sorry, but i've been waiting for YEARS to to use jesse jacksons line.
when we go to jean georges we never ask the chef to go easy on the bouquet garni. nor do we ask our steak to be made with a little less butter at peter lugers.
but at 'ethnic' restaurants, its somehow ok to request a toning down of the chili. its ok to return dishes that we aren't comfortable with. i can understand that attitude at your neighborhood indifferent chinese restaurant/indian curry house whatever. but the increasingly rare, usually struggling, hidden genius offering you a glimpse of nirvana deserves your trust.
if the heat in the kitchen is too hot, dont order the dish! ask for recommendations that aren't too spicy to begin with, and ignore the waiters suggestion that they can tone anything down - you don't want that, just as you dont want your chocolate souffle made witn diet chocolate.
chili levels in the hands of the inspired aren't arbitrary, they're integral. they're no more variable than the bass notes in a symphony. and great chefs deserve the same respect that they'd command cooking in the trump tower as they would in a shack by jfk airport.