Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Real Service

A while back I read what I thought was an absolutely fascinating book called Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. The author's main point was that items that we often consider "luxury" are often just middling quality in disguise. Multi-thousand dollar purses are routinely made in factories in Asia out of substandard leather, $800 pants fall apart after just a few wearings, and as my wonderful, very stylish friend Tim just learned, the heel on a $500 pair of men's dress shoes sold proudly on Madison Avenue can quite frequently fall apart in a matter of months.

A tragic knock-on effect of all of this dumbing down is that customer service has fallen by the wayside as well (Tim learned this when he tried to pursue a remedy for his broken heel). As one of the people interviewed in the book said about a particular high end New York department store, these are $5,000 dresses and they're just hanging on racks. And you have to try them on unaccompanied. With virtually no help. Quite. I don't think this was the main point of the book, but it is the one that stayed with me.

I find the whole state of affairs appalling. I often am teased about being cheap, but the truth of the matter is that I'll pay for quality. Sadly there just isn't much of it out there these days. But this past weekend, thanks to a little help from some friends, I was treated to some very serious quality.

photo via NY Journal

A dear friend was turning 30, and his ladyfriend (also a dear friend) had the good sense to book the communal table at Mas (farmhouse) for his friends and family.

photo via NY Journal

I'll admit my hopes were not high...I had passed by this place before and written it off as pretentious and overpriced. As it turns out, this is not the case at all.

The decor has a wonderfully soothing feel to it, perhaps due to all of the soft tones and natural materials. Right down to the porcelain, which I covet intensely.

The food in a way matched the decor. It was beautiful, simple, fresh and unfettered. My mind wasn't necessarily blown by the sheer inventiveness of the dishes, but one is not always seeking an intensely challenging culinary experience. Rather, I was happy to have my mind was blown by the sheer competence on display. Everything was cooked perfectly, composed perfectly and arranged perfectly. The highlight? My sinfully crispy guinea hen skin. I swoon everytime I think about it (and I think about it often).

But really it was the service which made me fall in love with this fine establishment. Although we all ordered the tasting menu, we were told not to feel the need to adhere to the list provided...we could substitute any dish the restaurant served for any of the courses. Want an entree as your appetizer? No problem. Don't want mustard on your mustard rubbed lamb? No problem. Not even a blink, a problem, regardless of the request. As a certain butler once said, great customer service means never hearing the word "no". Mas (farmhouse) clearly (and thankfully) adheres to the same philosophy.

Never did the waiters allow a wineglass to go dry, never did they allow those awkward pauses that occur when some diners have their dishes and some do not (all arrived at exactly the same time, each and every time), and never did they make us feel rushed, despite the fact that we had gotten a late start. It was our night, and they clearly felt that they were there to make it excellent.

So when the bill came I was happy to fork over practically any sum of cash for my gorgeous experience, and I can't wait to go back. All businesses, struggling or otherwise, please take note: this is how it is done.


Rob said...

Nicely said. Isadore Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons Hotels, wrote a great book on this recently.

Angie Muresan said...

I agree with you on that. I do like to refer to myself as thrifty though. I have that book somewhere, I think. I've been meaning to read it for ages.

mise said...

That sounds like ever such an interesting book, Laura. It's something I often notice, that there's not much of a middle ground between the 10 euro face-cream which isn't nice enough and the 100 euro face-cream which is nicer, but definitely not 10 times as nice. And when the very expensive things turn out to be as cheaply made as the cheap stuff, that's worse. I try not to be a brand victim but they often fool me. I'll buy this book!

French Fancy said...

You cannot beat word of mouth recommendation and obviously this restaurant knows how to treat its customers. What a shame they are not all like this.

Laura [What I Like] said...

Rob - I'm picking that book up, this is my new ranting subject lately and I need ammo!

Angie - Good point, thrifty is a bit nicer of a term. I'm hereby adopting it.

Mise - I am telling you, you will love this book...and after reading it I certainly found myself thinking once, twice, three times before forking out for something expensive.

French Fancy - Agreed, the world would be so much more pleasant if this attitude was more widespred!

Kristin said...

Stellar service can absolutely make a meal!

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

Excellent review. I have fallen in love with places where the service made all the difference...even when the food was just good..not great.

I also covet that dinnerware.

gg said...


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