Look. No one dislikes stereotypes more than I do and no one is more open to the importance of racial and ethnic harmony than I am. I think that frank and honest discussions about differences in populations based on the national origins of our grandparents could illuminate our similarities and bring out the best in all of us. Anyway, sometimes you see certain trends in ethnic populations and you just want answers to your questions. And most of these questions aren’t from me—I’m merely forwarding them from my co-workers. And so I, and we, ask you, The Asian Diner at Our Restaurant(s), the following questions:
1. What’s up with the hot water and lemon?
And I don’t want to hear that crap about how it aids in digestion etc. etc. All humans have the same basic digestion system. What I know for sure is that you order hot water and lemon more often than any other ethnic group and I know that every time you do, you get either a fake smile or a look of disdain and contempt from your waiter. And yet you persist in ordering hot water and lemon at fine dining restaurants. On Saturday Nights. When we’re running 2-for-1 promotions on bottles of Opus One. And you know that adding lemon to hot water just makes it taste like lukewarm lemon water, right? How is that appealing? And you sip the water and then ask for a new batch of hot water even when your current cup is full. At least—at least get some tea with the hot water and lemon. It takes the same amount of work and we can at least add $3.50 to your bill. Oh, and by the way—it’s July in Southern California and it’s 92 degrees outside.
2. What’s up the 10% or 15% tip on the pre-tax total?
I’ll actually admit that the times, they-are-a-changing, because I’m getting more and more groups of Asian families tipping me 18%. Still, many of you are still going all Euroclass on me and tipping 10%, with Second Generation Asian Americans reaching back to tip a full 15%. And I’m Asian! Do you tip non-Asian servers more or less? I always ask my co-workers and they say it’s the same. Is it really the same or are they trying to spare my feelings? Anyway, if you ask for hot water and lemon, I think a 20% tip is fair. My childhood’s been spent many a nights with my aunt and uncle in authentic Korean and Chinese restaurants where the service was…..well, lackluster and almost hostile. THIS IS NOT THAT PLACE. You’ll notice that I refilled your hot water pot about 15 times during your trip here. I suggested the Clam Chowder, The Oysters, and The Mussels. I smiled even though it’s not what I’m culturally predisposed to do. I think I deserve 20%. I think you know how to calculate 20%, since we’re all good at math, right? By the way, can I just say that I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend that Asians do not seem to be as good at math as they used to be? Some of them are waiting until their JUNIOR YEAR to take Calculus BC! If I did that, my mom would have disowned me and my dad would have enrolled me in the Korean Military, stationing me right on the DMZ, staring down the rifle of a soldier of Kim Il Sung. So there’s that. You know you all read Yelp enough to know that 20% is the nationally accepted standard tip. Which, by the way, brings me to…..
3. What is up with the obsession with Yelp?
I went to Wolfram Alpha, asked it, “What are the odds that a young Asian couple visiting my restaurant will post about it on Yelp?” and Wolfram Alpha said, “100%.” WTF. You are not restaurant critics. There are no such things as amateur, non-paid restaurant critics. Do you know what we call non-paid restaurant critics? People! Human beings! Customers! Yelpers. If I could ban all camera phones from Asian-American women under the age of 35 who enter my restaurants, I would….or in the least, I’d block Yelp, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook from y’all. If you want to rave about the restaurant, text your friends or talk about it at the your Mah Jong game. If there’s something you want to change, write a letter to the owner in that College Personal Experience essay format you’ve mastered. Save Yelp for the Wannabe Real Housewives of Orange County—that’s really all they got. They’re the ones that have very wide-angle shots of themselves plastered all over their Yelp profiles. Megapixels don’t lie, ladies; time for more botox. Speaking of cameras….
4. WTF with the cameras?
I know it’s a waterfront restaurant in Newport Beach but did you really have to bring a 36-megapixel full-frame camera with you to dinner? On a Saturday night? And a 8K Octo-HD video camera? Seriously. Peter Jackson looks at your camera and says, “Too much for me.” Christopher Nolan looks at your camera and says, “Eh….I’ll just stick to IMAX. It’s less complicated.” And of course, you’ll ask me to take a picture with your Hasselblad Medium-format 240-megapixel Hubble-telescope-esque camera. First of all, that thing is freaking heavy. Secondly, it costs more than I make in a year. So the thought that I might drop it did cross my mind. So look. Come in and enjoy dinner and leave the photo studio at home. I once had a party of 20 tourists from China who each had a camera phone and a separate digital SLR camera. I felt light Princess Diana in 1997.
5. Now about that sharing of food and eating really slowly.
Most upscale restaurants will assign a Seat Number to a guest so the runner knows exactly who gets which food. You know what you are to me? You are a Table and a Seat Number. You are Seat #3 on Table #103. That’s how I refer to you. So I’m telling you all this to really help out our runner. See, the runner didn’t take your order but is dropping off your food so he needs to know who is having what food. He’s a little OCD in that way. He needs a Seat Number with each entree. But you’re not playing by the rules. This is how you sometimes order: You wave me down and you say, “We’re ready to order.” Then, one person proceeds to name 9 entrees that the table wants. But who wants which entree? Oh—OH. You’re all sharing. Even better. So we’re going to have to cram all your entrees and all the share plates onto your table. By the way, how’s that going to make for a good dining experience? You’re sharing saliva, you’re picking at each other’s food, you’re swapping plates across from each other…..and, by the way, the Runner loves to put all the plates in the center of the table. And then you take about two hours to eat. You know what I can do in two hours? I can watch a two hour movie, that’s what. There are restaurants that cater to those who want to share plates but guess what—GUESS WHAT? This is not one of them. And last but not least…..
6. WTF The Paper Napkins?
I don’t even know where this came from or why it’s persisted. You know who never asks me for paper napkins? Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Europeans, South Americans, Australians, Middle-Easterners, South Asians, Scandinavians, and Russians. You know who does? Asians. Now I know that my mom used to obsessively collect free paper napkins from every fast food or quick-casual restaurant she visited but you, you’re not doing that. She also collected ketchup packets because who pays for ketchup, right? But you’re not doing that, either. So the onus is on you to explain this one. Origami? That’s my best guess now. If I visit the Asian-equivalent of Mastro’s in China, will I find it to be sea of paper napkins? Anyway, I’m off to tell our manager to order more cocktail napkins because that’s all we ever have. It’s a freaking fine dining restaurant. There are only four types of paper napkins here: cocktail napkins, toilet tissue, paper towels, and Kleenex.
I’m actually, seriously asking these questions. I never noticed any of this until I started working as a waiter. Usually, when I’d dine at an Asian (usually Japanese restaurant, because girls love Sushi even though I really dislike seafood but hey, we always have to go to where the girl wants even though we’re paying, right?) restaurant, I just get a Diet Coke and use the cloth napkin provided for me. And tip 20%.
By the way, do you know what we call Restaurant Week? Hot Water and Lemon Week.