Monday, February 04, 2008

Waiter, There's a Fly in my Jamun!

Went to Dosa Place in Santa Clara for lunch on Saturday. It came highly recommended from reliable sources and my wife, who went there for dinner a week ago, wasn't too thrilled but was willing to try it again and said quite confidently that I'd like it. As is customary for me, I ordered the Madras Thali while my wife had the vegetable biryani and Kavya had the rava dosa.

The Madras thali came with a lone gulab jamun for dessert and splitting it open led to a rather unpleasant surprise. There was a fly lodged inside! So we called the waiter and pointed out the fly in the jamun. He simply looked at it and after taking a closer look at it, took it back to the kitchen. No "I'm not sure how this happened" or "We'll look into this" or even "I apologize for this". He took it back and a few minutes later, returned with three gulab jamuns. Sure... after seeing a fly in my jamun, I'll definitely feel like eating 3 more that probably came from the same batch! At this point, my wife went and informed the manager about this. A mild "Oh!" was his response too and after seeing the 3 untouched jamuns on our table, he gave us a carrot halwa with a very magnanimous "We won't be charging you for this".

Now, I'm not unreasonable and am willing to accept that accidents do happen in the kitchen. If anything, my wife says that I'm too easy and end up taking the side of the other party under the pretext of giving them the benefit of doubt. So I wasn't too upset about the incident. But it was the restaurant's reaction and response to the issue that riled me up. Contaminated food or food prepared under less-than-sanitary conditions is a pretty big matter, as the 'finger in the soup' incident at Wendy's and the response to Taco Bell's 'rat infestation' video showed. So the matter-of-fact response from the guys at Dosa Place came as a shock.

I've written before about Indian grocery stores in the US existing in a universe of their own and not really following the rules of other grocery stores. This incident has made me wonder if the same is true of Indian restaurants too. Shouldn't apologizing for something this big be pretty much the first rule of customer service? Forget training. Shouldn't an apology be the first natural reaction from anyone in the restaurant business when shown that their food has a problem? I'm still confused about why they reacted so mildly. Is it because the waiters were new and didn't know how to respond? Or is it because we were too quiet about it and didn't raise a hue and cry(like, for instance, threatening to go the Board of Health?)

Since it was only the dessert that had the problem, I had eaten the rest of the meal by then and the food was pretty good. Service otherwise was good and the restaurant itself was clean and well-lit. But the incident obviously left a bad taste in my mouth(pun unintended!) and this is one restaurant that I sure won't be going back to...


At 5:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB, avange ungaluku "halwa" kuduthatha neenge symbolic-a eduthukanum pola irukku!

am not surprised at this total's a similar conversation at the indian food place at our university which i've stopped visiting after this conversation.

me: could you give me an extra box for this?

mr. polite: that is piptea cents ekshtraa.

me: what? its just another box that i need to put some rice.

mr. polite: we charge for box. piptee cents.

me: right, then. nandu, oru spoon eduthuko. (looking at mr. polite, unable to resist a dig): are the plastic spoons free or is there a charge for those as well?

mr. polite: there is charge if u take more than one!

me: oh, really? nandu, inimey ivange sangaarthame venaam...

At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately people in the service industry in India are not professionals. I have seen this a lot here in US and its a turn off.

In CA, at least you have the choice of not going back. Can't say the same for people elsewhere in the US who put up with it, for the sake of Indian food.

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Am sure the restaurant people would have seen even a bigger species in their food, that justifies their mild reaction to the tiny weeny fly ;)

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Balaji,

I feel sorry for you & your family for going through this and feel outraged.

I think you should have taken it to FDA's Consumer Complaint division. See, the problem with us is that we sympathize with these guys and let them off the hook all the time. Same goes for the grocery stores too. (I know if we go to FDA or any govt. agency here - all our restaurants and grocery stores would be shut down in no time!!! That's the QUALITY our Indian friends maintain here!!) I think since these guys come from India (how do they get them here is a puzzle to me!!) where there is NO CONCEPT of CUSTOMER SERVICE (!), they just continue the same way here. (But it improved a lot in India which was more visible in my last trip to India – maybe these guys are still from the old-mold!!)

I think one or two of these restaurants/groceries should be taken to task (at least when something like your experience happens) - only then they would act RESPONSIBLY! We should come out of this "hota hai, chalta hai, dhuniya hai" (learnt in IIT Kanpur!) attitude!!

I think you should, even now it’s not too late, register a complaint with FDA.

I sincerely hope that the food did not give your family any health problems.

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the attitudes of these morons that run Indian groceries and restaurants, I'm just surprised they didn't charge you extra for the fly :)


At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

indian restaurants suck. no cleanliness in cooking area at all,recently there was a huge news that there was rat poop in an indian restaurant here in MA. they were forced to shut down after 5 threats from FDA.stopped going to indian restaurants.

At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glass, I live in MA. The Indian restaurant you mentioned that got shut down: Was it an upscale Indian restaurant or one of those cheap places like Dosa Place?

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were charged $1 for table cleanup.. My F-I-L spilled his dessert on the table while eating .. We didn't realize it till we got home & saw the bill.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, lol, good interpretation of the free halwa :)

and this is definitely the 1st time i'm hearing of charges for to-go boxes :)

anon, i came to the same conclusion a while back seeing the service in indian stores and restaurants. but this was a new low :)

anon, lol. another theory was that they reacted mildly since this was probably a common thing there :)

apala, the hassle of going to the FDA was what stopped us from doing that. have enuf things going on in life without having to deal with that too! but u're right. its our attitude that leads to this poor state of affairs continuing...

thanx for ur concern. since we found the fly in the first 'cut' itself, we didn't touch the jamun and so no health problems :)

kumar, lol :) i was reminded of that 'fly in the soup' joke and hence the title :)

glass, wow, not sure anything as drastic as that has happened here in the bay area. but i remember some show on fox where they highlighted the pathetic conditions in restaurants and 1 of them was indian.

pushpa, wow, haven't heard that one b4 either :)

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi balaji,
i think that was a bad experience for you. but what u would have done if u have found a fly in a gulab jamun which ur wife had made at home? we would have quietly taken out the fly and eaten the entire lot of jamuns. is it not true? everybody would do that. i am not trying to say what the waiter done is right or wrong. we are indians and tamilian we have seen lot in our country like this but have u done anything like this (like writing in the internet and spoiling the business of the people). balaji you know something mistakes happen everywhere. if u like a grocery store or a restaurant you can go as many time as u like but if u dont like it dont go. why do you spoil other people business by writing all sorts of crap and want to close down the business. do you know what amount of money , effort, time ,stress, commitment is involved in this business. you just write a comment and want to spoil a fellow indian who is also one among you, who must have come from india and wanted to start some business and live his life.
mistakes happen everywhere. it is up to us how we take it.
even i have had lot of issues in groceries and restaurant but i have handled in a different way. i always told them the issues and tried to solve it which also encouragous them. so please stop writing all this a try to think positively.
this suggestion goes for the all the other perons who have commented on this. this is my personal views and not to point out anybody.
we have come to another country and after coming here also u dont let a fellow indian to live happily.?????????????????think.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

put this in yelp.
It has a huge impact.
I had seen my manager being called many times, because some one left a bad review of the restaurant that he visited.
though it was some one else who wrote it and my manager was called because of a mistaken identity.


At 11:17 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, i understand your goodheartedness but i agree with absolutely nothing in your argument.

1. if i found a fly in a jamun(or any other item) my wife had made, i would defly not eat the rest quietly. This is my health we r talking about. We'd throw out the entire batch and make a new batch if we're that desperate to eat jamuns.

2. If I found a fly in my food and did not like the waiter's reaction and had access to the internet, i would definitely write about it. It doesn't matter where the restaurant is and who's running it.

3. If you read the post again, u'll see that even I said that mistakes happen everywhere. but it was the reaction(not apologizing or even looking sorry) that got to me.

4. I go to a restaurant to eat and I pay for it. If I find a problem, I don't have to think of the money, effort, time ,stress, commitment, etc. of the owners. If they had put all that in, they should be able to produce a good product. I am a software engineer. If I deliver a product full of bugs, do you think the customer is going to let it go just because of my time, stress, commitment, etc. He's going to complain about it, not pay for it, or do whatever's necessary to make sure I fix it. So I expect the same from a restaurant and any other product/business for that matter.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this had happened to an American Customer, he'd sue the restaurant for damages..
In addition the following would have happened
1. It'd made headlines in the local newspaper & local channel..
2. All Americans would be skeptical about the Indian Restaurants..

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah is the reaction that bugs me too. Customer service is really poor and people lack manners. Dosa Place at Fremont is great. I love the food, but I am not sure how clean the kitchen is!!

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB..all great points..exactly what I was about to say in response to the magn"anonymous" person. As has been mentioned, yours is not an isolated case. Such apathy and unprofessionalism has become common place in almost all Indian restaurants, theaters and grocery stores in the US that the owners do not deserve our sympathies. When they can be gracious and professional to their American customers, I don't get why they can't be respectful to other Indians?

p.s. Thanks for this post - gives a good opportunity to vent!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger kaaviyan said...

Hi everybody,
i read your comments, quiet surprising and shocking too. even i had been to DOSA PLACE many times and everytime i went there the food was fabulous and very tasty. the waiters and the manager was very homely and very nice atmosphere. even i am a tamil guy i went my family i presented a suggestion to the manager about the food and the very next time it was taken into consideration and it was presented well.
so mistakes happen, let me also talk about this to the manager.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

has anybody else noticed how racist indian restaurants in USA/Canada are towards indians? They would treat Americans very well but would be very rude to Indians. Also, invariably they will not honour any coupons/discounts they advertise.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



These people put in money and time in their business - I agree! BUT DO NOT GIVE ME THE CRAP ABOUT THEIR "EFFORT", "COMMITMENT" etc.,!! If they had the COMMITMENT to do well, they would put lot more EFFORT in valuing their customer!! GOT IT Knucklehead?!!

Do you think we left our friends & families came here JUST FOR FUN? The only reason - even though we fully know the level of customer service and cleanliness that exist in Indian restaurants and groceries - we go there is because we "accepted" their incompetencies and mistakes!! But when they ERR, THEY SHOULD ACT RESPONSIBILY, RIGHT??

If your wife has cooked this - WHAT KIND OF B.S. ARGUMENT IS THAT MAN?!! Unbelievable!!!!

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Unknown said...




At 3:12 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


I'm ashamed at things Indians do in the US. From restaurants to shops to consultants all are equally mean and filthy. The bottom line is *They need profit*, and don't care much abt others.

You'll be quite surprised that there are blood sucking leeches who don't even take a good health insurance (let aside pay). They just go on to make millions and get a huge house.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah.. it seems South Asian restaurant owners/grocery store owners. A lot of them come from old stock...

My appah suggestion to you Balaji would be stick with home cooked meals. Experiment with different cuisines at home.Lol.

I've definetely noticed racism towards brown folks in brown restaurants. I've gone with just brown ppl and then I've gone with just non-brown ppl. The experience is totally different. I'm often amused, it keeps me from getting angry as I get the same discrimination in tech stores and cell phone stores. There have been many times where I've specifically taken out lots of money to purchase a gadget and no ones want to help me. If my dad a middle aged man goes into the same store to buy batteries, tons of sales ppl offering their help.

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Atleast in US you can write about it on the net, complain and do all that.
There is some accountability.There is also some fear that an American might sue you for bad service.
If you experience something like this in Madras, what are you going to do about it? Especially in a big name restaurant like Saravana bhavan? Nothing to fear for these guys back home. I get incredibly upset at such things too, but to atleast console yourself you only need to think about how stuff is back home. BTW, Along with groceries and restaurants and consultants add some desi travel agencies too. Notorious for curt and unprofessional behavior.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh God!..I'll never visit Dosa Place. For their non-cleanliness and more importantly, a not so good attitude in dealing with such a slip up.

Usually, a non-indian restaurant would have apologized & not charged you anything for the entire meal, in addition to the apology. At both Straits Cafe and Maggiano's Little Italy (Santana Row) they had inadvertantly added meat in my salad & entree, and when I pointed this out, they immedietly apologized, brought a different entree and didnt charge us a penny to make sure we left the restaurant on a pleasant note. They even threw in a glass of wine and dessert at the end of the meal with compliments of the Chef to make sure we leave with a smile. And sure enough, we do go there and dine after the incident.

On the Dasprakash in Santa Clara, one of my friends had a similar incident as you..a fried bug in the dessert halwa :( When they pointed this out, the waiter promptly whisked it to the kitchen and brought another bowl (which they didnt eat of course) The manager exclaimed that the "eee in the halwa was actually raisin"..and charged them for dessert. Sure enough, none of us in their friends circle ever visit Dasprakash again and we warned our friends as well to never visit DP. Not sure if the lone incident had animpact, but I don't think Dasprakash is as popular these days as it used to be before..word of mouth counts much for any hospitality business (Classic example - Pasand!!). Tut tut....God only knows why they forget this simple fact.
(PS: Balaji, I read your response to the Bheema comment, made sense..because I dont watch that many tam movies as you pointed out, which makes expectations also be set low :)

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing wich I experienced recently in Woodlands, Orlando. No concept of waiting room, chairs etc. The entire restaurant presented a chaotic atmosphere with the receptionist running helter skelter and they couldnt handle the burgeoning crowd. People were left packed and standing for 45 mins watching others eat, those who got seated finally were asked to order everything in one go and so on. All this just for the food. Makes you think that there is really a market out there for good South Indian restaurants (service-wise). Because a lot of people put up with all this shit just for the food. Now imagine an Indian restaurant where there is a proper queuing system, chairs to sit and wait, prompt service and so on. I wish a successful American outfit takes up this business, keeps the chefs in the kicthen Indian and runs the front of the house with locally hired waiters. They will be popular no matter what. When I look at some of these Italian or Mexican chains, I wonder why isnt someone thinking along these lines for a good South Indian chain.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your experience.
I was happy reading about another Dosa place through Sundar's blog.(
but after reading your blog, dont think will be going there !!!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, to be honest i've never really wondered about the state of the kitchen b4. Here too, everything was fine till dessert :)

kumar, thanx. i usually hold off on comments till later but anon's comment forced me to respond right away :)

kaaviyan, glad ur experiences have been good. wish mine had been too :)

srivatsan, i'm usually not for blanket statements like that categorizing all of them under 1 :)

sivajini, lol. i do prefer home-cooked meals most of the time but love to go out maybe couple of times a week :)

vijay, some consolation! and good point on some americans taking up an indian restaurant. then again, since we never see the cooks, seeing americans in the restaurant might give off the impression that food wouldn't be authentic :)

shwetha, true. the money isn't a big deal but its the 'act' of voiding it that conveys the impression that they were really sorry about it. the fact that they still charged us for the thali considering the state of their dessert was surprising to say the least :)

ram, actually the 'recommended sources' i mentioned in the post was sundar :) he(and another friend on whose recommendation he went) had great things to say about the place. and as i said, everything was just fine until dessert :)

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB..maybe you should forward this post and the responses to Shankar..might give him some ideas for his next vigilante movie!


At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been living in the bay area for about 7 years and have been to many indian restaurants. I have had bad experiences in some restaurants and have had excellent service in some of them when they realize there was a mistake. I have had restaurants give me free food and also managers apologizing for the inconvenience caused.

So i do not think this issue is about whether it is an indian restaurant or a non indian restaurant. If they served you horrible food they should take responsibility for their mistake and should have done something to make you feel better. If not they run a bad restaurant (Indian or Non Indian).
I am happy for you that you got the Jamun and not your kids and thank god for that.

Based on the experience - Do not go there again.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

hmm.. now do we go try the place again?

already I got an email saying the dosa place in fremont is not good..

now you had this experience!

My source was Karthik and Mitr..

they had a good experience and so did we!

It is weird that things change within a few weeks..


At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am on bench and some one can find me a job or i wish you people loose your jobs for wasting time in office and i get that job

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with someone who mentioned about racism in Indian restaurants. They definitely treat non-indians far better than Indians. I initially thought they proably want to popularize their shops to general Americans. Now I think it is more of inferiority complex.



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