Dean Clough

December 22, 2023

Portico Darwin: You Liked My Complaining! Here's More!



Today's post is a bit of a role reversal.  And it's long, so there's that, but at least you have all weekend to enjoy it.

It's necessary because my writing Wednesday on respectfully handling a bad meal at a restaurant resonated with at least two readers, one in a blog-length way.  So those two readers are handling this part, and in UNWASHED MASSES I will tell a related story from this past Wednesday, after my post was published.  It appears there because most of it revolves around Jack, an investor at the Bogus City Winery at the otherwise Diamond Certified Pier 57 in Manhattan.  You'll see.

But first, Lauren and André.  Their responses are telling, because both are pretty far from what you'd call a Karen or Ken.

Lauren Ryder
As per usual, Lauren is as wordy as she is tall.  But she's also one of the more composed and considerate people I know, so I enjoyed and appreciated the kind words.

I like your reasoning and approach here.  It worked for you and hopefully for their future business.  

André Aurich
Conversely, the Belvedere layabout Mr. Aurich is expansive about an experience quite similar to our own Monday night at Barbès.  

Your blog is very appropriate because we had the same issue last night, and we discussed many of the same pros and cons of speaking up. 

We had had take-out from a nearby Indian restaurant previously and had thought it was good (although not Diamond Certified), but had never dined there before.  So when our first choice was not open, we gave the Indian place a try. 

We had samosas, then a chicken curry dish, and a whole fish tandoori.  The samosas were excellent, but then it took a while for our main courses (the restaurant was not busy; I think they do a lot of take-out). 

Finally, the food arrived - the fish was way overcooked, and the chicken was a little overcooked.  Unless something is inedible, I will not send it back.  Besides, we were hungry so we kept eating, and then came the dreaded "how is everything" question. 

Like you, we often just say fine, but because we had had good experiences at this restaurant in the past (via take-out), and the fish was very overcooked, I felt more comfortable complaining that our dishes, especially the fish, were not prepared well.

They did offer to get us a new dish, but we had already eaten half of it, and did not want to wait, so we said not to worry, but we did want to let the chef know (similar to your approach - just an FYI).  

Rikki felt guilty and was afraid we would get the chef in trouble.  I thought a good manager would appreciate the constructive criticism.  

Great stuff, and thanks much, André - what a perfect intro to Jack, at City Winery.


Some background.  Midtown, on the western shore of Manhattan, Google not very long ago footed the bill for a complete re-do of Pier 57.  They did an amazing job, and the place is a light-filled wonder of Killer or better (with one exception) food and drink purveyors, with essentially unlimited amounts of designer public space, inside and out.  These photos, one of which appeared in Monday's post, are from City Winery, at Pier 57, this past Saturday.
The views here are other-worldly, and so is their wine and wine service - third f'ing worldly.  I'll be quick (and fly my wine snob flag):  Not recognizing anything on their list, I asked our waiter to bring a bottle of the driest of the 3 Chardonnays on their list, ideally something like a white Burgundy. 

Please do keep in mind what happened next occurred in the middle of fucking Manhattan, not East Podunk.  The place may be more focused on scale and events, but still - it is a place claiming to be a wine bar, in New York City.

Because what the waiter brought would have made Rombauer proud.  It was one of the buttery-est, oak-iest, and sweetest wines with the word Chardonnay on the label I've had in years, probably decades.  But that wasn't even the problem.

The problem was that the waiter served this white swill not even at room temperature - it was warmer than room temperature.  Yet even I forced a smile and mumbled "It's fine." when I did my taste.  After the waiter poured the wine and left, I jammed the bottle as deep in the ice as possible and spent the next 10 minutes spinning it in an attempt to fix the problem.  That and ice cubes in our wine glass - a first for me - did the trick.  Yes, we overcame this real adversity with nary a complaint to our waiter or host or anybody.

Until this past Wednesday afternoon. 

On Saturday, we had noticed a lobster roll place called The Galley at Pier 57, and Julie and I agreed to return to try them; we did when we connected there for lunch on Wednesday.  Julie arrived early, found a different and vastly superior wine bar (Due Madri Restaurant), and had a glass of wine before my arrival.  This is where Jack comes in.

We connect right on time at 1 PM at Galley.  Upon a return from the WC, I find Julie merrily chatting it up with someone who can only be described as a Manhattan fatcat.  Jack is a relatively handsome guy, donning a very expensive down vest, and has pretty cool silver hair.  We heartily introduce ourselves, but it turns out Julie had already met Jack at Due Madri - he was having lunch there while Julie enjoyed her wine.

It was during that conversation that Julie learned that Jack is an investor and owner of City Winery.  When I was told that, I immediately turned to Julie and said "Did you tell him about Saturday?"

Because like André Aurich, I believe a good manager wants to hear constructive criticism. 

Yet, like Rikki Aurich, my own wife doesn't like stuff like that.  But I spoke up anyhow and very politely and respectfully told Jack about our experience at his place on Saturday.  I told him our server was great but had not been trained properly.

I loved his reaction:  he laughed out loud.  Because he was appalled anything like that could have happened in the first place.  That, and also because he said he and his partners had just hired someone away from to run their staff training.  Suffice to say, he was extremely happy to hear this constructive criticism.

So much so, he excused himself, ran to City Winery, grabbed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, came back to Galley, and gave it to us. 

Will we return?  Well, Jack's gracious gesture and this may make it impossible to resist.

10 Seconds of Seriousness:  These have been two pretty long posts about trivial, first-world problems.  But perhaps these anecdotes highlight that negative feedback, delivered with respect, is often met with appreciation, not cancelation.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  And have a great weekend.

Oh, and for the record:  the lobster rolls at The Galley at Pier 57 are Killer; I'll let you know about Strawberry Fields.


It's a long holiday weekend, so how about 35 tracks of some of the coolest music ever made?  From an anthology perfectly named for today?  No problem.

Here is Morphine and the trippy At Your Service
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Speaking of service, here's some:  if you like music, check out the song "Come Along," from this album.  

You are very welcome.

About Dean Clough