When you live with a physical difference like hearing loss, you become used to making your own accommodations ahead of time to ensure a good experience.
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Melissa Keomoungkhoun and her husband Victor Montiel of Salt Lake City, Utah are both deaf. They recently scored a dinner reservation at a trendy sushi restaurant in Dallas, Texas, where Melissa’s sister works as a food critic. The foodies were excited to try Tatsu Dallas, so they emailed the restaurant before their visit to let them know about their hearing loss.
Melissa’s sister is Nataly Keomougnkhoun, an online dining editor for D Magazine. She visited Tatsu Dallas in August and fell in love with the whole dining experience, so she recommended it to her “foodie” sister. Melissa was expecting to be wowed by the food, but it was the service that ultimately moved her to tears.
At Tatsu Dallas, each meal is specifically selected for the patron by Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi. The service is called “omakase,” and it involves a lot of one-on-one exchanges between diners and chef. With more communication necessary for this special meal, Melissa was nervous, but the restaurant was very responsive, sending her the entire tasting menu ahead of time so they could come prepared.
“They even sent us their beverage/cocktail menu for us to review in advance, only because they thought it was the best way to communicate with us directly!” Melissa told TODAY Food.
It turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg! When Melissa and Victor stepped into Tatsu, they were immediately greeted by the hostess, who spoke to them in American Sign Language (ASL).
Chef Tatsuya and several other staff members had learned some basic ASL to make their guests feel comfortable! He was able to speak to Melissa and Victor as he would any other patron, allowing them to have the same experience they’d heard so much about.
When Melissa shared how moved they were by the gesture with her sister, Nataly tweeted about it, and her tweets went viral.
“Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi also learned how to sign the entire tasting menu,” Nataly continued. “It blew her away and nearly brought me to tears.”
Nataly noted that Chef Tatsuya had even printed out an ASL “cheat sheet” to keep behind the sushi bar in case he needed reminders. How sweet is that?
Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi also learned how to sign the entire tasting menu. My sister said she saw a printout behind the bar of how to sign parts of the menu. It blew her away and nearly brought me to tears. Here’s a video of him signing some menu items. pic.twitter.com/eSaHfrZCLA– Nataly Keomoungkhoun (@natalykeo) November 22, 2022
Later, when asked about learning ASL to accommodate their guests, Chef Tatsuya said his goal as a restauranteur is to make “everyday and everyone” feel special.
“We all are celebrating something everyday,” he said. “If I can help make it more special, I am very grateful.”
Melissa said she and her husband had goofy smiles on their faces throughout the meal. The entire staff took great care of them during their meal, even slipping them notes to let them know what was happening next.
“We talk about Tatsu almost all the time,” Melissa said. “We want to go back again because they exceeded our expectations, nothing is overlooked and we didn’t have to work twice as hard.”
Fellow foodie Laura Hayes tweeted to Nataly, “Accessibility is hospitality,” and we couldn’t agree more! There’s great service, and then there’s next level service. I think we all know where Tatsu Dallas fits on that scale!
Share this story to thank this restaurant for showing us how to make everyone feel welcome, accepted, and included.
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