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LAT Schools Everyone on Restaurant Service

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The deluge about today's LAT service series will undoubtedly start soon, if it hasn't already. As usual, there are reasons to take the the Times to task. Once again Craft, Mozza and the unopened BLT are put on the pedestal. Once again, a New York City-based writer (the former restaurant critic for the Daily News, who moved to NYC from San Francisco) is the author of an article on how bad the restaurant scene is in LA. The general tone is one that treats LA restaurateurs and diners like back-country dolts who need a good lesson in everything, and damn if the writers aren't going to school us on proper cutlery placement to alert the staff that it's time to clear our plates. But in general, they have a point: Service can really suck in LA.

Maybe it's because LA lacks professional "career" servers like those in New York. But if a server wants to make money, even if it's between casting calls, they'll learn the rules---that is, as long as the rules are being taught. A server can trip and flip her way through a meal, or a hostess can ignore you for five minutes before you have to wait another 30 for your table, but someone should be teaching the staff properly. It's too often a free-for-all at LA's restaurants with a bunch of great-looking staff who have little knowledge about food or the menu let alone hospitality, which leads to a mediocre experience for a high price tag. It's enough to make a person write a manifesto.

But on the flip side, there are definitely some great front-of-the house people in this town. LA is blessed with an informal, unstuffy, approachable dining scene. Overly rehearsed and old-school just intimidates or annoys us. Hitting the perfect stride is an art, but some maneuver through the sea of egos and expense accounts with aplomb. One must adjust one's expectations for any city: It's not New York City everywhere. While we regularly come across overzealous and obtrusive (it's a nice touch, but we don't need a clean plate after every bite of sushi, Katsuya) or completely lacking (we've been waiting for our check with a table full of empty plates and empty water glasses for over 15 minutes, Japon Bistro), we've had stellar service at many upscale restaurants (and very often, some mid-range or mom-and-pop spots) with great food to match. Places where we don't even question how much money we spent; it was all just worth it. Perhaps we're just used to it all.

After today, we imagine diners printing and pulling out the Diner's Rights manifesto like a checklist at Bastide or Comme Ca. Perhaps some people do need Mr. Roger's primer on who's who in the dining room. We're not saying there isn't room to improve on LA's hospitality---god knows we get annoyed with Suzie actress just as much as the next person. But will it ever get to another level? Or should we just accept ourselves for who we are? Maybe those who visit LA's restaurants need to come "down" to our level or not come at all.
· Service that'll play in L.A. [LAT]
· Now THIS is Excellent Service [LAT]
· Diners, stand up for your rights! [LAT]
· Who's who in the dining room [LAT]

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