Sunday, October 11, 2015

observing the breadth of his domain

All the travel books say it's a good sign when you walk into a restaurant and you're the only tourist in the place. Last night we went to a Japanese restaurant on Đông Du Street in District 1, and we were the only non-Japanese in there. The people at the next table may have even rolled their eyes a bit at us, but when they saw what we ordered (not California rolls, I guarantee you that), they became much more respectful.

The food was pretty phenomenal, including this mushi broth served in a teapot (which was about $6 USD). I used to eat something similar in Atlanta for about 20 bucks, but it was only once in a while since the matsutake mushroom used for the broth is seasonal.  



Normally I do a fair amount of people-watching. I have a fertile imagination, so it's helpful when you're stuck someplace like the airport, because I find people-watching to be ridiculously fascinating.  But I found myself watching this guy all night:


I first noticed him when I went up the stairs to use the facilities, and I was curious what this chef guy was doing, just standing there on the small landing, staring out at the restaurant. When I got back to my seat, it occurred to me that he wasn't watching the customers. He was watching his own well-oiled machine at work.

He kept a keen eye on every bit of what every person who worked there was doing. He watched what the girls were ringing in, what the bussers were doing, how fast everyone was moving, glanced at each and every dish coming out of the kitchen, scrutinized the whole lot. At some point he came down from his perch and took over expediting food out of the kitchen.  And once, and only once, did he break his regal stance and deliver food himself to a table, someone who must have been of great importance to deserve such an honor (I never got to see who it was because they were seated upstairs).  In a way he reminded me a bit of Chef Jiro Ono - and if you haven't seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you must, especially if you're into food (notice how I didn't use the word 'foodie' here because I fucking hate that word). 

Upon leaving, we paid our respects and thanked him, and were rewarded with a huge grin and a deep bow.  




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