You know what I appreciate about Jamaicans—no matter where they end up and for no longer how long, they don’t lose their accent. Even when they sing, they sound distinctly Jamaican, unlike any other population which all inadvertently sound vaguely American. Well, the Californian vibe is very similar to this Jamaican trait, for no matter where a Californian goes or what they do, you can always sense that underlying easy-chill energy marking the endeavour.
With this established, you know what to expect when walking into a David Myers restaurant (no, he isn’t a native Californian but has somehow lived there long enough to be imbued with the ‘it’.) He runs a bunch of restaurants across the globe and most of them promise a fairly up-market experience and yet, almost none seem to bear down with that dreary old-school stuffiness which is so inherent to fancy formal dining. The food, no matter how meticulously researched, is presented with a practised nonchalance that comes across as approachable and friendly. It’s like dining with friends and your friend happens to be an acclaimed Michelin-starred chef.
Which is the best description I can give for Adrift Kaya, that recently opened to clients at the JW Marriott Hotel Aerocity in the capital. You want Japanese food but don’t wish to feel bogged down with ritual in an OTT traditionally decked-out space, then this is your best bet. Not just the ambience, even the drinks are modern, contemporary takes on classics, and the cuisine reflects the sentiment. Sure, it’s pricey but given the standard run of Japanese eateries and their more-than-predictable fare, this was a pleasant sprightly change. And, as I shared earlier, Chef Myers and team will ensure that every dish every morsel of fish comes out just right, aptly garnished and duly decorated but never once will you feel overwhelmed by the meticulousness of it all. I wish Delhi improves it’s Sake availability because the bar here could easily become my favourite (albeit super-chic) Izakaya in town.
Apart from that, I recently had some paan home-delivered to me. Now, the only time I have ever eaten them is when foreign friends come visiting on their maiden trip or when I really need to wipe that whisky-breath (and replace it with something more vile but less prosecutable by law, if you catch my drift).
Nevertheless, I was curious about just how something as a la minute as a paan can be home-delivered. Well, the Betel Leaf Co has my applaud for not only did they send me a set of paans as fresh as they can be, but also in a range of flavours that even my non-paan loving friends curiously shared a few and came away pretty impressed by. It’s 100% tobacco-free end even FSSAI certified—so this could be a game changer on Holi (or any home party) next time.
And finally, on to the issue which is perplexing the industry—the service charge. Is it a tip or a legitimate bifurcation of the cost of running a restaurant? I did a small survey with diners and here’s what I surmised. If service charge is a legitimate component, then (a) add it to the price of the dish (nobody minds a slightly pricier menu, contrary to what restauranteurs are claiming or maybe these diners lied on the survey); or (B) break down further components like rent, cost of ingredient, electricity and so on, all in the interest of transparency.
In the UK, the word ‘discretionary’ is prefixed to the term, which means, it can be removed and on the odd occasion I have done so, the manager has always checked about the service shortfall post the settling of the bill. Civil and very constructive. In the US, I suspect I’d be shot without an explanation if I remove the 20% SC. In all countries in the West, minimum wage is a strong concept. It may not be adequate, but it means nobody can be paid lesser than that. In India, where staff has no such safety net, the SC can help bridge the gap. That is, assuming the unscrupulous owners don’t hold back a chunk of it under ‘breakages’ or other such pretext. And let’s not forget hotels don’t charge any SC and yet manage to dole out great service. I will reserve any strong opinion for the moment, both sides have some valid points. I will instead allude to the opening sequence of Usual Suspects where Steve Buscemi delivers his views, not the topic, very vehemently. I encourage you all to watch this amusing but poignant take.
(The writer is a sommelier)