By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
From a young age, my mother instilled in me the idea that I should be kind and thankful to those accommodating me at restaurants and otherwise. But my mother did more than just tell me how to behave, she and my father lead by example. For years I watched the way they are with waiters, waitresses, and restaurant owners at various restaurants and it comes as no surprise to me that they are coveted regulars at so many places. They are kind, friendly, gracious, thankful, and always tip well. More than that, they aren’t afraid to say how they feel about the food and the experience. They build wonderful relationships that go further than just a single-transaction relationship and for that I am grateful because I was “in” with these restaurants by extension.
Now that I dine often without them, I’ve had to take control on my own. I’m proud to say that I have begun to develop such a relationship with Asuka, an NYC restaurant in Chelsea that I’ve reviewed before. In the early stages of my attendance at Asuka, I enjoyed it because the food was good, the service friendly, and the happy hour special unbeatable. In the months since my review, I’ve better learned Asuka’s menu and I’ve built a series of great experiences, all quite similar to each other in a way that makes me feel comfortable and at home there.
When looking at the review I wrote in July, I realize that I saw something in Asuka from the beginning. The staff is extremely accommodating and it’s still true that they are happy to let me sit there all night. The sushi is still consistently fresh tasting and, the more I go and try new things on the menu, the more I’m learning that their menu is more than just decent. It’s become one of my favorite spots for sushi.
What I like most is that it’s become a mutual understanding that I’m a regular customer, which makes me more than just a customer to them. During my most recent visit (just a day after having gone for happy hour and snacks), I noticed a few new items on the drinks menu. I ordered one containing gin, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a few other light ingredients. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a second as part of the two-for-eight happy hour special.
While I was drinking my second cocktail, one of the managers came up to my table to talk to me about the newly updated menu. He acknowledged my regular attendance and asked how I was enjoying the new drink. Even though I said I enjoyed it, he valued my opinion on the drink’s strength and went to the bar to fetch a can of seltzer. When he returned, he poured a bit in the drink and asked if I liked it better that way. I did, he was right that it was better this way. This interaction was a confirmation our vendor-patron relationship goes a bit further than those of the customers who aren’t regulars.
After this, I was ecstatic. I had curated the kind of relationship with Asuka that I had seen my parents curate time and time again with restaurants throughout my life. Not all restaurants allow for this kind of relationship, though. Some places are too stuffy or too unaware, but Asuka makes it easy. This restaurant is good for more than just its menu and its specials. It’s a home.