Hospitality Etiquette: Dine & Dash or Decline?

Friday night, we found ourselves craving a nice sushi dinner. We’d just clocked out after a grueling day of work, and, as is our norm, we convened in Beirut Souks around 7:15 pm to weigh our dining options.

We’d never before tried Kampai, and having heard mostly praise for the Japanese restaurant in Minet el Hosn, we decided we’d give it a shot. For those of you unfamiliar with Kampai, it’s one of the fancier sushi spots in Beirut, not far behind Yabani and Le Sushi Bar.

I fetched their number from an online directory and called to request a table for two at 7:30. The receptionist responded in the affirmative, mentioning a high table. Inquiring into its comfort, we were then offered a standard table or even terrace seating—suddenly the entire restaurant was accessible. Okay, fair enough—maybe the receptionist hadn't wanted to show all her cards from the get-go, but, fearing we’d turn down an inconvenient arrangement, she acceded.

As I was finalizing our booking, the receptionist slipped in that we’d have to be out by 8:30 pm. My brows furrowed. That didn't sound right. What was this, Burger King? Dine and dash? Kampai is not fast food, nor does a meal there come cheap (Zomato quotes two diners at LBP 150,000, likely sans alcohol). Visiting Kampai would be about indulging after a long, trying workweek, not hastening like scavengers to clear our table for the next crowd.

As I repeated the receptionist’s stipulation out loud, my husband mocked whether the restaurant would discount our meal. Rather indignant, I canceled the reservation and hung up.

Here’s the thing. Out of etiquette, the receptionist, knowing full well that one hour at Kampai was constraining, should have gently apologized that there were no tables. We would have grasped being turned away—that's the risk of booking last-minute, after all.

But for a swanky, reputable restaurant to try and squeeze in a pre-seating only to oust us 60 minutes later for another dining party? That reeked of sheer greed. 

Heck, between settling into your new environs, studying the menu, contemplating the waiter’s recommendations, and placing your order, you need a good half hour. What about the kitchen? Don't they require another quarter- to half-hour preparing the meal and delivering it to your table? Forget dessert—just collect a fresh mint at the (un)welcome desk on your way out.

We dialed Yabani, and they were profusely happy to receive us after 8 pm. Given our ravenous hunger, 45 minutes seemed like an eternity to wait. Tsunami Achrafieh could fit us in at 10 pm, after their first seating. At least they were being respectable about it.

It is a well-known and oft-encountered fact, that sometimes the answer may be staring you right in the face but you simply don’t see it. All this time, we had been standing outside TSC Signature, calculating which restaurant would play host to us that evening, when we’d been ignoring the obvious. My husband and I exchanged a quick look, and without uttering a word, we stepped past the threshold and made our way to the sushi conveyor station.

The sushi conveyor belt at TSC Signature

We planted ourselves on the stools, ordered two open bars at USD 31 each—one of the most reasonable fares in town—and proceeded to tuck into fresh, reliably delicious food. We had a choice of miso soup or surimi crab salad, nine sashimi pieces, and our stomach’s content of maki, hoso maki, fried rice, edamame, you name it. The executive chef, waving at us warmly from a distance, commissioned a deluxe platter of a half-dozen maki to be served to us on the house. Dessert consisted of double coins of the delectable Japanese ice cream, mochi, drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Deluxe salmon-avocado maki topped with caviar

Cooked shrimp bound inside a rice roll topped with a sliver of mango

There’s no place like home, and Friday night, we re-learned that self-truth at TSC Signature. Ultimately, if I can impart any pearls of wisdom to diners-out, it would be these: Go where you’re sure to be treated like family, where being a walk-in doesn't make you any lesser of a customer, and where the perceived value of the entire experience is immeasurable. Your satisfaction is almost 100% guaranteed.


  1. I hear u, was fooled myself to try their reputable restaurant and was more then deceived, far too expensive for less thanregular rolls and worse they were only more than one day old:(
    Far more their receptionnist told me when i called that there are no parking areas around and only valet parking, upon arriving i saw all the parking meters alla round and facing them, if that is not cheap
    So whatever

    1. Wow, that's terrible. Yeah, I've noticed that any restaurant located near metered-parking spaces usually hijacks them all, courtesy of the valet vultures. I absolutely detest that!


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