November 14th, 2014


Cafe Artscience adventure

One of my self-appointed jobs is to go to the new restaurants and then drag other people to them later. So I went to Cafe Artscience this evening after work - I'll admit it was in the hopes of getting to try some Mad Science Food, but instead I got tasty food and some of the awesomest service ever. So I'll talk about that instead, but it gets kind of convoluted.

First, I got seated at an Interesting Table. I had made a reservation for one person, and I kind of imagine that they thought "Hey, this would be a really cute single table, put here on the curve of the banquette." I've never actually had a one-person table before, and in theory, yup, definitely cute. In practice... sitting on the inside of a U curve is more comfy than sitting on the outside of one, and... I felt vaguely like I was not cool enough for the table. You know how some restaurants have the high table in the window, to attract passer-by? I think they probably want to put Fabulous Customers in those tables. ilhander would be perfect to sit at that sort of table. He would probably have been perfect at this table too. Anyway, it wasn't *un*-comfortable. It was just vaguely awkward, in a "hmm, am I supposed to be sitting slantways to the table? Or straight on? Which direction am I supposed to be facing? I think I'm doing this table wrong...".

Shortly after they poured the water, the waiter (Rich) came up and said, could I do them a great favor and possibly let them move me to this other table over there? I said oh, of course, and got moved; in the process it became clear that I was being moved to a "more comfortable" table. And it was a more comfortable table - a little two person table, with a normal U-shaped comfy chair.

It took me a while after being moved to realize exactly what had happened, and then I was beyond impressed. First, I don't think I was conveying "I hate this table" or anything like that. I wasn't *thinking* "I hate this table." It had really only impinged on my awareness about as much as "hm, I feel like I'm not doing this right." I certainly wouldn't have complained or asked to be moved. I wouldn't ask to be moved unless perhaps the table is on fire and sinking into the swamp. But they noticed more clearly than I did that I wasn't quite comfortable - and then, asking me to do them a favor and move was masterful. If Rich had asked "Would you like us to move you to a more comfortable table?" I would have said "oh, no, I'm fine". So he didn't ask that. Instead, he asked *me* to do *them* a favor, and it got me moved to a place that I was clearly happier. It was possibly one of the single most impressive fast-social-manipulation I've ever had used on me, and I am in awe. (I told him that later, and he did the little thing with his fingers and said "these are not the droids you're looking for." Yes, just like that.)

Right. So that was the first thing. Then, I was in Travis's section, and while he might not have been a Jedi master (or maybe he was, it just didn't come up), that generated its own set of anecdotes to talk about.

I said before that the food was tasty; I should digress here into what I ordered. (Smallish plates)

* Beef Carpaccio, Canadian Lobster, XO Sauce, Burgundy Truffle
* Artichoke soup with focaccia crouton and some sort of hard sharp cheese and a surprising piece of anchovy. (The cheese was a very nice contrast/complement with the soup.)
* Potato-crusted tautog with lardo and brown butter celeriac
* Oh, also an Eon-ish drink with One Large Ice Cube.

The carpaccio came out first, and Travis came by and said, would it be all right if he brought me a splash of red wine to go with the carpaccio? I said (of course!) sure, and he did, and it really turned the carpaccio (or more accurately, the dabs of ?XO Sauce? up to eleven. I think that was one of the best "this drink makes this food taste better" combinations I've ever had. After that, I told Travis that I would defer to his judgement in All Things, and after the dinner part was over, he picked a coffee (cortado!), and a "little spoon" of deconstructed foamed PB&J, and then one of those many-things-on-a-long plate desserts that I think showed up on the check as "birthday" cake and was fascinatingly delicious, especially with the spicy sweet popcorn.

Oh, right, also, when I was finishing up the soup, and scraping the tag ends out with my spoon, he wandered by and used Expressive Gestures to indicate the bread and the soup bowl, as if to say that if I used the bread on the last of the soup, he wouldn't tell.

Anyway. I like being a regular at restaurants, and bonding with the waitstaff. This was a fascinating example of feeling bonded with and charmed on a first visit - not because I'm so adorable and I assume waiters must love me - but because these waiters were just so perfectly charismatic. I would suspect them of being secretly actors in disguise, if this were somewhere else like Boston or LA. (It felt kind of like meeting M for the first time, which only shumashi/mjperson/harrock will understand).