Archive for November, 2010

A Culinary Cultural Difference

I don’t know what it is, but I seem to always revisit my blog around the time that I’ve been to the US. Part of me thinks it’s a reminder that the culture in the US has a huge food angle to it, and maybe it’s something to do with the check-in at BA asking if I was going to pay extra for being over the weight limit (for me). Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love eating out in the US, and especially in New York. I find the food vibrant, ever-changing and it clearly attracts some of the most talented chefs in the world.

I do, however, try wherever possible to try eating steak every night. Seems crazy for someone living in the UK where the average is benchmarked at Harvester. (Any American’s reading this – PLEASE do not go to Harvester. It represents the culinary equivalent of trailer-trash). I did have a superb evening again at Tao but found myself with a group of salesman at the New York Striphouse ( a couple of days later. It’s a weird place. Very dark and I mean VERY dark, apart from at the tables themselves. Not sure if this is intentional or if the credit crunch is forcing the dimmer-switches down a click.

As steakhouses go, this is one of the best. I would class myself as something of an aficionado of all things bovine and this ranks incredibly high. We bailed the starters and went for the special which was a bone-in ribeye for two, which was exquisitely cooked and carved off the table. Nice touch that they then brought the bones back in case there were any gnawers in the party. And if the steak wasn’t enough, the serving of creamed spinach with truffle was amazing. I mean, truly amazing. I’ll be stealing that one for future dinner parties.

And then the bill came, which I was carrying. The bill. The emotive bit. Don’t get me wrong, I will always give credit where credit is due in a restaurant. In fact, I think I’m quite good at getting the tip right, on both sides of the pond. Not here though. Through a mathematical miscalculation, I ended up adding on 6%. That’s the American equivalent of saying “your food was tasted like shit, and your waiters were trained by Pol Pot”. I was even more surprised when the waiter came chasing after me asking if everything was OK and pointing rather antagonistically at the bill (check). Only when I left did my sales brethren, who were clearly more on the mathematical ball than I that evening, point out my culinary faux pas (and Alex, who lives nearby, swearing profusely at me for ruining any chance of being able to go back to his favourite restaurant).

The thing is, if this was in Britain, nobody would have batted an eyelid. I’ve been in restaurants where we’ve spent well over £1000 for 4 people and tipped £20 (not by me, I hasten to add). Silence. But I’m fortunate enough to have read Waiter Rant so I know that US waiters get paid bugger all and therefore the only way they make ends meet is the tip. So how bad do i feel now ?

So, for the waiters and staff of the Striphouse, I am most sorry. I promise to buy the Chateau Ducru next time and donate a second bottle to you.