So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Daily Archives: December 31, 2009

World’s largest restaurant…

…according to The Guinness Book of World Records is outside of Damascus and is named, appropriately enough, Damascus Gate, or Bawabet Dimashq in Arabic.

It serves approximately 5,000 diners and has 54,000 m² (581,251 f²) of dining room and 2500 sq/m (26,909 f²) of kitchen.

Over half a million square feet? Really? To give you a rough idea of the scale of this restaurant, have you ever been to the  Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the newest part of the National Air and Space Museum in Fairfax Virginia, near Dulles? You know, the building that houses the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the Enola Gay B-29, the Concorde, a Boeing 367-80 and an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. And those are just aircraft that are physically on the floor. They only take up about half of the floor space – you walk under quite a few planes that surround these aircraft. That hangar is only about 250,000 f².

Impressive.

I believe that NPR did a story on this restaurant on All Things Considered earlier this year.

It supplanted the previous record holders, both in Bangkok – Tumnak Thai and its successor, The Royal Dragon (Mang Gorn Luang ), both famous for roller skating waiters. The Royal Dragon is a mere piker at only 33,500  m².

BTW, what is the world’s smallest restaurant?

Well, that’s debatable. And, of course, someone has debated it here:

http://travel.spotcoolstuff.com/unusual-restaurants/worlds-smallest

There’s one that they missed – Table for Two in Portland OR, although it’s really just a single table offshoot of a catering company in a larger house. That’s why I think that the Finnish restaurant in the above comparison is hands-down the winner. 

The smallest true restaurant that I’ve ever eaten in was Harry’s On Teur in Memphis, TN. I believe that there were only 5 or 6 tables (you might have been able to serve around 20 people at once). There was one waitress and Harry, who did all of the cooking. Harry was a guy who had been part of the rock and roll world in his early days (the “On Teur” was a play on that). He opened the tiny restaurant in 1989 and it was open for about 6 years. A couple of years after he closed it, he went to jail for stabbing a guy and later went through rehab. When he got out, he opened two new places. The day I ate at the original Harry’s, it was a lunch of mahi-mahi with some sort of caper sauce that was delicious (sorry I can’t be more specific, but this was 20 years ago after all. I think it was a $6 lunch). Harry Nicholas died in 2006 when he was struck by a car while walking on a dimly lit road in Midtown Memphis.

You can find this picture of Damascus Gate and other shots from syria here:

http://www.2canadiansonbikes.com/Photo%20Syria.html

This picture of The Royal Dragon is found here:

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/6956900

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Is this the end of the decade?

Opinions are mixed. It might very well be, if you only count the aughts. It might not be if you say that the decade actually ends in 2010, if you count decades from year one. It’s the old “millenium” argument all over again.

Frankly, I’m ready to ditch this decade and get into a new one, so I’m calling it. The decade ends tonight.

So there!

Whether it’s the end of the decade for you or not, I hope that this New Year’s Eve is the start of many more great years for you and yours.

Be safe, be cool, be festive tonight. Enjoy it however you want.

But enjoy it.

Graphic courtesy of blog,  A Ku Indeed!

Cookbook of the day – The Taste of Thailand

The Taste of Thailand

by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

  • Publisher  Macmillan General Reference (September 1993)
  • ISBN 10: 0020091303
  • ISBN 13: 978-0020091301
  • This, the last cookbook review of the decade, has a literal title that can be taken multiple ways. The first is used in the sense that you would expect a cookbook to use it – taste in a literal sense. But it’s also a taste of Thai culture, with long narratives of Thai life, and finally, it’s a taste of different regional variations of Thai cooking.

    Half cookbook, half history and half cultural commentary (wait – that’s three halves!), this is a most useful book in fleshing out a cuisine, which can’t be separated from the society from which it emerges.

    It has a logical structure. Starting with the history of Thailand, it merges into basic ingredients, essential equipment, basic techniques and the home kitchen. Following that narrative, the book takes you to the country and you start with basic, easy to do recipes. the author then sends you to Bangkok and you start to get to more advanced food. Then, a section on seafood, Thailand obviously being a maritime country. Then you go up country to the North, where he explores the tribes, culture and food of one corner of the “Golden Triangle”. Following that is a segment on hors d’oeuvres, party foods, desserts and the all-important aspect of Thai cooking that you often don’t get a sense of in the US, vegetable carving. Finally, the narrative ends with a paean to eating out in Thailand and some selected “copies” of restaurant food that the author has reproduced.

    This is one satisfying sucker of a book. Laden with photographs that capture the breadth and width of the country, this is a cookbook that every chef should own, even if they’re not really big on Thai food. This might make you a believer.

    My copy of the book has the cover that’s pictured above. Mine is a paperback UK edition. There are at least 4 different covers that I have seen and the book is also available in hardback. And, beware, there’s a book called A Taste of Thailand. It’s not the same book. I haven’t seen the book and it might very well be a great book. But it’s not the book that’s reviewed here.

    The book is available at this moment from Amazon sellers in both paperback and hardback in new and used conditions. The price ranges from very cheap to very expensive as is usually the case – for out of print editions, there’s always a seller willing to sell you a book for $50 that you see listed for $4 from another seller. They also stock the current Pavillion reprint of the original book for around $14. It has a different cover and it’s questionable as to whether it has the great photographs of the original. I see no credit for the photographer, nor any photographs when I use the “Look Inside” feature that Amazon offers. If I had my druthers, I’d only buy the reprint as a last resort. 

    Here are the Amazon links:

    Original hardcover:

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Vatcharin-Bhumichitr/dp/0689119941/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0

    Original softcover:

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Vatcharin-Bhumichitr/dp/0020091303

    Current softcover reprint (out of stock at the moment, but available):

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Definitive-Regional-Pavilion/dp/1862057060

    And, just for kicks and giggles, here are eBay’s current listings:

    http://books.shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3907.m38.l1313&_nkw=The+taste+of+thailand&_sacat=267

    You’ll have to filter out the other books – look only at listings for Vatcharin Bhumichitr.

    Happy hunting!