Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Not Just Another Chinese Restaurant
Upon first glance, Lemay Wok looks like any other Chinese restaurant. A mural of bonsai trees and cranes in mid-flight that has the faded blue look of a fuzzy television screen stretches across one wall. Each mauve tablecloth is covered by a plastic protector to ward away errant dabs of sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard that overly zealous customers sling Pollock-style across the tabletops. An aquarium sits in the corner, and my favorite fish flutters her angelic fins, her white scales milky and translucent. The menu has the old standards: chicken and broccoli, hot and sour soup, egg rolls. You get the picture.
But Lemay Wok has something that no other Chinese restaurant has: Nick. Quite simply put, Nick is the best waiter I've ever seen. Tonight, just like every night I step into the well-oiled machine that is his dining room, he looks up with a cheery smile, his dark hair falling over his right eye as pauses one of the approximately eight million things he does around the restaurant to wave hello and point to a table. He remembers that I love jasmine tea and brings me a pot without comment, the ceramic glasses clinking as he holds three in one hand without breaking a sweat.
I watch him as he moves across the dining room, a dance of sorts as he spins and sways, ducks and dodges, reaches and pulls. He is always in motion, one hand holding a water pitcher deftly over my glass while his other proffers the straw he knows I will ask for. He is a blur, a whirling dervish, a master of his craft. He recites my order to me, without me having to breathe a word, scrawling it quickly on the pad I am sure he has no real need for, the smile never leaving his face.
And then, he's gone, a faint outline where he once stood for just a beat. He's off to take another order or pack up leftovers or grab another napkin before one even thinks to ask, and I watch him as he spins away, leaving behind a trail of satisfied customers.