Wearing a face mask is mandatory in many restaurants. However, we take our mask off when the food comes. Experts often suggest diners to bring a clean, breathable container like a small mesh laundry bag or a brown bag to put the mask in. However, I have not formed this healthy habit yet. Therefore, I often place my mask on the table and then blame myself.
Recently, I found a clever solution for this issue at Joo Ok, a Korean contemporary dining restaurant in Seoul. This restaurant does not blame me but helps me follow rule.
Joo Ok is the creation of Chef Shin Chang Ho, winner of a Michelin star in the 2018 – 2021 editions of The Michelin Guide to Seoul. Its cuisine captures the essence of Korea’s four seasons, based on fermented jang sauces and vinegar, the pillars of Korean cuisine. Perilla oil pressed from seeds harvested in Chef Shin’s mother-in-law’s vegetable garden in Jinju, and some 30 varieties of homemade vinegar, brewed using proprietary recipes, are the stars of Joo Ok’s cuisine.
In this restaurant, diners are provided with mask pockets made by recycled paper. Certainly, they are not permanent and feasible solutions for every single restaurant. However, after having experienced a carefully designed mask bag, I start considering whether a mask bag is on the table when evaluating my restaurant experience.
Each commercial space has its own purpose. At a restaurant, we eat food. At a bar, we drink beer. At a cafe, we take a coffee. We rarely drink beer at cafes and we do not ask for coffee at bars. As Google Map shows, cafes are not listed when we search for bars. Similarly, bars do not appear when cafes are searched for.
However, some commercial spaces in Buenos Aires, Argentina serve more than one purpose. For instance, Hobbs Palermo looks like a restaurant. However I ordered a bottle of alcoholic beverage late night and, at a day time, I noticed a person who drank only a bottle of Coca Cola. It is a restaurant, bar, and cafe.
Bar El Federal (or the Federal Bar) is even called as cafe bar. Located in the old downtown of Buenos Aires, it is an authentic pub with wooden interiors and antique bottles. However, some people eat sandwich, others drink beers and even the others read books under the dim light.
We can eat pizza at Starbucks. We can drink coffee at Michelin restaurants. If we overcome the thought that one space should be used only for a single purpose, we will be able to use space creatively.
Vertigo offers a Bangkok’s ultimate rooftop dining experience. Sixty one floors above the city, people dine on premium steaks while feasting eyes on the skyline. When I visited this rooftop terrace, it was neither windy nor noisy, a perfect place to enjoy dish under the completely dark black sky.
However, food they served had very little flavor to me. It surprised me because Thai is one of my favorite cuisines. At first, I suspected that I over-enjoyed the street food that had been heavily seasoned with basil, garlic, ginger, and red chili. Alternatively, the level of spiciness and flavor might have been calibrated for cautious people.
However, I also thought food might taste different at high altitude as in-flight meals are dull and unpleasant. Katia Moskvitch wrote an article about why food tastes different on planes.
… as the plane gets higher, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin plummet. At about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12% – drier than most deserts. The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%…
Although we are always attracted by something new, we sometimes try something old to enjoy its authenticity. For instance, when a restaurant places an nostalgic vintage signboard outside or when it serves dishes in an ugly pot or on the old-fashioned plates, we infer that the restaurant must have been loved by many people previously. This “old is good” intuition is so strong that it can even distort the quality of the dish.
I recently visited an approximately 15-year old restaurant and ordered a fish soup for two. It was served in a pot that is all wrinkled up. Although this fish soup was neither melted in my mouth nor thoroughly delicious, it was not bad simply because it looked old. Beauty might be more than a skin deep, at least for the dish in a pot. 🙂
Jaewoo Joo | design thinking, behavioral economics, new product development, new product adoption