Thursday, February 11, 2010

Adventures in Fine Dining

I have a love/hate relationship with Japanese hibachi restaurants. On one hand, I don't think these chefs really cook like that normally, and I hate to see the 'lookee! lookee!' kind of Asian parody for the amusement of others. On the other hand, the food is usually good and it was at a hibachi restaurant that I learned to like shrimp. When I was thirteen I was allowed to invite my friend Rich along to a hibachi restaurant. The chef flicked a shrimp onto my plate and I discreetly leaned over and quietly asked Rich if he wanted my shrimp. He looked at me like I just told him I club baby seals for fun. "How could you not like shrimp?!?" he said, rather loudly. Rising to the challenge I said, "No, I like shrimp. I was just wondering if you wanted extra." With a flip of my hair, I turned, took a bite and from that day forward, I mourned the fact that I spent the first thirteen years of my life not eating shrimp.

But I told you that story to tell you this.

The other evening, the Bo Hunkmeister and I had the opportunity to go out to dinner. I suggested Olive Garden, but Bo being Bo, suggested that I think a little grander. So we chose this Asian hibachi restaurant that we had heard good reviews of. It was a very swank place. Lovely, sophisticated decor, romantic atmospheric lighting. You know, the type of place that doesn't have a kids' menu or crayons to draw on the table with. Bo ordered warmed sake and I had a sushi appetizer that was just lovely.

Then I heard the horn.

The horn that Harpo Marx used. Endearing for Harpo, not endearing for a chef. He arrived at our table with his cart of supplies loudly going on about something or other in an accent so heavy, he was hardly understood. But all of us at the table smiled patronizingly anyway.

Chef started his show twirling and banging his cooking utensils on the cooktop, shouting and yelling stuff. At one point, he picked up a plastic toy in the shape of a baby boy and squirted the person next to me. He made the baby boy 'pee' on the customer. I've got four boys. I don't need another baby to piddle on me. Especially when I have grandma's pearls on. So I shot him my best Mommy look. The look where I smile but the eyes say, "I've birthed six babies, don't mess with me." Bo said he recognized that look and was going to intervene for the safety of the chef. But then he decided that it would be more amusing to see if the chef "got the message." Lucky for chef, he did.

Next the chef made fried rice, drawing pictures on the rice with soy sauce, with more "Lookee! Lookeee! So cuuuuuute!" Banging the utensils some more, he flicked veggies into the mouth of some of the patrons. Chef looked at me and again came the Mommy look. I'm trying to enjoy a nice dinner with my sweetheart, is it really necessary to throw food at me? I had ordered salmon and shrimp (you knew that was coming, eh?) and he over cooked my shrimp because he was too busy banging things and squirting sake at people. I watched my salmon cook as he carried on with his show. Not being able to stand it anymore, I looked straight at him at one point and told him to take my salmon off the grill. I'm sure he went back into the kitchen after he was done and told them all about the white devil who harshed his performance. I really don't care. Don't overcook my salmon son, people have been suffered for lesser offenses.

Don't get me wrong, I was having a nice time, the food in general was really good. I was enjoying the company, but halfway through the meal, I realized what made me irritated with the chef. I went out to dinner in order to enjoy an evening away from boisterous children who spill things, throw things and bang their cutlery. And here was this chef banging the cutlery, throwing food and squirting people with water. Why pay money for this when I can get this at home?

Our dinner came to an end and we left. Before you think the entire evening was ruined, Bo took me to Pastiche, a local dessert restaurant. This is why he is the Bo Hunkmeister. It is a known fact that Chocolate Raspberry Torte can make everything right in the world.

So next time the opportunity presents itself, I think I'll get my shrimp at Olive Garden. There's crayons and a kid menu, but I'm pretty sure they don't throw food there.


kenny g said...

1. You realize that the restaurant was not Japanese owned, hence the theme park ambience.
2. If you are gonna share the table with 6 or so strangers, why bother leaving a table of six intimately acquainted people at home.
3. Can I get the Hazelnut delaquoix?

Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear. Over the holidays we did a big family teppanyaki dinner. 10 days later I was traveling with a group for business and the group decided to go to a big name teppanyaki restaurant (also called hibachi restaurant or Japanese steakhouse). The company was good, the food was very tasty, the bill was T&E'd and they served Sapporo Draft so I am not complaining but the dichotomy makes me laugh.

On one hand, we have the traditional big family meal...great comfort food, everybody pitches in to prep & cook, zero pretentiousness. I even changed into sweat pants just before dinner because I knew the next 4 hours would be sheer gluttony. On the other hand, we have the Philipino chef flipping shrimp tails into his hat while lighting onion volcano's. We have the Dragon Roll psuedo-sushi (raw tuna, Texas Pete, mayo and avacado)...tastes good but Texas Pete isnt even from Texas much less Japan. All of this authentic Japanese culture for a mere $50 per person, not including tip.

I'll take Macaroni Grill over Benihana any day. I wonder if any folks of Italian descent are rolling their eyes right now? Its all thinly disguised dinner theater anyway. I can't imagine King Aurthur getting peeved at Medieval Times.

MaryEllen said...
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