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Posts posted by AlexForbes

  1. The word is simply a contraction of bistrot and gastronomique, and thus refers to a place where a combination of bistrot food with some elements of high end cuisine (plating, culinary research, 'innovation') are served in bistrot surroundings, which are not necessarily simple.

    I disagree again. Bistronomique refers to a place that has a bistro-like SETTING - maybe a bit cramped, informal, simple if compared to a high-end white tablecloth restaurant - and NOT bistro food at all,but rather, authoral, inventive cuisine that may, here or there reference bistro classics but is not at all "bistro food". A bistro serving gastronomie is a bistronomique. A bistro serving bistro food is... a bistro!

    Or, in the words of l'Express, "De la grande cuisine dans un petit restaurant, des prix serrés et des idées larges: inventée au début des années 1990, la recette, qui mêle esprit bistrot et audace gastronomique, fait des émules dans la France entière"

    And when you say "Also, if you allow me, the fact that the word "bistronomique" has escaped the initial geographical context is a surefire sign of RIP in the birthplace.", I say actually, the initial geographical context was not exclusively Parisian.

    A similar movement started in Barcelona at around the same time, and has long been called bistronomia.

    And, funny thing, I spoke today to the man who coined the term bistronomia (its Spanish version, anyway) - the food writer Pau Arenós -, and he says the movement is alive and kicking.

    So I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  2. But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food!

    I meant that the accent was now primarily on food, not on words.

    However, I do not think 'being all about the food' and what follows in your definition is accurate for 'bistronomique'. The word is simply a contraction of bistrot and gastronomique, and thus refers to a place where a combination of bistrot food with some elements of high end cuisine (plating, culinary research, 'innovation') are served in bistrot surroundings, which are not necessarily simple.

    Defining it as "being all about the food" would imply that the other categories of restaurants are not based on the same principle, which may be true for individual cases in any category but not for categories as a whole.

    Ptipois, I beg to differ. Bistronomiques are all about the food - and yes, more so than most other kinds of restaurants - in the sense that not as much money or effort is spent on other aspects of the operation.

    The décor, for example, often takes a back seat. The space is often sparsely or simply decorated, and speaking of space, it is usually small and not grandiose. Bistronomiques also do not put much emphasis on service: oftentimes, one of the co-owners will serve all tables alone or with little help.

    In the other hand, other fine cuisine restaurants, in general, place equal emphasis on food, service and ambiance. That does not mean that bistronomiques are the only places that care about the food - not at all - but rather, that at bistronomiques food takes an uncommonly large share of the investments and efforts of the chef-proprietors. Oh, btw, that's another key characteristic of bistronomiques: they're always owned or co-owned by the chef. Never an outpost of a famous, absentee chef's global empire, for example.

    Authoral, innovative and refined cuisine + chef who's a proprietor and always present + informal and maybe even understaffed service + small space with no-frills décor = BISTRONOMIQUE.


  3. Ptipois, I am not sure the trend is gone. I, for one, hear the term bistronomique more and more. You say "Maybe because, with the help of economic realism, the accent is now primarily on food."

    But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food! Basically, the true bistronomique is a place where the chef prefers to spend his dollars on ingredients and kitchen labour, and not so much on service or décor. A simple-looking, casual place where... it's all about the food!

    So I don't see why such resistance to "categorizing" and calling some places bistronomiques...

    It's interesting to note that in Brazil, where I'm from, certain places are opening and calling themselves bistronomiques - they are PROUD to be categorized as such. And yet in Paris you say the "trend" is passé. Is it?

  4. What I would like to know is whether any of the bistros mentioned in Bittman's piece fall into the "bistronomique" categorie. To my surprise, despite the fact that there's even a topic in the French dining forums entitled "The economy and French restaurants: 2008-9", very little has been written here about the bistros serving gastronomy at friendly prices, which are now being called "bistronomiques".

    Not sure what that means? To quote the New York Times, which did a story on Barcelona's "bistonomicos", they are "dedicated to offering high quality, contemporary — and yes, occasionally clever — cooking at reasonable prices. (...) A combination of bistro (a nod to the traditional dishes that form the starting point for these chefs) and gastronomia (a reference to the haute cuisine techniques used to update them) produced bistronomia. "

    As docsconz wrote in the forum mentioned above (about the impact of the recession on French restaurants), "Good quality (though not luxe) ingredients and creativity are more important than ever. Anyone with skill can make a tasty dish from luxe ingredients, but creativity is important to make interesting dishes with mundane ingredients, thus the rise of the bistronomic phenomenon."

    Another thing bistronomiques tend to favour is nose-to-tail cooking, where the pig or cow is bought whole and butchered in-house, thereby lowering food costs - and then the different parts and cuts used creatively throughout the menu.

    Yves Camdeborde of Le Relais is generally considered the father of this trend.

    But in reading Bittman's piece, I got the impression that Itinéraires is a definite bistronomique. It's got the low prices, the inventive menu, "gorgeous food", which, according to Bittman, "is also mysterious, which is not always something I like, but here the experiments are restrained and flavor remains paramount."

    Could Itinéraires in fact be considered a bistronomique? And which are the other good bistronomiques in Paris?

  5. Ditto.  Does the inclusion of actual Absinthe (assuming that the "housemade" Absinthe is, in fact, actual Absinthe) make it a unique enough drink to warrant a new name?

    You and Weinoo are right: the Standard Grill's "speakeasy" cocktail is actually a Sazerac. But I see this done ALL the time: cocktails that have an official name going by a different name to suit the bar's / the restaurant's image or style. I realize it's not exactly right, but it's quite common.

    About the absinthe - I asked the manager and she said it was an error, it's not actually made in-house (as I suspected).

  6. Two places that are serving very interesting cocktails in Toronto are Barchef and Black Hoof.

    Barchef, Toronto

    Great care is taken to make many of the bitters and syrups in-house, as you can tell by fthe rows of medicinal-looking jars on the counter (two examples? Grapefruit bitters and cola bitters). Some of the drinks served:

    - Malpeque oyster submerged in a stellar Caesar

    - martini served three ways: dry, dirty and steeped in rosemary.

    - Sake and fresh orange juice with soy, a strip of honeyed duck, bridged over the glass, and sesame seeds on the rim

    - Caramelized Banana, salted butter, coconut puree, banana and spiced rum

    - Van Gogh's Downfall: absinthe, bitters, orange blossom water, lemon, cloves, and star anise

    - Mojito Raviolis mint, lime, sugar and rum contained in a tiny gelationous bubble that burst in the mouth with a pop.

    472 Queen St. W., 416-868-4800

    Black Hoof, Toronto

    Minimal décor, small, unpretentious, rustic, with the meat-centric menu scribbled on a blackboard. The kitchen is a tiny galley.

    Bartender and co-owner Jen Agg serves a drink called Delilah, blending vodka, icewine and muddled grapes. There's A monthly rotation of one of a kind cocktails, and she makes her own syrups, reductions and bitters for use in the bar. The Basil Fawlty is a mix of gin, basil, lemon/lime juice and orange blossom.

    I can't seem to find their website, though - would like to see the full cocktail list!

    928 Dundas St. W.

    tel. 416-551-8854

  7. I went for brunch with my brother and the place was pleasantly busy. Not at all jam-packed. They sat us at a little table and I asked to move to one of the comfy banquettes, and it worked. Much better!

    The piggie is everything that has already been said here: simply delicious, and juicy and smoky.

    Also loved the classic DBGB dog - perfect sausage-to-bun ratio, toasted bun.

    Fries? Perfection, too.

    Service? great. Very efficient.

    Crab cake with curry sauce? Best I've had in years, all crab, no fillers. Perfectly seasoned.

    I left the place with a smile that went from ear to ear, basically. And plan to go back asap.

    I've posted photos of all the dishes here

  8. I find that the new restaurants in New York have been making a bigger effort to offer cocktail lists with some personality, that incorporate interesting ingredients like cilantro, smoked salt or creme de violet. The other night I had a bite at the new Standard Grill, at the Standard Hotel.

    I tried the "speakeasy": rye, raw sugar cube, bitters, housemade absinthe, lemon twist. Turns out I could't believe the absinthe was housemade (who makes absinthe at home?!) - I asked the manager.

    But the drink, served neat, was very good all the same.


    Their gibson is made with a "splash of juniper-onion brine" and there's also a mezcal cocktail made with lime juice, agave nectar and smoked salt.

    In other words, not your usual stuff.

    Same goes for the brand-new Hotel Griffou - interesting cocktail list (and no, it's not a hotel, it's a restaurant in the Village!)


  9. Was a bit shocked to get an email from a PR firm saying Yannick Alleno is on his way out. To quote the release: "· Marrakech’s hottest new property, Royal Mansour (opening November 2009), has tapped former Le Meurice talent: three-star Michelin chef Yannick Alléno. Alléno will serve as Executive Chef with three different restaurant concepts, all focusing on reinterpreting traditional Moroccan cuisine."

    Can it be? Does anyone have details as to why he'd leave Le Meurice for Marrakech??

  10. Actually, I had forgotten to mention in my report that when I went they were offering 20% off all the food prices, since they were still in "soft opening". That deal must be over by now.

    but the menu prices are as follows (a small sampling)

    Oregon morels, shrimp and lardo, 17

    crudi, 10-21

    white wines by the glass, 9 - 18

    desserts - 12- 14

  11. I figured I should try 2 apps and one main. Here is the list of mains, not sure

    if you can read it:


    As I said before, our bread was only so-so and did not come with oil or butter. I had lunch at The Modern the day before, where both the bread and the butter were exceptional, so I couldn't help feeling let down...

    The fluke crudo was nice. Can't think of anything more illuminating to say. I'd add

    a pinch of fleur de sel if I had it at the table...


    This was delicious. Morels from Oregon stuffed with shrimp and lardo, and a tiny bit of wild watercress.


    Then came the main course: seaweed marinated east coast halibut, spring vegetables, manila clams, sopressata


    I felt guilty about not enjoying this dish. Was I not attuned to the subtleties going on? After all, I was at a fish restaurant of a famous chef. Which has been written about extensively. Surely this man REALLY knows his fish. And yet.... why did it seem so boring? The broth, too subtle. The seaweed taste of the marinade, nowhere to be found. The carrots, too al dente to be cut with a spoon, too big to fit in the mouth whole. The fish, just ever so slightly overcooked.

    Overall, the dish was... oh dear God... BLAND. There. I said it. Something I'd eat at a spa. Nice. Pretty. Bland. And no spoon to scoop up the broth with. Sigh...


    Go figure: the best part of the meal was dessert. Or desserts, in the plural. Chef sent out 3 of them.

    First up: 3 cubes of cloud-like zuchini cake topped with lemon cream, and a quenelle of frozen yogurt. Tart and sweet, creamy and soft. Delish. Loved the churros-like fried zuchini garnish.


    Another great dessert: cocoa nib cream, chocolate and hazelnut tarte, and, on the side, fior di latte ice cream. Perfection. Especially for gianduja lovers like me. :)


    And the third one contained that tired coconut-pineaple combo that every single chef seems to feel obliged to use. Still, it was delicious: a fluffyt ricotta cheesecake topped with cooked and diced pineaple and coconut icecream on the side.


    Even the mignardises were yummy: lemon curd and meringue in tiny pastry cups that fell apart to the touch, and little chocolate-strawberry cakes that mimicked the Italian flag.


    Still, the the excellent desserts were not enough to make the meal feel right. Too many mishaps - especially with service... Overall, I'd say I won't be going back.

  12. Had lunch there on Wednesday. Was very much looking forward to it, especially after seeing (reading) all the hype on Grub Street.

    Boy, what a disappointment.

    The non-descript façade already turned me off: how can anything this talked-about seem so unstylish?

    The service was bad beyond words. Can't count how many times I had to wave my hands to try to get someone's attention. I have to cut them some slack - it was, after all, their FIRST day open for lunch. But still, with all those servers you'd think they'd figure out how to communicate with each other! Finished my Ligurian beer and never had anyone ask if I'd like anything else, until I - after trying to flag down 3 guys - finally got one server to come to my table so I could order wine. Geez.

    The music really bothered me. Pop-rock. In a formal dining room filled with dressed-up people in their 40s - 60s. The two just didn't go together.

    The (tough and cold) bread came with neither oil nor butter. I've seen this done at other places but... come on, how 'bout a little extra-virgin?

    Just so this isn't all negative, I did appreciate one nice touch: for now, they're offering 20% off - a "soft opening deal" of sorts. Nice idea.

    Will post my comments on the food, with photos, shortly.

  13. The São Paulo La Mar is now officially open. It's been getting tons of press in Brazil. I posted photos of it here.

    There's a lot more information - including an interview with Acurio himself - available here, but this link is only for those who can read Portuguese!

    I am not sure whether Acurio realizes that Sao Paulo natives are crazy for raw fish and total sushi-holics, so even though he's not serving anything Japanese, he'll have very high standards to meet if he wants to please the locals.

    I don't think there is any city in the world that serves better sushi outside of Japan. Let's see how mr. Acurio's ceviches and tiraditos will measure up.

    But then again, São Paulo is my city and I am a bit biased.. :)

  14. First of all let me clarify: I went to Steirereck recently because I happened to be in Vienna for the Relais & chateaux meeting - same for many other judges - but I WAS NOT wined or dined or comped.

    Secondly, no I have not been to Asia - but that's why I am not on the Asia panel! I am Brazilian, and I am on the South American panel. Trust me, there is no lack of judges who travel extensively to Asia in the 50 best Academy, including many who live in Asia - but I sure ain't one of them.

    And now, on a lighter note, who ever knew Jay Rayner was so funny and young and tall and looked so much like Marco Pierre White? I sure didn't! I had imagined a much older guy with a pot belly, but alas, I was wrong! :)

    There is an excellent video of him at the 50 best restaurants awards ceremony here. The video really give s an insider's look at the whole thing.

  15. Who are the reviewers? How is the list viewed by chefs and restauranteurs? Will Per Se be celebrating today that it is "best in the Americas"(happen to agree with that one)?I

    sethd, to answer a couple of your questions: the reviewers are, mostly, chefs, restaurant owners and food writers like myself. This year, I think over 800 judges in total. How do chefs view this? Well, if they didn't care, then surely Grant Achatz wouldn't have left his rest. at 3 am to get on a flight a few hours later for London. Ferran went. Arzak went. Alex Atala went. Heck, THEY ALL WENT. The big shots, I mean.

    How many awards things do these guys attend? Few. Especially the very hard-working,

    non-imperialistic chefs like Achatz.

    so it's easy to say the list is bs. But I really think the chefs disagree.

    they care A LOT.

  16. Hi Lesley,

    the rule says you must have eaten at the restaurants you vote for in the last 18 months, not 12.

    and this year they made us say when, exactly, we ate at each restaurant (although I guess nothing would stop someone from telling a little white lie)

    But no, of course we are not expected to eat at dozens of restaurants around the globe. We are only asked to vote for 5 which are, in our view, some of the world's best - where we've eaten recently.

    So my 5, OBVIOUSLY, are a reflection of where I've been lately. In 08 I was in NY, Vienna, Barcelona, Cotswolds (UK) and Brazil. So that definitely narrows my choices.

    And the same goes for all other judges.

    That's why I said I knew that Steirereck making the list was a direct consequence of the R&C meeting in Vienna last November. In attendance were many of the world's greatest chefs, many of whom are judges. We all ate wonderfully at Steirereck, hence....

    Likewise, restaurants in cities that are a favourite of foodies when they travel - NY, London, Paris - will always have an advantage.

    My point is, a restaurant off the beaten path, no matter how excellent, will always have a slim chance. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? If not enough judges know it or have been to it, then being excellent is simply not enough to get a restaurant on the list. Fair? Of course not, but... who says Best Of lists ever tried to be fair?

  17. And the Oscar goes to.....

    El Bulli, again!

    And The Fat Duck is runner-up, again!

    Happy to say my predictions came close.

    Ramsay down? Check! Off the list altogether.

    Trotter down? Check!

    Alinea up? check! Up to #10.

    Scandinavians on the rise? Check! Noma is #3.

    My beloved Steirereck made the list, and I know why:

    Relais & Chateaux had their annual meeting in Vienna,

    so many top chefs and food jounos (such as myself)

    ate there recently.

    Full list will go up soon on their site.

    For those who can't wait to see it, it's also posted online here.

    And a story about Ramsay's fall, in The Telegraph.

  18. Jay is right: getting into the best Japanese restaurants is very hard - one needs to be recommended by a Japanese. And some of those that are excellent and relatively easy to get into, such as Sukiyabashi Jiro, make no effort to impress with the decor or service, or even give a warm welcome ( this specific whole-in-the-wall where 80-something Jiro-san works his magic has 3 Michelin stars).

    The sushiman at another restaurant, Azabu Kadowaki, mr. Toshiya Kadowki, famously said to the NY Times that only the Japanese understand Japanese cuisine: "“Japanese food was created here, and only Japanese know it,” Mr. Kadowaki said in an interview. “How can a bunch of foreigners show up and tell us what is good or bad?”


    No wonder they're under-represented in the list. The more roadblocks there are to dining at Japan's best, the less they'll be known - or voted for!

    As for the 50 best list, I agree with most of Doc's predictions. Going up: Achatz's Alinea (he's on his way to London, sez Twitter), Scandinavians. Going down: Ramsay restaurants, Charlie Trotter.

    I'd also guess that Marcus Wareing will be going up, and maybe (hopefully) a second Brazilian will make the list - either Jun Sakamoto or Kinoshita or Fasano.

    Last but not least, regarding the voting panel (full disclosure: yes, I am on it), the number of judges has been increased, as has the number of voting regions (from 23 to 26) - all of the additional regions are outside of Europe. That should guarantee newcomers from other parts of the world crack the top 50.

    We shall all find out tomorrow...

  19. Wow, Judy, I hadn't noticed the date slip, thanks for pointing it out!

    And here's the list of last year's winners, just to show that it is indeed euro-centric, and could use a few Japanese restaurants, at least:

    1 El Bulli Spain World's Best Restaurant

    2 The Fat Duck UK

    3 Pierre Gagnaire France

    4 Mugaritz Spain

    5 The French Laundry USA Best Restaurant in the Americas

    6 Per Se USA

    7 Bras France

    8 Arzak Spain

    9 Tetsuya's Australia

    10 Noma Denmark

    11 L'Astrance France

    12 Gambero Rosso Italy

    13 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay UK

    14 L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon France

    15 Le Louis XV France

    16 St John UK

    17 Jean Georges USA

    18 Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée France

    19 Hakkasan UK

    20 Le Bernardin USA

    21 Alinea USA

    22 Le Gavroche UK

    23 Dal Pescatore Italy

    24 Le Cinq France

    25 Troisgros France

    26 El Celler de Can Roca Spain

    27 L'Hotel de Ville - Philippe Rochat Switzerland

    28 Hof Van Cleve Belgium

    29 Martin Berasategui Spain

    30 Nobu London UK

    31 Can Fabes Spain

    32 Enoteca Pinchiorri Italy

    33 Le Meurice France

    34 Vendome Germany

    35 Die Schwarzwaldstube Germany

    36 Le Calandre Italy

    37 Chez Panisse USA

    38 Charlie Trotter's USA

    39 Chez Dominique Finland

    40 D.O.M Brazil

    41 Daniel USA

    42 Oud Sluis Netherlands

    43 Ristorante Cracco Italy

    44 Asador Etxebarri Spain

    45 Les Ambassadeurs France

    46 L'Arpege France

    47 Tantris Germany

    48 Oaxen Skärgärdskrog Sweden

    49 Rockpool Australia

    50 Le Quartier Francais South Africa

  20. gallery_36345_6588_10751.jpg

    First of all, I know that theoretically this topic should be filed under food periodicals, but.... Restaurant Magazine's annual ranking of the world's top restaurants is very much a British thing. British magazine, big awards ceremony in London on Monday, Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck usually #1 or #2 (although who knows how the recent mishap might have affected his "handicap"...)

    So I started the topic here.

    "Best of" lists are love-hate affairs, and as soon as they come out there are legions of bloggers and journalists who criticize them. But, like it or not, the fact is the list has become very well-known and respected around the world.

    The magazine's PR people have been feeding the press (i.e. me) with little tidbits to keep us salivating for more. First, we learned that Robuchon will go up on stage at the Freemason's Hall on Monday to pick up a Lifetime Achievement award.

    Today, I got another press release. A juicier one at that. It says "The votes have been counted, the flights have been booked and the chefs are heading to London to hear the results.

    The S.Pellegrino World`s 50 Best Restaurants Awards take place in London on Monday 21 April 2008. It`s the biggest chefs night off of the year.This year a host of new talent finds itself on to the list, who will have made way for the 9 newcomers?"

    so... who wants to start guessing who's been dropped off the list? ;)

    I'll get the results as soon as they're out Mon night, via Twitter, and post here. Let the discussion begin!

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