When Does “Whole” Not Really Mean “Whole”?

So, the other night we went to try out a new Mexican restaurant in town.  I’d read about it when they opened, and had been dying to try it out.  Plus, Jimmy and Jordan said that it was very good.  Jordan’s opinion was based solely on her usual order of tostadas, but since they were not made with black beans (like the ones at the very tasty Rio), she gave it the thumbs up.

After reading through the menu, and facing my typical indecisiveness (wanting to try everything!), I decided on the whole tilapia.  Now… the menu described this as being a whole tilapia, rubbed in various seasonings, and then fried (or grilled, or whatever they did to it…)  Considering that it was described as a whole tilapia, I thought, “Hey, I bet that’ll be the whole fish!”  (Yes, I assumed it would be head and all… seemed like a reasonable assumption, based on the description…)

When the waitress brought the meals out, she looked at me with panic on her face, and said,

  • “Oh, I should have explained this to you when you ordered!  Did you know that this would be the whole fish?”
  • “Well, I figured it probably would be…” 
  • “Okay – so you’re okay with the whole fish?”
  • “Um… yes…”

Later on in the meal, I’m eating my fish (which tasted delicious, and came with some really veggies), and the manager is walking around the restaurant chatting with customers.  He stopped by the table, and looked at me with surprise, and asked if that’s what I expected to be getting when I ordered it.  I replied that I wasn’t entirely sure what it would look like, but I’d figured I’d be getting the whole fish, based on the menu’s description.

Apparently, people are sometimes surprised by actually getting a whole fish when they order a whole fish.  Is not reading the description really a valid reason for returning a meal?!

In the past, I might have avoided ordering this particular item, in order to avoid having a fish head on my plate.  However, after one meal with a whole fried up pigeon in Shanghai, the whole fish was a piece of cake.  (Er… not literally!)

It did provide for some interesting after-dinner conversation…

  • Tina: “Hey, your fish is biting me.”
  • Me: “You could try taking your finger out of its mouth.”

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