Service, Ambiance, and Decor

16 Sep

There is a high-end restaurant called Evia that specializes in classical Greek cuisine. A couple of years ago, my family made reservations for a late evening dinner. Although I do not recall the exact circumstance of our reservation, I vividly remember Evia’s delicate candlelit ambiance to be quite beautiful, though I suppose humbler than the feast of the Japanese dignitaries Cwiertka mentions in Western Food, Politics, and Fashion. Nevertheless, this restaurant unsurprisingly had courses ranging from $50 to $100 a plate, so it was by no means a mere food joint. As there were plenty of striking parallels between the two food experiences I recall an epiphany I had that evening after finishing my meal.

First of all, food arguably in itself––its taste––maximizes its physical sensory pleasure without having to be upper-class culinary masterpieces. Cwiertka mentions this with the overarching Japanese ideology of washoku as “tasty,” beautiful, yet less classy sustenance compared to the more nutritious and expensive yoshoku. Today, perhaps the tastiest foods out there are from noodle stands along streets in Bangkok or at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria in east LA with burritos to die for. However, what does differ between these types of eateries in terms of “class,” “quality,” and cultural “taste” is use of––as mentioned––service, ambience, and decor. The Seiyoken’s managers understood this, as did our sharply dressed waiter at Evia whose simple actions––describing the evening’s specials in salivating detail, making suggestions with warmth and professionalism, and taking orders through memory without the use of a notepad––elevated my dining experience to that of “taste.”

Ironically, I ordered the roasted wild boar with vegetable-filled parchment as my main course that evening. The waiter complimented my choice, saying, “It is a most exquisite meat. Once you try wild boar, you can never go back to pork or beef again.” (This is true, he actually did say that.)

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