Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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Restaurants Can Make it Right with a Diner

May 6th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Editor’s note: My sometimes cycling partner and long-time ex-Post telecom managerĀ isn’t known for patience or haute food knowledge, but here’s his account of how a restaurant redeemed itself by acknowledging and fixing the problem(s) at once.

That Fish Was Warmer Swimming in the Bayou

By Ken Steinhoff, guest blogger

I spent two weeks in San Jose learning how to use a new voice mail system. On the last day of the class, I tried like crazy to get back to West Palm Beach to beat a hurricane that was headed that way. Unfortunately, I ended up in Houston instead of WPB because all the flights to Florida were cancelled.

Here’s an account of my Houston experience sent to friends, family and the eating establishment in question:

The only place within walking distance of the place they stuck us “distressed travelers” was Oakley’s Restaurant in the Hyatt Intercontinental Hotel at 15747 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Houston, TX 77032.

A Dead Zone

TheĀ  joint was almost empty when I arrived, but it took several minutes for the greeter to see and seat me.

I decided on the Bayou Catfish order with garlic mashed potatoes, cole slaw and iced tea. The waitress brought a basket of bread. I didn’t have high hopes for hotel food, but this was really good. The tea was freshly brewed and also tasted great. Californians don’t know how to make good tea, so this was the first good glass of non-flavored tea I’d had in two weeks.

The main course took a while to get there (good cooking takes time, you know, so I wasn’t concerned), but, when it arrived, it looked great. I’m a little weak on cooking terms, but the fish was covered with some kind of browned corn-meal-looking stuff. The waiter asked if I’d like some lemon with it. I said that would be wonderful. He disappeared and I took my fork to cut into the fish.

It didn’t cut cleanly.

In fact, it didn’t cut at all.

You Can’t Cut Ice

I touched the white, translucent flesh. It was freezer-cold.

When the waiter came back, I said, “This fish ain’t even close to being cooked. It had a higher temperature when it was swimming in the bayou.”

He took the plate and walked toward the kitchen hollering for the cook. The waitress came back and promised that the fish would be replaced. “It’s on the house,” she said. I told her that was more than I expected, but, “Thanks.”

When the plate came back a few minutes later, the fish was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly. I took my first forkful of garlic mashed potatoes and found that they were excellent, also.

Waiter! There’s a . . .

Then my eye went to something in the middle of the potatoes. Something dark and unpotato-like. I tentatively stretched one tine of my fork to the corner of it and pulled. A long, black hair pulled out of the center of the potatoes. When I released it, it curled back like a spring.

I continued to eat the fish. When the waitress came by to see how I was doing, I told her that the catfish was excellent and the first bite of potatoes was very good.

Then I pointed out the long, black hair coiled up in the middle of the potatoes. “Mam,” I said, “you’ve already compped out the meal. I assure you that I wouldn’t have wasted a hair that good on a meal that was already free. It came that way.”

“Would you like fries with that?” she asked, clearly mortified.

“No, I don’t think I can handle any more surprises,” I answered.

“Would you at least like for me to remove the potatoes from your plate?”

“No, I feel more comfortable if the plate never leaves my sight. I’ll just eat the fish.”

When All Else Fails, Get Pie

A few minutes later, she came by and asked if I wanted to take a chance on the desert cart. “I’ll understand if you don’t,” she said.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll just eat with my eyes closed.”

For the record, the chocolate pie was great.

I walked back up there for breakfast. The Belgium waffles with strawberries and cream came without the strawberries and cream even though they showed up on the check. Since Hyatt is the only place within easy walking distance, I’ll be giving regular updates.

Tags: Talking Tables · When Meals Go Wrong

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // May 6, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Just setting the record straight, here’s a note I sent to family and friends the next day:

    My Belgium waffles had strawberries and cream this morning.

    With the Hyatt’s track record, the strawberries probably came from Mexico and are carrying cyclospora.

    I DID get a response from the Hyatt corporate toadies.

    It was the standard Bedbug Letter.

    From: Consumer Affairs
    Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 13:45:52 -0500

    Dear Mr. Steinhoff:

    Please accept our apologies for the disappointing dining experiences you described. As Hyatt continues to monitor and improve the level of service provided, comments such as yours provide us with valuable insight in pinpointing areas of concern. Your comments have been forwarded directly to the Executive Management of the Hyatt at Houston Airport for review and response. We look forward to regaining your confidence in Hyatt.

    Hyatt Consumer Affairs

  • 2 GPrimm // May 7, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Ken may be impatient, but at least he’s fairly polite. My dear brother is regularly so rude and obnoxious to waiters and waitresses that I’m amazed he hasn’t had scalding coffee poured over his head a few dozen times.

    My first job was in a restaurant and seeing it from “backstage,” I may be a bit more forgiving than Ken. But still, nearly frozen fish and curly hair on your plate, followed by a bad breakfast??? That’s WAY beyond the line…..I’d permanently cross the entire chain off my list.

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