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  1. Speaking for myself and a few friends, I have long thought that Sifton's writing was incredibly mannered. It sounded fake, like the man was trying too hard to conjure his images. Reading him, I thought that he was attempting to prove that he was "in" enough to know the lingo (as he might call it) of certain segments of the city's younger, grittier food culture. Having said that, Sifton wasn't exactly blessed with a wondrous moment in NY restaurant openings. A recession sucks for food, and so that sucked for Sifton.
  2. I just went to SHO two nights in a row, first to try it out and then because my first meal was so superb. I don't have time at this point to give a full review of each of my 3-course meals, but I will lend my voice to those who praise the restaurant highly. There are very very few places like this working at the same level in NYC today: Per Se and 11 Madison Park come to mind (I've been recently disappointed, again, by meals at Daniel and Le Bernardin). Most competitors are far more expensive, too. At this point, I feel we may be dealing with an endangered species: high art cuisine is languishing, or at least you'd think so based on the newspaper critics' responses to these restaurants. I encourage anyone who still believes that there is an art of cooking to rush to SHO to prove that such places are valued in NYC. Otherwise, I'm afraid we may have to kiss the best of the best goodbye!
  3. ckkgourmet


    I had another excellent meal at Allegretti tonight. The seafood (black and white) tagliatelle remains my favorite seafood pasta in NY. And the fruit clafoutis! It was so good I ordered a second.
  4. Perhaps then I simply went too early before things were in their proper position.
  5. My cynical response to the question of why the published critics have a different reaction on Marea than many of us on this website do: The critics have been recognized and treated differently! To be fair, I've only been once, and it was at the beginning. BUT I have never found Michael White's food to be 4-star worthy no matter where I've tried his stuff (and I have been to his other establishments many times). He's a 2 or 3-star talent, if you ask me. Besides, I think Marae probably already has contracted Del Posto Syndrome (DPS), i.e. performs only when it has to.
  6. Both Matsugen and Allegretti have been mentioned above: they're all great restaurants. Wonder what happened? Another, I'd submit, is Pamplona. Does anyone go there anymore? Chef Urena works miracles, at least on occasion, and although the atmosphere there is still bad (same space as its chef-eponymous predecessor), I've had some sparkling meals there.
  7. As there probably is a big difference between being a regular and being a regular who is also a major culinary personality or critic, I want to drop my 10 cents here. Perhaps I can present myself as a sort of "control" in this particular discussion, because I'm a total nobody in the dining world. No one has any reason to pay special attention to me apart from the fact that I care about food and I am a loyal patron. My opinion can have no real impact on the restaurant's popularity and bottom line. I am what we might call a "regular" at Per Se at the moment (I've been there 3 or 4 times this Spring). They treat me exceptionally well, especially when I dine alone. I am often comped as many as 3 to 8 extra courses, and I have had great conversations with some of the waiters and other great professionals at the restaurant. I always enjoy superb service, but I think everyone does at Per Se. Even your pet dog would be treated like a god there. I might also be considered a regular at the bar counter at L'Atelier de J. Robuchon, where I am frequently treated to an extra course, and sometimes (and this is even more interesting), newly invented dishes that are works "in progress." One extra privilege of regular status at L'Atelier is that the chef will sometimes "cook for you," if you so desire, meaning he'll construct an entirely novel menu, composed of things from both the tasting menu and his own imagination. The maitre d' here has a superb memory: he even remembers what I've had on previous visits. I haven't been back for about a month (I used to go every other week), but I am looking forward to seeing how the new chef is developing (I have solid hopes for Boyer, the new guy, and, yet, if it were still Suga at the helm, I'd be there all the time). One can enjoy considerable benefits as a regular at Adour. Service is generally impeccable here, and they remember their regulars. Adour does some extras for me, too. For example, I generally order 2 or 3 additional desserts beyond the tasting menu, and knowing my sweet tooth, they sometimes comp another one or two, if I have room. If I come back lots in a season, and I'm tired of something on the tasting menu, they are willing to switch an item or even improvise another to accommodate me. (n.b. I haven't been back for perhaps 2 months: I used to go about once a month until I got on a Per Se kick). I haven't found that I get quite the same treatment at Jean Georges where I go fairly often. JG is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but it's food and service are more inconsistent, in my experience, than some other similarly important establishments. I don't recall having ever been comped in terms of courses, and I very rarely feel like I am remembered beyond the "Welcome back, Mr. so-and-so" line. Again, perhaps my visits are not quite regular enough to warrant their fullest attention. It's my impression, in any case, that this is place where one would do better if one were an actual celebrity or went there literally all the time. It's a bit of a scene. I could speak of a few other places (Sugiyama, Cafe Boulud, WD-50), where regularity seems to count, but my experiences are now a bit in the past: I go much less regularly to any of them.
  8. I think what we’ve all been missing, or simply not saying, is that there actually can be critics of Corton who DO appreciate PL’s mode of creation, but nevertheless find PL wanting in this very mode. Indeed, some diners may truly like his approach and yet think that he occasionally fails by its own standards. Even the greatest artists may regularly flub up their own game. This is NOT my position on PL at Corton, but it is one I could see myself entertaining if future visits to Corton were to be as so-so as my first one. Saying that Corton probably does not have a consistency problem, and suspecting that some diners are simply reacting based on their own preferences, may be true, but simultaneously nullifies the possibility of this “middle” position.
  9. I wanted to report that my dinner at Aldea on Thursday night was excellent. It was, in fact, one of my best new restaurant experiences I've enjoyed in a long time. Following the advice of the early reviews, we ordered the sea urchin toast and foie gras terrine from the tapas, or rather "pesticos" menu (this place is technically Portuguese). Both were excellent and satisfying. A foie gras terrine of this caliber should really cost more than $15. I'd say it was near the top of the game, with brioche as good as any I've had. With this dish, the cocoa nib soil worked very well, especially texturally. Next, we moved onto the appetizers, which were slightly larger plates (the urchin toast from the "pesticos" list was definitely snack sized, but the foie terrine was, happily, more like an appetizer portion). The shrimp alhinho with pressed jus was absolutely perfect, with the shrimp cooked perfectly. The jus itself, infused with the flavors of garlic, coriander and pimenton, was delicious. Indeed, I almost licked my plate! The peas and bacon appetizer, which comes with a poached egg and truffles, was also superb. But with ingredients like that, it's often hard to go wrong. Perhaps the highlight of our meal was the paella-like arroz de pato, a rice dish that reminded me of something like a Iberian-style fried rice. The duck confit and cracklings were prepared separately and perfectly: the chorizo added depth, warmth, and earthiness. The rice had the perfect bite and consistency. But it was the olives that lent a bitter, secondary interest to the dish that allowed it to transcend any usual expectation of sheer yumminess (I see that my vocabularly is failing me, but this dish was seriously engrossing!). Desserts were also exceptional. The beignets, which are everywhere now, were some of the best in town. Sprinkled with smoked paprika, they altogether defied the blandness of some other more donut-like interpretations. The rice pudding tart was also excellent, a study in contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures. Its crust was delicate and buttery--very nicely done. Service was good. The room snug and modern. Tables were well placed, we thought, and the noise level subdued (at 10:30pm anyhow) In all events, I hope Aldea works out, as I'm looking forward to visiting them again many many times.
  10. Perhaps, but I now have read more on this thread and I have noted that several individuals have complained of lackluster dining experiences at Corton, even on important evenings when the chef and culinary celebrities were present.
  11. Oakapple, you're right that I've played a bit too loose with the word "inconsistent." I was attempting to be respectful of the other diners whose opinions I value (like yourself), and who have enjoyed Corton. My tendency has therefore been to assume that, whatever the so-so quality of my experience, yours and others are more typical of those who dine at Corton. And because I do like experimental cuisine, and liked quite a bit of the food at Gilt under PL, my problem was not one of sympathy or taste, but rather a matter of an off night. That said, if I had not your and other reactions to Corton's excellence, I would conclude that my meal resulted from bad judgment on the part of PL. Without rave reviews, I would have (perhaps precipitously) concluded that the problems of my meal went beyond execution. As I mentioned in my last post, we found the uni, in particular, to be a muddle. I like a complexity of strange combinations, or the subtle commingling of subtle flavors. Complexity and contradiction are my friends. And, yet, this dish did not seem to really add up to anything interesting. It seemed like a slur, a blurred, ill-conceived thing. In the same vein, I might assume that the secondary dishes throughout the meal did not add complexity or contrast of the interesting kind. Grating to me as it might be to concede, I think that one possible reaction to Corton, again based on my single experience, is that some aspects of my dishes were gratuitous and ornamental. p.s. We were comped a bottle of sparkling water for waiting 20 minutes to be seated. I'd rather have been seated promptly.
  12. I'm really astonished. Having heard from so many trusted sources about the pleasures of Corton, and having liked Gilt well enough, I return from my dinner at Corton this evening extremely disappointed in my meal there. Some of the food was decent, but very little of it stood out as either well-conceived or even interesting. It wasn't that I thought Corton would be like Per Se or anything of that sort: I didn't go with specific ideas of what I'd experience, but I thought I'd try something new and important. New and important is not what I found. We had the tasting menu. The uni was nothing extraordinary: the numerous flavors in the dish didn't add up. The foie gras bon bon was good in itself but accompanied by extraneous items (including a flavorless burrata ice cream with cherry sauce and an entirely unremarkable spiced butter to go with the brioche). Things got better after the bon bon. The salmon was good, even refined; the squab was more than acceptable. But both were accompanied by smaller plates that contributed little or nothing. The gouda course was fine, too, although here the brioche was hard and dry, over-toasted. Whereas the savory courses were rather up and down, the two desserts added no excitement. We did not end on a low note, however, because the petit fours were excellent. Given the above, I'm forced to conclude that Corton is an inconsistent restaurant. I take it on faith that some of these dishes can work under the right circumstances, but for me, tonight, they looked like exercises in bad judgment. We overheard the table next to us speaking to our server, the very Susan mentioned by U.E. above, and they criticized many of the same things. I felt vindicated when, in reply, this Susan seemed to agree with them, adding that the wine pairings, not the food, were the restaurant's real strength--I now regret not having ordered them. I found service erratic. At times it was rushed, at others slow. I was seated 20 minutes after my reservation. Does anyone remember why Gilt failed? Was it inconsistency or "wayward" invention? Or both?
  13. You'll have to forgive the somewhat provocative topic description: I did want to bring attention to Allegretti, the relatively new restaurant of Alain Allegretti. I've read a lot about the restaurant over the last several months, but I put my visit off again and again (despite several good reviews, there was something in the thought of Provencal food that didn't quite grab me). Over the last few weeks, however, I've gone twice for lunch. The 2 or 3 course prix fixe is an excellent value at $24 and $28. What is more, Allegretti serves excellent food. My lunch today began with a well-executed mushroom risotto (with nicely crunchy hen-of-the-woods on top), a lovely pork loin in jus with zucchini, asparagus, carrot, and potato, all properly roasted in herbs, and a conservative (but equally excellent) strawberry tart for dessert. As you've probably read, Allegretti does not try to innovate too much, but if one likes the occasional French classic, this place is great. The portions are generous, too. The first time I went, I was nearly alone in the dining room (I wonder how long they'll keep open at lunchtime?), but there was Mario Batali with a friend or associate. Because he was seated at a table nearly adjacent to mine, I couldn't help but overhear his conversation: let's just say that he has quite a few interesting plans afoot to fatten his bottom line, expand his empire, and improve his own lifestyle. As for the food, he was an enthusiastic salesman, telling his companion that he loved everything there. He ate with relish, and praised each dish that arrived at his table. So if my own word isn't good enough, I encourage you to take Batali's. I may be going too far, but Allegretti, at lunch, appears to be a chef's restaurant.
  14. Portions did seem a bit slight for the price. If I had received advice about how to order (which, of course, I did not), I would have probably been told that one needs to order at least four courses. The primi are really primi at Marea. You'll need more than the pasta to leave full.
  15. I ate at Marea tonight, and I have to agree with the gathering consensus: while the food is fine, the service is a total joke. Let's start with the food. I wasn't all that hungry, and I was eating alone, and so I didn't order all that much, just three courses. I started with the stuffed morels, which are described and pictured above, and enjoyed them, despite the fact that they were arranged with less care than one might expect at a place like this one. After the morels, I proceeded to the fusilli with grilled octopus and bone marrow, which was a very pleasant dish. The pasta was cooked properly. If I had a complaint, ti would be that the octopus was cut into morsels that were a bit large for the mouth. I concluded my meal with the chocolate dessert with creme and chocolate nibs. It, too, was quite good. Indeed, all in all, I would return to Marea if food was my sole object (although I will note that one table next to me was complaining about the fact that someone's swordfish was overcooked). But Marea's decent food comes with hugely problematic service. And here I'm a bit at a loss, for, as another contributer has noted above, there are plenty of uniformed bodies in the space to oversee the room. To the staff's credit, my sparkling water glass was perpetually refilled. However, my waiter was so busy chatting with one of his fellows that I (and other tables) had to wait almost indefinitely to get his attention. In fact, I basically had to flag this waiter down. What is more, if I actually had needed anything, like a glass of wine, during the course of my meal, I would have been unable to get anyone to help me. In any case, when I was finished with my savory courses, a longish wait ensued before I got either the dessert menu or was permitted to order from it, and having finally finished my dessert, I struggled to get the check (my own waiter was apparently preoccupied elsewhere, so I had to ask a busser). Perhaps the least pleasant moment in the evening was when I got my bill, for nobody remembered to bring the petits fours that all the tables around me had received with their own. I should mention that other tables were grumbling about the service, so my experience was hardly unique. In any case, I would seriously warn anyone who didn't have too much time on their hands to avoid Marea until its made some critical organizational changes. Somebody needs to talk to the waiters at this restaurant and get them on the ball. If that doesn't happen soon, its hard to imagine that the restaurant will take off.
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