Monday, August 2, 2010

Out with it, Mark!

New York Times' Minimalist, Mark Bittman, got a piece of plastic in his corn chowder ...

... and he won't reveal the name of the guilty eatery!

I'm a little perplexed as to why Bittman is reluctant to out this restaurant.

I sort of understand why he might be slightly hesitant if the restaurant had responded properly. (They did not.) These sorts of failings happen, even in extremely reliable restaurants. If one of your favorite places has an off night, well, it's a little unfair to splash their name all over the interwebs.

Also, I get that Mark Bittman has power that an ordinary diner doesn't have. He has an enormous cudgel to wield, and I suppose it's commendable that he doesn't want to overuse it. But this sounds like an instance when he would have been well within his rights.

The restaurant in question responded terribly. Not only did he not get an apology until he was paid up and out the door, not only did his server not appear to ask him if his meal was OK after the incident, but they had the nerve to charge him for the tainted soup!

It's the sign of a bad restaurant.

If it was an inexpensive place and the soup was $2, well, maybe it's not worth alerting his readers to it. But dining in New York is expensive business. Diners have a right to know which places fail to live up to good standards.

I want names!


And, in the spirit of this level of honesty, I'll say that I had a horrible breakfast at Les Halles this weekend. Among its offenses:

1) My father and I didn't get our coffee until after our breakfast appeared.

2) My father's eggs were served without toast (or any bread whatsoever).

3) They served lardon instead of bacon. (And when my father said, "That's not bacon," the server said, "Yes it is!" "No," my father replied, "that's lardon. Not bacon." They're not quite the same thing. And the kitchen obviously knew this wasn't the same thing, because when the server returned a few minutes later he had a plate of bacon with him.)

4) When the toast finally arrived, there was no butter. "Oh," the waitress said when we asked for it, "you want butter?" (Is that such an outlandish request?)

5) I asked for no potatoes with my eggs and got a mountain of French fries.

None of these failings are fatal in and of themselves -- but my father and I were just amazed at just how sloppy the whole production was. And when our annoyance was glaring and apparent, they were slow to apologize as well. (Come to think of it, I never heard an "I'm sorry," out of our waitress.)

In truth, I think Les Halles is (most of the time) a great restaurant, and I strongly recommend the steak frites there. But that breakfast was horrible. I'm not going to pretend it wasn't. If they do a sloppy job, your schlubby correspondent intends to name names.