Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rioja to the Max

The Restaurant was pretty slow on Monday night, what with the freezing weather and the rain and all, so three out of seven waiters finished relatively early and cabbed across town with one of the bartenders to Tsunami, an ueber-hip sushi joint in the Western Addition with a sake god-in-residence called JoJo. We lucked out and got the biggest table in the house (it was nearly 11pm and they were probably almost closed) and devoured Stellas, sushi, and sake until fishily happy. The waitress was someone I knew from junior college up north in the wine country, and although I'd seen her around town a lot this last year, I could never place her. She nailed it as soon as she saw my face, exclaiming, "Restaurant Girl! The only other non-sorority type from the swim team! Man, they sure thought we were freaks back then, didn't they?"

After settling up (and how is it that I always wind up paying fifty bucks for sushi when I just have a couple of pieces? I'll leave it at that, though, because there's nothing worse than a bill-haggler, especially with a group of waiters) and tipping Lydia enough to have made staying late worth her while, we took our requisite mixed-sake shots with her. It's trouble in paradise when a group of waiters go out--they're most likely all bound to know at least one person in the restaurant they dine in (which is why they went there in the first place), if they don't know someone already, they are bound to be friends with their waiter/chef/bartender by the time they leave, and restaurant people express their affection for one another by knocking back free alcohol together.


We were collected by an off-duty hostess from The Restaurant, and made our way to the Hotel Biron, an amazing little wine bar on Rose Alley, just behind the Zuni Cafe on Market Street. I'd found out last week due to a tip from chef de cuisine Ravi of Boulevard that the Hotel Biron celebrates industry night on Mondays; all bottles of wine are thirty percent off! With the help of a dear friend of mine (another waitress/writer type; there are more of us than we'd care to admit in this fine city) we went through a bottle of Dr. Loosen's Riesling and three bottles of a Rioja who's name escapes me. The Hotel Biron is great for a number of reasons, numbers three, four, and five of them are goat cheese, sheep cheese, and cow cheese (reasons #1 and #2 are, of course, red and white wine), on which I nibbled as I sucked down the temperanillo blend. Hotel Biron also has an extensive by-the-glass list, and the wine-geeky bartenders have often let me try each one of the type I wanted (explaining in-depth along the way) until I found a wine that I liked, then gone from there to discuss the different bottles, selecting one that was perfect.

We shut the place down and trundled back to one waitresses' house with a final bottle of Rioja, showing each other our dance moves until 3:30am. I don't go out with the staff of The Restaurant very much; hours are long and we all have our own lives (and aren't waestrels like so many other waiters--including myself at other points of my life--are), so when we get together for an Outing like the sushi/wine night, it seems really special, and I feel lucky to be working with a group of really smart, really interesting folks.

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