“Just give me something that tastes good”, he said to the confused bystander. *He* was Raymond, one of the founders of srprs.me, a new travel company that offered surprise holidays. The confused bystander was the waiter in restaurant Bodo (Gent, Belgium), where Raymond, his co-founder Tim and me were having dinner.
Moments before, Raymond and Tim had explained to me how they hated the over-planned life most of us are leading. They argued we had to let go and un-plan to be more open to surprises and new experiences.
That is why they had founded srprs.me in the first place. srprs.me offered surprise holidays; buy a surprise trip on their website and only hear where you will be flying when you’re at the airport. Srprs.me arranges your flights and your hotel. A way for them to fight the dull, over-planned city trips they got annoyed of.
And for the same reason (being more open to surprises and new experiences), when at a restaurant, they never even looked at the menu and just asked the waiter to give them something that tastes good. The reaction of waiters was mostly the same. They would be confused for a brief moment, excited the next and full of pride when they brought the first plate.
Since then, I would do the same. Every time I visit a restaurant, without seeing the menu, I ask the waiter to choose for me.
I had the most amazing Italian food in an empty restaurant in Amsterdam where the chef went through his fridge to prepare something special, some great off-menu local seafood in Tallinn, but also some horrible indefinable and hardly edible food-like substances in Beijing. Just to name a few.
Only months later, while preparing a trip to Japan, I stumbled upon the Japanese habit of omakase (お任せ) when you’re ordering at a restaurant. It pretty much means, “I’ll leave it up to you”, inviting the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes. A quick check for #omakase on Instagram only made me realise how widespread (and how amazingly tasty) the habit is.
So, here’s to omakase. A tribute to the habit of surprise traveling and surprise dinners.