I’m Hardy Protein, the new restaurant critic for the Finicky Eaters Gourmet Magazine. It has a circulation as of today of 811 and is published bi-monthly here in New York City.
My first assignment was to visit and then write a review of the Smith and Pojohoski Steak Restaurant located in Chinatown. This restaurant was opened by the Pojohoski brothers, who had recently arrived from Russia. The one brother wanted to become Americanized immediately and so he changed his last name to Smith. It was a little odd for a steak restaurant to open in Chinatown but the rent was low and the Pojohoski brothers had owned a similar eatery in Moscow.
I made a reservation for a Saturday night for 6:30 p.m. and arrived at 6:20. This was in December and the outside temperature was in the low teens. I entered the restaurant and hung up my coat and hat in the unattended cloak room. I was immediately seated and noticed I was the only diner at that early dining hour.
Our magazine, the Finicky Eaters Gourmet Magazine, is one that features reviews on restaurants that do not use sauces, unusual salad dressings, or anything that would distract from the pleasure of eating the untarnished taste of the food. I ordered as my first course an ordinary house salad, stating that I wanted romaine lettuce, no onions, no croutons and no salad dressing.
One half hour later the salad arrived with a huge display of onions on top. It was immediately returned back to the kitchen and, after another 10 minutes, the correct salad was delivered.
I asked for some slices of lime rather than lemon with which to flavor my salad. My waiter looked at me with only the kind of look that a New York waiter can give a customer with whom he is not happy.
When I was ready to order my steak, the waiter brought out a three-foot platter of various sizes, shapes, and kinds of steak for me to choose from. If you are like me there is no way for me to tell one cut of steak from another. In fact, if you took me out to a farm I could not tell you which is the cow and which is the bull, and I don’t shop for meat at the supermarket (I leave that chore to my wife).
Anyway I had him pick the steak for me and I ordered a baked potato. I told the waiter that the steak was to be prepared medium, which in my mind means not well, not rare. Just a slight pink before the next 10 seconds on the broiler would make that pink turn into well. And I wanted the baked potato, listed on the menu as costing $5.50, to be well done and soft and hot.
After about another 35 minutes here came a lovely looking piece of meat with the fat trimmed off, no sauce on the steak and displayed on a wooden plank rather than a dinner plate.
I dug my fork into the potato and stopped. It appeared to be hard and was not steaming as a freshly cooked baked potato should be. After a quick taste I called the waiter back and told him that the potato was cold, hard, and tasteless. He apologized and returned from the kitchen with a new baked potato within one minute.
Again a taste by me and a call to the waiter that the potato tasted worse than the first one. The waiter said that it was impossible, since the potato had been baked that very morning and been held in the warmer for the past 10 hours and should have been hot and soft.
I told him that, the steak having taken 35 minutes to prepare, surely the kitchen could have made my order of a plain baked potato in that same time frame. Again an apology, and I said forget the potato. I would eat the steak all by its lonesome.
Now I don’t know about you but I sometimes put a touch of salt on my steak and so I looked for any salt shaker on the table. The waiter noticed my fruitless search for a salt shaker, approached my table and said, “Sir, here at Smith and Pojohoski we charge for salt and pepper.” Wow, I thought to myself this is really a rip-off so I didn’t bother to request the salt shaker.
I hadn’t asked for bread up to that point and by now I was a little wary of asking because of the salt fiasco. However, I did ask and found out there was no charge for the bread basket. Except there was no bread or rolls in the basket, just some very thin sort of salt crackers with some sort of cheese spread on the crackers. As I don’t eat dairy and meat at the same time, and I certainly didn’t like the appearance of the cheese on the salt crackers, I left them and finished my steak dinner.
I requested the check, and the waiter took my credit card and soon returned with the bill. Now how much would you tip in this situation? Would it be 15 or 18 percent or maybe less, certainly not more?
I was debating this to myself just before the waiter returned with the bill. I wanted to look at the bill to see if I had been charged for the cold potato. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the bill and could not read the numbers.
I called over to the waiter and said I could not read the numbers. He looked at me like I was a greenhorn, and then he looked at the bill.
“I guess they forgot to put a new ribbon in the register,” he said. “I will have them print out a new one.”
That did it for me, but I was generous and left a 10% tip.
I then went to retrieve my coat from the cloak room but was stopped by the attendant. She demanded a coat check from me before I would be able to go behind the counter and get my coat. I told her that she was not there when I arrived and that I had hung my own coat. She said she was sorry, but rules were rules and unless I had a coat check I could not get my coat and hat back.
This was really ridiculous because my coat was the only coat hanging there. I told her I would leave my name, address, and telephone number if she were to give me my own coat and I would be responsible to the restaurant if anyone later on claimed the coat. She finally agreed and I left.
About two weeks later I wrote a letter to the restaurant to tell of my dining experience before I did my review for the magazine. Imagine my surprise when, after another two weeks passed, my envelope was returned with written on the front: “Occupant closed. No forwarding address.”
© 2017 Albert Zimbler
Albert Zimbler is a 92-year-old author of six humor short story books on Amazon and he also teaches senior improv. Click here to see his Amazon author profile.