October 16, 2005
Written by C.N.
The New York Post has an article profiling a new restaurant in New York City whose claim to “uniqueness” is that it is centered around a ninja theme and where the wait staff dress and act like ninjas:
With some 3,800 new food- service establishments bombarding New York yearly (and about the same number closing), a restaurant has to do something to grab the spotlight, whether it’s providing a Ninja waiter or a chair for a teddy bear. . . . From the cuisine that gave us tableside theatrics and conveyor-belt sushi comes Ninja, a Japanese import new to TriBeCa, with waiters who dress and act like Ninjas. Or at least they’re trying to.
The “magic” bridge its publicists promised would “descend across a fog-covered river leading guests to their tables” wasn’t working last weekend. Nor did Ninja warriors “spring up from hidden corners to surprise guests,” which may have saved unsuspecting diners from spewing their sake. . . . Kinks aside, Ninja is undeniably unique.
The dimly lit labyrinth of stone-and-wood passages with private dining alcoves set behind dark lattice doors must be the only place in town where a server genuflects before your table. There’s also enough head-bowing to please the pickiest emperor, and enough piped-in sounds of trickling water to inspire a trip to the loo – to which a Ninja merrily leads the way in crouching, spinning spurts.
Apparently, some elements of American society are so desparate to be different that they will recycle just about any cultural image available, if they think it will lead to profits. As I’ve said before, this sort of “Asianization” can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it does attest to the popularity of Asian culture and forms of Asian tradition.
On the other hand, if it is not done right, it can easily reinforce and perpetuate age-old cultural stereotypes and lead to intense protests from the Asian American community. A perfect example were those stupid t-shirts formerly sold by Abercrombie & Fitch that supposedly had “cute” Asian-themed sayings like “Asian Laundry Shop: Two Wongs Make it White.”
Another goliath-sized mainstream attempt to cash in on the “Asian mystique” is the impending release of Steven Spielberg’s movie Memoirs of a Geisha. We’ll have to wait and see how that one turns out . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Ninja-Themed Restauarant in NYC" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/10/ninja-themed-restauarant-in-nyc/> ().
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