The wrong dish. It's an insufferable dilemma. Most of us when we go out are creatures of pleasure and simplicity. We want to enjoy the dining experience, not draw attention to ourselves or attract the scorn of the kitchen and wait staff. But when is enough enough? When is it time to just send the damn dish back?
I think the main reason people rarely send food back, even when they know they should, is they fear embarressment and admonishment. Embarressement for themselves and for their dining guests, and fear that the wait staff will develop a seething hatred for you. But think of it this way: You are a paying guest. You are there paying for a service and a meal, and if it isn't delivered in the way you expected, then what are you paying for? You wouldn't pay for bad producee, so why would you pay for an incorrect order?
Given though, there are limits. You don't send it back because its lacking that extra dash of salt, that's why there's some on the table. You also don't send it back just because you wanna score a free meal. So when do you send a meal or drink back? Well, here are some guidelines to help you through that decision, but keep in mind there are always exceptions:
- Is the order completely wrong? Send it back, but don't eat half of it first then "discover" the mistake and expect the kitchen to take it back.
- Cocktails are finicky creations, if the balance of ingredients isn't right for you don't worry, the bartender will understand and will be happy to modify it for you.
- Don't make a show of sending anything back, and don't be embarressed.
- Take your dining guests' feelings into consideration. Will they be mortified? Probably not, and if you let them all taste as well, 10-1 they'll encourage you to send it back too.
- Don't be a snob. Sending everything back due to it being too hot or cold, too spicy, too bland, and so on, salad to dessert will garuntee the animosity of the wait staff, kitchen, and other patrons. Plus, you're obviously anal.
- Make sure to check the menu and ask the captain if what you want to order contains any allergens or ingredients you don't care for, and see if the dish can be altered as such beforehand.
- Are you in a different country? Be aware that the way they prepare food, and the ingredients they use may be very different to what you're used to. Be willing to take a risk, but try to ask beforehand what your order is all about.
Use your best judgement, and make sure you enjoy your meal!