While dining last night at the Bluehour (shown to the left), one of the most fashionable contemporary restaurants in Portland’s Pearl District, my wife Carol commented that part of the expense of dining there was paying to have beautiful servers. Once she mentioned this, I realized that the serving staff was indeed remarkably attractive.
The stylish young hostess who seated us had long, curly blonde hair and wore a little red dress that, while undeniably sexy, was too fashionable to look cheap. The host (floor manager?) was young, tall, handsome, and wore a beautifully tailored black suit.
The other servers were all dressed in white. Carol thought that the young woman who filled our water glasses was more beautiful than Alicja Bachleda, the striking actress in Ondine, a film we had recently seen. This young woman had the tall, thin figure of a runway model, and, like runway models, she and the tall, handsome male servers maintained neutral expressions as they fulfilled their duties.
Their task, I realized, was not to engage with us. Instead, their role was to slip in like attractive, lithe-limbed apparitions and magically do whatever was needed to maintain the glamour of our dining experience. As when, for example, the knife I had used to spread butter was, at the proper moment, whisked away with effortless grace and replaced with a new one.
Our waiter was also dressed in white, and was tall, trim, older, and slightly balding. He seemed to love his work. He had a highly engaging smile, and a manner so relaxed that you immediately felt at ease. This made it easy to ask questions about the more exotic ingredients in various entrées.
The food was remarkably good and inventive, but the impression that I was most left with was now effortless the whole remarkable dining experience had been made to seem. Castiglione’s term sprezzatura came to mind because the staff appeared to handle everything with effortless grace, thus concealing the training and experience that had made this possible.
That maintaining this sense of effortlessness is difficult was made apparent the following evening. While dining in another fine restaurant the floor manager called attention to herself by wearing an ill-fitting suit made out of cheap material. A small mistake compared to the great food, but it led us to wonder if there would be other small mistakes. And once we had switched to that frame of mind, naturally enough, we did notice a few other flaws.