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Everything posted by jordyn

  1. Anyone know the reservation policies here--specifically, how far in advance you can/should book?
  2. First, I'm part of "everyone" reading the criticisms to be more general than as a list that enumerates each and every defect encountered by Bruni in his meals at ADNY. However, I'm not sure it matters. Even if Bruni had "only" five bad dishes, that may still represent a significant fraction of his sample set. Assume that he went to the restaurant five times and ordered a la carte each time, and also ate each of his companion's (different) dishes. That's only 20 savory dishes, of which a quarter were flawed. Even if we assume that he and his companion had an average of 3 dishes per visit, that still means that they would have averaged 16% flawed. It's possible he visited many more times or had a tasting menu each time, but it's equally possible that he had some more bad dishes that are not enumerated in the review. Overall, the impression conveyed about the restaurant seems consistent with the rating: Bruni found glitches with the service that were irritating and unexpected in a restaurant of this caliber, and generally found the food to be inconsistent. Each of us may question whether his assessment of the food would match our own, but it doesn't seem like he's stretching particularly far to come up with a reason to dock the star.
  3. Just got back from a few weeks in New Zealand. Food was not a primary consideration in planning the trip, so we probably missed out on lots of good spots, but we tried to have a few good meals as we travelled. I didn't think about taking notes or getting menus from anywhere, so I can't provide a huge amount of detail. White, Auckland (New Year's Eve) : New Year's eve was a set menu that probably wasn't worth the money. Service was fairly good, but didn't stand out. The progression on the menu was strange, with fairly hearty-sounding meat dishes for every course, along with fairly delicate fish preparations. It seemed like it would be hard to go back to fish once you started with the meat, so I went primarily with the fish choices. A tuna appetizer was excellent quality fish and a fairly nice preparation, although it had ingredients that neither my girlfriend nor I particularly cared for (avocado for me and dill for her). Crab tortellini was excellent--one of the standout dishes of the trip. Our beef main was quite boring. Dessert of summer strawberries and shortbread was good, but neither the strawberries nor the shortbread seemed very exceptional. Overall, a bit of a disappointment, but it may have been due to the nature of the evening. MacFarlanes, Inglewood, Taranaki: Okay, a bit out of the way but really quite good. One of the few places that we really found ourselves wishing we could go back to. We only had lunch, which was a lot of standard cafe choices (although executed to perfection with high quality choices), but the dinner menu looks interesting. Emphasis on local produce. Good place, and not expensive. Definitely worth checking out if you're in Taranaki. Herzog, near Blenheim: The best meal of our trip and an excellent restaurant by any standard. Aperitifs and tasty amuses in their lounge. Dinner in a lovely main room with an incredible view that is largely wasted at night--they do serve lunch on Sundays. Unfortunately, the only wines they serve by the glass are produced at the Herzog vineyards, but these were all quite good and made a nice pairing to our 5 course menu. (The by-the-bottle list is quite comprehensive and worldwide in scope.) Service was excellent throughout. Gibb's (at Cairnbrae vineyard), near Blenheim: Another quality meal, although without quite the sophistication of the meal at Herzog. Service also quite good. Twelve Trees (at Alan Scott vineyards), near Blenheim: Ate lunch here. Service somewhat inattentive, and the setup doesn't allow you to take in quite as much of the scenery as you might hope you could. Food was fairly good: about what I'd expect from lunch at a winery restaurant. River Run, Wanaka: I think you have to stay here to eat here (do stay here if you are going to be in the area--it's great; perhaps the best place we stayed), although they might let you eat if you weren't and asked nicely enough. This isn't a restaurant in the traditional sense; more like a dinner party that you can buy your way into. Communal seating in the dining room; the people serving you may sit down and eat with you if the table's not full. Very very good food--second best on our trip (after Herzog's). Well selected, but short wine list. We had really beautiful scallops, with roe still attached--I've never seen that before, but it added a lot of flavor, and a leg of duck. Both were very good--slightly spicy sauce with the scallops was exceptionally good. Waitiri Creek Winery, Gibbston Valley: Better than average winery lunch. The menu is short but interesting. Service isn't great because the servers do double duty in the tasting room. It's lovely and you can sit outside. Blanket Bay, Glenorchy: You definitely have to stay here to eat here, and it's very very expensive. The food certainly isn't the reason you'd pay for the experience. Although the dining room is quite lovely (with the typical Blanket Bay astonishing view) and the service was very good, the food was only good. Nothing wrong with it, but it would probably fit in fine with a one star restaurant in New York. (As foodies, this may be part of the reason why we enjoyed River Run more than Blanket Bay, especially coupled with the large difference in price). 5 course menus. Soup, salad, starter, main, dessert. The salads were boring. The tomato soup the first night was not a whole lot more complex than Campbell's. Starters and mains were generally better, but at NZ $1300 a night (for the cheap rooms) it seems like this place should do better. They did have a strong (and reasonably priced) wine list. One night we had a bottle of Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir for $120. In the few other places we saw it, it was generally $150 or more. Saffron, Arrowtown: Just had lunch here. It was quite good. Fairly good wine list. A lot of variety on the menu, from Medeteranean influences to Asian. Everything we tried was quite good, including the pad thai that my girlfriend ordered because she was craving ethnic food. Should have come back for dinner. Wai, Queenstown: Their speciality was supposed to be seafood, but there didn't seem to be a huge amount of seafood selection on the menu, and nothing that appealed to me. Maybe that was my problem. Once again, there was nothing really wrong with the food, but it wasn't particularly good either. Also a remarkably sparse wine list for a place that advertises itself as a wine bar plus restaurant. (Admittedly, the range by the glass was fairly good.) This place came highly recommended and we looked at a lot of menus before settling on it. Based on our meal here and some other feedback, I'd guess that the best food in Queenstown is in Arrowtown at Saffron. Winne Bago's, Queenstown: Not very good pizza. They have a lot of topping choices, though.
  4. jordyn

    Per Se

    A few more comments. Our wine pairing was $75 per person (for small pours, which we requested), and did not include dessert wine or champagne (which we bought separately at the start of the meal). Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on the particulary wines poured, but they all seemed of reasonable quality and Brunello they poured (from a decanter) with the beef was very good. They may price the wine pairing fairly dynamically--I'm not sure. There were no prices for a wine pairing listed on the menu. Fat Guy: At the French Laundry, my feelings about the arc of the menu is consistent with yours, although I was perhaps a little less let down than you seem to be. At Per Se, on the other hand, I felt that the meal was much more even. Both the pork belly and beef we were served had good intensity of flavor, and the beef was one of the standout dishes of the evening. Finally, with regards to dessert: our dessert was considered to be very tasty by the entire table. However, I found it to be a bit one-dimensional and not quite as accomplished as other elements of the meal. As Fat Guy points out, though, at most places the dessert would probably be considered a highlight. At Per Se, it just lacks some sparkle that the rest of the meal seems to possess.
  5. jordyn

    Per Se

    I had dinner at Per Se last Thursday. At some point, I may have time to write up a slightly more comprehensive report, but here are some high level impressions. The food is very good. It is executed consistently and well, and we had no dishes that we did not enjoy. By contrast, at most places--even fine restaurants of considerable renown--I would not be surprised to find at least two or three dishes out of nine that I was either indifferent to or actually disliked in some way. As others have indicated, the kitchen is currently turning out fairly conservative dishes, and there was nothing that came close to being truly exceptional, but I found the overall progression of the meal to be more consistent than in my experiences at the French Laundry. At Per Se, the meat courses were at least as good as the earlier dishes. In fact, the beef we had as our last savory course was arguably the standout dish of the night. Having said that, the cheese course was competent if uninspired, and dessert was probably not at the same level as the rest of the meal. Service, while very pleasant, had its kinks. Beause only two of us were drinking, we agreed with the Sommelier that we would enjoy a wine pairing. However, the sommelier did not approach our table until literally moments before our first real course was arriving at the table, so it was too late to get wine to the table in time for that course. Later, with the lobster course, no paired wine was presented, although our glasses were topped up with the wine we had been drinking with the previous course. Was the same wine supposed to go with the lobster? (I'm assuming no, because they didn't match particularly well.) Several times, runners made it halfway to our table with the next course before realizing that we still had food in front of us, and turning back. Although we spent nearly four hours at the restaurant, the first few courses came out too quickly for my taste; I felt like we were being rushed, although with a 7:30 seating, I can't imagine that they planned to turn our table over. Despite the minor flaws, the service was generally gracious and well-informed, and several problems were resolved so smoothly I did not even notice them. (For example, my girlfriend's knife slipped down into one of her bowls. Apparently, within a few seconds, someone had replaced the knife for her. I say apparently, because I didn't notice this exchange at all--she had to tell me about it after the meal.) I would agree with the general consensus here that Per Se is a very good restaurant and, despite the expense, offers terrific value for money. I'm anxious to go back, and Per Se is likely to win a lot of my dining dollars in the months and years ahead.
  6. Actually, even at Per Se, jackets are "recommended", not required. Even in New York, there are only a handful of places (Le Cirque, Daniel, Le Bernardin, and the few remaining old school French places) that actually require jackets anymore.
  7. jordyn

    Per Se

    I thought maybe this had been answered earlier in the thread, but I can't see it. Does anyone know if Per Se allows various people at the table to take tasting menus while others enjoy the 5-course prix fixe?
  8. jordyn

    Per Se

    I'm no VIP, but I did manage to snag a 7:30 PM reservation on a Thursday night, so I think it's probably not accurate to say that none of the prime-time tables are offered to the public. Similarly, I've been able to secure a prime-time reservation (8:00-ish on a Saturday night) at the French Laundry, which Per Se seems to be modeling their reservations policy on. Having said that, it's awfully tough. Getting to 1.5 turns per night means that there are twice as many "bad" time slots as "good" ones. Take four tables a night out of the "good" table circulation at Per se, and suddenly 80% of the options are not at prime time. Depending on your party size, there might only be one prime-time table a night, so the guy that sneaks in at 10:00:00.5 could steal it from you. Having some flexibility on party size can help you find a better time slot. Presumably not at Per Se, but their reservation computer definitely knows everyone that's dined at the French Laundry. I imagine they would be willing to provide "regular" status to friends from the Napa restaurant, as well.
  9. A number showed up on my caller ID when they called to reschedule me.
  10. Just received a call to reschedule my Feb. 25 reservation to a date in May. A very nice and user-friendly process.
  11. I use one of these from time to time. They're nice because they can capture the waiter's descriptions of dishes pretty unobtrusively and because I can talk a lot faster and less obviously than I can write.
  12. What should happen is that the reviewer will periodically eat at the top-ranked places, even though they may not be writing a review. If these meals are consistent with the former review--no problem, no new review needed and the place can be safely skipped for a while longer. If the experience differs substantially from the published review, the place may be worth some further attention. If further attention bears out that things have changed, write up a new review. This approach allows the stars to stay relatively current without wasting review space on places that are consistent from year to year. (The same process should apply to lesser-ranked places that garner some reputation for having improved...) Whether or not this actually happens is a different matter entirely. I really have no idea as I just read the paper.
  13. I think this is exactly correct. There are so many restaurants in New York that it's just not worth publishing reviews of places that aren't any good, unless they are prominent for some reason and ought to be reviewed as much for their newsworthiness as anything else. I'm sure reviewers go to a lot of places where they end up concluding, "just not worth writing anything about", before moving on to the next joint.
  14. I've had a sommelier reject a wine at Veritas. In most other places in this country that I eat at, there's no opportunity for the sommelier to reject the wine because the bottle is opened and promptly poured in front of you.
  15. I'm eating there on Saturday, so I hope it's worth a visit. I'll hopefully have some notes to post next week...
  16. I did eventually succeed. Initially, I spent long periods of time each day attempting to call, but I discovered that if I got through to a reservationist later than about 10:45, there were not tables available, so after the first few weeks I stopped calling after 30-45 minutes per day. You're correct that it's often hard to get through even before they "open" for reservations. If you succeed in getting through early, you get a night menu that does not allow you to select the option of being transferred to reservations. So you have to hang up and re-dial. In some cases, the night menu continues to be played for several minutes after 10 AM as well. It can be extremely disheartening to get through at 10:05 only to discover that you can't actually make a reservation because they haven't swithced the system over yet.
  17. When I was trying to get a French Laundry last year, it took several (6?!) weeks of trying. This is not quite as depressing as it sounds, as I was looking only for dinner reservations on a Friday or Saturday night, as my ability to travel was a bit limited. I am actually about to start the process again, as I'm hoping to visit the restaurant sometime in April or May. I'll report back on how it goes... Also, with regards to the strategy of OpenTable, the dinnertime table for four seems to be much less in demand than the tables for two, based on my looks at the system so far.
  18. Wow. Thanks for the detailed and exhaustive write-up, Stone. I'd say you'd out-done yourself, but of course your descriptions of the French Laundry were equally helpful. I have only two comments: 1) Of course you weren't very impressed by Postrio. It's not a very impressive place. 2) Clearly you were impressed by the service. I found it a bit weird, as if everything the servers were telling me was precisley scripted, including the exact words they were supposed to say as well as the correct intonation. Our server had such precise diction that it was simply unreal. Did you have this impression at all?
  19. I've heard Scalini Fideli is not as good recently as in the past. I'll second Cabrales' call for a lunch at Bouley instead of Montrachet. Steve P's suggestion of moving Balthazar to lunch may work by bumping Scalini Fideli out.
  20. If you have already been to Nobu in London, I would definitely give it a pass in New York. As Cabrales mentions, the dishes are basically the same across all of Nobu's establishment. Although we don't know if it is good or not yet, it might be interesting to substitute your meal at Nobu with one at 66, Jean Georges Vongerichten's new Chinese restaurant in TriBeCa. This keeps an Asian restaurant on the list for variety's sake, and also seems to be a bit less formal. This approach has the added advantage of allowing you to go somewhere like Gramercy Tavern without overburdening your eating schedule with more formal places. (I personally am not a big fan of Gramercy, but many people here are. There are other good options if you go this route.)
  21. Plotnicki's suggestion of Luger's is an excellent one, I think, and I'll mention Blue Hill as an eGullet favorite that is a bit more casual. Nothing like Balthazar, I'm afraid, but if you're intent on eating somewhere loud, you might think about Patria, which I think has considerably better food, although maybe not as many celebrities. (Do celebrities still go to Balthazar?) Service levels at Patria still veer somewhat towards the formal side, despite the noise.
  22. As usual, this type of inquiry is going to be met best by a series of questions. It looks like you have a reasonably diverse list here, so I'm assuming that you don't have any preferences for particular types of cuisine. Just to get a feel for your tastes, though, can you let us know some other places that you've eaten in the past that you've particularly liked or disliked? My initial reaction is to think that there are probably better choices than Balthazar and Da Silvano, but the other three look fine. How important is wine to you? Veritas is a very good restaurant, but obviously the wine, not the food, is at the heart of the experience there.
  23. Bux: By all means, I will go home a happy fellow if all I manage to do in Paris is see Paris and eat at Arpege. I'm just greedy. On the other hand, I also can't afford to eat at two or three star restaurants every meal, so I'll certainly be taking in some of the other pleasures of Paris as well.
  24. I'm making a brief foray to Paris later this month. Obviously, I view this as a good chance to take in some good cuisine. Unfortunately, it's been planned sort of last minute, and as a result I'm in the position of trying to make restaurant reservations just a couple of weeks ahead of my trip. I managed to get dinner reservations at Arpege on the Monday I'll be in Paris, but am striking out on the weekend nights I'll be there. On Saturday, I've tried Guy Savoy (booked) and L'Ambroisie (closed temporarily); on Sunday, Piere Gagnaire (booked). Obviously, there are plenty of other choices, and I'm not limited to three star places, but I'm curious if I'm reaching a dead end because there's no hope at getting a reservation, or because I'm not being resourceful enough. Are there more clever, or quasi-secret ways that I should be trying to arrange for reservations than e-mailing and calling, as I've been trying thus far? If I book at a hotel with a good concierge, like the Hotel Vernet that has been suggested here on eGullet, is there a reasonable chance that I might be able to get access to a table that I can't as a normal peon? (Note: I really just have no idea what the protocol is here. There are plenty of places here in the U.S. that I would be unsurprised to find completely full and not bookable two weeks in advance of a weekend night, so I'm certainly willing to accept the answer that I'm just out of luck on this trip.)
  25. Fattus Prime: I agree that a certain amount of leeway is to be expected. 15 minutes seems reasonable. Longer delays and lost reservations are not, and in a situation in which a customer has guaranteed their reservation with a credit card, I think the restaurant owes something to the customer, just as the customer would owe something to the restaurant if they didn't show up.
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