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  1. For what it's worth... Certainly I never take the news that somebody had a poor meal at my place in a cavalier manner and always look specifically into the concerns raised as best I can. While I'm not sure which noodle dish you are talking about, nor the server, the only thing I can suss out it is the mushroom soup. That dish is a rather curious situation for me. The same guy makes it every time in large enough batches that I can only assume that what you had is how we serve it. To be honest, I agree that it's quite spicy and frankly, thicker than I prefer, but I fear that if I ever changed it, there'd be hell to pay. There is no single dish on the menu that is as ferverently ordered by the same people over and over. Literally, we have people who come in for lunch more than once a week and get a large bowl of that with rice, every single time. We don't even bother offering them menus anymore. I'm not telling that guy we "fixed" it. Once again, I'm sorry you had a bad experience but you'll need to take my word for it that, as far as I can see, we're not turning into the next Grasshopper. I am fortunate to say that I have never been involved with a restaurant that had as loyal and regular customers who seem to nearly always be having a great time. My current chef Josh is turning out exceptional food and I'm very, very pleased with the staff in general. Business, by the way, is also staying quite strong even in the face of financial doomsday reports and a basketball crazed community in the throws of it's annual orgy of brackets (I'm really not kidding about the later as establishments without dozens of TVs refer to this time of year as "March Sadness"). Does this mean that we never mis-step? Hardly. Though I should add that the next restaurant that I've gone to more than once or twice, even those with exceptional reps and lofty price points to match, that hadn't disappointed me one or twice will be the first. There's basically a few options, either examine every plate on every night that goes out, pay enough people enough money to insure that you will never make a profit, or grit your teeth and accept the fact that, like basically every other industry in existence, you're not going to bat 1.000. Honestly, the only realistic option is #3. Nobody owes it to anyone to be a martyr. I got into it once with somebody on another board (about a restaurant other than mine) because this was an unsavory truth they did not want to accept. Their point, "we don't accept failure from surgeons and airplane pilots, why restaurants?" Mine, was that line cooks make about $10 an hour and the economies of the industry will not support any more. I think it's fair to hold them to lower standards than surgeons and pilots. This is not carte blanche on happily accepting poor food (either from the standpoint of a consumer or as the proprietor), rather coming to grips with reality. An interesting stat: If I get it right with 99% of the time, I will piss off about 10 people per week. I like my servers and feel fortunate to have as loyal and good hearted a crew as I do. They donate their time when we have charity events to allow us to give as much of the proceeds as possible to the cause. They've become more and more interested in food, wine, and service with each passing day. However, let's not fool ourselves, service as a whole is slipping everywhere and there's some very simple economics behind it. When I was coming up in the industry, your average busboy was in their early 20s and waiters started there and went up into the 30s. As one of those busboys, I knew more about wine than nearly any waiter I can remember waiting on me in any restaurant I've eaten at in the triangle. Now? I have exactly one server over 25 years old. Cheesecake Factories, PF Changs, etc. enter a market and employ dozens and dozens of servers which seriously dilutes the labor pool for everyone. Now, once again, I'm not exactly sure what amounted to your poor service, but I've certainly learned to lower my expectations in that regard at pretty much every place I eat these days. All I look for now is that they're basically friendly and I get what I ask for in a timely manner. Long gone are the days where I can expect pros anticipating my needs. I know people get pissed because they had to ask for refills, etc but I honestly think they should relax unless they're in the kind of place that charges the kind of money that allows waiters to make enough in tips so the cream of the crop is lured there. Jujube is at a bit of a crossroads as we've become different things to different people and are going to have to make some choices. Because Josh and I are excited about pushing the envelope with special dinners and such, we've developed a bit of a following for that. There are regulars who joke about why we even bother having a regular menu because they always get specials. At the same time, we have a set of people who come in for the same thing over and over (like the mushroom soup I mentioned above). Resolving these two is harder than it might seem. So, once again, my apologies. Now it's my turn. You prefaced your critique by explaining you respected me in the local scene. Why would you not, then, simply bring your concerns to me or at least elaborate to the extent that I could figure out what went wrong and fix it? That would seem to be a noble intent. To inspire local restaurants to keep striving to make their product better. Forgive me, but that is not the tone I am getting.
  2. First off, execution is not just "the most important thing". It is far-freaking away the most important thing. Not even a contest. Throughout my entire career, I've been exposed to more "innovative" 20 year olds who want to start writing menus on their first day than I'd like to remember. Give me someone who understands how to sear a piece of fish over that any day. Cooking schools should be turning out kids with line skills. Let them figure out the rest over time. As for your microgreens comment. Are you kidding me? I've seen those things at Harris Teeter! If you're going to point to something that is obviously over the head of a 19 year old kid, you're going to have to try harder than that.
  3. Went there Saturday night and have to say that I can't remember the last time I had as nice a meal out. We started off with a scheurebe (sp?) trocken that went great with the beet salad with horseradish quark, my keilbasa (that was delicious and a much lighter color than I'm used to) and even the seemingly simple butter lettuce salad (dressed with a delicious herbed dressing). We also tried the pork belly with poached pears. Super tender with a crispy browned top. Entrees were also great. I had the pumpkin perogies with shrimp and browned butter. Interesting addition was the browned milk solids often strained off when one is served brown butter. It was kind of like bread crumbs only super rich. I mean, it's basically fried cream! Really nice dish all in all. My wife had the polish stew of beef, pork, and smoked sausage with saurkraut and potatoes. Every bit as delicious as we anticipated. Others had the braised venison shank with (I recall cherries but could be wrong) again nice and the triggerfish with potato-onion gratin. If I had to say the one dish that didn't floor me it was that one but that could easily have been due to the fact that everything else was so off the hook. They insisted that I go with a von Kesselstat Riesling Auslese as neither I or the waiter could imagine anything else that would bridge all those dishes. Long story short... it did. Desserts just kept it going. Gingerbread cake that was downright spicy with ginger and really, really moist. A super rich cake of chocolate layered with dried apricots was, ok I'm starting to repeat myself but it was really, really good. Lastly the apple strudel...lovely. Honestly, I really wasn't surprised considering the fact that everyone I'd talked to who had been there gushed about it. Well, count me among those ranks.
  4. I can't imagine a worst time to hold a farmer's market then 10-2 on a weekday. Sure you overlap lunch, but that only covers one hour of the market and what is someone supposed to do with their produce when they go back to work? There aren't enough food industry people and stay-home parents to make a market thrive at that time of day. Mid week markets work but they need to go 3-7 or something like that so people can hit them on the way home. Obviously weekends are ideal, but back home in Santa Cruz, the Wednesday afternoon market was by far the bigger deal than the Saturday morning one.
  5. Make sure you get the dosas. They're really great. Word of warning, don't expect to get a beer. They don't serve alcohol nor do they allow BYOB. It's against their religion. That said, it's a wonderful meal none-the-less and they are very kind people.
  6. I'm not a big fan of Sant Pau. Excellent execution, great product, but IMHO nothing to write home about. ← Wow, must be tough to please. I've never seen "excellent execution" and "great product" used to describe a restaurant that doesn't merit a positive review.
  7. How long was the "old Savannah" place there. Didn't it just open in the last year?
  8. I went last night and had the 3 course meal as well. Endive, Fennel, and Goat Cheese Salad which was particularly nice. Dressing was bright but had a curious richness. The cheese itself was delicious. Also had, and enjoyed the gnocchi while my companion had the crepe. The duck was very tender and the dish was all together good. I should say that my wife started with the mushroom soup which was gorgeously rich and mushroomy. My Tuna with picholine olives was great. One thing that caught my eye about it was that it wasn't fashionably uber-rare, rather cooked to about Medium Rare but it really seemed to work for the dish. After seeing the tables around us deal with desserts that were easily twice the size of any other courses they had, we took their word on it and skipped. In general, after two trips I think they're doing a wonderful job. I love the muscadet so I may take back what I have said (maybe not on this site?) about offering something else by the glass. I'm rather sure that Rue Cler will end up in our regular rotation of spots to eat.
  9. Guessing by your description of the shredded pork on baguette that it was rillettes (sp?), essentially seasoned pork braised in pork fat, then shredded and stored in the same fat it was cooked? At any rate, it would make sense based on your description. Sounds like an outstanding meal.
  10. Can you all elaborate on this distinction? I am definitely a food amateur, and at times this thread of Bryan's has intimidated me, especially given the fact that he too is an amateur and yet is clearly so talented and putting together some incredible meals, by any standard. But in the end, I lean toward a variation of what Duke Ellington said: if it tastes good it is good. So help me understand what is going on here. I'm not talking about educating me on the techniques. I'm more interested in, What are we gaining by this direction in cooking? Is it something analagous to what, say, a postmodern examination of modern of some artisitic piece might provide us in terms of insight into the work of art? Or is it more like what a (excuse my ignorance here) discordant piece of music might tell us about our own understanding of music? i.e. it sucks to listen to, but it is nevertheless interesting. Or something else entirely? I pose those questions not because I lean toward any particular answer, but because I'm ignorant and curious. ← I'd be happy to. In general, I'm not inclined to buy the whole molecular gastronomy thing hook line and sinker but appreciate the energy behind it. Provided, of course, that these techniques are a means to an end and not simply culinary masturbation. As in every movement, there are those who are really artists and those who grab that same bag of tricks and create something, perhaps less inspired. I'm quite confident that this movement is no exception. As to the comparison I gave. The phrase, "Wow that's cool" was uttered often during our meal at Minibar, but rarely the phrase, "Wow, that's delicious". Thus, I think they missed the point and let the pursuit of shock value overtake the pursuit of satisfaction. In this case, it was not unlike the oft-satired foods of the late 80s "Teriyaki buffalo taco with mango-mustard seed genache and epazote coulis". This is not to say my meal at MiniBar was without it's high points because there were certainly dishes that I was very jazzed about. It may simply come down to the fact that they were trying to keep it up for 37 courses. That said, a meal at Manresa a few summers ago was equally ambitious in terms of courses but was on-point essentially throughout. My dinner at Z kitchen did not resemble this. Frankly, in many cases, I wondered why the term "hyper-modern" was being used. It just seemed like a really tasty plate of food. Further examination and discussion revealed that he was actually using some rather innovative means to achieving these dishes but I wouldn't have known. When something was obviously different, like the carbonated fruit, it was excitingly good. The thought, "Well that was an interesting idea, but I don't think I'd want a second helping" never came up. I hope this clarifies things for you.
  11. BTW, I feel terribly remiss in not having posted my thoughts from my evening at Z Kitchen. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances have forced me to be exceedingly busy at Jujube of late so I simply have not finished my report. Long story short, I thought the meal was outstanding as did the rest of my party. Besides serving interesting but more importantly delicious food, Bryan is very charming and a fine host. Any critques I have (which I will at somepoint finally share) were minor. As I said to him that night, I really thought his meal was much better than the one I had at Mini-bar in DC not long ago. While that one seemed to be about cooking, his seemed to be about food first. A very important distinction. At any rate, gotta go, but I just wanted to mention...
  12. Saffron serves Indian haute cuisine and was at least quite full last friday night. My guess is that these places are making their bread and butter during lunch while hoping the area grows in terms of housing developments (which it appears to be doing). That, of course, should result in better dinners as well. But yes, the shopping center where 9n9 is all about lunch.
  13. So, anyone have any tips on wine pairings? ← Riesling is always a good choice because it is, basically the single best food wine out there. Nothing pairs so well with apps and meat courses alike. Go down to your boy Chrish's place and grab a bottle of 2002 Nigl Privat Riesling. At $40 it would hardly qualify as cheap, but I had some this weekend and saw god. That tends to happens for me at higher price points than that. Another thought is a rueda. Much cheaper (I know you well Varmint) but super versatile. Casa Moro is somewhat readily available and really good for the money ($10 or so). Or are you looking for specific course pairings?
  14. Actually, paying for Bryan to experiment is exactly what I expect my dollars will be doing when I go in a couple of weeks. I expect to get some culinary enjoyment out of this, but let's be honest, I'm going to be eating cutting edge food in a college apartment. To do so under the impression that I'm going to get some comfy food that I know will be right up my alley would be nothing short of naive. I would imagine that if Bryan truly messed something up, he'd be stand up enough to discount the meal. On the otherhand, I think that in good faith, people should not complain if a well executed dish, "doesn't really do it for them". In the quest for mind-stretching experiences, we need to accept the fact that sometimes we pay for things that we may have not enjoyed that much. You can't have it both ways.
  15. This might be only partially relevant as this experience does not specifically apply to z-kitchen, rather to the hyper-modern movement as a whole. I dined at mini-bar in DC this weekend and had a very enjoyable time. That said, the "pushing of the envelope" was more interesting that satisfying. The words, "that's cool" were uttered far more often than . "wow, that was delicious!" My point? I was in DC for two nights. One night at mini-bar, the other night we cooked for ourselves. Both dinners were over the top for different reasons. Mini-bar for intellectual reasons, the next night when we cooked for ourselves it was over the top for decadent, hedonistically delicious reasons. Nothing we did on Saturday night was remotely cutting edge or difficult to repeat but all in all, I think it was better. At mini-bar we were served a number of whimsically deconstructed versions of classic dishes, clam chowder and guacamole for instance. The dishes were very interesting, but as one of the diners said, "The next time I have clam chowder, I don't think I'll wish it was more like this." The other thing that I noticed lacking from the meal was an awareness of season. I felt the meal prepared was done so without any concern for what was naturally good. As if this meal was about preparation of food more than it was about food itself. I did walk away from the meal with some great ideas, but firmly feel that hyper-modern culinary techniques may be best carefully applied than relied upon to achieve the ultimate goal, the complete satisfaction of the diner.
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