Sunday, December 14, 2008

Are You Being Served?

Last night found me in Hoboken at a mediocre sushi restaurant. Actually, the food itself was decent. My appetizer, hamachi with chopped jalapenos and yuzu, was clean and refreshing. Hamachi, otherwise known as yellowtail, is a firm fish that holds up well to raw and ceviche-style preparations. It's one of my favorite fishes to enjoy raw. The yuzu juice acted as a par-cook marinade, not unlike a traditional South American ceviche. I prefer fresh jalapenos to canned, as these ones were, but regardless, the heat was ample without overwhelming the fish. All in all, nicely done.

I probably should have stuck with raw fish through and through--usually, at sushi restaurants, I either sit at the bar and order omakase, or I order sashimi a la carte. The fish, unadorned and fresh, is what I crave.

Last night was cold, though, and I felt like something more substantial so I ordered a soup of udon, chicken, shrimp tempura, and egg. Honestly, I don't know why I continue to order udon soups because I am always disappointed. I love the consistency of the noodles but the broth always leaves something to be desired and the things floating in the broth are never better than the noodles themselves. My two udon exceptions are the udon hot pots at Fatty Crab and Hagi, where Chinese sausage and soft poached eggs contribute to a delicious udon stew. In any case, I hope I learned my lesson: at sushi bars, stick with the sushi.

The only truly terrible part of dinner was the service. I am not one of those uptight crazies who gets all nutso over careless service. Certain things annoy me; I hate having to hunt for my server and I hate having to wait an inordinate amount of time for my drinks and food. But most of the restaurants that I choose to spend my money at have pretty high service standards.

Not so much for Sushi House, where my dining companion's salad arrived a full ten minutes before my hamachi. (By the time my hamachi hit, her salad was gone and cleared.) Drinks came after our appetizers and a glass of plum wine I was drinking on ice was mistaken by a busboy for tap water. Despite my hand-waving and desperate cries of "No, that isn't water," the busboy poured tap into my drink. A few minutes later, a manager arrived to offer me another drink, but mine was already half-gone and I was driving, so I didn't want another drink. What I wanted was for that particular drink, all six dollars of it, to be removed from my check. I didn't say this, of course, but it's one of those unspoken things that managers do when a customer is visibly upset about having lost her drink to tap water.

The drink was on the check and I paid that check without complaint. So my distress wasn't exactly recognized by the FOH staff.

Our waitress cleared our plates by stacking everything in front of me at the table and then lifting them out of my way. It's a pretty gross method of table-maintenece. I don't particularly want to look at someone else's ort after I've eaten. For that, I work in restaurants.

Finally, our check sat out, AmEx protruding, for another healthy ten minutes before our waitress returned to run the card.

Perhaps I'm too picky, or too observant, having spent most of my life trying to avoid service snags in a professional setting. No matter the caliber of the restaurant, though, service standards should be consistent and fluid. Servers exist to ensure the comfort of the guest, not heighten the guest's anxiety level. For that, I have a personal trainer.

Sushi House Bar and Lounge
1319 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

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