kitoba wrote >>
I was thinking about this when I compiled my "Welcome to Cbus" list. For several years Zen Cha was at the top of my list --I was a real evangelist for the place. It was so elegant and meditative, the teas were fantastic, and best of all was the atmosphere, as created by owner I-Cheng, who made everyone feel like a personal friend.
Lately, however, the vibe I've gotten from Zen Cha is very different. My impressions are largely formed by the experience I've had as part of Philosophy Meetup which has met at Zen Cha from the start. Over the past couple of years, however, we've felt increasingly unwelcome there, despite bringing a number of new paying customers to the place on a regular basis.
In addition, however, I haven't felt the same about the place when I've been there on my own. It feels less hospitable, more regimented. The tea is still great, but without the atmosphere, it just isn't worth it.
Anyway, to anyone else who is a Zen Cha fan --and who isn't? --do you have the same feeling? Or is it all in my head?
Personally, as someone who used to attend the philosophy meetups pretty regularly, I think that we could have done a much better job of establishing a good relationship with Zen Cha than we did. During its peak popularity, the meetup sometimes had in excess of 20 people piling in. At that time, we should have sat down with the owners/staff of Zen Cha and asked them how they felt about hosting such a large group on a regular basis, and, if they agreed to host, how they would liked to have managed the logistics of such a large meeting.
Instead, we all just piled in on them and began rearranging tables/chairs and disrupting their normal procedures without their input - and, most of the time, without any advance notice or reservation. We would take over the entire back section of the space, and then spill over into the front.
We would then hang out until closing, so engrossed in conversation, that we might have given some of the staff the impression that they were interrupting all the "important" things we were talking about when they would come over to check on us or handle our checks.
Also, on many occaisions, I would see some of the people who would spend the entire evening in the meetup order nothing more than a glass of water. Monday evenings were usually pretty slow at Zen Cha, but I still think that anyone that is going to spend 3 hours glued to one of their chairs should order something from the menu. Its a business.
All of this often made me feel very uncomfortable. Others from the meetup may disagree with me, but I think we could have given our hosts much more respect and consideration than we did. It would not surprise me at all if the staff of Zen Cha was not overly enthusiastic about our meetings, paying customers or not.
I have been a regular at Zen Cha since it opened and I can honestly say that it remains one of my favorite places to go in Columbus. I find the service, in general, to be very good. Yes, there have been times when I have been frustrated by changes in the menu, but I understand and appreciate what Icheng and Jean are trying to do.
I feel that most of what has been said in this thread is fair game when it comes to critiquing a restaurant and everyone is entitled to their opinions. But I wanted to add my thoughts regarding the philosophy meetup that Chris mentioned.
I happened to be in Zen Cha yesterday when Icheng and Jean pointed this thread out to me. They are following along and I am sure they will consider everyone's thoughts.