As I walk through the front doors, my heart rate spikes. I’m lifted through the space by a sexual thrill, at the prospect of my immediate future. My table is ready, obviously, as it has been ready for more than four months. It was hand-picked from the lot by my own hands, and is the only location in the establishment worthy of having a rhapsody unfold within. The maître d’ and his subordinates smile at me respectfully as they take my coat, as if they’re glad that I’m here. I’m not usually one to fall prey to conceit, but today I think that perhaps they should be.
I stroll through the dining room with enough bravado to reduce Genghis Khan into a blubbery, nervous wreck. My seat has already been pulled out from the table for me. I order a glass of 2013 Château Les Vieux Ormes Lalande de Pomerol with flawless French pronunciation, and then opt for the eight course chef’s tasting menu without a moment’s hesitation.
“Thank you sir, an excellent choice.” Says my waiter, before whisking away to relay my order. Being left alone gives me an opportunity to survey the other patrons as they bluster and lumber through their own meals. A young girl at an inferior table takes a picture of her plate with her phone, undoubtably living some kind of insipid digital life far removed from the present moment. How could she not appreciate the splendour of what was happening in front of her? She probably didn’t have to earn it as I did.
My thoughts are interrupted by my wine being brought out, accompanied by a glass so polished that it could be considered phantasmal. I hold it up into the chandelier light with a perfect grip, to demonstrate to the room that what I’m about to do is an act of providence. I take a sip, and almost lose control at how overwhelmingly delightful the flavour is. It tastes like Napoleon himself was spitting in my mouth.
I continue sipping in one minute intervals. My heart rate climbs higher as I feel my moment finally approaching. All of what has happened thus far is but a preamble to the main canon. As if it were on cue, my first course is brought out with haste. The staff understand that I’m not one who should have to wait. The plate is sautéed Langoustine with a petite mâché salad, spotted with truffle cream, mushroom, and balsamic vinaigrette. It is, every bit as enticing to the eyes as it appeared in the videos I’ve been watching for months. I reach for the proper fork to dig into this magnificent confection, and place a supple morsel in my mouth. Mon Dieu.
My nerves going haywire is the only thing that stops me from instantly getting an erection. This decadent symphony of flavours plucks at every unfair chord with precision intended only for the ears of those who hold residence in the firmament. I had told myself that I would maintain a sense of decorum as I dined tonight, but I understand now that I’m about to betray that figment of my past. I close my eyes, take a second bite, and as the flavours dissolve on my tongue I let go of an involuntary, barely audible sigh.
At just after seven in the evening, a Manhattan-based three Michelin star restaurant bustles through their nightly routine. The servers waffle through banter with the patrons, the bartenders polish glasses during a lull, and the kitchen churns out covers at what would look like breakneck speed to any pedestrian standing watch. A man dressed in a tweed coat walks up to the doors of the building, with a wall-to-wall smile so unnerving that it looks as though it was plastered on an otherwise normally expressive face. The staff all pretend not to notice, and greet him with all the warmth they are capable of.
He walks through the dining room sticking his chest out like a peacock, with confidence that is painfully artificial. The servers keep up their charade of obliviousness, and none of the surrounding patrons seem to pay him any mind. At the table the sommelier greets him cordially, and he orders a merlot in a forced accent that sounds more like it’s from Michoacan, Mexico than any variety of French. The sommelier takes it in stride, as he’s heard worse before. Americans aren’t overly well known for their linguistic versatility.
The man proceeds to scowl in every direction, again unnoticed by the general population. He narrows in for a moment on a food blogger, who has taken her phone out for the first time in the night to take a picture of one of her main dishes for a publication. She thinks wistfully about a time in her life when she had never eaten a meal she thought was worthy of being photographed. Two years ago she would have felt like an alien, sitting in such a highfalutin place.
The man’s wine is brought out, and he holds the glass up to the light with a closed fist around the stem. The sommelier takes this as an insult, and cycles through a volley of curses under his breath in his general direction. When his first course is delivered to the table, he stares down at his plate with harrowing tunnel vision. He doesn’t thank, nor even acknowledge his server, and reaches for a salad fork as his chosen utensil for the seafood in front of him. As he takes the first bite of his meal, an employee passing by shoots him a concerned glance. A large vein is embossed on the side of his forehead, and he looks as though he could defecate at any moment.
Across the restaurant an elderly woman orders a second round of oysters in the lounge. A newlywed couple flirt over how to split the bill in the corner. A hostess gets pinched in the back by a co-worker mid-sentence, and the head chef slaps a line cook on the shoulder as a sign of affirmation. The man takes a second bite, closes his eyes, and lets out a groan so loud that the entire restaurant grinds to a halt. The noise lasts a full eight seconds, and sounds like someone had just broken the rib of a cow with a sledgehammer. A server who was spectating the event asks the maître d’ if they should ask him to leave, to which he shakes his head no.
“For now, just let him enjoy his food.” He says, and the restaurant resumes again at its regular pace.