What Would You Say?

What do you say when the food served at a restaurant you patronize is not up to your standard when the server asks you, “How is it?”
 
Across the street from my family home in Bangkok, there are quite a number of food stalls in front of Lotus, a 24 hour minimart (like a 7-11).  There is a phad Thai/mussel crepe stall, a boat noodle/pork noodle stall, and a congee cart.  All the food I had there was quite good.  We were in heaven, especially in the early days when we still suffered from jet lag and woke up at three in the morning for the first week.  We had to wait until six to roll out of bed, walk across the street and order a bowl of steaming hot congee with pork, with a barely-poached egg. 
 
The other stalls open at 9 am so if we don’t like what is offered in the house, we can find something to eat across the street.  They are all the things we love to eat and most of all they are delicious, up to our standard and a meal will cost us merely $1 each!  We don’t get to eat street food often even though it’s our favorite.  My Thai family wants to treat us well and tends to take us to fancy places, which is fine and we appreciate it very much but sometimes we crave for simple street food. 
 
My son lived there in Bangkok for a year and ate something there almost every day.  My son is half-Thai and they all adore him. They would look at him lovingly with a smile and would give him extra food.  They were all sad when he went to say good-bye to them before returning to the U.S. to attend Parsons School of Design in New York.
 
One day a new food stall was opening.  It had a quite an innovative concept.  They made several kinds of soy sauce based stews with chicken, pork, and beef.  They would serve your choice of stew however your heart desired, as a side dish with rice, in rice soup, in noodle soup, or serve it Lad Na style (noodle with thick rich gravy on top with some vegetables, often called “Lard Nar” on US menus).    
 
We already had dinner but we had to find out about this place.  My son and I walked up there and order beef stew in Lad Na style to share.  The broth was too thin and weak.  It might work better as noodle soup but not as Lad Na.  I was eating and unconsciously talking about what was wrong with this dish and how to improve it.  My family has to tolerate me from time to time with this habit of mine.  Eventually, the cook came to our table and asked how it was.  He said that this was his first day and he would appreciate any advice I could give him.  I could not tell him that it was good but I told him nicely how he could make it better.  When the guy left, my son who at that time didn’t understand Thai enough to know the nuance of our discussion, told me that I was too harsh and that I would hurt his feelings.  I explained to him that it was culturally acceptable to give him advice, especially since I was a lot older than him and especially when he asked for advice.
 
The other day, I walked pass this new restaurant just opened in our neighborhood that I have wanted to try for a while.  I walked inside and ordered a bowl of tonkatsu don.  I was waiting in high anticipation.  It came in a small bowl, which I do not mind if the food was delicious.  At first glance, I knew right away that the food would not be good because it was not well made.  Everything was pale, the fried pork and egg, and without any green onions that normally adorned tonkatsu don.  To be fair, the sauce was not that bad but the pork was dry, hard, and chewy in some parts, not the tonkatsu don I had in mind.  I was disappointed.  Selfishly, I’d love to like this restaurant since it’s in a walking distance from my house.  When the cook came to my table and asked how I liked the food, my son’s face just floated into my head, even though I would not dare to say anything the way I did in Thailand, so I just kind of nodded my head and said “Thank you”.
 
I felt I was not true to myself.  But what would you have said if you were in my situation?

Street food in Thailand.  The best place to eat!

Street food in Thailand.  The best place to eat!