Five tips for Chinese restaurants

My wife and I have eaten at dozens of Chinese restaurants. A few were justChinesemenu
superb — great food, great atmosphere, great service — but most were lacking in one or more areas. We usually leave a decent tip for the waiter or waitress, but what I’d really like to do is leave several tips for the entire staff:

1. If you’re waiting on us, we’d really prefer it if you aren’t eating at the same time at a nearby table. We know you’re hungry too, but could you get someone else to wait on us, someone who doesn’t have to finish chewing quickly whenever we need something?

2. We know English isn’t your first language, but we’d really appreciate it if you could get someone to proofread the menus, perhaps a student from the local school who made it past the first round of the spelling bee. That way, we won’t be confused by items like "brockoli and aspire gas" and "sweet and shower pork." (Please ignore this tip if all you’re trying to do is give us a little entertainment.)

3. We’re glad you get along well with your co-workers, but our idea of a good time isn’t listening to loud conversations between you and the dishwasher. If you must do it, please do it in English, so we don’t have to wonder what you’re saying about us. "Look at him! He stir coffee with chop stick!"

4. We know you have to keep busy — you can’t just stand beside our table and watch us trying to decipher the menu. It’s perfectly okay with us if you sort silverware or refill the salt shakers, but we’d be extremely grateful if you didn’t sit at the next table and chop beef. It just isn’t very appetizing, even if you’re careful to wipe your hands on your apron before bringing us the "sweet and shower pork."

5. We’re from India. When we say we like our food spicy, we mean that we’d like our tongues to be on fire. "Mild" and "medium" just don’t cut it. There’s got to be a fire somewhere. If you can’t set our tongues on fire, then at least fire the cook.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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