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The Local Sodium Police

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bill and I tried a local restaurant that we've been meaning to check out for some time now--Torch Bistro in Punta Gorda. It's highly rated on TripAdvisor, which I contribute to and trust. The decor is slick and modern, all glossy black and red with crystal bead curtains and subdued lighting. The waiters are professional and slick as well. The menu was priced reasonably and sounded wonderful.

When the bread arrived in one of those fancy cones, warm from the oven and smelling totally addictive, Bill had one tiny bite and we quickly asked the waiter to disappear it. We both ordered fish--I had cod with a double side of julienned vegetables, and Bill had the stuffed flounder. I asked for the house seasoning on mine, which the waiter described as "our own version of Old Bay, salt, pepper, lemon." Both arrived quickly and were perfectly prepared.

EXCEPT that, if Old Bay tried to market whatever was on my cod, they'd be out of business in a week! There were a few black flakes of something on the fish, but it was completely tasteless. Of course, what do you do in those circumstances? Reach for the .... um ... "Honey, where's the salt and pepper?" I looked around at the other tables, whence I could filch some, but there was none in sight, anywhere.

"Oh," says Bill. "I forgot to tell you. They have this thing about their food being so perfectly seasoned that they want to make sure you taste it before adding salt and pepper."

"So they don't even GIVE you any??"

"They will if you ask."

I thought we were adults here, who could be trusted to use salt and pepper responsibly. I didn't think we needed Mayor Bloomberg monitoring our sodium intake in Punta Gorda! This is, in fact, starting to seem like a Seinfeld episode. My fish sits, getting colder, while I try to find the waiter, to beg for salt and pepper. I could picture it already.

"Ma'am, have you actually TASTED your food? NO??? NO SALT FOR YOU!!"

Though he didn't say that, we did have a little discussion with him and with another waitress, both of whom reminded us of the perfectly seasoned condition of our meals and warned us not to ruin them. They were getting their stories a little confused, though, because the waitress added that they didn't put out the salt and pepper because patrons were inclined to STEAL them. (My idea of the day--use cheaper salt and pepper shakers, not Alessi grinders!)

In the end, I'll tell you, it took a great deal of salt and pepper to get my meal up to "perfectly seasoned" status.

Of course, they may have a point. The sodium I consumed yesterday put nearly three pounds on me this morning. But still.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Maybe, this was a cost-cutting measure to pay for fancy condiment dispensers. Only keep one in the back, pretend food is perfectly seasoned but don't waste money on seasoning, and then guilt patrons into thinking this spot is so spectacular they'll never have teh audacity to ask for seasoning!!! American ingenuity!
    1879 days ago
  • DMF2012
    Love it!
    1882 days ago
    Gosh, I think I might like a place like that.

    I eat so little sodium these days that most things other people prepare taste too salty...

    1883 days ago
    Sheesh, there's a sausage place like that here in San Diego that's the same with ketchup.
    1883 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Unreal meal! I can't imagine condiments not being available on the table. I guess I don't go to the right restaurants :P. I never use salt though. There are so many more and better spicing choices out there. I hate that thirsty feeling you get if you have consumed a meal with too much sodium in it. Which is usually the norm rather than the exception these days.
    I hope you have better luck with your next meal out!
    1883 days ago
  • _UMAMI_
    I just have to say that, having worked in the restaurant biz, I'm so sick to death of oversalted food that you CANNOT UN-salt. So, that's what I thought this would be about.

    That said, flavorless food (salted or not), is unforgivable. And, they should NOT be withholding salt and pepper from customers' tables---that's just ridiculous! Customer is King, and should be able to salt freely (and kitchen should NOT over-salt. Period.).

    -J, who had way too much salty road snacks. Wah.
    1883 days ago
    Wow! I wouldn't be going back there.
    1883 days ago
    I hate when restaurants and chefs mandate how a paying customer eats the food they order. Give then 'heck'.
    1883 days ago
    I'm actually glad to hear that a restaurant isn't over salting something ahead of time!! Usually they are the complete opposite to the point of getting more then a day or two's worth of sodium in one meal
    1883 days ago
  • GABY1948
    We are VERY careful where we go to eat! Once we find a place we go there exclusevly there until one or the other gets sick of it. I hate having something like you describe happen. And then to gain 3 lbs of water weight is like adding insult to injury! Hope next time is better!
    1883 days ago
    If you go back, take your own salt and pepper! emoticon Hope the lack of seasoning did not ruin the whole experience. And I hope those pounds are flushed away soon!
    1883 days ago
    One of the reasons, it is hard to get my Bill to go out to a restaurant, but sounds like it was fun anyway
    1883 days ago
    Maybe someone in the kitchen forgot to season it at all?
    I had a similar experience out with a colleague at an "upscale" (i.e. snooty) restaurant. We ordered our entrees and were told that the sides would be chosen by the chef to complement the entree.
    I thought it was a joke until I got grits while my country born colleague got couscous. Fuhgetaboutit! The waiter was appalled as we swaped by scraping our "carefully chosen" starches onto each others plates. Can't take the Brooklyn out of this girl.
    1883 days ago
    LOL. Apparently the food there is not all that it's "cracked up" to be. I'm not a fan of salt but I'm not a fan of bland either. More pepper would have probably helped as well as maybe some paprika, dill, or other herbs. Obviously it was not perfectly seasoned. I've noticed that many restaurants have gotten rid of the salt and pepper shakes on the table and also the napkin dispensers. Next you will be told that you don't need a napkin as your food is perfectly "unmessy". LOL.
    1884 days ago
    Eating out can certainly be an adventure!
    1884 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    So much for costumer service. emoticon
    1884 days ago
  • GEORGE815
    I have some colleagues that call on restaurants and deal with chefs. They seem to be a little on the "high horse". Having said that, I think many Americans consume way to much salt. On a tangent, we consume 2 1/2 times the amount of daily sugar. As Sparkpeople, we fight an uphill battle for sure. What's a poor mother to do?
    1884 days ago
    This is why I rarely eat out any more!
    Usually it's oversalted and swimming in sauces and butter.
    1884 days ago
  • JANEDOE12345
    H. and I had the opposite happen Wednesday night. We went to a local restaurant that has been advertising heavily, thinking we would get a healthy, inexpensive meal. Wrong.

    We ordered stuffed cod, thinking the stuffing would be something we could scrape away if need be. Alas! The stuffing was white bread soaked in butter and salted, no other flavors to be had. The butter was soaked into that poor little fish, pooling in the serving dish. Old trick: hide the protein with this abominable bread glop to make it look worth the high price.

    The vegetables were steamed and buttered into submission and would fight no more, having given up their punch and laid themselves down to die on the plate. We opted out of the scary salad bar, dimly lit and lurking back off in the corner, with a gleam of greasy mayonnaise the only light source.

    They did not serve bread! Why? Because most people don't eat it and it gets thrown out. I asked for some but then withdrew my request when he explained that it tends to go stale and began a long effort to chat us up by pretending he knew me. Uh, no. And I wanted to talk to my friend, not him, even tho he kept hanging over the table like a dense fog of uninformed friendliness.

    I hate it when we go out and have terrible food. Then add an obsequious waiter with nothing to be proud of, and I get my Visa card out early. Big surprise that the meal cost twice what we usually pay in better places. Just couldn't wait to get out of there and get some Pepto.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1884 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/24/2012 9:29:22 AM
    1884 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/24/2012 9:05:52 AM
    When I first spotted the title of your blog this morning, I was imagining an entirely different scenario. Since Steve and I have been eating a considerably low sodium diet for years, we often feel as though everything we are served out in restaurants is way too heavily salted....But...that being said, the salt in our diet has been replaced by lots and lots of flavor and as glorious as a beautiful piece of fresh fish may be (here in the upper midwest, I must envy you that), there must always be some complimentary flavors. I am reminded of the most delectable vanilla sauce I had with some lovely fresh fish in Bora Bora....delicate, buttery & heavenly scented & flavored....OMG...who needed salt!
    1884 days ago
    Unbelievable!! Have they been in business long 'cause I can't believe they'll stay in business if they treat their customers like that!!! Pretty insulting, to say the least. And, to add insult to injury, it sounds like you weren't thrilled with any of the food! I hope you let them know your thoughts about their policy (and food!)!!!
    1884 days ago
    I'm both speechless and tired of Big Brother.
    1884 days ago
  • DARJR50
    No restaurant can claim "perfect food". Everyone's taste varies. I try to stray away from pretentious place like that because they usually aren't worth the cost and and the dining experience is usually lacking. Just my experience, your may vary.
    1884 days ago
  • MRE1956
    Even if they did "have a point", the discussion you had truly concerns me!

    What the......."WARNED" you - a paying customer? Treated like an extreme "special needs" type of person? WTH?

    That tears it - this is NO LONGER AMERICA as we've always known it to be!

    1884 days ago
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