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A Bowl of Restaurant, Please?

Ever wondered how the word restaurant came about? What would the industry have looked like if we have to go to different kinds of dining places for our food?  Just how big is the biggest restaurant in the world?  And is the cheapest restaurant even worth the trip?

The word restaurant is a bowl of soup

The word “restaurant” came from the French verb “to restore,” and up until 1765, the term refers not to a dining place, but to a bowl of French soup known as bouillon – soup served to restore the energy of hungry working men.  In the old days, culinary trades were strictly demarcated – cooks in their aprons can only serve their own specialty.  Only a rotisseur is allowed to serve roast meat, a vinaigrier to serve dressings, patisseur to provide pies and cakes, and traiteurs (cooks) are the only ones who are permitted to prepare main dishes.  One brave bouillonier (serves soups) defied this system and served ragout (meat cooked in sauce) in his shop, which angered the traiteurs and  prompted them to take the man to court.   The bouillonier won the case, and from then on became the very first restaurateur – a person who runs an establishment which can provide all kinds of food and wine in a single bill.  Imagine our
lives now if that kind of set-up wasn’t sorted out!

It all started in China

Although the history of restaurants can be traced in Ancient Rome, its development started in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).   As trade increased in the country, a culture of hospitality and paper currency emerged, with travelers growing tired of tea houses and taverns.  The growth of the restaurant industry in China was said to be a direct correlation of the development of menus in the country, as China was the only region of the world at the time where paper was abundant.  During this period, numerous merchants often assemble together in city centers, stage drama theatres and gambling sites which called the need for meal places.

The largest restaurant

This one could be a dream or a nightmare for a restaurant manager — would he fancy managing a restaurant which has 1,800 staff that needs to feed a total of 6,014 guests?  The largest restaurant in the world is Bawabet Dimashq (Arabic term for Damascus Gate) in Damascus, Syria, which has a vast 54,000 square meter dining area and a 2,500-square meter kitchen.     When asked how they manage to serve so much people at the same time, restaurant management said that they have separated the restaurant into six different culinary-themed sections – Indian, Arab, Chinese, Iranian, Middle Eastern and Syrian.  During peak time, they make sure that each personnel in their smart aprons perform each of their duties, with managers assigned in each section.  Food and restaurant critics were at first skeptical about the service and the food, considering the size of the operation, but the reviews were surprisingly outstanding.  When the $40 m
illion project was in the making, the owner just wanted it to be the biggest restaurant in Syria, without intentionally eyeing for the world record–it unknowingly surpassed the previous title-holder in Bangkok, which only has a total seating capacity for 5,000 people.

The Cheapest Michelin-starred Restaurant

Can we really eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant for two dollars?  Far from what we expect from any Michelin-starred restaurant across the globe, Tim Ho Wang Dimsum Place serves cheap food in an equally cheap environment , earning the title of being the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.  It looks like any other nondescript dimsum canteen in Hong Kong’s Mongkok district – with 30 seats, a steamy dining room and battered bamboo dimsum baskets, except for one marked difference:  at any time of the day, you’ll see 40 or so people at its main entrance waiting to dine and get a taste of their food.  The place is owned by a former chef of a fancy Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong who wanted to make it on his own. True to its name (Tim Ho Wang means “Add Good Luck”), the restaurant became a success.  People from different places come to the restaurant to taste their Steamed Eg
g Cake and its famous Baked Bun with Barbeque Pork, which you can get for roughly two U.S. Dollars.