So we went to Taiho, Japanese cuisine at its highest price. My meal with WATER was $32 and change. Lucrative business. If I come into some big cash one day, I could see buying a Japanese Steakhouse. Name it something cool. Konichiwa. However you spell it. Or maybe “32 and change” in Japanese. That way it’s right there in the name of the restaurant exactly how much I’ll be ripping you for.
The only thing is finding the manpower. And not just any Joe Buck. You’ve got to have the Japanese cook. I’ve been twice, not here, but just around, where the cooks weren’t authentic. I guess it’s as stringent as Hooters and Flight Attendants. Japanese restaurants know it when they see it. You don’t see black men as Hooters girls—I hope, anyway. You don’t see fat flight attendants, and you don’t see white guys cooking at Japanese restaurants. It’s just not authentic. And I just realized you NEVER see women cooks either. I guess the girls that wanted to be Japanese cooks are now Hooters girls. Good for them.
Back to those two inauthentic cooks I had. One was Mexican. The other called himself an “Indian Redneck,” and proceeded to debut his country music tour right there at Ju-Jitsu’s. I’m not trying to discriminate against non-Japanese cooks, but who thought a cowboy Indian singing Willie Nelson while chopping dinner was a good idea? Who did HE know? That’d be like Yo-Yo Ma replacing Alex Trebeck on Jeopardy. Something about it just doesn’t quite say “Welcome to Japan. Yes, I know what I’m doing.”
But see that’s what I want. A cultural experience. The Japanese cook, preferably without a knack for Hank Williams Jr. The waitress that never smiles. The chopsticks with or without the rubberbands to make them work. The hostess that doesn’t even speak English. Lindsay The Ranew made the reservation for us last Friday. I showed up first and mentioned we had reservations. The hostess asked the name, I said “Lindsay or Ranew” and she studied the virtually empty reservation book for a moment. She then looked up as excitedly as if she’d solved that morning’s sudoku, pointed at the name she'd scribbled down, and said, “Ah, yes. Wyndsey.”
Nothing helps break stereotypes like reaffirming them.
I think I’d have an option though. For the customers’ sakes, and the cooks’. Well and all of us really. For those that don’t want the complete “Japanese Immersion,” for a dollar or two less, you now pay $30 and change, and can have the Un-entertaining, less death-defying, stare-into-space option. As in, “We know you’ve been to Japanese restaurants before, so if you just want your food without the commotion, no ‘choo-choo’ or volcano or ‘bad chicken’ comments or tossing-the-scalding-hot-shrimp-at-some-unsuspecting-Joe-Buck’s-face routine, then you can order the ‘Sukiyaki Steak Express’ or ‘Quicken Hibachi Chicken.’” No more Japanese versions of Show and Tell. It's an option I would most often select. And as the owner, I'd want to charge less for this feature because you’re not getting a full production of spinning eggs and fireballs, but it seems like the demand would be so great that it would require the higher price. And if more people are choosing the quicker option, more people are able to come in and out, and thus the turnover is better. It’s the brilliant business move, hands down.
I went with my friend one time, just me and her and a 12 person table. Well me and her and the empty 12 person table and the cook. Who STILL performed his show. A mite awkward. And a lot of effort. We’re trying to have conversation, and he’s trying to make us laugh or clap or cry or some emotion we’re apparently not showing enough of. Like McDonald’s with a full theater production of how they defrosted your processed Blueberry Chicken McMuffin and then deep-fried it in French fry grease and smothered it in a percent lifetime value of sodium and then lit it on fire for entertainment’s sake. You don’t need all that. No narratives. No presentations. No worries. Just you, your friend, and your little piece of heaven in a heart attack. Or stroke. Thoughtless, effortless, mind-numbingly simple meals.
For $32 and change.