It was with a pang of deja vu that I read Kucinta’s No more fine dining! account in her blog!
She wrote: “With my severe lack of experience in fine-dining etiquette, I must have made my husband very embarrassed in the restaurant the other night.”
She didn’t know what sparkling water was, despite ordering it and on finding that it cost $5 a bottle, she almost fainted. A bowl of rice at the restaurant cost $28 ; 3 pieces of scallops (size of a 50-cent coin) cost $22.
Then came her difficulties with disrobing the prawns from their shells.
She moaned: “I am used to de-shelling prawns with my fingers, but looking around me, everyone was using their set of cutlery provided. My husband had to come to my rescue …!”
When she couldn’t finish her rice and wanted to share the remainder with husband “but because it was “fine-dining” and he was having steak, I had to see my food go to waste because he didn’t have the extra cutlery to eat it.”
She also complained she couldn’t see what she was eating because the lighting in the restaurant was so dim. Everyone was eating in a demure manner but Ku can’t enjoy her food if she didn’t open her mouth “big big and chew loudly”.
Consequently, 吃不爽，也吃不饱. 吃得混身不自在.
I had started this post by saying I’ve been in Ku’s place be4, just like I had been young, naive and lacking in confidence once upon a time.
In exchange for youth, I’ve gained confidence and, I eat fine-dining restaurants for breakfast, lunch and tea, tho hopefully not in an abnoxious way.
I’m not a regular at the fine-dining watering holes but I’ve been to them enough times over the years not to be intimidated any more.
The most basic thing to wear to fine-dining isn’t a tiara or a money-belt bulging with dole. Just a huge shawl of confidence will do fine. Always realise that “I am the customer and you must treat me well.” And it always works, trust me.
The next “etiquette” at a fine dining restaurant is to have the confidence to ask: such as “what’s sparkling water” if one doesn’t know. Never mind what the waits think. They are first and foremost paid to serve, not look down on guests.
Should you want to share your food, inform the wait politely but firmly. If you want to peel your prawns with your hands, do so without apology. A good fine dining restuarant (not one that’s a wannabe) will know what follow-up action is required, without waiting for the guest to ask explicitly.
For example, if a guest says he wants to share a particular dish or even a bowl of soup, the wait should respond by saying “Would you like us to divide for you?” If the wait sees a guest using his hands to peel prawns or holding up the bone of a chop to gnaw, he shouldn’t just stare. If he is trained, he should thoughtfully provide a finger bowl, and if there is a wedge of lemon in the bowl of water, then the wait is really a suma cum laude in the hospitality business!
As for asking left-over food to be packed and taken away, it should be no sweat. When the wait comes to clear the plates, just inform him: “Can you please pack this for me to take-away?”
Unless it’s a buffet no restaurant would raise an eye-brow at such a request. And if it’s a buffet, then it’s no longer fine-dining.
If anyone reading this, still has any qualms about my advice, read what we did at Gunthers, the uber expensive feedshop at Purvis Street: