I Left My Money In San Francisco

January 18, 2008

in Food & Drink Stories

What I am about to write happened to my wife and I during a visit to San Francisco in the summer of 2006.

Prior to my retirement, I had travelled extensively and made a number of visits to the above beautiful city. Each time I visited I stayed in a very lovely older hotel on Union Square having an outstanding restaurant on the top floor with wonderful views of the city in every direction – particularly at night when all the lights were on. Over the years I, along with everyone else who visited San Francisco, raved about how beautiful it is – even taking the very changeable weather into account. As my wife had not been there, and looking for a new place for a vacation, we decided to make a visit.

I called the hotel myself to make our booking and told the person at the hotel that I wanted to make a dinner reservation for the restaurant on the top floor. Much to my disappointment, I was told the top floor restaurant was no longer there having been converted into additional guest rooms a few years ago. However, I was told they had an equally fine restaurant on the first floor and that perhaps I would like to book for that room. I agreed and booked for an evening in the middle of our visit.

We arrived at the restaurant at the appointed hour and were shown into an enormous dining room with twenty foot ceilings, beautiful furniture and drapes on all the windows from ceiling to floor. We were greeted very graciously and were escorted to a table in the center of the room. We were told a waiter would be with us momentarily. A few minutes later a very tall cadaverous bald man completely dressed in black came to our table. He introduced himself, said he would be our waiter this evening, and asked if this was our first visit to the restaurant. I said it was, not realizing at the time it would be the ONLY time we would eat there.

We made small talk about my previous visits to the hotel and my disappointment upon learning the top floor restaurant had gone. He told us the room we were in would not disappoint us even though there were no views of the city, and that we would find our meal to be more enjoyable than at any time I had eaten in the old room. As it was our first visit he suggested he should explain the dining plan to us. We sat quietly while he explained there was no menu but a set meal that was served to everyone (at least, I think that is what he said). THAT IS WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE STOOD UP AND LEFT.

He described in glowing terms how the meal would be of three courses – an appetizer, an entree and dessert. Each course would be served on a specially designed plate that had six compartments – three on the furthest side away from us and three on the closest side. Each of the furthest three sections would contain an outstanding portion of food for each course and each of the three closest sections would contain very interesting sauces for dipping. In this way we had three separate flavors to accompany each course. As I have said, this applied to each course being served, naturally, on a separate plate. Perhaps I should explain here that the plate was roughly twelve inches square lest anyone might think the portions were enormous. This meant that each section of the dish was roughly three and one half inches square.

It seemed like a novel approach, so we decided to go along with the recommendations – BIG MISTAKE. Of course, we had no idea of the size of each portion until it was presented to us. Each course was served, and with the exception of a shrimp (please note that I said “A” shrimp) in the appetizer, and a fairly familiar flavor in one of the dessert portions, we had (and still have) no idea of what we ate.

A few minutes after we finished our meal and our coffee the man in black returned and asked how we had enjoyed our meal. Instead of saying how terrible it was, we lied, saying it was very interesting and unusual. He returned with the check; I opened the black leather embossed folder and almost fell on to the floor. I think I must have turned white as my wife asked me if I was alright. I replied in a very quiet voice, “Yes, I think so.” She asked me, “How much is the bill ?” I replied, “THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.” Her response – “You are joking, of course.” I replied, “No, that’s what it is and it includes the tip.”

Too embarrassed to complain as everyone else appeared to be enjoying their meal (or at least, putting on a good show not yet knowing how much it would cost), I paid and thanked the waiter. We left as decorously as we could trying to give the impression we always ate this way regardless of cost. We managed to control our laughter until we were outside the building. We then went to another restaurant for a meal of proper food we could recognize – what an expensive evening.

Boy, oh boy, were we taken to the cleaners or what?

Lawrence Bently

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris July 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Welcome to the wonderful world of Chef's tasting menus. $150 isn't out of the ordinary for a good quality tasting menu, and guessing by your described location and description, you ate at Michael Mina's. MM is one of the better restaurants in its league, and a lot of people make that place a dining destination. However, the next time you visit Union Square, I would suggest that you may be more comfortable dining at the Panda Express at the corner of Market and 5th St.


Anonymous July 21, 2008 at 6:19 pm

No, you were not taken to the cleaners. You just at at your very first high end restaurant. Congratulations. Hopefully you will be more informed next time and appreciate it more.


Amazonite August 7, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Never be so intimidated by "fancy" surroundings that you don't have any idea what you're about to pay.

And a note to the first commenter about chefs' tasting menus — yes, the portions are not typically huge, but one would expect to get more than A Shrimp. And I've never experienced a tasting menu in which the server didn't meticulously go into not only what the food was, but how it was prepared and with what sauces. Additionally, most tasting menus would consist of more than three courses.

Fine Dining, my arse.


RG April 2, 2009 at 12:57 pm

This guy is a complete idiot. And a jerk.


RK April 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Wow, that would have been my very first dine and dash as well as my first chef’s tasting menu.


Kay April 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm

This is a guy who likes to complain about everything. (Google him for more complaints.)

Out of curiosity, if he and his wife were so appalled, why did they hold their LAUGHTER till they left?


Ilovefyling February 12, 2016 at 4:34 am

Dude that's the whole point of this site is to COMPlain!


Rob April 4, 2009 at 1:23 am

Lawrence Bentley has such trials and tribulations getting proper service from anyone, he must be cursed.

Let’s have a moment of silence.

Ok. That was it.

The meal as described was served EXACTLY the way it was supposed to be served.

Somebody with the funds, but not the brains apparently, to understand ‘high society’. People who spend $300 on a meal go out to socialize, not to eat so much, and it is considered gauche to stuff your face like a barbarian.

If you want to pig out, go to any steakhouse chain or buffet-style restaurant.


Hugh April 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

You got exactly what he mentioned at first. If you needed more infomration, you should have asked. Shame on you for blaming the waiter for your ignorance. $150pp for a meal like this in SF is very reasonable. Sure, it’s not McDonalds like you’re used to, but I’m sure it was delicious. They don’t usually deal with the Nascar crowd.


Lawrence Bently April 20, 2009 at 7:16 am

None of you were there, none of you know the horror that I went through. There were no French Fries served, everyone looked at me funny because I was in a sleevless shirt with Budweiser printed on it. My wife was dressed in her best Sunday Mu-mu, and she felt out of place among all those uppity people in their fancy collared shirts, and toes, and shoes with laces. All we got to drink was fancy watre and wine, we didn’t even know what kind of wine cause they wouldn’t bring out the box.

I tell you we was so upset that when we got back, I had to smack the missus around a bit just relieve the tension. I tell you what, when we got back to the trailer, she went right fast to make me my fish sticks and tater tots.


Jess August 27, 2009 at 8:23 am

Lol lawrence are you british aswell? Cos if so i don't think americans would get your humor. I do though 😀


og May 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

uh jess? Budweiser is American not british…why do you assume an american wouldn't get the joke?


steph October 30, 2015 at 10:29 am

Budweiser is German idiot its made by Anheuser-Busch


steph October 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

But also yes, of course we would get the joke! wtf was that supposed to mean?


Jay May 25, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Budweiser is Czech, not German.


Amy May 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Yeah, it's an American beer. Perhaps do some research before calling someone an idiot.

"Budweiser is an American-style pale lager produced by Anheuser-Busch."

"Anheuser–Busch has been involved in a trademark dispute with European beer companies, in particular the Budweiser Budvar Brewery of České Budějovice, Czech Republic, over the trademark rights to the name "Budweiser"."


gayle October 5, 2009 at 9:12 pm

It doesn't sound to me like this was his first experience at an expensive restaurant. I've been to planty of nice places, including some 5 star restaurants, and I would be shocked if I was somewhere that didn't have a menu, didn't list prices anywhere, barely gave any information, and then charged $150 a person! Since he was obviously something of a regular when he was in town at the hotel and the former restaurant on the top floor, they could have mentioned the price and style of the new place when he made the reservation.


Slotper December 3, 2009 at 3:48 am

Lawrence Bently, you rock. I love your crap.


og May 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

uh no idiot…it happened to "my wife and me." not my wife and I. a lot of people make this mistake, but it's one of the easiest to avoid.

You wouldn't say "It happened to I" because it makes no sense

so "it happened to my wife and I" also makes no sense . Capisce?

Another common grammatical idiocy is "my wife and myself" went to the restaurant." No idiot, "my wife and I" went to the restaurant. you wouldn't say "myself went to the restaurant" would you? so don't be an idiot, 'Mkay?


Jay May 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Okay is not spelled like that, okay?


og May 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm

few details on the food itself so yeah hard to tell if this guy's just a dumb rube who didn't "get" the quality of the place or or he really overpaid for crap (in which case he's also a rube). Also, his misspellings and his "happened to my wife and I" peg him as a pretentious rube who's afraid to be found out (hence the hurried exit from the restaurant). regardless, if i pay $300 for a chefs sampling that food better be damn near orgiastic. i live in the bay area and never paid that much for any meal.


Peace Lover May 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I've stayed in 5 star hotels before and I only eat the breakfasts offered there because not only are these super posh meals really really expensive but like Mr Bently said, they are painfully small.


Ilovefyling February 12, 2016 at 4:41 am

Lawrence I think in the future you should get more information before you book a table. I'm sure the lady would've told you what kind of restaurant it is. People make mistakes! It took me until now to get what the meaning of the title of this story was and it is fitting! Love it!


Mel November 2, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Going to their first gastro-restaurant. Moving on up in the world, aren't we? Maybe the Beverly Hillbillies should stick their hometown? I guarantee that all of those people were actually enjoying their meals because they asked about the restaurant beforehand. Plus, it's San Francisco. If you were at all expecting Applebee's pricing, you're just a fool.


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