Small Plates Terror

Or Why I Think Tapas Are Trying To Kill Me.

A while ago, a group of friends had drinks at The Franklin and then headed over to Continental Midtown for a late, small dinner.

I could have SWORN I told this story already, but I’m not seeing it in my archives. So bear with me if I have.

We all ordered one or two dishes and the plates started coming out after a while. My soup hadn’t yet arrived, but everyone else had gotten their food. A manager was doing a round of the tables and stopped to ask how everything was going.

“Fine,” I said. “We’re just waiting on my food.” Not in an angry way, just in a “I’m responding to your inquiry” way. Because, you see, that’s how everything was going. A simple statement of the facts.

“Well,” she sneered. “Our concept is global tapas? So the food comes out when it’s ready.”

I stared at her. Did I really just get smacked down like some tourist who looks like she’s confused by Stephen Starr’s complicated restaurant concept?

I finally managed to reply with “Right. Well, that’s how we’re doing.”

“I’ll just go check the kitchen.”

Lo and behold, she came back with my soup. SOUP.

Fast-forward to this summer and a going-away dinner for Jon, Dr. Lindsay’s brother (also known as Jawn, Don and Donchester), at Chifa. I’ve eaten at Chifa once before, but only for drinks and snacks. Our table of six ordered two or three dishes each, a few drinks and set in for some delicious food and conversation about what Jon could expect to find during his grad-school tenure in Denver (thin air and delicious Mexican food, mostly). I had ordered the pork soup bowl and scallion pancakes, requesting no cilantro on either. The server kindly warned us that the dishes would come out on a staggered basis and not all at once. Was that ok? Of course! We had the delicious bread and drinks. Feed us please.

The dishes began arriving and about a third of the way through, I noticed that I didn’t receive mine yet. Ah well. More bread.

And then we were two thirds of the way through and everyone else noticed that I wasn’t getting what I ordered. And unfortunately, everything they’d ordered had either shellfish or cilantro. To pass the time, I told everyone the above story. More dishes came out, none for me. I was in tears from laughing at the possibility that tapas and I were just never to be friends.

On our waiter’s next pass, we pointed out my missing dishes. “Well,” he smiled. “Like I mentioned before, this restaurant is a small plates concept. So the food comes out on a light to heavy basis.”

This is where the night began to become a little insulting. Let’s assume that I had managed to find the two heaviest items – soup and pancakes – on the menu. Fine. It was the server’s reaction to our request that made me want to dock points from his tip calculation (you do it too, don’t lie). He walked over to another server, whispered something to her that caused her to look at our table and smirk.

Ew. Not cool, dude.

The rest of the table’s final dishes came out before mine, leaving me with a plate full of greasy scallion pancakes covered with salty brisket and, yes, cilantro. The pork bowl with ramen was amazingly delicious, besides the few cilantro stems I found in various bites, but I wasn’t at all hungry at this point. Too full of rage and a small portion of embarrassment.

I understand that there’s a number of things that can go wrong in a restaurant on any night. And I’m willing to forgive any number of missteps because of that. But, like most service industries, the response is what I look for. This server at Chifa seriously dropped the ball. This is a shame, because I totally would have gone back for the ramen alone.

Anyway, these two experiences are good for a laugh in retelling. But this weekend, Small Plates (my new nemesis) decided to take things to another level and hide crab in a corn cake that I was eating.

This. Means. War.


September 21, 2010. Uncategorized.


  1. candace replied:

    You HATE cilantro! So much that anytime I hear the word cilantro my first thought is: Sarah hates cilantro. I can just see your face picking out stems of cilantro.

    • sarahdares replied:

      Worst. Mutant. Power. Ever.

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