One hundred bucks for a dinner for three at an upscale Miami restaurant? Never going to happen. You'd know that if you're from Miami. But if you hail from Colorado, that might not be so obvious.
It wasn't for Dorene Miller when she dined at Azul inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in mid-July. The fact that the restaurant's tasting menu doesn't clearly spell out "per person" next to "100" listed as the price had Miller thinking her total check would be a cool c-note. Then the check came. And her wallet magically got three times lighter than she though it would, because the $100 was for each of the three people in her party.
When Miller returned the next day to complain, her point fell on the "boorish, snobbish, and mercenary" ears of restaurant staff -- that's how she described Miamians after the incident. So she did what any consumer might when faced with a perceived injustice. She wrote a letter to the restaurant and hotel and copied it to Short Order, the Better Business Bureau, and the Florida Office of the Attorney General.
When Short Order contacted Miller in Colorado, she seemed to suffer from a severe case of the backtracks. She hesitated to speak ill of Azul even though she had been vitriolic in her letter, where she had called the chef's sauces "ubiquitous and therefore not creative" (though we admit we have no idea what that means). She also wrote, "the restaurant manager told me that I was unsophisticated and cheap, unlike the other patrons in his restaurant," but she clarified that nobody ever actually called her those names and that the manager had simply said, "most Azul patrons were sophisticated enough to realize the $100 was per person."
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Miller seemed tense and fearful when discussing the matter and explained she was afraid of being sued. "By whom? And for what?" we asked, but she was noncommittal. She did say she would not pursue the matter further and she was hopeful that the restaurant would clarify the price by specifying "per person."
"If a Chinese restaurant can manage to print 'per person' on its menu, surely you can do the same," she wrote in the letter.
But that's not going to happen. Allie Spang, public relations director at the Mandarin, told Short Order they were sorry for any misunderstanding but that they believe the tasting menu is clear enough on the price issue as written and that the waitstaff is instructed to clarify the point further when taking orders. So much for the customer is always right!