Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Show

There's a certain showmanship that goes with a successful restaurant.  Can you honestly say you've never watched what the table next to you has ordered, with the anticipation of your own pleasure or displeasure awaiting for you?  Have you ever just sat down to see the table next to you order a souffle, and watch the waiter pierce the top and pour sauce in the now deflated carcass before them, and while you drool, decide that, you too must have that pleasure as well?  Or sat at a bar and seen the bartender shake a martini fifteen times over his head (even though there's no reason to do so) and as they pour it into the chilled glass before them decide that, "Hey, I could go for one of those..."

I try to think about this as much as possible, especially when writing menus.  The French knew this style of service well.  You might not want to pay a few hundred bucks for simple sustenance, but we'll all pay for a show.  Think about how much you'd pay to see The Doors if the Lizard King himself came back from the grave.  Tableside crepes & cheese carts fill the same pleasure spot in our brains.

Take the night I proposed to my wife, August 23, 2004.  The restaurant, Tru, was the stage that I was to perform.  I'd been working some insane hours at Karma and unbeknownst to Anne, had a diamond broker meet me at the restaurant during a quick break to show me settings a few weeks before.  The ring was burning a hole in my pocket (actually my sock drawer), and I made the excuse that I needed to see another fine dining restaurant to give me new ideas, inspiration, and some peaceful respite.  She bought it hook, line and sinker.  When I made the rez, I told the FOH what I planned on doing, and they told me they'd play along.  Awesome.

Tru has a show kitchen of sorts, with windows that let you see parts of stations and the cooks working.  They also have a cheese cart, caviar staircases, live goldfish in bowls under one course, a dessert cart, multiple people waiting on you, a cool bathroom... you can't not talk about it, and that's the point.  I lucked out, as the head waiter was one of my old chef's cousins and our waiter, Fredrick, was the sommelier at Le Francais when I cooked there.  Crazy.

So we get 3/4's of the way through the meal and Anne excuses herself to powder her nose.  I grab the waitstaff and tell 'em I'm ready when she gets back.

I proposed in between salad & cheese courses.  She said yes, and the crew took pictures as it happened.  When she teared up, they brought out a box of kleenex in a chrome tissue box.  And they printed the pics on the menu we ate and as we finished, gave us a tour of the kitchen.  The show here was great.  They did misspell congratulations in chocolate on our dessert plate... at least Gale wasn't in the kitchen that night.

Oh, BTW, Happy Anniversary, baby!  As of Monday, 6 years married, 12 years together, and we're still stupid for each other.

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