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Everything posted by oakapple

  1. I was referring more to Ko—the subject of this thread. Whatever Chang was trying to do there, he is clearly charging similar prices to Daniel and JG. His other restaurants clearly don't purport to be on that level, but prices have risen to the point where they aren't cheap eats any more (assuming you have a full meal), and one might reasonably compare them to other restaurants at similar price points. In a more general way, I frequently read (in the various Momo threads), "I thought it was great that they did ______ for me," and it's just an ordinary thing that good non-Momo restaurants do all the time. And I wonder: why would anyone be impressed, when Chang does something that good restaurants elsewhere would have done routinely? It's hard for me to answer that. Perhaps, because Chang has subtracted so much, people are now conditioned to be surprised to find ordinary comforts and courtesies that existed at other comparably priced restaurants, long before there ever was a Momofuku.
  2. You can't easily spend more at Yasuda than at Ko; a "normal" omakase at Yasuda costs less Ko, and the service is better. The sushi bar analogy also breaks down somewhat, because at a good sushi bar the meal evolves and is shaped by your preferences and interaction with the chef. Ko is, more or less, going to serve the same meal to everyone, no matter what you say or do. Let me stipulate that I think Ko is very good. Having said that, if you are paying 3-star prices and getting less than 3-star service, it is certainly—in its way—a drawback. One of David Chang's enduring accomplishments has been to dumb down the dining experience, and then to make people feel privileged for getting what well run restaurants always provided. It is certainly not "pretentious" to provide those things; it's called great service. The correct way to look at it, I think, is to check off all the things that are missing at his places. One may nevertheless conclude, as many of us have, that they're still worth an occasional (or more-than-occasional) visit. But let's not kid ourselves: the Momo service model is one of subtraction, not of addition.
  3. The vast majority of higher-end restaurants take the view that it is rude to present the bill before the customer asks for it. Frank Bruni, hardly a stickler for old-fashioned values, gave a demerit to Bouley (in his demotion review) because a check had been delivered before he asked for it. I think it defies belief that Ko does this because they are doing you any kind of favor. In that teensy space, no one could ever worry about not being able to find a server. Ko has tables to turn. Again, I would suspect that the "place[ing] the bill on the table with a comment that this is not meant to rush the dinner" is a courtesy granted their best customers, and for most other people the bill is just deposited simply when the staff is ready to have them go.
  4. I do think you need to at least consider the possibility that, in light of your extended patronage of David Chang's various restaurants, you are recognized by staff, and are probably getting better service than the average patron would experience. Practically all restaurants (from the local diner to Per Se) have extra level(s) of service for their regular and best customers, and it would be naive to assume that David Chang and his team are immune to this. Indeed, my sense is that Chang and his minions are particularly adept at recognizing those whom they wish to pamper. At this point, you are getting the very best they have to offer, perhaps delivered so smoothly that you are unaware it is not offered to everyone. This is not, of course, to suggest that everyone else gets routinely bad service, but it undoubtedly happens sometimes. I have found the service at Chang's restaurants highly uneven—neither consistently good nor consistently bad. I have visited them enough times that I think I can draw some conclusions about this, but not so often that I am recognized.
  5. Sorry, I didn't express that clearly enough. Every season has had at least one chef that was, from the beginning, noticeably better than most of the others. The fact that Angelo is serving as a de facto "mentor," when they didn't in past seasons, is (I suspect) primarily due to Angelo's personality. Yes, of course the chefs are there to win, but plenty of past chefs have acknowledged that they realized some of their fellow competitors were better. Most professionals (in any field), unless they are totally self-absorbed, have at least SOME ability to recognize that others are better than they are. Most of the back-stage drama we are discussing is not seen by the judges. But last season, one of the chefs admitted at Judges' Table that Michael Voltaggio had taken the lead on a challenge, and when asked why, said something like: "When you're working with Picasso, you're happy just to be able to hold his paint brushes." I guess I don't understand, then, if you are happy to eat recipes that are centuries old, why would you have an issue with those that are only a couple of decades old—assuming they are well-executed? It has probably happened, but I agree it is surely a rarity.
  6. I think it's due, more to Angelo's personality than deficiencies of the other chefs. Chris Hennes has it right. This is probably the most evenly balanced group of chefs they've ever had. Nobody seems to be as good as the Voltaggio brothers; but by the same token, nobody seems to be nearly as bad as the bottom-half chefs of seasons past. "Datedness" in food is an ill-defined notion. Most people use it to describe food they never liked in the first place. I mean, who wrote the rule that says, if something is good, after X years you can no longer serve it? Of course, if it's NOT good, or if it doesn't take much skill, that's a whole other issue, having nothing to do with being "dated". You're taking "inventiveness" much too far. Even at La Grenouille (three-star French restaurant in New York that hasn't changed its menu since 1962), the chef is more than just a prep guy, even though he is not inventing anything. Indeed, any chef who can do classics extremely well would go very far on this show, particularly given Colicchio's own style. I don't buy the idea that they "fix" the winners just to create manufactured drama.
  7. It's not just you. For one thing, I'm not yet convinced that any of them would have made last season’s top four (i.e., Michael V., Bryan V., Kevin G., and Jennifer C.). For another, the chefs that appear to be best are also not particularly likeable people (e.g., Angelo).
  8. That's what you get when the format requires exactly three failures per week.
  9. oakapple


    I'm not sure what menu you're looking at but when I was at the restaurant I remember thinking "There isn't a single seafood entree $25 or under." And there were a couple of $30+ entrees, as I recall. I was looking at the online menu, which perhaps is outdated.
  10. Not only that, they are trying to introduce as much suspense as possible. The editing is deliberately skewed to make the decision look extremely close, even when it isn't.
  11. oakapple


    With most entrées under $25 and most appetizers under $15, I wouldn't call Kittichai a high-priced place. It may be high-priced in relation to the Thai places you're accustomed to, but I don't consider a place with $25 entrees a "big budget dinner."
  12. oakapple


    I was just thinking about Kittichai the other day, as I was looking at the eclectic bunch of restaurants that occupy the five Thompson Hotels in NYC. (The other four restaurants are Plein Sud, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, Shang, and the Libertine.) Leaving aside Plein Sud (which is too new to judge), it is quite possible—perhaps even likely—that most of these restaurants would be closed by now, if they didn't have a captive hotel clientele to support them. Kittichai, as I recall, got very good reviews when it opened (including the deuce from Frank Bruni), but it fell off the food industry radar screen. Nobody writes about it any more (and not JUST on eGullet). Nevertheless, I recall having a quite favorable impression when we dined there, not long after it opened. (Here's the blog post I wrote at the time. It seems I had the Chilean Sea Bass too.) Despite liking the place, I haven't been back.
  13. Here's what's unfair about it. If the competition is functioning correctly, then the chefs should be eliminated in reverse order of competence. This was the fourth episode of the season, so the fourth-worst chef of the original 17—assuming you can figure out who that is—should have been sent home. That's not the way this challenge worked. The four chefs who cooked the best breakfast didn’t have to put their asses on the line for lunch or dinner. A much smaller sample of their work was on display, and hence, vulnerable to the kind of mistakes that get people sent home. The amount of time allotted for breakfast was about the same as a typical quickfire. If they gave four chefs immunity after a quickfire, wouldn't you think that was odd? What we had here amounted to two quickfires, with eight chefs getting immunity. On his blog, Tom Colicchio mentioned that none of the three final dishes was actually bad. At this early stage of the season, if all seven teams had cooked dinner, there's a pretty good chance that the losing dish would have been far worse, and that it would have been someone else's. (Remember, we never found out who cooked the WORST dishes at breakfast or lunch; only who cooked the best ones.) In a time-constrained competition, having one poor team member, of two total, definitely could sink the whole team. If the one were VASTLY better, maybe it wouldn't matter, but there aren't VAST differences in talent between most of these people.
  14. Quite possibly. Not only did the third worst team get a very valuable prize and the best teams not have a chance at it, but the third worst team is the one who got a recipe on the restaurant's menu. It would have made much more sense to give the early winners a chance to stay out with immunity, or continue on for a chance at the prize. "Third worst" isn't quite it. All you know is that the three teams that had to cook dinner weren't in the top two at breakfast or lunch. Nobody said their dishes in the earlier rounds were poor, only that they weren't among the top two. I'm not quite ready to get angry at a TV show, but it really had the potential for being manifestly unfair. By the time dinner was served, each chef had a 1/3 chance of going home, instead of the usual 1/14th.
  15. Were these possibly the dumbest rules ever devised for an elimination challenge? For one thing, the "winning" teams at breakfast and lunch didn't have to continue cooking, which meant that eight out of fourteen chefs had the equivalent of immunity. I mean, if there were a quickfire in which eight people got immunity, it would immediately be seen as absurd. Yet, that's what happened. They probably could have designed it so that the "winners" at breakfast and lunch got an advantage in the next stage -- say, an extra 15 minutes to cook -- without giving them the equivalent of complete immunity. What makes it even more absurd is that prize at the end (a trip to either Venice or Spain) was extremely good. The eight chefs who "won" earlier never had a shot at that prize. To win it, Andrea/Kelly had to first "fail" at both breakfast and lunch. Of course, they didn't know at the time what the prize would be, but it's an oddly designed challenge when doing something badly turns out to one's advantage. I certainly agree that of the six chefs in the final round, they sent the right ones home. But were these the worst two chefs remaining, or merely the worst two of those who didn't win at breakfast or lunch?
  16. Even non-serious, non-news organizations are likely to find the story problematic, not least on account of the lack of disclosure. Beyond that failing, though, one has to bear in mind that it's a blog. It's a Time.com blog, but still fundamentally a blog and not a magazine column... These days, most old-line print media have a web presence, too. Whatever their ethical rules may be, I don't think they change online. What does change is: A) The quality of the material that is deemed to be worth publishing; B) The speed of publication; and therefore, C) The care taken in ensuring their standards are met. I suspect that if the Ozersky piece had appeared in the print magazine, a more senior editor would have smelled a rat, and asked, "Hey, wait a second? Did he actually pay for all of this?" According to Ozersky, his web editor never asked. I suspect that even the jolly old New York Times publishes corrections for web stories a lot more often than they do for print stories. But they wouldn't let Sam Sifton accept comps, just because a particular story was going to be published on the web, rather than in the newspaper.
  17. From the article in yesterdays NY Times: There's a big difference between "refused to state" and "did not respond". Often times, the latter simply means that the writer did not get a response in time to file the story. It does not mean that Time is actively refusing to disclose the information.
  18. Even if it's true, admitting that to the judges, as Amanda did, is a big-time mistake.
  19. I am more sanguine about the future of fine dining. There will always be a market for a luxury product. It waxes and wanes with the economy, but the economy never stays down forever. Obviously, you're not going to see any new places in that category RIGHT NOW, but at some point the tide will turn, as it always does. SHO Shaun Hergatt is an unusual case. It's part of an ultra-luxury development, the Setai, where its presence is part of the overall value proposition. Had it been a stand-alone restaurant, it surely would have been scaled back (if not canceled altogether) when the recession hit. I worry more about the lack of critics willing, or even capable, of appreciating such a place. When the Times gives the identical two-star rating to this place and Torrisi Italian Specialties, it is not exactly encouraging chefs or investors who might otherwise be inclined to open a high-end restaurant. If SHO Shaun Hergatt isn't a three-star restaurant, then no place is. SHO is even more remarkable at its price point, which is a good 30 to 50 percent lower than it deserves to be.
  20. I am not sure what precisely Time refused to state. It DID issue a statement that the circumstances of Ozersky's wedding should have been disclosed. Time doesn't publish restaurant reviews, but I have to imagine it has SOME kind of policies around writers accepting freebies from sources whom they purport to cover objectively. The difference here, if we take Josh at his word (as I do), is that he never intended his wedding to be fodder for a story; that idea came later. By the way, there is no question that the value of his wedding was in the tens of thousands. The NY Times estimated such a wedding to cost $200 to $800 per guest, but that's without celebrity chefs preparing the food. Even at the low end, that's $20,000 to $80,000 if he had 100 guests. It's also worth bearing in mind that most catered weddings don't have a separate chef preparing each dish. I don't think Michael White is in the catered lasagna business, but if he is, I have to imagine he would charge an astronomical sum to bring ONLY the lasagna to a party where someone else is catering the rest of the event. With due respect, I somewhat disagree with Fat Guy. I think there are very few "serious news" organizations that would have considered the Ozersky story acceptable.
  21. I think that Josh’s friendships with these chefs are genuine, and therefore, so were the gifts. Both the chefs and Josh say that the idea of writing the article was an afterthought. The problem with the article is not a mere lack of disclosure. Once you know that both the food and the venue were comped, the entire premise falls to pieces. The article is couched as "my advice" about how to do a wedding. Clearly, there is hardly anyone who could actually act upon that advice. Had his editors had known the circumstances, I suspect they would have rejected the article as complete nonsense: the fact that it was all comped changes everything. In that sense, it's not like recommending a burger that someone gave you for free. The comp might undermine your objectivity, but anyone can go out and buy that burger.
  22. Well, he had immunity and didn't seem to try too hard when only two members of his team, including Kenny, were available to take the fall. Last week he said he wanted to win every challenge, but with immunity he made peanut butter on celery. Tom asked him if he would have made the "dish" if he didn't have immunity, and he wouldn't answer the question. I agree that he probably wouldn't have made that dish without immunity. But since chefs were judged independently on their own dishes, I can't see how his failure set up Kenny to fail. If anything, by serving such a simplistic dish, he was arguably doing his teammates a favor, since I doubt he used up his share of the budget.
  23. This week’s episode was an excellent illustration of how chefs sometimes get lucky: As Tom Colicchio put it on his blog: Sometimes a chef screws up badly, but manages to hang on because another chef makes an even worse mistake. Now, for all we know Amanda could be gone next week, but if she makes it deep into the season, everyone should remember that she should be gone by now. The previews certainly made it look like they're setting her up as the femme fatale of future episodes. The conspiracy theorists (those who think the producers manipulate winners and losers strategically) might point out that Amanda is easy on the eyes, and male viewers wouldn't mind having her around to look at for another couple of months. There's an old truism that making dessert is the kiss of death on this show. That's not really true, since all four teams had to make a dessert. What IS true is that if it comes down to a bad dessert and a bad protein, the dessert chef usually goes home. But there is no rule that desserts always fail per se.
  24. It's a pretty substantial sacrifice. They need to take around a month away from their jobs, and it's a bit confining to live in a big group home with no access to media, family, and so forth. I understand they can't even carry a cell phone. I don't want to over-state it, but the contestants are under Bravo's complete control during the month or so that they're there. Those who are eliminated early are not literally sent home. They live in an alternative group house until the entire season has been shot, with nothing much to do. And getting eliminated early is an acute embarrassment. Beyond a certain point in one's career, it's not worth the aggravation. But as the show has become better known, the producers get more access to higher levels of talent.
  25. As I recall, many fans were starting to complain about the quality of the chefs. Look up the eG discussion thread from Season 5, which Hosea Rosenberg won. A lot of people said he was a mediocre chef, and didn't deserve to be called "Top" anything. His career in the last two years hasn't exactly set the world ablaze, as far as I can tell. A lot of us felt that the show should be aiming for the best talent it can get. I read somewhere that the producers were trying to do this. There was a clear step up in Season 6. I thought that any of last four chefs in the competition (Michael V, Bryan V, Kevin G, Jennifer C) was more talented than Hosea from Season 5. This makes sense to me. I want to watch the best talent I can, not to have amateurs thrown into the deep end so that I can watch them screw up. The chefs on Top Chef Masters are FAR more accomplished in their careers. They're generally a lot older. Quite a few of them are household names, people who've authored cookbooks and own multiple restaurants. You can read their biographies on the Bravo site. There's a pretty significant difference between these chefs and those on regular Top Chef. Note that on Top Chef, they're competing for $125,000 "to help turn their culinary dreams into reality," but on TCM they're competing for charity.
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