Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Sending back food you don’t like

At Zuni Cafe, the kitchen will replace a dish when diners aren't satisfied.

Eric Luse/The Chronicle

At Zuni Cafe, the kitchen will replace a dish when diners aren’t satisfied.

When dining at a good place, if you order something and you get what was described on the menu, but take a taste and don’t enjoy it (would not eat it) is it reasonable to ask the waiter to take it back and not be charged?


That’s an interesting and somewhat complicated question and goes to the core of an implied trust between the diner and the chef.

I remember talking to Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe about this subject more than a decade ago and her philosophy has stuck in my memory. She pointed out that a restaurant is one of the few businesses where the owner knows that when someone walks through the door, he or she will spend money. If you don’t like a sweater, for example, you don’t have to buy it. If you get home and don’t like it you can return it. Generally when you order a dish in a restaurant, you pay for it. Should you have to eat a dish you don’t really like?

She says no. If someone doesn’t like what they order, she will replace it; she wants diners to be happy with their meal. Most chefs feel the same way, and most patrons would never dream of sending back a dish simply because they don’t like the addition of red pepper in the sauce. That is where the trust comes in: a chef trusts that a diner knows his style of cooking and a diner trusts that the chef will deliver.

Sitting down and ordering is almost like a mutual understanding between the two parties. I think diners should be judicious in sending back food. It is fair to complain when the food is improperly cooked, or when the dish isn’t as described, or has an ingredient, not mentioned, that the diner is allergic to or doesn’t like.

Whatever the reason, a dish shouldn’t be sent back if half of it has been eaten. In most cases, instead of simply taking the dish off the check, the waiter will likely try to steer the diner to another dish on the menu.

Posted By: Michael Bauer (Email) | February 12 2009 at 05:11 AM

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Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines

by Linda Johnson-Bell
See this book on Amazon »
“The debate over the proper matching of wine and food is far from being settled in Pairing Wine and Food. The efforts to write useful books on this subject are not many but neither rare. If you are enthusiastic about wine to the extent of desiring more through a good match, you will have difficulty putting together a library of books on the subject. In my personal view, since matching is more of an art than science, it has done its best experientially rather than methodically. Pairing Wine and Food is not a definitive text nor does it claim to be. Linda Johnson-Bell writes as comprehensive a matching book as possible within the limits of her personal experiences. The backbone of the text is her effort to accentuate what knowledge of wine and food he possesses toward the end of great matching. She explores viniculture, viticulture and food with a keen eye for characteristics if one is to match wine with food. The book may have no photographs but has there is no shortage of tables. A great many interesting topics are organized in tables for definition or matching. Some may find that to be her strength while others notice that half of the text is made up of these tables including a 63 page long matching table at the end. Are the matching tables definitive or are they merely useful and more than just interesting? I would settle for the latter. In conclusion, the non-matching writing is comprehensive though far from definitive and the matching information is only a way to explore since vintages come and go. I recommend reading once since good matching books are few but better books are in print.”