Dear Mr. Gold:

What do you do when you go to a highly regarded and well-reviewed restaurant and it sucks? And I mean sucks to the point that you want to burn the place down.

Admittedly, no restaurant (or any business for that matter) can be perfect every time, but at the prices (and attitude) that one must “swallow” as the cost of eating a truly great meal in L.A., how bad is acceptable and when do you do something about it? And what exactly do you do when things go south? I can just leave the tray on the table at McDonald’s, but how difficult (uh, I mean “politely insistent”) can you be and not have to worry about the valet losing your car?


—Gordon Levy

Dear Mr. Levy:

I’m lucky. The more thoroughly I get abused, the more fun it becomes to write my review the next day. I yearn for truly awful experiences — for the merely bad ones, I tend to leave money on the table and flee before more damage can be done. As Fugazi singer Ian MacKaye once said, by way of explaining why his band refused to play shows that cost more than $5 to get into, it’s hard to understand why people who pay $150 for a ticket at the opera (or for dinner) don’t break out the pitchforks and torches when the experience sucks. I once wrote — regarding the original Sushi Roku, I think — something to the effect that it was the kind of restaurant that made me want to douse it with kerosene, whip out a kitchen match and dance cackling around the flames.

Still, arson isn’t the answer, and while I sometimes have fun sucking up punishment, you probably don’t. (I never send a dish back or complain about service, although I do send wine back when it is corked.) I would definitely send a polite, detailed letter to the owner of the restaurant pointing out what went wrong during your dinner and firmly indicating your disappointment. You may or may not get a comped meal out of the letter, but you can be sure that everybody responsible will see it. I only hope it wasn’t at a place that I sent you to!

—Jonathan Gold

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