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Everything posted by jimk

  1. I have now realized that he has a much more hard-line view than I had thought. And I do strongly disagree with it.At lesser extremes, he has useful points that we could all learn from. ← Kind of entertaining that there are now 270 posts on the thread about how aggrieved a hypothetical momofuku regular does/doesn't/should feel and only 244 on the thread that's about the food.
  2. So, then, I suppose I must from now on eat every scrap of food on my plate, no matter how hungry I am, because a failure to do so will result in smaller portions for all diners. This burden of having to stand up for the rights of all consumers is really ruining my appetite.
  3. So glad I don't live on your planet.
  4. I think Steven's view was merely that it would be commercially advisable (in his view) for restaurants to offer this perk, not that those who fail to do so are violating etiquette. IIRC, this isn't your first post today softening his position. My recollection is that he tends to use words like "right" and "wrong" rather than "comercially advisable." He hasn't said he would do it differently if he opened a restaurant - he said that the way Chang is doing is just plain wrong, that Chang is probably lying about how it's working in practice, that the system will alienate Chang's regulars, and that it will be "amusing" to watch it fail. He has said that those who don't insist on such perks are "pushovers", and that it's "unfortunate" when regulars don't expect and demand special treatment. He's never backtracked from any of these statements.
  5. This whole disagreement is ONLY about whether it's wrong -- a breach of commercial etiquette -- to withhold THE PARTICULAR PERK OF PREFERRED RESERVATIONS in a 12-seat restaurant subject to insane demand after you've announced that preferred reservations wouldn't be available. ← Actually I think there's one other issue being discussed here and that's whether it's "wrong" for a Momofuku regular to not be offended or aggreived by such a policy. And I'm pretty sure we have yet to hear from a Momofuku regular who thinks Chang's system is unfair. We are just hearing from a couple of people who say that's how they should feel and if they don't feel that way then they are having an inappropriate emotional response to the situation or whatever. That by being chill about the system, they are "wrong." I agree that there's nothing wrong or in any way inconsistent with buying a regular a drink or whatever, while at the same time having a no-favorites resy policy. I also think a third, much smaller, issue here is whether Chang deserves the benefit of the doubt in the short term while he experiments with a new way of handling resys as he executes an entirely new restaurant concept. And whether a failure of that experiment would make him a hypocrite or a liar or whatever.
  6. However, I believe that you cancel the same way as you book: online. And any cancellation is immediately available to get snapped up. Eater asked Chang HQ about this, and they said that cancellations usually disappear within 10 minutes. ← And as I mentioned in the other thread the night I was there they are, at this point, handing no-shows by seeing if there's anyone in the line at Noodle Bar who is up for a dinner at Ko. The couple they sent down to from noodle bar the night we were there were definitely not regulars. Chef mentioned that when they extend the invitation to people in line at noodle bar there aren't necessarily a lot of takers because the price point at Ko is so much higher and the time commitment so much greater.
  7. Perhaps one reason this debate keeps going around in circles is the notion that I can say "I'm a consumer/diner/guest/whatever and this is how I feel," and you can respond with "Well, I know that's how you say you feel, and I know that's how you think you feel, but I don't think that's how you really feel deep down." Honestly don't know how to respond to that without creating a seperate eGullet account for my subconscious to respond to your counterargument. I'm pretty sure that if I did so, my subconcious would confirm that it's how I really feel. I wonder if anyone has registered the email address jimsid(at)hotmail.com ...
  8. That's part of what I meant by it "depending on the circumstances." You've set up a false dichotomy. A restaurant that in all sincerity treats its regulars like "friends" may nevertheless have a profit motive. And a place with a profit motive—that is, almost every place—isn't being Machiavellian; it's just being run intelligently. Steven's use of the word "pushover" probably wasn't sensible. The fact is, you do recognize that places are treating you differently as a result of your repeat patronage. I cannot imagine that this is irrelevant to how you allocate your resources, even if you do so sub-consciously.I do agree with you that Chang's reservation system at Ko might be the right one for his business model, at this moment. But I am sure that he is taking care of his best customers in other ways, even if the reservation system works the way he claims (and it very well may not). ← Thinking of your first question - what if a place where we are regulars treated us as complete strangers - I could think of one example. There's a place just downstairs from where we live. It's a place that's well regarded on eGullet and that has a couple of stars from the Times ... it's basically a really strong neighborhood restaurant that draws a crowd from far beyond the neighborhood. We go there probably more often than we go anywhere else. The GM and a couple of the waiters know us well enough to say hi. I think maybe once they bought us a cava but I think that was mostly about the fact that they'd lost our reservation. It's a great place, but the special treatment extends about as far as a smile when they see us ... they call us by name, they ask how our weekend went, and I suppose if that's a perk that I earned by being a regular, then it's a perk that I appreciate. It's never occurred to me to expect anything beyond that - they make food food, they are nice to us, they charge reasonable prices. The other night we went there, and it was the GM's night off and our usual waiter wasn't there and there was a new waiter working and nobody knew us and as far as anybody knew we were a couple of tourists from Peoria and we enjoyed ourselves just fine. So I guess that's an example of a place where we are regulars treating us as complete strangers. As far as a false dichotomy, you're right - that's why I said the truth lies somewhere in between. As far as your point that I recognize when I occasionally get a bit of special treatment ... actually I rarely know why exactly. I don't see that I necessarily get more comps at the places I go more often. If anything if I get a drink or an extra course or something I've suspected it to be more likely because 1) I cracked a joke that made the waiter laugh; 2) I asked an intelligent question about something on the menu; 3) some shared common ground that comes up in conversation with a waiter or bartender - I'm sure I got a free round just for being a Mose Alison fan not too long ago; 4) indicators of a special occasion (gift on the table, etc); 5) the fact that Bruni used to use a name close to mine as one of his aliases; 6) once the waiter overheard someone at my table speak the phrase "Ben at Eater"; 7) they can tell from my Open Table profile how often and where we eat out; 8) the fact that I live in the neighborhood. I think of the places where I'm most likely to get an extra course or a free drink or whatever and I'm not a regular at any of them. Honestly, I like the special treatment more when it doesn't feel like quid pro quo. The part that bothers me about this is that this is how I eat out. This is how I enjoy eating out. This is the philosophy that makes me happy. There's nothing "wrong" about it. And you're right that the profit motive is a large part of most operations. But it's not the only part. Most chefs I know cook for a living because they like to cook. And they want to make a good living for themselves - as good a living as possible - while still having some integrity and enjoying what they do and not "selling out." Chang speaks quite frankly in the New Yorker piece about the fact that are lots of things that are more important to him than making money but that making money is absolutely part of the equation. I believe him, because I think the way he runs is restaurants is consistent with what he says. I don't actually think that Chang necessarily decided this reservation system was the "best one for his business model." I suspect he decided that this was the one that would cause him the least amount of personal grief when everyone he's ever met starts calling asking him for a couple of seats at the restaurant. He can just tell everyone "no favorites, no exceptions." When the first response to him doing this is (here, of all places!) along the lines of "clearly that's a ridiculous approach and won't we all have a good laugh watching it unravel" (paraphrasing) and laying in wait to catch him as some sort of hypocrite (the word that some folks keep bringing out to describe what Chang is for having a pre-opening F&F and press week), I think it's a shame... Whatever his reason, and whatever conclusions are drawn as to whether it's the soundest businsess decision or not, I'm a guy who spends a lot of money eating at restaurants and I like the policy. That's as valid a POV as anyone else's.
  9. I really think you're reading Steven's posts the wrong way. No one has more of a joie de vivre about dining than he does. He doesn't go in anywhere with a chip on his shoulder. He is just talking about how the industry works, from the perspective of someone who's studied it professionally.You referred to that glass of champagne as a "nice gesture". It confirms what he is saying. Businesses do recognize their regulars, and treat them differently. How this plays out will vary with circumstances. If a place you patronized regularly treated you like an absolute stranger, how could it not influence your eagerness to bring them future business? ← The perspective he's coming from has been one that has confused me from the start of this but enough's been said on that. I think most of the rest of us are coming at it from the perspective talking about what our own expectations are going to dinner at a place we have a relationship with. It would be one thing if the position he were taking was that our expectations are unusual. But he's actually saying that my expectations are wrong - I believe the word "pushover" has been used to describe those who don't expect/demand some sort of quid pro quo, IIRC. If the place I patronized regularly treated me as an absolute stranger, it would depend on the place and what you mean by regularly. (There are restaurants we go to not more than once every couple of years where we are greeted as old friends - the place where we got the aforementioned glass of champagne is I guess an example of being treated nicely just for being us. A gesture of friendship, not a commercial tactic. Maybe it's a naive view, but I prefer it to the Machiavellian one. The truth probably lies in between.) But even if I were to concede that point - and I'm not sure that I do, but it's a whole other discussion - that doesn't make me a pushover for being low maintenance and it doesn't make Chang's no favorites resy policy "wrong" ...
  10. All these purportedly dirty words -- selfish, entitled, demanding, expectation -- have been trotted out over and over again on this topic, yet those are all the hallmarks of an educated consumer. Consumers are supposed to be selfish. Consumers are entitled to recognition for their business, and especially for their repeat business. They should demand and expect such treatment. And if they don't get it they can, should and (except for, if we take their claims at face value, most people posting here) generally do gravitate to competing businesses that treat their customers better. In the case of a business that has something unique to offer, well, that business may indeed be able to get away with not cultivating its regulars. Like Time-Warner Cable. But that doesn't mean consumers should be happy about it, or be ecstatically grateful to receive whatever crumbs they're offered. ← I still think this is a depressing view of the dining experience. I never want to go into a restaurant I love with that kind of chip on my shoulder. I still want to think of that comped glass of champagne as a nice gesture rather than something I earned. I also think both sides have made their points about three dozen times each and it comes down to a fundamental philosophical difference. If you think there's a correlation to be drawn between your relationship with your favorite restaurant and your relationship with Time Warner Cable then we see eating out in different ways.
  11. It's also generally the case that the upgrades into premium cabins on airlines are into seats that are going empty - seats that the airline has tried but failed to sell to a revenue customer. Rather than letting them go empty, they move elite passengers forward into a more luxe cabin. It is interesting though to note that free upgrades for elite flyers tends to be something that US carriers do far more than foreign carriers. Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific are airlines that tend to only upgrade when you cash in a boatload of points (and it tends to be the same number of points regardless of your status) because they feel that giving the upgrades away for free - even to elite status flyers - devalues the product. It's not unusual for the upper deck of a Lufthansa 747 (the First class cabin on a three cabin plane) to have only one of its eight seats occupied. When free upgrades do happen on these airlines they tend to be op-ups, or operational upgrades - i.e. when business class is overbooked and first class has space, they operationally have to move someone into the nicer cabin. Sometimes that will be the super-loyal flyer who flies 150k miles a year with them, sometimes it will be the guy who paid the highest non-discounted fare for his business class ticket, sometimes the couple on a honeymoon - hard to predict.
  12. But if you were a regular, how long would the wait be? It would really bother me if I were a Bouley Upstairs regular who always got a table within a couple of minutes and I saw a nonregular also getting a table within a couple of minutes.
  13. I guess I just don't understand the other side of this one. I've been vocal on the topic, but I've never felt that Chang is a deity and I've always thought that there was a chance that this system doesn't last forever. Seems to me that this is an experiment - some of us think it is a worthy and laudable one, and some of us even thing it makes some business sense. Others think it's doomed to failure and seem eager for it to fail. I think this threat started with a remark about how "amusing" it would be to watch for the cracks in the system. To me, that seems like an awfully fatalistic and cynical view to take at this stage in the game. I think that cracks might appear and they might not - I think it's awfylly early to consider them inevitable. I think if the system doesn't work and Chang and co. have to change it or even abandon it, that doesn't make them hypocrites. It means they tried something and it didn't work. So I'm not sure how I'm going to end up eating crow when all I believe is that it is a noble experiement, that I hope it works, and that I'm going to watch with an open mind. Having said that, if I have to eat crow, I prefer thighs and wings ... I imagine Peter Serpico could probably cook it up real nice.
  14. Since we're on the topic of bacon ... I've got a couple of batches curing in the fridge right now and have been curious about Ruhlman's recipe. Can anyone tell me why he instructs that the bacon be roasted off immediately after curing, prior to packaging? Seems counterintuitive to me - with other meats I'd never dream of cooking something twice, and commercially available bacons are all raw. The first couple of batches I've made have been maple cured and I've just sauteed slices as needed or put them straight in the freezer after curing ... Can anyone explain the rationale for roasting the large piece? BTW, my smallish NY apartment (a 6th floor walkup) isn't very accomodating of smoking equipment so we're talking fresh bacon here.
  15. Agreed. Rarely do pairings with tasting menus any more ... when the food course is only a few bites and so many courses it's a struggle for my palate to keep up with everything that's happening. I thought el bulli's approach worked well - when we were there they recommended a bottle of white that they though would be what would work best with most of the courses, and then every now and again when a course wasn't going to work with the wine, the somellier would pop over with a taste of a rioja or a sherry or whatever. I'll probably do something like that if/when I return to Ko although we're glad we did the wine pairing this time. With corkage at only $15 it would have worked to have brought a nice riesling that would have complemented most courses and then done by-the-glass for the others.
  16. Pacing was right on the mark last night ... chefs were very tuned in to where we were on each course ... no long waits, but nothing arrived before we wanted it to. True, there was still wine in our glass from time to time when the next wine but that was more about us than them. Incidentally they appeared to be comping everyone a small glass of a very nice rose lambrusco as an aperatif ... that was a nice touch ... As high as my expectations were, they were really exceeded last night. And watching the chefs in action made me a slightly better cook I think. But ask me again next time I cook scallops.
  17. Actually I think they've cranked up the AC to compensate. We were there last night and I found it comfortable but my wife actually found it uncomfortably chilly.
  18. A really outstanding dinner last night ... No dishes different from what others have described here so I won't give you the course-by-course. A few minor changes and unreported tidbits though ... The house-carbonated sherry was replaced with a house-carbonated banyuls which was just excellent. LOVED the house-made english muffins with whipped pork far and fresh bay leaves. Pretty comprehensive wine list - I counted about 20 reds, for example, some available by the glass and some by the bottle. In general, the wine list was dominated by half-bottles, which makes sense for the format. We did the pairing though. Watching the guys cook was great, although we seemed to be the only ones chatting with them about what they were doing ... which they seemed to like. At one point one chef brought us a plate and asked us to tell him what it was - fun! Didn't tell him I'd already read about pretty much everything here. Chang showed up for an hour or so but didn't do any cooking. Peter runs a tight ship though. An interesting final note - there was, it seems, only one no-show party of two last night. Someone made a call to noodle bar and the staff there sent a party who had been waiting for a spot there down to Ko. They were seated next to us and were just thrilled by their luck. So thay answers the question of how to handle the no-show issue. Lots of attempted walk-ins, all gently turned away. Finally, interesting to note that my wife and I (I'm in my late 30's and she's in her mid 40's) appeared to be the oldest people in the room all evening. No sign of friends, insiders or other industry types as far as I could tell.
  19. Um. . . No, I wouldn't say that this accurately describes the topic of the book, or even a particularly substantial percentage thereof. Among the many topics covered in the book, it acknowledges that regulars often get special treatment, encourages one to become a regular at a restaurant or two, and offers some strategies for getting an enhanced "regular-like" restaurant experience at a restaurant where you are not a regular. Did you read the book? I didn't - I inferred the above from his post earlier today which he said was from one of his seminars and based on his book.
  20. How far do you take it? Should that "status get you to the front of the line at shake shack? Didn't I read once that at Shake Shack even Danny Meyer's wife has to wait in line? Or is that urban myth.
  21. I'll be first to acknowledge I'm not choosing my words as diplomatically as I could here, so apologies for occasionally going over the top with the hyperbole. I think there are three true statements that can be made: 1. An author has written a book and teaches seminars about how to get special treatment by establishing yourself as a regular at restaurants. 2. A new restaurant has opened and part of its philosophy is no special access to reservations by virtue of being a regular. 3. The author is vehemently opposed to the restaurant applying such a model, believes it won't work and suggests that such a commitment by the restaurant is disengenuous. So I'll change the terminology a bit and simply say you have a bias. You have a body of work and, it seems, a coherent philosophy of the relationship between diner and restaurant on which some (maybe even a lot? I don't know well enough to say) of that work is based. Everything you are saying here is consistent with that philosophy, and that philosophy seems central to at least some significant piece of what you have written and what you teach at your seminars. We all carry baggage ... we all have pet issues and pet peeves. I certainly do, and there are food issues (mostly service related) where I could easily and probably justifiably be accused of having an axe to grind. I think the relationship between your avocation and your occupation provide legitimate context for your comments on an issue like this one. And to my eye, they provide especially useful context when there don't seem to be any actual momo regulars reporting that they feel alienated. Maybe I missed it but I haven't heard anyone say "I'm a ssam bar regular and I think Ko should hold two seats a night back for regulars" ... If one did, I would at least understand where they were coming from, although I'd still disagree with them. But then I'm not a regular so of course I'd disagree with them. I am hearing momo regulars saying that the fact that Chiang has the cojones to do this is just one more reason they are glad he's part of this restaurant scene. And that maybe he'll succeed and maybe he'll fail with this experiment, but good on him for giving it a shot! I don't think very many people here have already concluded that he's going to cheat though.
  22. This was exactly the point I was trying to make when I suggested that I didn't feel like getting a reservation, at any restaurant, either by having to hit the reload button on my computer or the redial button on my telephone. It's not that once-in-a-lifetime concert, it's a restaurant. ← Sure, but of course what's convenient for one person is inconvenient for another. Given its neighborhood, Ssam Bar is a hassle for me to get there, and if we want to eat at a reasonably prime time on a weekend night we have to build an hour or two of walking around the block or whatever into our evening. For Ko, it took me 40 minutes of hitting refresh the other day but that 40 minutes got a reservation for 2 at 7:30 on a Saturday night. So for me, a 2-top at Ko involved less hassle than a 2-top at Ssam bar. Possible that I just got lucky on Ko though and that it'll never happen again.
  23. Were I pissed off, the main thing I'd be pissed off about is the insistence that I have some ulterior motive here. You'll find that the discussion makes a lot more sense if you take what I'm saying at face value, just as I've always done with your comments no matter how sure I am that you're wrong in any particular instance. ← As I've said before, I'm also of the view that you have an ulterior motive, although I believe that you honestly don't think you do. I think you've built a business model on there being a special preferred category of "regular" diners who get preferential reservation access, extra courses, comped drinks, better tables, or whatever. I think the excerpt you posted from your course bears this out. I think that you pay your bills, at least in part, by the assumption that this is the relationship that restuarants have [and should have] with customers. And I think that 99.9% of your time, you are right that there is this multi-tiered approach to restaurants and there will always be an audience that wants to learn the lessons you teach about how to join that club of insiders. What's interesting to me though is that Chiang - someone who we all seem to admire - has decided to not do that and at least try to have a complete no-favorites reservation book. And it sounds to me like almost everyone here - momo regulars and others - think that's pretty cool. I don't hear anyone other than you saying (and I know you'll disagree with how I paraphrase here) that: -he's a hypocrite because he had a friends and family and media week -he's probably still sneaking his friends and family and VIPS in through the back door -his regulars will be outraged -this will never work So yes, I think you have an axe to grind here, because there's a piece of the "old paradigm" that Chiang is experimenting with here, and it's the specific part of the old paradigm that you seem to have build a career on. My views on that piece are pretty clear, and I think they're in line with what several others have said - I've occasionally experienced preferential treatment from restaurants that know me, but never in an especially reliable way. It's nice when it happens but it's not expected and I don't feel even slightly entitled to it. On the other hand, I've seen restaurants fawning over guests who do have a sense of entitlement to these perks and it's rubbed me the wrong way - making me feel like I'm one of those plane passengers shlubbing through the first class cabin past people sipping "champagne" as I make my way to my middle seat in row 3000. So on the whole, I don't like that piece of the paradigm, notwithstanding the fact that I sometimes benefit from it. It bums me out that Chiang's decision to experiment with this piece of the puzzle is something that someone on this board is going to actually criticise and deride him for. [Counting the moments until the eG powers that be summon security to gently escort me out of the building]
  24. My guess is because they want to reserve the corner for a party of four (and figure dining in a row doesn't work for parties larger than two). But that's just a guess. ← So there's only one 4-top per night to be had at a time? Once made the mistake of going with Room 4 Dessert with 2 friends ... it was impossile to have a conversation.
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