- Restaurant Name: Kanada-Ya
- Total Spending: £19
- Dining Duration: 28min (excluding waiting time, 6:27 – 6:55)
- Awkward Level: 4/5
- Seating: Communal table with 7 other people
- Interaction with waiters/waitress: 4 times
I hate queuing. I either eat at somewhere with no queue, or places where I can make reservations in advance to ensure that I will be seated at the time I arrive. The only time that I'd queue for eating is when the wait is less than 30 minutes (because though they usually tell you the wait is 30 minutes, it's usually less than that) and I don't have to be there waiting on the spot; another situation may be when I'm with some friends and we could just chat and kill time. I remember one of my best experiences was waiting at Dishoom, where they would give you hot chai, which makes waiting in the cold so much better. You could also escape into their bars, and drink while you wait – another strategy by the restaurants trying to squeeze more money out of you, haha (I know several other restaurants are also doing similar things, ie. Company Below, Wahacha, etc.). Anyways, we're derailing now...back to topic.
When I arrived at the restaurant, there were approximately other 10 people in the queue. There was no sign of estimated waiting time, and I was tempted to go to the other ramen place (Ippudo) across the street, which had no queue and also quite good. Just when I was about to walk across the street, some people in front of me gave up queuing and crossed the street.
Makes me wonder: How can you encourage people stay queueing in line?
I joined the queue with other strangers. There were groups of friends, and some were couples. I was the only one waiting by myself. After 10 minutes wait, the waitress came out with some menus for us to look at first, and also asked each party size. When I said one, she didn't reacted differently comparing to others – no surprises, no hesitations. I suppose many people come here alone as well.
In the restaurant
After about 30 minutes, it was finally my turn – a big group has just left, so i was being seated in the corner of a large table, which was immediately seated with two more groups of friends, a total of 7. I was the only one dining by myself, which immediately felt very awkward, and I wish I had just insisted on waiting for the window table on the side.
The whole time I was eating, I didn't know where to look. The waiting for the food part was probably the most painful part. I kept drinking on my oolong tea, as I had nothing else to do. I tried to act normal and calm, and looked at some surroundings occassionally, but still, everytime I made an eye contact with people across from me, I felt they were looking at me weirdly.
The food arrived about 5 minutes later, but I felt that it was one of the longest 5 minutes in my life. I just wanted to focus on my ramen, eat and get out. While I was eating, I could hear the conversation of those friends around me. By the time I finished my dinner, I could already piece out the story: they are all new Londoners, coming to study interaction/graphic designs. Two of them are couples, and the other girl is their 'possible-classmate'. One of the girls was from Hong Kong, and have lived in Malaysia and Singapore before moving to London. She went to Canadian international school in Hong Kong...and the guy said that he doesn't eat spicy food until he met his girlfriend, who is half Chinese...and as you know, by the end of the meal I can already tell you so much about them.
I mean, don't get me wrong, it's interesting hearing people's story, but just eavesdropping like that makes me feel very uncomfortable. I wonder what they think if they realized that their life story has been over-heard by another stranger? I know I certainly wouldn't really like that. There was a point that I wanted to jump in the conversation, since they obviously share similar background with me, all studying creative/design related field. However, I only had that thought for one split second and then gave up. Imagine how awkward it would be, having a stranger budging in the conversation while you're having a meal with group of friends? **AWKWARD**
The food was not even the point anymore. I felt very self-conscious the whole time I was eating there, so I just tried to finish as quickly as possible, without being too sloppy looking. I know that in Japanese culture, it's okay to slurp your noodles; in fact, the louder the better, meaning the food was really delicious. However, given the fact that we're not in Japan, I still tried to maintain the western manners and ate quietly/lady-like.
By the time I finally got out, I felt more relieved. I finally have more personal space and a peace of mind. Eating ramen is usually quick and straightforward. By choosing to eat ramen, you tend to expect the efficiency of it. The experience having to wait for ramen, and eat with a bunch of strangers in a communal table was definitely not one of the most pleasant experiences. If I were to go back again by myself, would definitely insist on sitting at one of those bar tables or window seats (facing the street). I think I'd probably be more comfortable slurpping my noodles to the pedestrians rather than to strangers across the table.
64 St Giles High Street, London, WC2H 8LE
0207 240 0232