W.50th St.

I tried Bann today for lunch and was surprised by a few things...

The entrance was somewhat dramatic...though if I were an investor, I'd be concerned that the first 200 sq. feet of space was there simply for effect and thereby not money-making.

On the other hand, the effect worked to some degree. I actually felt the need to ask for a menu to see if it was within my lunch budget. To my surprise, it easily was.

The very pleasant (both on the eyes and otherwise) hostess brought me to the dining room, a good sandwedge away from the hostess stand, past some autographed chopstick cases from unknown celebrities/guests.

The room is fairly open, tall and generally spacious. The tables, some of which are next to each other, are separated by sheer dividers...pleasant and purposeful enough.

I sit down and order the Bi Bim Bap ($12). The waiter asks if I'd like it with a fried egg. I ask what the difference is, he says "about 2 dollars". I say fine, let's go for it.

He also asked "would you like some tap water?" What a great question. Yes, I respond...thankful for not having to sound cheap by vetoing sparkling or bottled water.

Moments later the water arrives, and moments after that a salad of romaine lettuce, shaved cucumber (lengthwise) and some other greens in a spicy dressing. Also served at this time was a trio of kimchi, seaweed, and a spicy noodle of some kind that I simply don't know the name. All of it was good. The seaweed was nicely nutty and simply good. Dipped lightly in the spicy dipping sauce (in big bottles on the table) really made it shine.

Shortly after (there were very few people, 8 other diners perhaps), I was served a large bowl of rice, beef, greens, mushrooms and other stuff and asked by a new server if I would like hot sauce added to it...and to what degree of heat I'd like it. I went for hot. Why not. He proceeded to add a fair amount of sauce to the dish and mixed it for me tableside. A nice treat as I finished my salad and trio of amuses.

The main dish was great. Very filling and in no way finishable. Table clearing service was prompt and friendly.

I got the bill ($15.30 I think) and was very pleased. I gave the waiter a $20. Now, 20% tip would be about $3.00 making the bill $18.30. I would never see any change. The waiter, possibly accustomed to few lunch diners, tried (successfully) to tip himself up.

Now, I understand what its like. I've seen the tactic before, but it doesn't make it right. As I was leaving, I did see the waiter, who looked a bit like he knew he was caught. I told him that I had expected change and he feigned misunderstanding.

I assured him it was fine..because really, the food and service was good enough on a Friday to let it slide. He certainly wasn't making much money today, so who cares.

That being said...I'll be back and would recommend giving it a try. But I'll be sure to ask for change though, so that I can determine the tip amount for myself.


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