eric_artem (eric_artem) wrote,

Fine Dining and Chaos Theory

Контент 18+ (лексика, агрессивное описание)
About five or six years ago, my wife and I used to frequent a Mexican restaurant in Sokolniki. It was near the metro, and very reasonably priced. The chef must have originally come from Peru — or spent time there — because half the menu was Mexican, the other half Peruvian. The place had live music, a pleasant ambiance, and delicious food served in sizable portions. (That means BIG ENOUGH so that you didn't leave the restaurant STILL HUNGRY. Take note of that, please.) In addition, we almost always had the same waiter. When he saw us walking in (about once per month) he would literally sprint to us. That's because our bill would normally come to under 4500 roubles (not bad for appetizers, dessert, and drinks, as well as everything else for two people), and I made it my rule to leave 5000 roubles on the table. Whatever was left after the bill was paid, was his. So he would hurry to greet us. But that wasn't the only reason. He wasn't Russian, and therefore he took pride in his work as a waiter. For him, the profession was not a disgrace.
I liked this fellow. He was a Lionel Messi look-alike, and I used to tell him so. Maybe that made him happy, I can't say. But he was a great waiter, and he deserved to be compensated for his efforts. His contribution to our meal was almost as important as the food itself, and my wife and I went home well-fed, well-treated, and happy. Therefore, as indicated above, Lionel Messi received a nice reward for his labours (maybe not the same as at Barcelona, but what to do?) Extremely important was the fact (now here read carefully please) that the food always arrived in the CORRECT ORDER (appetizer/soup/salad) THEN main course (meat/potatoes/vegetables), THEN dessert. And (another big point), as far as I can remember, my wife and I were always served AT THE SAME TIME.
This is how it should be — but unfortunately, both in Russia and in Europe, precisely how it is NOT — and here I will tolerate no excuses about 'cultural differences', etc., which all too often have been set up by the Politically Correct to excuse inferior quality.
So much of giving good service is purely Common Sense, and nothing more. For example, if you are working as a waiter (and I have), you should always make eye contact with the people at your tables, in case they want something. Very simple, just cast your eyes around the room. Try to remember where in the meal your 'guests' are (ok, I don't like this term either — they are customers, not 'guests' — more American bullshit —) so if they want something, such as the bill, for god sake, you don't blow your tip by keeping them waiting all night.
But most servers prefer to be stupid. Asked why this is, Russian people (non-waiters) have told me that Russians consider it beneath their dignity to be at someone's 'beck-and-call.'  ("Hey boy/girl, more coffee !"  Silent response: "F*ck you!" ) What nonsense!  For a nation that has bowed and scraped to one tyrant after another for 1000 years, working as a professional waiter is beneath one's precious dignity? As people from Manhattan would say to that "Get outta heah!" (don't be ridiculous). Italians and Frenchmen have NO trouble being waiters. And they tend to be, if anything, domineering towards their customers, and in no way servile.
OK, so much for advice on how to be a better waiter/ress.
Here's what I don't understand. Let me make a couple of analogies just to get the point across. In football, do they play the second half first — which would decide the outcome — and then play the first half as an afterthought? If you go to the cinema, do they show you the last half-hour of the film and then jump back to the beginning? NO?? Wow, they don't do that???
Then why in the hell — in so many Moscow restaurants — does the tiramisu and ice cream arrive BEFORE the goddamned soup??? Why a plate full of potatoes, but no meat or veg? And WHY does one person get served while his/her partner is forced to wait FOREVER for their food to arrive?? take your girlfriend out to a fancy Moscow restaurant, which is bound to be over-priced, and determined — as a matter of policy — to serve you such small portions that you have to either stop at MacDonalds on the way home or fry something up at midnight when you finally arrive back at your apartment. You smell a rat, but you say to yourself that maybe this time it will be different.
Forward march! You escort your princess there anyway because you are trying to impress her or at least demonstrate to her that in your mind she is not a Burger King kind of gal. Not YOUR baby! Only the best for HER!
So in you go, and things are running smoothly enough (beer and wine) until the 'staff' start this "guess what's coming next?" adventure. Well, trying to preserve the happy mood, you eat the raspberry cheesecake (while she is checking messages and skimming the social networks) and hope that all will be well. Then, after 30 minutes, here comes HER ice cream and YOUR pork chops.
No apology — the waiter/ress acts like this is strictly business as usual.
Finally, your mashed potatoes arrive. But, alas, they are NOT sumptuous. The portion looks like it could be squeezed into a fat lady's navel. And the vegetables? One cold strip of asparagus, like the last strand of hair on a balding man's membrane-colored head. Alas, indeed..
Hahaha, heeheehee, you chortle, trying to lift your girlfriend's mood while STILL she waits for her modest entree of chopped Korean tofu and Japanese sushi (is there any other kind? Does Bulgarian sushi exist? Nigerian?). By the time it arrives, she has lost her appetite, and you have lost your hard-on. Lights out. But the fun isn't over. No sirreee!
The coup di grace is when you try to locate the waiter to ask for the bill. But first you must spend 15 minutes watching him pick his nose while he gazes casually around at everything EXCEPT you. When finally you get his attention he requires another 10 minutes to bring the bill and a final 20 to retrieve your change. Whether you leave a' tip' or not does not seem to matter at all to this comatose individual.
Home you go, your passion gone, your new flame (love) totally flamed out. (Well, not always) If your woman really loves you, she will fry you an egg while you are madly massaging yourself in the shower in attempt to rejuvenate the spirit of six hours ago when the world seemed new... And when you wake up the next morning you will wonder — especially if you had a bit too much beer at the restaurant (and two idle hours in such an establishment can do that to you), what in the world happened to the 5000 roubles you possessed when you went out last night. Then you remember. The night of fine dining gobbled it up as you sat waiting for a single bite.
Like a guy who awakens in jail gradually trying to recall why he is there.
Anyway, the Mexican restaurant in Sokokolniki which my wife and I loved so much, just disappeared. We went there one evening and it was gone. No warning or explanation. Just gone. Typical Moscow. Finally, on the internet, I was able to find this place (or company...who would know what to call it?)— and apparently, it had resurfaced somewhere in Mayokovskaya. But who the hell cared by then? They had probably — thanks to the acute business acumen of new ownership (another Russian specialty) — changed everything that was good about the place into something bad. Besides, Lionel Messi probably didn't work there anymore, so we just stayed home.

===Eric Richard Le Roy===
Tags: angry guests, eric, restaurant, service, waiters

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