of businesses who are confused as to their role in life. For example this would be a great place to work if it weren't for the damn customers. If you wish to go through life uncomplaining for whatever reason, you deserve what you get...and the fear of being thought of as usophisticated if you express your desires (especialoly since you are the PAYING customer) is absurd.

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  31. Bonjour
    Il y a très certainement des abrutis chez les serveurs et les restaurateurs.
    Par contre, à la lecture des commentaires, je me rends compte que cela n’est pas vraiment mieux du côté des clients. OUF!

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    1. Speaking of being pretentious, how about adding a comment in French to what is a discussion in English, which you obviously understand, as you have written about the commentators. For those who don’t speak French:

      Hello
      There are certainly idiots among waiters and restaurateurs.
      Contrarily, reading the comments, I realize that the patrons are not much better.
      PHEW!

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  32. I was happily surprised to see that most of the comments came to the defense of the server/kitchen/restaurant. Customers believe that their requests are unique and that a server should make an exception just this one time, but they are wrong. The request you are making has happened over, and over and over again. We are tired of it. Several times a day I serve a different, fully capable 20-something who asks me to cut their burger in half. Every time this happens, I cheerfully bring them a knife while they pout.
    Being rude to a blind man though? Thats just sad. I would happily bring him a burger, and cut it in half.

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  33. You're all the snobs. Follow the twitter-feeds of celebrity chefs. At one point or another they've been asked about "picky cutomre requests" and almost to a person they say "as long as it's not unreasonable we'll do it." Customer want's a fillet cooked (ruined) well done they'll do it. Don't want this side and subsitute with another, they'll do it. Where it makes it hard for subsititutions is when it's already an ingredient in something that's pre-made. If you asked for "no cilantro in your salsa" for example, good luck unless they're willing to make you a special batch. Also if you ask for an add-on like blue cheese or bacon to something that's not already included, expect to pay for the up-charge.
    If you want customers to become repeat customers there needs to be a certian amount of flexibility by the kitcken. Afer all you're cooking for THEM not yourselves.

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  34. I enjoy having my salad chopped - and the tossed with the dressing and am not reticent about asking when dining out. It's not an unreasonable request. If they decline I order something else, but I don't go back.
    No matter how inventive, successful or talented you are, your job is to please your guest, not to insist they recognize your brilliance. And please, don't compare yourself to Leonardo or Donatello, it's only food after all. And it's going to be something else entirely 8 hours later-

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    1. I fucking hate you, you self centered piece of shit. You are too fucking lazy to chop your own fucking salad, and too stupid to understand why you're a fucking asshole.
      "it's only food". i hate you.

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    2. Your language is vulgar and uncouth. It convinces no one of anything, except perhaps that you have very bad taste.

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    3. To the writer of profanity - I suspect your taste in food is similar to your taste in language. For you a pack of Twinkies would be a gourmet feast. You don't get it do you. And you never will!

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  35. >inventive, successful or talented you are, your job is to please your guest

    no.

    my job is to create an environment in which guests may find pleasure. if they are unable to do so they may leave. it is more work to accommodate incoming guests than those whom leave unsatisfied.

    >please, don't compare yourself to Leonardo or Donatello

    didn't.

    cuisine is, for many chefs, the pursuit of perfection. perfection as interpreted by an individual chef is not always in harmony with everyone who may come through the door.

    a lot of comments i see here run in the vein of
    "chefs are here to serve me, i pay, i get what i want."
    some service models have made enormous fortune catering to just this. fine. people have to eat, and eating is a very personal thing, being inside you for a while and all that. many chefs make countless concessions each day, trivializing their own pursuit of craft. and they are often frustrated, for their vision of the dish has become blurred.

    tell a masseuse "do it this way"
    tell a mechanic "do it this way"
    tell a doctor "do it this way"
    what else do you try to run your way, though incapable/ unwilling to perform on your own?

    is art pretentious? some of it, lots even. but there are those works which inspire.
    as fleeting a moment as many fine foods may be, those sublime meals remain for ages in memory.

    not everywhere has to be like you want it to be. this is what makes creativity beautiful. surprises. unexpected in the best way possible.

    TLDR-

    would you prefer TMNT kicked ass on the shredder using taekwondo?

    who wants soylent green everyday forever?

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    1. You have a very high opinion of yourself. But a chef who cannot improvise and be creative in order to please his clients is no chef at all.

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    2. the post was on the money. the reply os dogshit. fuck the replier.

      Bottom line: who wants soylent green everyday forever?
      Answer: No one. With you buddy (poster of original comment).

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    3. Bullseye!! with a +10 pt difficulty bonus for the sheer randomness of working in a TMNT reference that actually illustrated your point!

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  36. When I saw the title I assumed it was a review of Picholine.

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  37. This is a very poor piece of work by Zagat. A lot of these are so obvious; I get some of the concerns, but most (shoes, reservation systems etc) are pretty obvious.

    Like No. 7 of this list makes complete sense from a restaurant point of view. But "Daniel H., of Brooklyn, NYC" might not know that in England, "smart" doesn't mean just intelligent-smart. It also means smartly dresses aka formally dressed / dressy. Why pick such a petty grief with lady who answered the phone.

    Just put on some decent clothes, have a damn drink and stop whining like a little girl. Perhaps going to a nice pizzeria is more up your alley.


    Very bad piece of work, Zagat. Horrible food journalism on this piece.

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  38. Imho, chef's create dishes where each ingredient plays an important role in the taste. If you don't want one of the ingredients, that's your choice and you suffer by having an inferior meal. If the chef refuses to accommodate you, he suffers by offering poor service. It's a fine line that real restaurant professional know how to navigate.

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  39. I try to keep changes to the items I order to a minimum - e.g. I don't eat pork so I avoid ordering unless clearly the bacon can be left off. I am horribly embarrassed to dine with certain friends who seem to take PLEASURE in requesting as many changes as possible for every dish they order! I am on the chefs side on this one - if you do not like how restaurant food is prepared, stay home!

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  40. I think I can top the examples given. 1) Years ago, in my home town of Aspen, a friend was hosting a dinner birthday party of 12 or 14. One of his guests discovered that his chicken was raw--not underdone, but actually translucent inside, cold. (Health hazard!) He quietly got the waiter's attention, and asked for the chicken to be cooked. The dish was returned to the table unchanged, with the comment, "That's the way [we] serve our chicken." Needless to say, the restaurant no longer exists. 2)I was on a speaking tour that took me to a medium-grade hotel in North Florida. The restaurant was considerably less than medium-grade--everything we ordered was barely edible. But the high point came when, after serving a wedge of iceberg lettuce with what seemed to be French's bottled dressing, the waiter, with a white napkin folded over his arm, proffered a plate with two forks and politely inquired whether we would "like a chilled fork?"

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  41. Some years ago (I think it was about 1980)I and my wife invited my partner and his wife to dinner for his birthday. We chose one of the best known restaurants in New York on W56th Street (You know the name of it). Since it was a special ocassion I suggested that we order a bottle of a 1961 Chateau Latour which was priced at $850. When I told the sommelier of our choice he said "You realize that it's at your own risk". I asked him what he meant and he said that once the bottle was opened I had to pay for it regardless of whether the wine was good or not. I found this to be extraordinary and asked to speak to the Manager, When he came over he repeated that this was the restaurant's policy since some people order expensive bottles of wine and then complain that it's corked or something else is wrong. I explained that I had a very large and expensive collection of my own and was unlikely to do a thing like that. Nevertheless he insisted that he would not change their policy. I then offered a suggestion that if I thought there was anything wrong with the wine when I tasted it we would ask the sommelier to taste it and if he agreed that the wine was "off" I would not be charged for it. Finally, he agreed. I asked for the wine to be decanted which they did. We then let it sit for about 15 minutes and I then asked the sommelier to pour a sample for me, which he did. I swilled it around in my mouth and screwed up my eyes. I then passed the glass to my partner who took a sip and also screwed his eyes and said to me "I see what you mean". I then passed the glass to the sommelier who lifted it to his lips with shaking hands. After he had swallowed he said "Well sir, it tastes fine to me". I then laughed and said "Yes, you're right it's superb. Now you can pour. The manager who had stood by the table the whole time could not help but laugh. He did not comp the wine but he did comp 4 glasses of a very nice Port after the meal.

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  42. To me it's pretentious when a server uses the third person to address a diner. For example, "What will the lovely lady be ordering tonight?" It reminds me of the "bad old" days when men ordered for their female companions and would say, "The lady will be having the Dover sole." And the comment about the men's menus with prices and the women's menus without. What happens when there are no men in the dining party?? Are the prices a surprise when the bill comes?

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