What was that you said?

The Washington Post Magazine offered reviews of 30 new restaurants in its Spring dining guide, summarised by reviewer Tom Sietsema. Let’s just pause there, while we in South Africa consider the scale of this – 30 brand new upper-end eateries in one quarter of one year in one city, Washington DC, alone.

The “Smith Island” cake, from the Old Maryland Grill, one of Tom Sietsema’s top 30 new DC eateries. (Image courtesy of the Washington Post.)

Of course, I am not sure how many had closed in the same period, but it reiterates a fact that is too often overlooked when we lament the relatively slim choices we have for finer dining here, and the fact that we end up going again and again to the same places. But we just don’t have the market for more than we already have available to us. In fact, there’s a strong economic argument that we already have too many. In the Cape, we should indeed thank our lucky stars for the relative quality on offer, mostly the happy result of international tourism and alluring winery options.

Reading the list of reviews, I noticed that the descriptions were all summarised by a star rating as well as a note called “sound check”. What this indicates is the relative noisiness of the establishment, in decibels. “Quiet” is noted as under 60 decibels; “Conversation is easy” = 60-70; “Must speak with raised voice” = 71-80; and “Extremely loud” = over 80 decibels.

Of all 30 reviews, a mere five are rated “conversation is easy”. Six are rated “extremely loud” and most fit into the “must speak with raised voice” category. So much for the art of dinnertime conversation. Then again, with everyone now on their smartphones, does it really matter?

I’d venture that we don’t suffer from this problem too badly as most restaurants still allow us to converse comfortably (if we care to) – but it seems true to say that the more “modern” or fashionable one goes to dine, the higher the decibels become.

And for Sietsema’s account of another #firstworldproblem: low lighting in restaurants, read on here …