Friday, January 24, 2014

Shuck You, Too.

Sometimes I have to wonder why people go into the restaurant business.

It was Restaurant Week, and I chose a place we had never been to before because I thought their menu sounded good. The restaurant had a nice selection of raw oysters, so we decided to supplement our prix fixe dinner with a sampling of three varieties.

We could see the oyster shucking station from where we were seated. To my eyes, it didn't seem as though the shuckers had any idea what they were doing. They were wrestling with the bivalves, and each one seemed to take a while to open. I hoped that we wouldn't get a mangled mess.

When the oysters arrived at our table, accompanied by cocktail sauce, mignonette, and a grilled lemon wedge skewered by a single oyster fork, they looked quite nice. They were very fresh, but two of the three I ate had bits of dirt or shell inside and Mr. Minx ate one with grit in it as well. Moreover, the oysters hadn't been disconnected from their shells. Mr Minx found this out the hard way when he cut his lip on one of the shells during a vain attempt to slurp the creature out (the one at the top of the photo, which has quite a gnarly-looking edge on it.)

Blood ensued. Why does the tiniest cut seem to produce so much blood?

When a busser came by to remove our empty plate, I pointed out my husband's blood that was swirling around in the oyster shell. Our server had come back by that time and when he saw the carnage, the two of them scampered off together.

In a few moments, the man who had shucked the oysters came by, ostensibly to apologize. Now, let me give some pointers on apologies for restaurants. Restaurant Apologies 101, if you will. The very first thing to do is to say, "I'm very sorry." The next thing to do is to offer recompense. "Let me take the oysters off the check," or some such. And that's it. Then go away and let the diners finish their meal. Sticking around to make excuses like, "they were hard to open," and "this is why we put oyster forks out" are not acceptable. (Especially when there was only one oyster fork present, and it was jammed into the rind of a lemon. Were we to wrestle it out and then share it?) You work at a damn oyster bar--learn how to shuck a fucking oyster. Bleeding customers are not happy customers, and Mr Minx spent the rest of the meal in a foul humor. Especially when another man, presumably an owner or manager who had been randomly wandering, came around to say he saw something going on at our table. He did not offer an apology or anything else; it seemed that he was there simply out of curiosity. When each of these men returned to our table yet again, individually, to ask "you ok?" later on during the meal, it must have been the thought of liability niggling them. It just plain annoyed us.

Granted, the first man did say he was sorry, and he offered a free drink. Because alcohol on a cut would feel really swell. There were other things he could have done to make the restaurant seem more hospitable: send a warm damp napkin or paper towel to the table to help clean up the blood; offer a bit of Neosporin from the restaurant first aid kit. (Surely there was such a thing on hand?) I suppose we could have requested these things, but really, I don't think we should have had to. A restaurant's primary reason for existence, other than to feed people, is to make people happy. At the very least, not piss them off.

I did notice that the one who had shucked our oysters never went back behind the oyster bar. He wasn't dressed like an employee, so he was probably another owner "helping." He sure helped us decide never to go back, that's for sure.

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