On New Year’s day, I walked into Nho Saigon at BKC.

Ordered a Pho. Reason? It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, and what else could be more Vietnamese than a simple bowl of Pho? Plus – It’s a dish which is too troublesome to make at home. I won’t want to spend hours simmering bones together with cloves, star anise, coriander seed, fennel, cinnamon, black cardamom, ginger, onion, etc etc, just for a meal for 1 human.

The story is familiar. I ended up disappointed. The experience was like having a bowl of plain chicken noodle soup, without the light aroma that comes with the blend of various spices. I left my feedback with the waiter, but I doubt my feedback will ever reach the kitchen. Given that they have been getting glowing reviews, I suspect I am the outlier whom they will simply brush aside as “that guy didn’t know how to appreciate our craft”.

But I guess there are many reasons to trust a South-East Asian to know what is a bowl of good Pho, more than trusting the reviews of local Mumbaikers?

On Christmas day I went to Mizu, the Japanese restaurant where paparazzis make a fortune spotting Deepika, Ananya, Katrina, Jahnvi, Karan, and I assume pretty much all the celebs in town. The menu is fascinating – Edamame, Truffle and Crispy Enoki; Mizu Dragon Roll With Prawns & Avocado; Cream Cheese Urakami California Roll; Salmon Yuzu, Truffle and Special Soy with Wasabi Creme Fraiche.

Very confusing I must say. Japanese food is meant to be simple, isn’t it?

And my order? Seafood Ramen. Very basic.

I was expecting this (Hop over to Matcha Ramen Magazine to see more).

And I got this:

Not quite the Ramen I’m familiar with. Notice the heavy coating of Chilli Pepper (togarashi) and sauce on the salmon and prawns? The colour of the broth? It was a tad too much on flavours – salt, spices, soy sauce. It misses the Japanese philosophy of balance – the balance of ingredients, the balance of flavours, and generally, the balance in life.

I have many stories as such. A certain Thai restaurant in Bandra serving Pad Thai with no hint of Tamarind. A Japanese restaurant serving Agedashi Tofu, with the Tofu swimming in a sea of soy sauce corn starch.

Ramen. Pho. Pad Thai. Basic everyday food from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand. How wrong can they go? And yet, fancy restaurants missing the mark badly.

Sometimes I am asked for reasons why I didn’t work with certain people who come with the reputation of being good.

It boils down to this – they can’t get the basics right.

I have looked at many portfolios – both printed and Behance links, and I have watched many showreels. Many have an impressive first impressions – stunning visuals, cool motions, smart UIs. But when I go beyond the first impressions, things start falling apart.

Messy grids – “does the designer know the idea of a grid system?”. Inconsistent styles – “Did the UI guy first plan the assets before working on the design?”. Information hierachy – “It looks stunning, but what am I supposed to read?”. Lack of clarity – “Alright, a lot of work went into a 200-slides ppt, but what do you really want to say?”. The OCDness also picks up on plenty of sloppiness – “Why can’t the designer put in that extra 2 seconds to align it properly?” or “Hang on, where did this odd Palatino come from? I swear it was Aldus throughout the design.”

All I’m saying is – a good bowl of Ramen impresses me more than Salmon Yuzu, Truffle and Special Soy with Wasabi Creme Fraiche.

Basics really matter.

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