By Gloria Hong
We walked into Momofuku planning to order a few bowls of noodles and maybe a couple of shared plates. Instead, we pretty much ordered the entire card including a $45 Fried Chicken with Caviar. Why? Because of our server. Armed with knowledge and genuine passion, his description of the dishes – including full conceptual history from the brain of David Chang, flavour descriptions and vouching for ingredient quality (“It’s the real old school Russian caviar”) – left us with no choice but to hungrily say yes to every offering.
Prompt and attentive service coupled with moderately spaced tables and mid-decibel ambient noise are some other things that made our experience really enjoyable. And frankly, made the food taste better. I had the time to enjoy my meal while having audible conversations with my party. I didn’t feel like a table that needed to be “turned over” for the next reservation. It was a great experience.
My enjoyment of the Momofuku experience contrasts greatly with my poor experience at Barrio Coreano. Granted we were walk-ins, so I didn’t expect a primo table. But relegated to the extremely cold and cramped back seating area, I knew immediately that this wasn’t going to be the best experience.
With a server who didn’t have time to describe the food (let alone pronounce the names of the dishes – COME ON PEOPLE) we were rushed and then ignored. We might as well have been sitting at a communal table as we were that close to our neighbors (it would have been less awkward than the restaurant pulling apart, pushing together, then pulling apart our tables again 3 times during our meal). And the food couldn’t redeem what I have to consider a very off night for the resto.
What kinds of things can take a good experience to *great*? It can be as simple as: your server asking you if they can pack up your leftovers before you ask, a delicious complimentary bread basket (Café Boulud), an amuse bouche (Momofuku), or sweet treat at the end of your meal (Cotton candy at Trevor). How about never having to refill your water glass even when the water bottle is on your table (Pizza Libretto).
Restaurants need to invest in training their servers. They should know your menu inside and out, and for love of all things good and right – how to pronounce the dishes. When the training is right, the service right, and I swear the food tastes better.