Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In the end, a banquet restaurant is a banquet restaurant, whether it's in your little working class hometown town here in the USA or West Lake Restaurant, in Changsa, China. Sure the food is different, but much is the same: the huge quantities of food, the hordes of staff, the maze of noisy function rooms, the endless parade of parties of twenty, fifty, three hundred celebrating family events, the loud, corny DJ/MC conducting the rituals of the particular celebration, the backroom kitchens, the backroom management, the sales pitches to prospective clients -- very familiar if you ever had the joy of working weddings, birthdays, funeral banquets from the inside.
TBCRITW maintains a sense of detachment, and thus comes off as a documentary of operations at the most factual level. Add the personal story of the owner, a sharp, pragmatic, tough woman who tolerates no nonsense, and it is a decent portrait of a mammoth, family owned and grown "hospitality" business -- for better and for worse.
I felt sorry for the workers who seemed stuck, having hit an aspirational ceiling too young in a low-paying, mass production facility. I'd love to see the same story, perhaps the "real" story, inside this restaurant, from the folks who do the most basic functions of cooking and serving. That would be the really interesting, forbidden counterpoint to this story.
My rating: Three and a half little chef hats (out of five).
More information at IMDB: The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World