When I lived in China, one of the first phrases I picked up was “hao bu hao.” Roughly translated, this means “good no good,” and means something like, “Okay?” or “Is this good for you?”
It was even the title of my senior Honors Thesis – a guide to getting around at Zhejiang University and Hangzhou, China.
It’s no surprise that I enjoy Asian culture – specifically the food. And I remember when Nobu opened in New York – the lines to get in, the rave reviews. So when I had the chance to visit one of the newer additions to the family, Nobu Dallas, I jumped.
And like so many overhyped and overeagerly anticipated events, I sat in the big restaurant, framed by heavy doors and surrounded by very loud, fairly underdressed, drunk Texans. The tasting menu had pretty small portions (albeit very good food), and despite the server being decent in everything else, two of the six dishes had cilantro on/in them. A full Benjamin in alcohol later (which was only four drinks – total), I wasn’t…unsatisfied, but I didn’t feel like I had a $300 meal.
It got me thinking about things that get overhyped. Movies, books, TV shows, restaurants, plays…I remember being BEYOND excited to see Ragtime on Broadway…only to be completely disappointed with the show, despite the rave reviews from, well, everywhere. Even college was overhyped – by the time I actually figured out that yes, I am going to do XYZ here, the college experience had been lost on me.
Why do we do this? And how does the groupthink affect us SO much that a lot of times, it’s a letdown? Someone close to me doesn’t get excited about…well, anything. I’ve been told it’s because things get so hyped up, that if they don’t come to pass in the way you wanted them to, it’s a big disappointment, and rather than be disappointed, have ground floor expectations so that your two options are a) elation, or b) no change. Rather pessimistic, if you ask me, but I do see the point.
It’s just that I had heard so many amazing things about Nobu, there is a year-long wait list to get a reservation, it’s SUPER FAMOUS!!! And upon sitting there, eating, drinking, and generally being….not overwhelmed (can you be just whelmed?), I realized that, like many other things in my life, my expectations were not managed, and I was a bit disappointed.
Sadly, if I were asked, “Nobu, hao bu hao?” I’d say “No, let’s go somewhere else, I have to hold the first hao.” At least this time around. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was just ok – like so many other things that are larger than life, till you actually get up close and personal.
But let’s not be hasty – I’m not one to be disappointed, and done with it. Forever the optimist, I am known to always give second (and third, and fourth, and seventy-eighth) chances, to anyone, for anything. That being said, should someone want to take me back to Nobu, to try the black cod, I could be convinced. As long as they hold the cilantro.