Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The Best View in Town
Good shot of our view...the buildings to the left are Waikiki, and the mountain is called Diamond Head.
The exterior of the building...valet parking only.
So, the above pictures are stolen shots of the restaurant I work at, a place called 53 by the Sea. It is so named because it pier # 53 on this pier. It is in a part of town called Kaka'ako, which is just down the hill from where Kyle and I live, which is in Makiki. For some perspective, it is probably only a mile away from downtown Honolulu, and about 2 miles away from Waikiki. It is not in a main strip, like most of the restaurants here. Instead, you have to drive through a slightly sketchy part of the street, where some rundown docks are and where some of the homeless come to congregate, before you arrive. However, it is kind of like a beacon in the rundown-ness of its neighborhood, as it is the majestic looking structure that just begs for photo opportunities. It cuts an impressive figure.
Once you step inside, it continues to impress. If you want more information about the menu, or more pictures, you can go to either of these following links to find info like this:
If you go to the Yelp site, click on photos to scroll through.
It's a pretty amazing spot and i feel lucky that I got a job there right away. The reviews have been great, and we are busy every night. The management is a bit scared to book us to capacity, as these first three months are crucial in the word of mouth sort of way. However, once we have been open another month or two, I am sure our business will pick up even faster. Let me backtrack though a bit and start from the beginning.
After only one day here, Kyle and I were hitting the Internet/craigslist hard, applying for jobs at any decent looking restaurant we could find. Some people are surprised when they hear how fast we found these jobs, but I think it was just all about saturating the market with our resumes. I was hired by 53 nine days after landing here. I had even found another job before that, working at the Hawai'i yacht club. However, after my first day there, it was clear that I wouldn't be making great money, and I had heard enough "tales" from the girls training me about the management to give me great hesitation. She would assure me that it was a great place to work, but then there would be another story of their massive mood swings or manipulations. So imagine my great relief when after my first day there, the head of HR called me to offer me the job at 53. I didn't think I had it after my interview, b/c I felt underdressed (I was wearing a cute top and jean skirt, but the girl applying next to me was WAY better dressed), and b/c the general manager is impossible to read. His name is Shige, he is Japanese, and smiles are rarer than cold days in Hawaii. So I figured I was going to have to keep looking, as the Yacht club job would have only been part time. But I got the job, and they wanted me to start immediately, so I did something I don't usually do. I quit the yacht club after the first day. I was that employee. However, I have no regrets. I think I clearly made the right decision.
The first week there with training was EXHAUSTING. I was training crazy hours (a sign of things to come) and Kyle and I were moving into our new place at the same time, and I was discovering that just because a job is in walking distance, it does not mean it is an easy commute (see: previous mentions of the beastly hill). I was sooooo tired and my feet were soooooo busted after that first week. Remember, I hadn't waited tables since pre-Iraq, so my body was also not prepared for the physical toll that serving takes. I was used to cushy desk jobs where I surf the internet and find new ways to stay awake. Now I was waiting tables at a restaurant where there is little time to take a break, and if you wanted to, there are next to no places to grab a seat. The management is very concerned with appearances, so though I am surrounded by gorgeous couches and chairs, I cannot sit in them ever. Add to this a 1.7 mile commute there and back, and in almost full uniform, and it was a rough first week. However, we eventually got internet so I could figure out some shortened routes with the help of the bus, and my schedule started to even out a bit more. Heck, I'm only working 40 hours this week instead of my usual 50, and I had two days off in a row last week!! My feet are adjusting and my body is getting used to the physicality of the job.
As for the work itself, fine dining is kind of tedious. It is basically being an incredibly gracious server, hoping your few tables order well and tip better, and in between all of this, tons of polishing. Polishing silver, polishing glassware, polishing champagne buckets, etc. We spend sooooo much time polishing. We get in 3 hours before our shifts start, and one hour of that is devoted to polishing your station. We then spend at least 1.5 hours after our shift polishing all the freshly washed silverware and glassware. If you had a good night financially, it can be worth it. But heaven help you if your night sucked, b/c the polishing feels extra insulting if you aren't making very much. I feel pretty fortunate that I have been making decent money. Not amazing money most nights, but enough that as of right now, I am not worried about getting a second job.
Most of my co-workers are pretty great. Actually, really great. I've never met a nicer group of people outright. I think it is the Hawai'i way, b/c at Kyle's job, they are the same. There are a few people who aren't so awesome, but it is possible their lack of hospitality has only been highlighted by the extreme kindness of the rest. Our management team is mostly Japanese. Oh, i should mention that the restaurant is owned by a Japanese company and our head chef (and most our cooking staff) is Japanese. AND, the building has an upstairs with private rooms and two chapels for weddings that cater to the Japanese. But, we are an Italian restaurant with Hawaiian and Japanese influences. Interesting, huh? Anyways, every manager but one are Japanese and it has its own quirks. They are all extremely helpful and for the most part, not at all intimidating. However, Shige, the general manager, is intimidating enough for the rest of them. They dress impeccably and are incredibly useful when you have a table that speaks very little English. For instance, I have already waited on a famous Japanese pop start and baseball manager, and with the help of the managers, gave them great service. Heck if I know who they are or what their names are, but according to management, they are very big VIP in Japan.
The food is expensive and I have tried next to nothing on the menu. The chefs do cook a family meal every day, so I have had a lot of great versions of curry and various rice based dishes, as well as some truly excellent dumplings and soup. I will take the first family member who visits me out to dinner here as a treat to both them and myself. It will probably be Mom and Dad, so start drooling over the menu now, as I do daily.
As of right now, I have no plans to leave the job. There are still some new restaurant quirks that I won't go into detail about, but that are annoying and that I would love to see go away. Kyle got a second job at a Dave and Busters, which is supposedly great money, and if it sounds like that would pay better, I would consider going there and only working a little at 53 because of those quirks. However, once we have a car, my commute won't suck as bad, and it will make the time I devote to the job seem way less, so maybe I'll just ride it out. I mean, as you can see above, you can't beat that view. I stare out the window every day while I polish and just soak it all in. It is a stunning view and a perfect piece of Hawaii. And, on Friday nights, the fireworks they do in Waikiki are visible, and I swear it will never get old. So get your butts down here and we'll have a great meal with a gorgeous view, and maybe even learn a little Japanese.