A Good Meal Done Right

Three features of a meal experience done well.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A couple things I appreciated about the Japanese meal time experience are towels, tea, and the check. The meal starts off with a warm towel to wipe your hands with. No need to travel to the bathroom to clean your hands before eating (where you would probably end up with cold wet hands anyway). And then you get a cup of hot tea, which typically stays full throughout the meal. With the cold weather outside, this hot tea is a welcome respite, and most places serve a good brew of dark green tea. One place served smoked tea, which was impressively good, and if I knew how to distinguish smoked tea from the hundreds of other teas available at the markets, I would have brought some back for myself. Finally, when you are finished ordering, the check is left at the table and when you decide to leave, you take the check to the register, settle up and take off. For a foreigner especially, this makes the conclusion of a meal easy, but it also serves another good purpose: to separate the food handlers (the wait staff) from the money handlers (the hosting staff). Makes a nice psychological division as well as a practical cleanliness one.