The real test of a restaurant is how they respond to a problem brought to their attention by a customer. This will impact not just the diner having the problem, but everyone at the table – and it needs to be handled correctly so as not to ruin the meal for everybody at the table. If I am dining with a group, I am very circumspect about making a complaint about a dish because I don’t want to ruin everyone’s meal. A problem needs to be pretty egregious before I make a complaint. And really there is only one proper response a restaurant can make to such a problem – it needs to be “I am so sorry for this, what can i do to make it right". And then as long as the customer's response is reasonable - the restaurant should honor it. And this should be done rapidly and as discreetly as possible making the guest feel comfortable about having made the compliant rather than uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, this was not how the problem was handled at Dish. The mashed potatoes (which were chosen as a substitute to the frites – at the cost of couple dollars upcharge - pretty strange to have an upcharge for a different potato side dish but okay!) seemingly had no butter or salt or cream- literally just whipped potatoes with possibly a small amount of milk- it was tasted by the other guests to confirm that it was as bad as I thought. As the meal was steak, mashed potato and greens - and the portions were not large – the side dish was an integral part of the meal.
When brought to the attention of the waitstaff – there was no “I’m sorry” – the response was something to the effect that occasionally there is a batch which is like this…. (!!!) The waiter INSISTED that the plate be removed even though I said they could leave the potatoes on the plate while I chose my substitute. So five minutes later the cold steak and greens were returned to me on a new plate with barely any sauce left on the steak.
As far as the substitute – I was again offered the frites (which I had declined when ordering originally), an offer to try a new batch of the mashed potatoes (maybe this would be a good batch!!) or a double portion of the greens. When I inquired about another side which was on the menu - but not offered to me by the waiter – the waiter said – well that would be a problem because there would be an upcharge on it!! At my insistence – I had to say the words “I don’t care – that is what I want to order" before I was allowed to order the substitute I wanted. Another five minutes later (after my meal was pretty much finished) the new side dish came – and was fine - but eaten by itself!
I realized later that the reason the waiter was insistent that the plate be taken away from me and the mashed potatoes removed - even though I indicated I didn't want to lose my plate - was so that I wouldn't be charged - there really is no other explanation. The waiter was clearly not empowered to handle the problem properly and the whole experience made me and my dining companions very uncomfortable and ruined everyone’s meal - which is exactly what should NOT happen.
My companions food was pretty mediocre but acceptable. But the fact the food was mediocre is not the main problem - the lack of a gracious response to their kitchen problem was the thing which turned what could have been a pleasant, but not memorable experience – into a real negative, unpleasant experience.
My companions ordered a one dessert - which at the time the bill was presented we were told it had been "comped" - a nice gesture- but poorly executed. The proper way of handling is to say to the person who had the problem - "we are sorry about the main course problem and would like to offer you a dessert on the house", In this case, my companions felt they had gotten a free dessert at my expense - which didn't actually make anyone feel that good even though the intention was noble.
In the end the “upcharge” for the side dish was not on the bill – but it would have been better for the upcharge to be on the bill than for the waiter to basically prevent me from ordering the substitute that I wanted until I absolutely insisted!
A mediocre meal made terrible by dreadful customer service….
507 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941