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Chef learns how to sign the menu for deaf customers in inclusive gesture: 'It blew her away'

Melissa Keomoungkhoun and her husband Victor Montiel went out for a dinner at Tatsu in Dallas and received service catering to their needs.

Chef learns how to sign the menu for deaf customers in inclusive gesture: 'It blew her away'
Cover Image Source: Twitter/@natalykeo

A deaf couple who dined at a high-end restaurant in Dallas, Texas, discovered what it really means to have top-notch service with a side of kindness. Melissa Keomoungkhoun and her husband Victor Montiel went out for a dinner at Tatsu Dallas—"a traditional, edomae style sushi experience deep in the heart of Texas," as per the establishment's Instagram page—and ended up getting service catering to their specific needs.


Melissa's sister, Nataly Keomoungkhoun, who is the online dining editor for D Magazine, shared the experience that "nearly brought [her] to tears" on Twitter. In the now-viral thread, Nataly recounted how the personnel at the restaurant went above and beyond to ensure her sister and brother-in-law had the finest experience possible. 


"Dining critic @bgreinhart wrote a stellar review of Tatsu Dallas, an omakase restaurant that is one of the city's hardest reservations," tweeted Nataly. "I've visited & loved it a lot. The food is unmatched. But I want to tell you about the service at Tatsu Dallas."

Tatsu Dallas is an omakase restaurant, which means that customers receive meals featuring dishes that the chef has personally chosen. Knowing this, Melissa worried that it would be difficult to communicate with the staff during her visit since such meals require more discussion of the cuisine than usual. "She knew the hype behind the omakase tasting menu, and she understood that a lot of the meal is intimate and explained by word of mouth," tweeted Nataly.


"My husband and I are Deaf," Melissa told TODAY. "When going out to restaurants, we are usually prepared to accommodate the communication with the staff such as using our voices with American Sign Language, we would use our voices while showing texts on our phones of what we need or want to order or we would ask for pen and paper if communication gets too difficult."

In order to find out how they could enjoy the meal to the fullest without being able to hear the chef describe each dish, Melissa reached out to Tatsu Dallas prior to their reservation to let the staff know that she and her husband are Deaf. The restaurant responded by providing the tasting menu in advance, giving Melissa and her husband a chance to preview their dinner. 

The restaurant also informed them that they would receive a much more comprehensive menu the night of their visit so they could read everything the chef wanted them to know. "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 revealed.


But when the couple walked into the diner on the day of their reservation, they got a rather pleasant surprise! "When my husband and I walked into the lobby room, we were greeted by Janice, the Beverage Director, Tatsu's wife, and Tatsu in ASL," shared Melissa. "With the staff signing at Tatsu, we didn't feel left out even though it created some attention in the room!"

Nataly tweeted, "Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi also learned how to sign the entire tasting menu." Melissa reported seeing a printout behind the bar of how to sign parts of the menu. "It blew her away and nearly brought me to tears," wrote Nataly.


Chef Sekiguchi explained that his objective is to produce and offer a unique and unforgettable dining experience each and every day. "We all are celebrating something every day. If I can help make it more special, I am very grateful," he said. He added that he hopes the couple will come back so he can practice ASL. "I did not learn completely. I learned the phrases that I need to use during service," said Sekiguchi. "We hope they will return so until that day we will all continue to study and learn ASL."

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