Saturday, December 29, 2007

Restaurant Dining and Its Oddities

My friend Dirk and I went out to lunch the other day, and settled on a nice little Japanese restaurant in Berkeley. We were quite content with the food, but two things struck us regarding American restaurants (Japanese-cuisine or not).
First, why is it that restauranteurs imagine that one wants TV while dining? I can understand that a sports bar ought to have a large-screen TV, but a restaurant that is tastefully decorated and laid out to encourage conversation? Not only were we disturbed to note the existence of televisions when we walked in, but after selecting a corner table where neither of us faced them, we realized that the mirrors on the walls forced us to watch all sorts of distracting movement. Neither of us like to be in the same room as a TV unless we plan to watch it. (I grant that Czech restaurants are no better than American in this respect.)
Second, why are waiters and waitresses in the US so obsessed with asking diners whether everything is all right? I am all in favor of being asked this once, but only once. I do not want to be asked this before I have taken the first bite, and I do not want to be asked this repeatedly throughout the meal. The wait-staff at this particular restaurant were so determined to ask whether everything was all right and to offer us refills of unwanted tea that it was difficult to carry on a conversation. They were so obsessed with asking that they were apparently incapable of attending to anything we really did want. For example, I had to ask twice for a fork (I can eat with chopsticks but the noodles in my soup defied them). And, of course, if the diners indicate four or five times that they do not want more tea, perhaps it would be a kindness to stop trying to press more tea upon them. Dirk and I finally concluded that the degree of solicitousness shown by our wait-staff indicated a serious insecurity about the food. I much prefer the Czech system, where the wait-staff silently removes empty plates and does not obsess about whether everything is okay.
In short, when I go to a restaurant with a friend, I would like to converse with that person, not have to deal with constant intrusion by TV screens and restaurant staff.

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Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Defiant noodles are the worst! They are best kept at bay with straw, or a rolled up newspaper.

December 31, 2007 9:34 PM  

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