Evan Ho: A Piece of Salmon

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Evan Ho goes out to dinner, and while his portion disappoints, the bigger picture is much more satisfying. 

The other night I went out with a family for a birthday dinner at a nice restaurant. I ordered a salmon-something on a bed of something I can’t remember. What I do remember was the size of the salmon fillet that landed in front of me. It couldn’t have been more than around three inches long and two inches wide. I stared at it momentarily, kind of shocked at how small it was. For $29 I don’t think it was unreasonable to expect a larger piece. I know paltry portions of such menu items have had a history of raising diners’ eyebrows, but you should have seen this meager offering.

A few minutes later when our server came back to ask us if everything was okay, I was tempted to register a complaint about the size of my dish. But considering the occasion and an imagined fear of an adverse event to my dish if I sent it back to the kitchen, I just nodded my head without looking up.

After sharing a piece with my partner I had the equivalent of about four bites, which I proceeded to ration over the course of the next 15 minutes. During that time I contemplated the state of the restaurant industry in the San Fran area and the struggles, at times extreme, that it has continuously endured since 2020.

I looked around in the dining room and at the open kitchen area and saw the various staff in motion the servers, runners and cooks, all with families to support and all comporting a sense of dignity in their work. Soon that discontent about my portion flaked away like the flesh of the delicious, juicy, perfectly cooked and seasoned salmon I was eating. When the server returned to take my finished plate away she asked me how I enjoyed my meal. “Very much,” I said with a smile.

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One can feel the restaurant industry in our area returning to its former vibrancy. More patrons, more buzz and bursts of laughter, more clashing of plates, cups and silverware. It’s great to bear witness to these sights and sounds, and I’m happy to be a contributing member to the renaissance of the business. I just hope next time I order a piece of fish, it’ll be bigger: maybe four-by-two inches?

With a Perspective, this is Evan Ho.

Evan Ho works in the business school at UC Berkeley. He lives in Orinda.