Monday, April 23, 2012

why I'll never open a restaurant




I have this weird thing about birthday gifts. My parents buy me something every year, but since I've started working, I've become increasingly uncomfortable accepting presents, from anyone. If you want it, work for it yourself right?

The past few years, I've had this obsession with kitchen tools. Basics, like knives and pans, but the focus is on (high) quality. It always was. Fundamental tools that are indestructible. As my buddy ROKChoi says, anyone can buy new gear - the question is, will a new purchase truly help you improve, or is it just because you want new gear? I use an 8" W├╝sthof cook's knife (Christmas 2008) and while I've been salivating over these gorgeous Japanese knives - another story altogether - the European style blade has been wonderful. But now it's starting to get a little dull, and no amount of honing on a steel is going to help. I have a combination sharpening stone at home, but everyone's forgotten if it's an oil or water stone, and parts of it have already been damaged. So I need sharpening stones - specifically, Naniwa Super Stones, the most amazing wet stones from Japan. They're expensive, but they get the job done the right way. I'm working on sourcing a set.

Now, where was I taking this? Oh right. I had lunch today at a Sichuan restaurant in Markham, Toronto. Decently located (opposite Pacific Mall), just in time for the lunch crowd, except . . . there was no one. We were told that this place cooked truly authentic Sichuan dishes, the owner being a native of Chongqing. But the restaurant was empty. And then we found out why. The owner of the place was also server, busboy, and cook. One guy, manning the entire restaurant. A total of 5 tables, 12 covers. The food, as you can see, was extraordinary. That incredible fragrance of the peppercorn, fresh ingredients, and a spice that altogether lifts on your palate, and encourages another mouthful. Delicious. But the poor man, running in and out, taking orders and hurrying back with dishes. Incredibly fast, polite, attentive. Proof that you only wish owning a restaurant on your worst enemies.

It's a shame really. All the elements are there to be a success - good food (most importantly), good location, good prices. So why hasn't this place caught on? He spends a lot of money advertising his place, and extends all sorts of discounts for local office workers. The food clearly speaks for itself.

Sometimes it all just doesn't make sense. None of it.


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