Fifi’s Bday Part 2: The Frightening

One year on my birthday I made a dinner reservation at The Tiffin Wallah. Due to train construction (etc.) we were running 5 minutes behind and when we arrived our table had been given away. Bummed but understanding — it was a Saturday night, after all — we went elsewhere.

The next day, I received a call from the manager of The Tiffin Wallah, apologizing and informing me that my next meal at their establishment would be complimentary. This was so unexpected, but I was touched and elated — The Tiffin Wallah is one of my favorite Indian restaurants in town, you see, and they’d just one-upped themselves by displaying exemplary customer service.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Incognito Bistro — the venue Fifi had chosen for her birthday dinner. Let me explain.

Incognito Bistro is a spacious, elegant Italian bistro on 18th Street (between 5th & 6th avenues). With such a welcoming-seeming atmosphere and Yelp reviews that were consistently positive, we never imagined we would depart with our blood boiling. It started out well enough — there were 16 of us, which we all realized could be a challenge for our server and so we did our best to be accommodating and gracious guests.

In the grand scheme of things, I go out to restaurants not only for the great food and alluring atmosphere, but to be taken care of — so I don’t have to cook (though I can, fabulously), so I don’t have to clean up, and so I can enjoy a lovely conversation with my friends without one of us running back and forth to the kitchen to pull the next course out of the oven. But if your server is inappropriately irreverent (and he was), and you get into an argument with the chef over the price point of the dessert you selected for your girlfriend’s birthday party (which Himay did), what’s the point of being out in the first place?

In any case. We were fully intending on grumbling to ourselves and leaving with a solemn vow to never return, but when the host asked, point blank How was your meal? we chose not to lie and explained our disgruntled-ness. Upon seeing us airing our grievances, the chef/owner came over to see what the issue was. His general response was not to apologize and assure us it would never happen again, but to become very defensive, argue heatedly with us again over pricing and explanations thereof. My favorite part? When he said I don’t mean to point fingers but THAT one… — and pointed at directly at Himay. Or perhaps it was when he looked Fifi in the face, asked if she lived in New York and, upon receiving affirmation that she did, waved his hand in a shooing motion proclaiming, I don’t know who you are!

So. We lost that battle. As I said, we expected zero action to be taken. We’d already paid the bill and simply wanted to let the owner/manager/chef know how unclear he’d been in hopes that he would be clearer with future customers. Unless they change their approach toward customer service, however, this bistro is one that should truly stay incognito.

Read about where we went next here.

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