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Old 11-06-2019, 03:43 PM
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Restaurant servers putting stuff on your plate


Something of a "pet peeve" of mine, which I don't think I have raised on SDMB before (if I have, apologies). Would be interested to know whether this strikes any chord with anyone here.

A thing which happens "more than seldom" at restaurants (by no means "palatial 5-star" ones), where I live. One's main meal is brought, as ordered: with one's plate(s) put in front of one, the "waitperson" then proceeds to serve helpings of the different dishes of the main meal, onto one's plate.

I personally hate this to the point of fury -- I feel that it's being implied that I am incompetent / unqualified to, myself, put on my plate elements of the meal, in amounts which are appropriate. I want to yell at the server, "I'm not bloody three years old -- I'm able to do this for myself -- damn-well put the containers and serving spoons in front of me, and leave me to do it for myself !" That would, obviously, not go down well: the server, who honestly feels that they are acting in order to please and to render a service, would be hurt -- and I probably would, rightly, be removed from the premises for out-of-order and unacceptable tantrum-throwing. According to mood and circumstances, I either accept the indignity, and -- sometimes -- inwardly seethe; or politely inform the server that I would prefer to serve myself -- which seems in itself, to cause hurt and puzzlement to said person.

I'm an (English) resident and citizen of the UK; the above-described happens here mostly, though not exclusively, in Indian restaurants (food of which country, purveyed in such establishments, I truly like). I'm able to see (not wishing to come across here, as racist -- just, factually, there are different cultures in different parts of the world, whose meetings are not always totally harmonious) that there is an element here, of different cultures and their attached world-views. What the sub-continent sees as attentive and conscientious service, the individualist Brits see and feel as insulting infantilising. On a good day, there should be a chance for those with these differing points of view, to express them to each other and achieve some degree of mutual understanding and acceptance; but it isn't always a good day.

Is this above-described restaurant scene, an in whatever way "clash-of-cultures" thing anywhere else in the world, and recognisably an experience of anyone from elsewhere -- or am I, and possibly my country and that other part of the world concerned, strange / unusual / "if that's all you've got to worry about..." in this matter?
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Old 11-06-2019, 03:53 PM
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I've never encountered that, but that wouldn't upset me, either. I'd consider it part of the service. In most places they put your food on the plate in the kitchen, so what's the difference if they do it in the kitchen or on the table in front of you?
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Old 11-06-2019, 03:58 PM
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It's all part of the drama that is going out to eat. No waitstaff is going to be upset if you say "I'll take care of that" and dismiss them. But it's nothing personal, it's all part of the dining dance. It has nothing to do with you, really.
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Old 11-06-2019, 04:10 PM
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I have never encountered this. I think it's very presumptuous of the wait staff to think they know how you want your food served or combined on your plate. I don't know if it would bother me too much at first, but on repeat visits I'd have no problem saying "It's OK. I'll get that."

Last edited by Leaffan; 11-06-2019 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 04:16 PM
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I've never encountered that but yes, it would grind my gears too (I hate that really posh restaurant thing they do where they unfold your serviette and put it on your lap. Not a barbarian! Do know how these things work!)

I recommend the proactive approach. Grab the spoon before they can get to it. "Oh, this looks really tasty, thanks so much. Anything else coming, or is this it?" Big smile all the way so it's not offensive.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:02 PM
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I honestly can't think of when I've had this happen. My favorite steak house does have the server put the condiments on the baked potato, but that's because they don't leave the serving piece on the table. And you can totally let them know if you want more or less or none of one of the choices.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:27 PM
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This certainly doesn't happen at Indian restaurants here in Panama, or any other Indian restaurant I've experienced, including ones in India. Servers bring what you order to the table, and leave it to you what to take.

I've having trouble envisioning how this happens, in fact. Does everyone at the table order the same thing, and then the server dishes out the main course, the rice, and whatever else?

In any case, I'd say it wouldn't particularly bother me, if that was the tradition way of serving that kind of food.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-06-2019 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 05:44 PM
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I haven't experienced this either, which makes me wonder if it's a UK thing. Or at least a UK Indian restaurant thing.

I too am having trouble picturing exactly what is happening here. Typically in restaurants here everybody orders their individual meals, and it comes from the kitchen already on your plate, and the server simply sets it in front of you. Are these dishes being served what we'd call "family style" in the US, where they leave a big plate of food in the middle of the table for everyone to share, and dish it out onto individual plates?
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Old 11-06-2019, 06:10 PM
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Every Indian restaurant, and Chinese restaurant I've been in will bring the individual dishes to your table, and then it's up to the table how to dish it out.
Some people may not want beef vindaloo, and others may not want curried shrimp, for example.
It's so individual that I can't even imagine how else it would work.

Last edited by Leaffan; 11-06-2019 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 06:34 PM
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I've experienced it before, but it is not common. Perhaps it was even in the UK that it happened to me. I may have been annoyed at the time, but it is rare enough that I haven't thought much about it.

A related practice is bringing a bottle of beer and pouring it into a glass at the table. Usually it's not a problem, but if the server doesn't know how to properly pour a beer, then I'm left with a glass of foam and a mostly full bottle. I blame management.

Last edited by echoreply; 11-06-2019 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 11-06-2019, 06:35 PM
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...thats called silver service. I remember getting taught it in Hospitality school and it wouldn't surprise me if it was taught as standard at hospo schools around the world, however the only place we ever actually used it was when I worked at Parliament. (And bread rolls! Almost everywhere I worked we used the fork-and-spoon methods to deliver bread rolls to guests.) I would think its a Commonwealth thing, so it doesn't surprise me that its common place in Indian restaurants. More here.
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Old 11-06-2019, 07:23 PM
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I've seen this in Chinese restaurants when ordering collective dishes from a set menu.

We have a small preference for doing taking care of ourselves, and it's never been a problem to simply tell the server "we'll take care of it thanks"
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Old 11-06-2019, 07:40 PM
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A million years ago, when Mr VOW was SGT VOW and we lived in Germany, my mother and my sister came over for a visit. We traveled as much as we could, and while staying in AFRC Garmisch, we went out to eat at a restaurant nearby. SGT VOW and I ordered our favorite schnitzel. I don't remember what my sister ordered, and my mother wanted to try the knockwuerst.

After waiting a bit, our meal was served. My husband and I received our schnitzel plates which also contained whatever accompaniments came with them. The plates were set before us in a standard, straight forward way

My mother got her knockwuerst. To everyone's surprise, the grilled wuerst was longer than the diameter of her plate. And she received nothing else.

Then the server brings this great domed dish. He lifts the cloche, then proceeds to serve my sister with two huge silver, real silver, serving spoons. He carefully removed the entree and put it on her plate. Her two sides were peas and potatoes. The potatoes were cut like krinkle-cut potato chips, and they had been fried.

The server was a very young man, and I don't think he had been serving very long. He wasn't proficient with the two serving spoons. He ended up serving almost each pea and each potato chip, because he couldn't seem to scoop up anything but small pieces. I will confess that the peas were most uncooperative for they kept rolling away from him.

My husband and I weren't paying too much attention to the server. We were busy looking at my mother. Momma felt slighted, because the rest of us had full plates of food, and she had...a knockwuerst. Momma would glance at her plate, turn and watch the poor server delivering indivual peas to my sister, and then she would look down at her single weenie, and glance at us, almost looking like she could cry for being so left out.

My husband and I were trying to stop the giggles, and failing badly. Momma amped up her little performance of looking at her plate, then watcging the server chase peas around the serving dish.

My sister was MORTIFIED, because it was HER meal getting this attention by the server. She knew what Momma was doing. She was embarrassed as only a teenager can be. She blushed and squirmed and looked like she wanted to crawl under the table.

The poor, poor server probably wanted to die. He could sense my sister's discomfort, and thought it was his fault. He could hear my husband and me giggling and snorting, and thought we were laughing at him.

We were laughing at Momma.

Momma ordered a side of sauerkraut. (She said it was terrible, but the knockwuerst was beyond delicious.) I think my sister choked down a few bites. My husband and I straightened up and behaved, and ate our meals.

And we left that poor server a handsome tip


~VOW
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:19 PM
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I've only experienced it a Brazilian steakhouses where they bring around skewers of meat and slice off a piece for you. But they always ask before dropping the filet mignon off on you.

Sides and salads are strictly on you to serve yourself.
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Old 11-06-2019, 11:54 PM
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...thats called silver service. I remember getting taught it in Hospitality school and it wouldn't surprise me if it was taught as standard at hospo schools around the world, however the only place we ever actually used it was when I worked at Parliament. (And bread rolls! Almost everywhere I worked we used the fork-and-spoon methods to deliver bread rolls to guests.) I would think its a Commonwealth thing, so it doesn't surprise me that its common place in Indian restaurants. More here.
I've encountered silver service before here in Canada. Only a few times, and always at high-end places. It's an interesting experience, to say the least.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:48 AM
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Silver service, otherwise known as table service, is common at some of the more expensive restaurants in Switzerland.

Typical dishes served this way would be an entire baked fish plus spinach and potatoes, as this would not all fit on a normal plate. The fish and sides are brought out on a cart and the waiter serves the person and then refills the plate as desired. The waiter ALWAYS asks what the person would like. This is also done if multiple people order the same dish.

. The Old Swiss House actually fries the wienerschnitzel at the table (Waitress Preparing Wiener Schnitzel at Table). Also common when ordering Zürcher Geschnetzeltes.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:00 AM
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I've had it happen a few times at Thai or Chinese restaurants in the US. Those were often also places that would box up your leftovers for you rather than just giving you some boxes.

It never bothered me to be served. It has bothered me a tiny bit to have the server box the leftovers, because I might not want everything.
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:31 AM
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I've never encountered that, but that wouldn't upset me, either. I'd consider it part of the service. In most places they put your food on the plate in the kitchen, so what's the difference if they do it in the kitchen or on the table in front of you?
That when they do it in front of you, you have more control over it. You can ask for more of this or less of that.

The OP reminds me of that Doper who considered that plating your family's food is "servile". Definitely a culture clash.
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Old 11-07-2019, 05:43 AM
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I've never encountered that, but that wouldn't upset me, either. I'd consider it part of the service. In most places they put your food on the plate in the kitchen, so what's the difference if they do it in the kitchen or on the table in front of you?
I’d hate it. I don’t want that kind of attention focused on me, ever. If I was in the position of VOW’s sister in her post above, I would be fighting the urge to get up and leave.

Last edited by jz78817; 11-07-2019 at 05:45 AM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 07:45 AM
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UK person, big fan of all types of ethnic restaurants where communal eating is the rule, i.e. Chinese, Indian, Thai etc.

Never had anyone spoon stuff onto my plate and would stop them if they tried. Same with wine, water, beer etc. Bring the stuff to the table and I'll take it from there.
I've been in posher restaurants where they've tried to take the wine away until refill time, that isn't going to happen and I've had to tell them to leave it on the table.
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Old 11-07-2019, 08:21 AM
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I love being served. You're giving me food? Excellent! You're going to scrape up the crumbs from my roll? Have at it!
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Old 11-07-2019, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble View Post
UK person, big fan of all types of ethnic restaurants where communal eating is the rule, i.e. Chinese, Indian, Thai etc.

Never had anyone spoon stuff onto my plate and would stop them if they tried. Same with wine, water, beer etc. Bring the stuff to the table and I'll take it from there.
I've been in posher restaurants where they've tried to take the wine away until refill time, that isn't going to happen and I've had to tell them to leave it on the table.
Also British and don't recognise what the OP is talking about, even in Indian restaurants. Is it a regional thing? A quirk of the OPs favourite Indian restaurant? Something about the OP that makes him looks like he needs or wants the extra service?

Last edited by SanVito; 11-07-2019 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:22 AM
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I was in India (Bangalore) this summer. In multiple restaurants they'd bring a plate of food, serve some onto my (small) plate & then sent the dish down. When I ate some & there was more room on my plate they'd come over & serve me some more. This was for solo meals (work trip) & not a group setting.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:41 AM
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I was in India (Bangalore) this summer. In multiple restaurants they'd bring a plate of food, serve some onto my (small) plate & then sent the dish down. When I ate some & there was more room on my plate they'd come over & serve me some more. This was for solo meals (work trip) & not a group setting.
I had the same experience in Bangalore, especially at the hotel restaurants. But it's not universal even there.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:56 AM
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"Silver service" is when the server transfers food from the serving dish to the guests' plates, then walks away with the serving dish, right?

I think the OP is describing a "family style" setting where the server brings multiple plates for guests to share, and transfers some of the food to each guest's plate, but then the guests are responsible for additional helpings? Or did I misunderstand?

The latter is not uncommon in Japan. And some "cook yourself" restaurants (like shabu-shabu) would cook the first batch for you at your table.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:26 AM
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Never encountered it. I am a vegetarian and would be very upset if anyone put meat on my plate. And any Orthodox Jewish person or Muslim would feel the same way about any pork or shellfish.

I am not a child, and I am perfectly capable of deciding what I want to eat and serving it myself.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:09 PM
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The servers aren't doing because they think you're too stupid. (They think you're stupid for many other reasons) They're doing it because it is policy. If it bothers you politely tell them you'd prefer to do it yourself. Or just don't go there. Getting mad at the server for doing their job is just asinine.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:15 PM
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That when they do it in front of you, you have more control over it. You can ask for more of this or less of that.

The OP reminds me of that Doper who considered that plating your family's food is "servile". Definitely a culture clash.
A good explanation, and another reason why it wouldn't bother me. Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:22 PM
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Count me among those who have never experienced this. Closest thing I've encountered is ordering a beer and the server brings an empty glass and the bottle, then pours the bottle into the glass, then leaves the glass and the empty bottle (usually empty; occasionally the beer will be bigger than the glass or they didn't pour it correctly and it's half head). I find the practice to be a bit odd, awkward even, but I'm not offended or annoyed.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:49 PM
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It makes sense that it happens in Indian restaurants.

Traditional notions of cleanliness and contamination in Indian culture dictate that a person who is eating never be allowed to touch food that is for everyone, including serving spoons.

So there is always supposed to be someone to either eat before or after everyone else who does the serving during the meal (usually the lady of the house.)

What the OP describes seems to be an adaptation of that custom.

But the rage and annoyance that the OP describes seems to be way out of proportion. It’s just someone serving you. You go to a restaurant to be served. Chill.
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Old 11-07-2019, 06:08 PM
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Growing up my grandparents had servants, so the whole dealing with servants thing is not unfamiliar, and I have been in places with 'silver service' and it is not a big deal either [at least to me.] I prefer to have my food plated in kitchen or served family style, but I am not going to make a scene if it ends up silver service. [and I actually know the formal place settings, serving and taking away and the whole shebang a la Downton Abbey, until the fire I had several old etiquette books, both Brit and American including one specifically for kids from the 1920s that was very cartoony and funny that had been my father and uncles when they were young.]
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Old 11-07-2019, 08:00 PM
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The only I time i've seen something like that was a dish with a big presentation aspect, Singing rice, Peking Duck or Bananas Foster or the like.
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Old 11-09-2019, 06:18 AM
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My mother did Silver Service in Chicago in the 1940's. One of her life decisions was that no daughter of hers would ever have to work as a waitress. I don't think it would have been an 'Indian' restaurant -- Chicago was very multicultural, but I don't think "Indian" had made it into high-end restaurants in Chicago at that time.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:44 AM
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I actually encounter this in a fair amount of family style restaurants -typically Chinese or Italian, but I think I've seen in an Amish style restaurant or two as well. They aren't the sort of places where each person orders individually - the orders are meant to serve more than one person, sides are ordered separately *, everything is brought to the table in serving dishes/platter and usually the waiter serves the first portion. You can of course inform the waiter you don't want any of a particular dish and usually the diners serve themselves additional helpings. The idea of my individual meal being brought out in separate dishes and then served onto my plate by the waiter doesn't make any sense to me - if it's truly "my meal", then I don't understand why it wasn't plated in the kitchen unless the OP is dining alone in a family style place.





* In these places when you order a main course, nothing comes with it. You order veal marsala, that's what you get.

Last edited by doreen; 11-09-2019 at 11:46 AM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Banquet Bear View Post
...thats called silver service. I remember getting taught it in Hospitality school and it wouldn't surprise me if it was taught as standard at hospo schools around the world, however the only place we ever actually used it was when I worked at Parliament. (And bread rolls! Almost everywhere I worked we used the fork-and-spoon methods to deliver bread rolls to guests.) I would think its a Commonwealth thing, so it doesn't surprise me that its common place in Indian restaurants. More here.
Yeah, back in the 80s when I used to help give hotels in the UK their star ratings there was a detailed booklet for the hotels specifying what was necessary for each star level.
It included what level of service the hotel restaurants would have to provide. If they wanted to be 4 or 5 star then they had to provide silver service in at least one of their restaurants rather than serving the meals 'plated' (i.e. prepared in the kitchens). Main exception was if they were considered nouveau cuisine with the food specially arrayed on the plate by the chef.
I've not kept up but I know a lot of the requirements have been relaxed since I was involved.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:40 PM
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I haven't experienced this either, which makes me wonder if it's a UK thing. Or at least a UK Indian restaurant thing.
Same here (USofA). Never seen this in 60+ years of dining out. Food is put on your plate in the kitchen (90% of the time) or put on the table and you serve yourself. The latter is how most of the Indian (and family-style BBQ) restaurants I've been to do it.

But I'm with the OP. If a server did that, I'd be struck dumb, and probably not react until it was too late. I'd pick my jaw up off the floor and turn to my companions, sputtering "What was that? Wow, that was presumptuous. Who wants all this dal, I'm not going to eat it."
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:18 PM
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The one time I will ask my server to forgo assistance is in deboning a whole fish at the table. I like to slowly work my way through a fish, eventually leaving a nice skeleton, suitable for a photo.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:33 PM
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The only I time i've seen something like that was a dish with a big presentation aspect, Singing rice, Peking Duck or Bananas Foster or the like.
Yes, my only experience was in Majorca with a beautifully presented shared plate of paella which was then carefully spooned onto our plates to preserve the look. It was quite easy to ask if I not have any shrimps on my plate. Yes, I know that the shrimps are the main point of paella I was having it to please my friend and I still enjoyed my shrimpless paella.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:10 PM
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I think the only time I've experienced this is with Chinese banquet-style dinners where they bring out one course at a time. So they'll bring out a tureen of soup and then ladle it out into the individual bowls. Then they'll take away the soup tureen and bring out a large fish and give everyone a piece of it. Etc.
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:09 AM
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I know that the shrimps are the main point of paella I was having it to please my friend and I still enjoyed my shrimpless paella.
Like hell they are. For starters, not every paella recipe has shrimp. Or mussels, another item which is present in most seafood or sea-and-mountain paellas... but again, not in every paella recipe. The shrimps in paeela aren't even particularly good shrimp: those are used in dishes that say "shrimp" in the name.

Nava, who mussels hate
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Last edited by Nava; 11-10-2019 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 11-10-2019, 03:31 AM
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I had imported paella in a box that came with canned fish .... according to the ingredients sticker box it said the dominant fish was "cuttlefish" some clams some tiny shrimp and sardines ....... it was pretty good but I was disappointed since it was 5$ a box......
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