Omnivore - Penang nurtures experimental ordering

Last month on this blog, I wrote about how a server at Tasty China turned into the Soup Nazi when I asked about menu items she didn't think I would like.

At least one commenter suggested the server's attitude was justified because too many customers send back items they don't like.

Customers ordering, but refusing to pay for food, is indeed reason for servers getting annoyed.

But rudeness, as amusing as it is to me and the writers of Seinfeld, probably isn't the best approach.

Tasty China should take a lesson from Penang, a Malaysian restaurant on Buford Highway.

Dining there on Saturday, I asked our server, Eva, about Penang Asam Laksa, a spicy fish soup with rice noodles.

Instead of giving me attitude, Eva gave me advice.

She said it's very sour and pungent and that there's a strong possibility I won't like it. It's one of her favorite things on the menu, she said, but she's from Malaysia and her palate is different than mine.

I decided to order it and told her I'd happily pay for it even if I didn't like it. It's only $6.95.

She was right. I didn't like it. It tasted good. But I couldn't stand the smell.

With my permission, she mixed in some sweet coconut curry broth to take the edge off the soup's character.

I still didn't like it. I didn't complain, I just didn't eat it.

She took it away, and I ordered something else. And even though I told her again that I wanted pay for it, she took it off the bill. I paid for it anyway.

If you want to separate me from my money, guilt works a lot better than hostility.

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