It took a while to find Teuchisoba Kanei 手打ち蕎麦 かね井 deep in a residential area of Kyoto. We were expecting a long queue as seen on social media posts, or worse, the food was sold out and it was closed.
But to our pleasant surprise, there was no queue and it was open. We entered, excited and happy.
We were delighted at the set up. There is an elevated platform of tatami mat, so you sit on the floor like in traditional Japanese house.
The small restaurant had only about 10 tables–a few occupied–but it was so quiet you can hear a pin drop. They didn’t even play any background music. All very classy.
The menu is completely in Japanese with no illustrations. The gentle lady boss speaks only Japanese, so we whipped out our phones and scrolled through instagram to point at the dishes we wanted: yaki miso (grilled miso on a stick), tofu, a duck soba, and a dipping duck soba. (They are known for their duck soba.)
All was excellent, we were especially pleased with the lady boss’s gentle ways.
When the food came, I took photos. As anybody who has dined with me before knows, I take photos swiftly and discreetly and without sound. I never use flash unless it’s an invited tasting.
The male chef/owner shouted from the kitchen, “NO PHOTO TAKING!!!”
I think it’s totally fair to have a no-photo rule in the restaurant. It’s his restaurant, his rules. I can understand why he doesn’t want people to take photos: he may not want competitors to steal his products, he may not want publicity, etc.
(1) why didn’t they hang a sign to indicate no photo-taking?
(2) why did he have to shout in the super quiet restaurant? He shocked me greatly with the sudden shouting, embarrassing me in front of other customers. He could have walked to me and whispered, like how his wife took our orders. Or he could tell his wife to tell us not to take photo. There are many alternatives to convey his message and he chose to do it in the worst possible way.
(3) I’m sure I’m not the first one to take photos, so he should have known how to deal with the situation better.
(4) Go scroll through the restaurant’s geotag on instagram. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are thousands of photos. Just a day before my visit, people were posting photos. It was such blatant double standards that I couldn’t help but to wonder if he was being xenophobic. To quote Jovina Choi, “Is it because I’m Chinese?”
Whenever a dish was served to our table, he would stand at the doorway of the kitchen to glare at me, like a prison officer to a prisoner, to inspect if I was taking any photos.
When customers left the restaurant, the husband would drop whatever he was doing in the kitchen, and, together with his wife, stood at the exit to bow to customers and expressed their gratitude without fail.
But when we left, only the wife bowed to us; the husband did not bother to leave the kitchen. I should be the one to be angry at him?! Why was he throwing a tantrum, refusing to serve us with proper Japanese etiquette?!
The food, to be objective, was fantastic. The texture of the soba was amazing, almost mochi-like, with a fantastic bite. It was really a perfect bowl of soba, delicate and ethereal. But we will never return to the shop.
We went in happy, and left aggrieved. This is not what eating is about.
This is my fourth trip to Japan, and the worst experience I have had.
Sad xenophobia is real. But Glad you are magnanimous enough to give fair and objective review. Thanks.
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I am suprised that you still stayed for the rest of the meal as the chef has obviously no respect for you as customer. I would have left the restaurant immediately following the rude behaviour. Not even a three michelin star chef will keep me in any restaurant with this unacceptable behaviour!
Too shocked to react. Haven’t had the kind of atrocious service before. But now that i have the experience, I’ll walk out the next time.