Table manners

Grayatip’s food far better than its service

ON THE GRAYA TIP <br>Mary Lou McBride makes room for another plateful at Grayatip Thai Cuisine.

Mary Lou McBride makes room for another plateful at Grayatip Thai Cuisine.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Grayatip Thai Cuisine 2574 EsplanadePhone: 899-1055 Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Sun., 5-9 p.m. Delivery charge: $6.

Grayatip Thai Cuisine

2574 Esplanade
Chico, CA 95973

(530) 899-1055

Visiting Thai restaurants and seeing how they compare is a secret hobby of mine. Upon entering, I drink in the décor, which generally varies considerably from kitschy to elegant. The music usually runs the gamut from classical to traditional Thai music. The entire experience of eating in a Thai restaurant contributes to the enjoyment of the meal.

That said, the evening a friend and I visited Grayatip Thai Cuisine, I prepared myself for anything and was ready to enjoy everything. I had called ahead, as we were running late, and asked if we could be seated an hour before closing time. I was told there was no problem, and to come on in. So we did.

Grayatip’s atmosphere falls smack dab in the middle of my spectrum. The seemingly requisite elephant statues keep watch over the velvety wallpaper and wood paneling. Simple, elegant touches (think carnations floating in water-filled crystal bowls on the tables) earn Grayatip some ambience points. The easy-listening music wasn’t great, but was quiet enough.

Unfortunately, from the time we ordered, we felt rushed. Gastronomic pleasures can’t be rushed. After working in food service for years and many late nights waiting for lingering customers to finish up their coffee, desserts and conversations, I have compassion for waiters and waitresses who just want to go home and wash the smell of food from their bodies. However, I always remember the adage a maitre d’ once told me, “If you seat, you serve.”

We sampled the Siamese rolls ($5.95) and the tofu tod ($5.95) as appetizers. The Siamese rolls were standard fare, but good. The tofu was simple and clean tasting; fried, but light and airy. The tamarind and peanut sauce was delightful. The service was fast, and we were still blowing on our fried apps when the soup arrived in a big metal tureen, suspended over a Sterno flame in a moat. The tom yum with salmon ($11.95) and the tom ka with tofu ($8.95) were both good, but the feeling of being rushed prevailed.

Our table at this point was laden with appetizer dishes, tea pots and the giant metal soup tureens, but our eager waiter continued to bring the food out. It can only be assumed that the fast service was not intended for customer satisfaction, but rather was an effort to speed up our late-starting meal. The feeling this gives the diner is not pleasant; it’s rather like one overstaying his or her welcome at a friend’s house. Except in this case, we were paying for the rush job and there was still a half-hour until closing time.

As we slurped our soup guiltily, the entrees were brought out. They looked great, but staring at your uncovered entrees sitting on a tray next to your table doesn’t allow you to enjoy the appetizers and soup you’ve, literally, just started.

I asked the waiter to box up some of the food on the table, and he did. Our table was full, but that didn’t stop him from using it to box up our food while we were eating. When I gently suggested he use one of the 20 open tables around us to box up the food, he continued to do so at the table.

As we started the entrees, Choo Chee Salmon ($12.95), a filet of fresh salmon, deep fried and topped with red curry and cream of coconut sauce over steamed fresh vegetables, and Pla Muk Pad Ped ($11.95), calamari sautéed with bamboo shoots in a spicy chili sauce with sweet basil, we heard the curtains close and the change being counted. Wolfing down our Phra Ram Puk ($8.95), mixed vegetables in a peanut curry sauce, we decided to order our dessert to go. The salmon was the best entrée I’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long time, but hearing your server count money while he’s still serving your meal is just gross.

Walking out with my sweet rice and mango, I felt (despite my full belly) that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the food and that the service didn’t really care if I did or not. Take-home advice: Get Grayatip takeout. The food is too good for your gustatory experience to be ruined by substandard service.