I’m doing a piece for The Boston Globe on spots in NYC for that $1.25 coffee, which happens to be the city’s best at any price, as well as where to find the hidden old school bar and hidden new school bar, both quiet, both serene, and highlighting astonishing pizza where you skip the lines because the restaurant takes reservations, as well as lovely places that offer a few dishes of great flavor that omit the fried stuff, the pork, the offal, the name and address of the farm, and the chef’s latest vision.
So that got me thinking.
Why eat out at all? On the road, necessity. At home, in one’s own city, of course not.
Conviviality, boredom, the need for entertainment, etc.
The entertainment factor struck a chord.
Why we choose a place has everything to do with what it is like to be there. The food is the minimum. After that, it’s Omotenashi. Meaning a deep devotion to hospitality, a respite from life’s demands, concerns about the future, preoccupations with the past. The restaurant tries to create a series of moments that create an illusion that is made real through the food. This is why, in part, chefs became celebrated over the past decade or so.
And why so many places are established that attempt to create or evoke the experience. As in most things, it is the very few, I’d say less than 5%, who manage to succeed.
So it helps to know their names.