Archive for June, 2009

Duck Sauce

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by cryptoandkimbap

A young woman called and ordered some fried rice and spring rolls.

“Okay, that will be about 10 minutes,” I said.

“Can you add some duck sauce to that?” she asked.

“No, we don’t have any duck sauce,” I said.

“Can you add something similar to duck sauce?” she asked again.

“I’m sorry ma’am, we aren’t a Chinese restaurant,” I said. Shit. I let the short fuse loose. The girl is only trying to order take-out, I tell myself. It’s only take-out. “But there is a Chinese restaurant just up the street that has some,” I continued in an exaggerated happy voice.

“Thanks! I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she replied.


Almost everyone in the front and back of the house, especially Ting, gets offended when people say things like “I’d like some Lo Mein” or “Why don’t you have General Tso’s Chicken on the menu?” Being a confessed Twinkie, I used to shrug it off. I mean, who cares? It all goes to the same place.

But they have a point. After all, I wouldn’t go into an Italian restaurant and order bouillabaisse or try to look for chicken cacciatore on a menu with German fare. Too many of us Americans lump together Asia like it’s all the same, without realizing that they would never do the same for countries in Western Europe. We do the same with Africa.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was one of three Korean kids in my entire junior high school class (Come to think of it, one of three minorities total). Not just the kids, but teachers would refer to me as Chinese, Japanese or ask me questions like “Are you related to so-and-so at the Nail Salon by Walmart?” I’d correct them and tell them my real ethnicity, and they’d reply with “Whatever” or “Same thing, right?”

A few months ago, the owner and head chef were interviewed for a review in the Food Section of the local Sunday paper. The article said that they were both from a Thai family and that they were related. They’re actually from Malaysia and the chef is Chinese. This mix-up was amusing to the staff, but the owner and chef were both very hurt by the lack of sensitivity from the reporter.

Being politically courteous to everyone is impossible and I’ll admit that I am terrible at telling apart ethnicities of all colors. I once mistook a lighter-complected African American lady as Hispanic and started speaking Spanish to her because she looked like she was having trouble reading the menu. Shit happens to the best of us, but when politicians can’t tell the difference, that’s when we’re all duck sauce.


A Note on Our Clientele

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2009 by cryptoandkimbap

Chai House is a small, “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant on a side street of one of the dirtiest parts of town, close to two major universities and one of the country’s largest medical centers. We don’t have a specific budget-oriented niche like most restaurants because of the “exotic” menu items and wine selection. So our customers consist mostly of a hyphenated mix, like:

  • hipster-yuppie college kids who feel cultured from their Semester at Sea and come to our establishment to try the Americanized-Southeast Asian cuisine.

  • “post-modern” hipster (ex)-college kids who don’t shower, are covered in ironic tattoos, wear bike caps and don’t shower. But they tip amazingly well.

  • redneck college kids from the surrounding rural towns who look so, so disappointed that we don’t have General Tso’s chicken on the menu.

  • their professors and other assorted academia.

  • ex-hippies.

  • doctors and their spoiled rich wives and mistresses.

  • foreigners and ex-patriots mainly from countries where leaving a tip is unheard of.

  • a slew of regulars.

Aside from our friendlier regulars, all of these people have one thing in common in that none of them have a clue about how the real world works. For example, parties of 18 of these bastards will come in and expect us to make separate checks. The college kids come in droves of six or more and only order two entrees with an appetizer or two.

As a side note, black people tip fine–it’s the doctors you have to look out for. They’re cheap, most don’t order drinks and they tip EXACTLY 15 percent, using whatever gadget of the week they’re carrying with them to calculate it down to the penny.

Those are our customers, dirty, rich and clueless. Now you all know why I started a blog.

Yummy Yummy, Bitches.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2009 by cryptoandkimbap

I bussed with my good friend and coworker Frank for our usual Saturday lunch shift. We’re the only ones at the front of the house.

Fifteen minutes after I got there, we got a table of five–rich, intellectual, middle-aged white women. Any server will tell you that these are the worst kind. Frank gives me a look as they ignored the “Please Wait to Be Seated” sign and plopped their fat asses down at the first table they saw.

One of my responsibilities as a busser is to take people drinks.

“Can I start you off with any drinks besides water, soda or tea?” I asked.

The older, fatter one picked up our tea menu and asked me a laundry list of questions about whether we prepare the tea by pouring the water directly on the tea leaves, if it’s organic, why we don’t carry white teas, etc. I was patient and answered each question to the best of my ability.

“Eh, maybe next time.” she shrugged. I gave her my best “thank you for wasting my time” smile.

Frank made three trips to take their order because none of them thought to touch the menus when they first sat down. He had to shout over the cackling to get their attention. As he took their order, each one asked his opinion between two or three menu items. New tables kept coming an Frank was looking like a deer in headlights as kept changing their orders and asking for ridiculous requests, like “Make sure the vegetables are STEAMED” or “Sauce on the side.” The entire process took him almost twenty minutes.

In the time between taking the order and delivering the food, all five sows gulped down their waters faster than you could say “WASP” and shot both of us piercing glares over chubby pink cheeks as we whisked by their table taking care of other customers. Every table in the restaurant was filled by this point.

I winced as Frank delivered the food. Sure enough, like some kind of hag-magic, three of them found something wrong with their food:

“I said STEAMED vegetables” (They were steamed.)
“Where’s my paratha?” (It only comes with the dinner portion.)
“I didn’t think this would be this oily” (It’s fried fucking rice!)

They finished their lunch with few grumbles and the plates were cleared, but none of those bitches one moved for a half an hour. We had a line out the door and I remember staring longingly at the unpaid check lying in the middle of the table.

I could have philosophized and lamented on how historically disrespectful the upper-class can sometimes be towards us with the blue collars, but then I remembered some banter between two of our cooks, Larry (who is African-American) and Mr. Dingo (a sweet 75 year-old Filipino gentleman who makes our appetizers):

Larry: Ringo, white women!
Dingo: Yummy yummy!

…and I smile.

Smiling Boy Wonder

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2009 by cryptoandkimbap

We hired a new busser a few weeks ago and I worked my third shift with the kid last night. If he isn’t fired soon, he will get consumed by the raging fires of Ting, our front manager. He’s slow, he’s got the audacity to tell meĀ what to do and he’s just so goddamn annoying.

I’m not hard to get along with at work. But if there’s one thing a new person can say to me during a first conversation that will taint my first impression of him so much that it looks Jackson Pollock took a shit all over it, it’s what this kid said to me shortly after we exchanged names:

“You should really smile more often.”

First, this kid wasn’t hired for his skills or experience–just pure, unadulterated nepotism. Second, asking a server to smile more often is like asking a masseuse to give more HJs. This grin is my money-maker. Smiling Boy Wonder was off to a horrendous start.

Speaking of skills, bussing at a small restaurant with a seating capacity of 40 people doesn’t require a lot. Everything I’ve learned as a busser and server can be condensed in three steps:

  1. Collect as many dishes and cups that two hands can carry as fast as humanly possible.
  2. Help clearing and setting tables, getting extra stuff like drinks and checks, etc.
  3. Bring refills.

Boy Wonder couldn’t do any of this. In fact, he was so enamored with one of our female customers that he started telling me to get this girl’s drinks to probably impress her with some faux-management position.

“Hey Eddie, can you get this girl a Thai iced tea when you get a chance?” he asked.

“Excuse me?”

With a quick grin and wink, he turned back around to his victim.

If it weren’t for a a written up notice from the owner about an angry review on about how she “berates her staff,” Ting would have slapped this kid. Instead, she yells, “I tell you all time to get water for the cut-uh-mer and you don’t do it-lah! Something wrong, okay?” But he was too busy checking out a customer’s butt to hear her.