Last week we had gone to a Star Hotel for dinner to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. We were led to the table reserved for us and seated comfortably by the stewardess clad in a bright yellow silk saree. A music troup dressed in traditional Indian attire was playing some semi classic film song in the garb of carnatic music. At the conclusion of each song, it was applauded by the guests who had requested for that number. The guests who had sent in their requests for a particular number could be easily identified by the broad grin that creased their faces the moment the music troup started playing their numbers. A few tables away, a chef who bore a striking resemblance to the high priest of a vaishnavite temple was churning out dosas of the size of a CD with exotic ingredients like a plantain and jack fruit. A few customers tried to strike conversation with him to show the other guests that they were regular patrons of the hotel. In between making a few dosas, the high priest walked to selected tables with a mug of filter coffee and thrilled everyone by pouring it from one mug to another with the arms placed more than a meter away! In short, it was quite evident that the hotel had taken a lot of special efforts to impart an authentic ethnic flavour not only to the food served but to the ambience as well. A few minutes after we were seated, the stewardess handed over to us the menu card which resembled an exquisitely bound version of some ancient Sanskrit literature. The items on the menu card were arranged region wise to facilitate zeroing in on a specific type of food. We glanced through the whole card silently. Each item bore a tongue twisting name but fortunately could be identified by a three line description in parenthesis of what it was all about. We took our time to order as we had to be extremely careful not to stray into unknown territories. I’ll tell you why. In one of our earliest encounters with a star hotel, we ordered for some items carrying strange but fancy names. After waiting for what looked like an eternity, the bearer brought a few copper vessels and placed them reverently before us. We took a fleeting glance at the stuff inside and our stomachs turned. Then I remembered what one of my wise friends told me once- “It is not enough what you eat tastes good but it should also look good!” And unfortunately what the bearer had brought in on this fateful day looked like something that cats normally brought in after their nocturnal prowls. In the instant case the bearer too added to the poignancy of the scene by giving us an impression that he must have actually got it wrested out of the possessive cat after a protracted argument! So, as I was telling you, we never took a chance from then onwards. We, therefore, decided to order for only what we knew by name. But I must confide in you that I was appalled when my daughter ordered for Vathal Kuzhambu (Rs 195) and potato curry (Rs 150). Everyone started ordering for such items as we normally ate at home daily. I remembered what a big critic of Vathal Kuzhambu my daughter had always been and here she was, beaming like a 1000 watt bulb, at her clever and safe selection of menu. I had always thought that we went to hotels to eat what we normally could not make at home. And to top it all, what was served as Vathal Kuzhambu and potato curry by these chaps could have caused an irreparable rift between me and my wife if she had made them that way at home. We all ate them in somber silence and before handing us a hefty bill, the bearer produced a printed questionnaire seeking a feed back about ambience, service, variety of menu, taste et al. We gave an excellent rating to every aspect and returned the questionnaire with a Thank you to the bearer which I thought was totally unnecessary. 10% of the bill amount exchanged hands as tips for the waiter in return for his contemptuous glance. As we drove back home, we were all in a silent reverie which I broke with my summing up “Five star is Five star” and my daughter snapped back saying “Shut up”! That 'Shut up' did not mean anything to me for I knew that we would be there again very soon!