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TOC Asks: Is an $80 Bottle OK When You Ask for $50?

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David Tamarkin, the Time Out Chicago dining editor, posed an interesting question yesterday: If you pick out two bottles of wine in the $50 range and tell the sommelier at a restaurant to pick and surprise you between the two, then they return with a third bottle of their choice that you later find out (on the bill) was $80, is the restaurant wrong? Should the place be held responsible for the difference?

After writing a blog post, Tamarkin put the question out to Twitter on Thursday and most responses say the somm should have disclosed the difference in price, but others have said it was his responsibility to inquire before the bottle was opened.

The bigger question is why didn't Tamarkin and friend say something at the restaurant, which he referred to as Anabel's (we'll let you figure it out) upon receiving the bill and rectify the possibly embarrassing situation right then and there and alert the somm and managers they can't assume someone wants to pay more than 50 percent more for a bottle.

A number of industry folks, including publicist Ellen Malloy, master sommelier Alpana Singh and restaurant Masa Azul, have added their $0.02 over Twitter. "I woulda felt cheated. You should have said something at dinner though," Malloy said, adding it wasn't fair of Tamarkin to not let the restaurant correct its mistake then. Calling it bad form, Masa Azul "if someone asks me to pick out a tequila pour, I always make sure they know the price."

But Singh, who has worked in ultra-fine-dining spots as well as having served as director of wine for Lettuce Entertain You said there's always an appropriate way to let the diner know the price. "Proper wine service & etiquette suggests you inform the guests of the price difference & let them decide," she tweeted.

So what do you think? Was it the restaurant's responsibility to inform of the price difference or is the diner ultimately liable since they'll be paying? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
· The Case of the $80 Wine [TOC]

This is not the restaurant in question ... [Photo: Wine Cellar Innovations]