Asian food has been a family favorite for a long time. We simply love Thai, Chinese, Korean and Japanese food – in that order. We have eaten Asian food in dozens of restaurants around the world. It was always tasty, always easy to digest, and always highly customizable… You want extra tofu in the soup? No green peppers? Mild flavor instead of spicy? No problem – your wish is our command.

The eagerness to tailor the food to our taste was shared by all Asian restaurants we visited.  Especially at ‘Siam Thai Cuisine’ – a wonderful little restaurant in Cupertino that served delicious Thai food customized to our order.

Our beliefs about Asian restaurants held true till yesterday… We visited a restaurant name ‘Japanika’ here in Raanana. It is part of a chain of restaurants by that name which is rather popular in Israel. As the name suggests, Japanika is primarily a Japanese restaurant, but they also feature Thai dishes.

We walked into the restaurant hoping to experience the joy of delightful Asian food. We recognized many of the dishes on the menu. After all, similar dishes are served everywhere in the world. The problems started when we tried to order…

The Tom Yum soup captured our attention. We love the flavor of Thai soups. Being vegetarians, we usually have a vegetable version with soft Tofu rather than Chicken added. As the waiter approached us we confidently placed our order – “The Tom Yum vegetarian soup, with soft Tofu added and make it mild please”. It was no different order than we placed hundreds of times elsewhere. Alas, but not at Japanika…

“We can’t add Tofu to the soup and it comes in spicy flavor only”, replied the young waitress. “Are you sure”, we asked? “Why don’t you check with the kitchen”? She did, and came back with the same answer.. “You do have Tofu, right”? “Yes we do” she replied, “it’s just that we can’t add it to the soup”. We thought this is ridiculous, and it can’t be true. Definitely not in a country that is used to improvise just about everything.

“Can we speak to the supervisor please”? The shift manager promptly showed up. Yes, she understood what we were after, but no, she is not allowed to change the menu. It is what it is… However, being a supervisor gives her the power to offer us soft Tofu on the side. We could mix it ourselves into the soup she suggested. “What about the mild vs. spicy” we asked? “Sorry, I can’t change that” she replied.

So we got the spicy vegetable Tom Yum with a cup full of soft tofu that we poured ourselves into the soup. It reminded us of Siam Thai Cuisine, kind of.

In a land where “every plan is a basis for change”, where every rule is only a recommendation, you can’t have Tofu added to your soup?! I only hope that Japanika will start a trend. That it will educate thousands of Israelis that rules must be obeyed. That menus, or any other plans, should be adhered to.

Long live law and order!

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