Service Star: Ashok of Oh! Calcutta Tardeo, Mumbai

Very few dining experiences have really impressed me when it comes to service. Although food and ambience are the other two factors that make up the customer experience, it is amazing customer service that leaves a lasting impression.

When I first visited India in 2006, Oh! Calcutta in Tardeo, Mumbai was the restaurant where I had my first real Indian meal. The food was really good, they specialize in Bengali cuisine. I remember having a chicken dish called the Dakbunglow and some roti, the light Indian bread. But more than the good food, I noticed the attention they put in service, it has a certain elegance I couldn’t explain.  I later realized, that this is quite common in many dining establishments across India.

Coming from the Philippines, I was used to a more casual, relaxed style. Food is almost always served family-style. So it was truly an experience to have the service staff in India show you the bottled water and check if it’s chilled enough (that is if you want it chilled — they ask for the customer’s preference first) before opening it and pouring water in all the glasses. And because Indian food is mostly shared, the service staff also serves it on each plate. And the moment your plate is nearly empty, he’s back to give you more until you say stop or motion it with your hand (add a slight head wobble too for effect!). He will also clear any dish that’s empty. The really good service staff does everything without the customer feeling he’s even there. The service is formal and alert but not interfering.

I went back to this same restaurant just 2 weeks ago, the Dakbunglow was no longer on the menu, but they still prepared it for us 🙂 Ashok was our server that night and gave us a really memorable service experience! He was pleasant, friendly, and yet maintained his professionalism. He asked us what ‘spice’ level would we prefer, to which I answered ‘very very mild’. And when he saw me taking my camera out to take photos of the food as it was being served, and he patiently waited for me to take the perfect shot. What he didn’t know was I was taking a photo of him, not just the food 😉  Ashok even explained that the lime they served together with the dish were actually brought from Calcutta fresh daily (same with the fish they serve). These little things do matter when it comes to service. It is what the usual line, ‘going the extra mile’ is when put into practice.

Ashok serving puri, puffed Indian bread

service with a smile!


While waiting for our change, and the glassware already cleared, I noticed that their coasters had illustrations of famous Calcutta landmarks. I haven’t been to Calcutta so I was interested to see what these were about. Ashok noticed it and was scouting around the empty tables to get a sample of the different designs. He showed me these three and even explained what each landmark was all about! Wow 🙂

love the details, Calcutta landmarks on the coasters


The best part was that Ashok was not trying too hard. The service he offered simply came from his heart. He is a true gem.

And even if they were playing “Footloose” and some Bon Jovi songs in the background (i loved the music but it was not appropriate to the restaurant’s authentic Bengali experience it wanted its diners to have), in the end, my family and I left the restaurant with that warm, fuzzy feeling.  Ashok is a true Service Star!




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