April 20, 2005
In response to my post on a number of different Internet discussion forums requesting that readers send in their stories of unusual dining experiences, by far this week's best story comes from Mikhail Lipyanskiy of Rego Park, Queens, who shared the following:
"Steven - me, my wife, and another couple had dinner at Aquavit half a year ago or so. We wanted the 7-course menu and the other couple wanted the 5-course. They told us we couldn't sit together, and they sat us at different tables. The point of the dinner was to have dinner together - I do not understand why this was done. We were told that the chef feels that it is improper to have different meal schedules or something of the sort. It ruined a perfect evening and truly took a good (and expensive) experience and shattered it. No matter how good the food was, all we remember is having to move into separate - not even consecutive - tables and talk over a wooden divider that was between us and them ... ridiculous."
I have to say that everyone I've told the story to has laughed out loud, including yours truly. In fact, I still laugh when reading it. Maybe restaurant employees should take college courses in abstract theory? Then they can realize that you can treat four people at the same table as if they were at two tables for two, and the scheduling issues for the kitchen are exactly the same.
The one thing that bothers me about it is that poor Mikhail accepted this solution (though I know in this instance it was by choice because he and his wife didn't want to make a scene in this social situation). Before I accepted it, I would have contacted the Swedish government and asked them to denounce Marcus Samuelsson. But seriously, when these things happen, either people should leave and go to a different restaurant, if possible, or hold their ground and insist that the restaurant bring them what they want. Eventually, restaurants who impose these arbitrary and silly rules on diners will hopefully realize that they are there to provide service, not to make people unhappy, especially when it takes absolutely no effort on their part to make them happy. As I did with last week's article on L'Impero and Tabla, I will send this piece off to Aquavit and I hope they take the time to respond.
If anybody out there has their own funny, infuriating, or unusual story about dining out, please feel free to share it. Just click on the email contact link in the right hand column and tell us about it.