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Mr. Cowen uses playful economic rational for lessons such as “In the fanciest restaurants, order what sounds least appetizing” and “Beware the beautiful, laughing women,”
I also start to worry if many women in a restaurant are beautiful in a trendy or stylish way. The point is not that beautiful women have bad taste in food. Instead, the problem is that they will attract a lot of men to the restaurant, whether or not the place serves excellent food. And that allows the restaurant to cut back on the quality of the food.
The Rapid Traveler smiled at the “Prefer Vietnamese to Thai” rule as he has spent much time the past year in persuading, with great difficulty, Thai-obsessed colleagues to sample his favorite Vietnamese restaurant – and then some of them order the few Thai dishes at the Vietnamese restaurant anyway. And that Vietnamese restaurant certainly fits this category, the kind of strip mall with boarded up tenants that mysteriously light up and become extremely busy late at night:
It is especially common to see good ethnic restaurants grouped with mid-level or junky retail outlets. When it comes to a restaurant run by immigrants, look around at the street scene. Do you see something ugly? Poor construction? Broken plastic signage? A five-and-dime store? Maybe an abandoned car? If so, crack a quiet smile, walk through the door, and order. Welcome to the glamorous world of good food.
The Rapid Traveler’s personal #1 rule is: avoid wasabi mashed potatoes, as that is a near guarantee for lazy fusion food, often overpriced, in shiny, lifeless surroundings.
And a tip contributed from a friend, daughter of a Japanese restauranteur: if a Japanese restaurant serves only Japanese food there is a good chance it is Japanese-run. If there is Korean or other Asian cuisine additionally on offer, it is certainly not Japanese run and best to focus on the non-Japanese dishes.
Mr. Cowen recommends that people consult frequent travelers for dining recommendations, so all readers should step up.
What are your rules for dining?