The Customer is Always … Wrong?

There’s a Chinese restaurant in my town that’s family-owned and run, and been in the same location for many years. It doesn’t bill itself as “Asian Fusion”, there are no fancy sushi chefs making exotic rolls called “Dragon Breath” or “Male Virility.” No music or striking ambience; in fact, there’s no ambience. We go there because (a) the food is always good, (b) the chef knows how to make tasty sauces, (c) it’s still very cheap and (d) service and fare are reliably good. It’s the kind of place where the waiter slaps down a CH fried noodleswooden bowl of crunchy, fried chow mein noodles and duck sauce as soon as you take your seat.

We went there recently and ordered our usual assortment: S3 — hot and sour soup, T6 – Shrimp and Pork Hunan Style (Jumbo shrimp in chili sauce and pork in black bean sauce), V18 – eggplant with garlic sauce and 2 individual bowls of rice. All arrived in a timely fashion and one was even garnished with a beautifully carved carrot. Delicious and generous portions. Only one thing was off: the temperature of the food wasn’t hot. Soup, which I usually have to blow on to eat, was barely hot; the temperature of theCH hot and sour other two dishes were strangely mixed. That is, some parts of them were warm; other parts (on the same plate!) were cool. We discussed and decided to eat.

CH eggplantgarlicCH ShrimpandPorkHunanStyle

We finished the meal and I wanted to let the manager know so that it could be corrected (that’s the teacher in me). My wise husband said, “I’ve dealt with managers in Chinese restaurants before; it won’t do any good.” Not to be dissuaded, I pushed on. Those who know me and read this blog know I’m a complainer not to be messed with.

I decided to start with praise and compliments. I told him how attentive and capable the servers were, how the food was delicious and the sauces exquisite, how we always enjoy coming there and of course will come back again. Then I voiced my complaint. Here’s how it went:

Me: Although delicious, the food wasn’t hot enough, temperature-wise.

Him: It wasn’t cold; it’s just that you’re used to very hot.

Me: I don’t think that’s the case.

Him: It’s summer [it was Sept. 15] so we don’t want to overheat the food with the steam table.

Me: But….

Him: The waitress probably didn’t bring it out right away. Maybe the cook didn’t know which dishes should come out at the same time to the same table.

Me: But some parts of the dish were hot and some cold!

Him: That’s impossible.

I shoulda listened to my wise husband. So, I sighed and paid the bill. It came to $24.95 before the tip.  At that price, who could complain?


  1. SUSAN

    My favorite Chinese restaurant in New Haven was famous for the grumpy waiter. If you tried to order a la carte, he’d point out 1 from column A and 2 from column B. But I’ll pay extra, I’d say. He’d repeat 1 from column A and 2 from column B .
    Once, a couple got up from the window table and we wanted to sit there, so we did. He came by to yell at us for sitting at a dirty table and made us move!!
    The food was great but the grumpy waiter made the evening.

    • Good story. Grumpy waiters were par for the course at old NYC restaurants like Rappoports and the Carnegie Deli.

  2. Maybe the hot halves of the dishes were from column A and the other halves from column B. Then again, it sound like they were microwaved.

    • Hmmmmm, food for thought. Microwaved? Certainly a viable possibility!

      • More than viable…the hot/cold mix in the same dish screams it.

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