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Everything posted by vmilor

  1. vmilor

    Da Vittorio

    I can not express as eloquently as Robert but his sentiments echo mine or vice versa. It looks like a page is closing in culinary history. Somehow I don't believe it will be the same without him.
  2. After my second meal at Etxebarri ( a restaurant I reviewed before and awarded 18/20) I wholeheartedly second Victor. His cuisine is simple but not simplistic. Some of his touches are very clever and sophisticated in an understated way(his becada, his ventresca de bonito, his foie gras). He is absolutely obssessed with highest quality ingredients to a degree that he will serve Gillardeau oysters(yes a la brasa and sitting on algae) and the best ceps. For my taste were I to visit only one restaurant in the Basque region it would be Etxebarri (followed by Mugaritz and Elkano). Besides, I love the setting in the little village of Axpe and the Atxondo valley(esp. when you hit it in a day when there is a wedding in the little church). And hitting Ganbara....yes it is addictive and it used to be even more amazing in the late 80s when shellfish was more abundant. But it still is the best for traditional tapas and wild mushrooms. For creative fare, Alona Berri looked like a good bet but we were too full after Etxebarri to do it full justice.
  3. I am quite puzzled to read that Aduriz has been going thru a peculiar quasi-vegetarian and herb- obssessed period. My recent (16 October) meal there started with a vegetable dish (different and BETTER than Bras' gargaillou where I ate on October 9) and apart from the next dish (borage stalks) his set menu included the following dishes: squid and chestnuts, cod cheek and tripe stew, and egg dish, foie gras, rouget (salmonetes), lamb trotter. The use of herbs was judicious and clever. A serious review(which Aduriz deserves) will have to wait. But I should say that his best dishes are stellar and less successful dishes are still interesting. If I can read a chef's intelligence from his cooking and his style I shall argue that Aduriz is a remarkable person. This may of course be a great thing but it may also be a pitfall as a person like this is unlikely to find satisfaction when he perfects a dish so he may make changes too often and sometimes he can regress (such as Gagnaire). Personally I would look forward to future meals there.
  4. A very recent visit to Can Roca on October 20 proved (at least in my own eyes) that my earlier praise for this modest place located in a dull suburb of Girona continues to be one of the most exciting places to eat in the Western World that I am aware of. Normally I am not a proponent of multi course small portion format but Joan Roca understands extremely well the concept of the flow of the meal and the progression throughout the meal is well thought out. I admire the way he creates explosive taste combinations from complimentary ingredients while at the same time adding an element of surprise (a contrasting ingredient) which elevates some of his dishes to a divine status (pork feet with espardenyes for instance). I am also quite skeptical about the wide scale application of "sous vide" technique to meat but somehow Roca is able to deliver crunchy skins (his lamb and pork dishes) and escapes some of the pitfalls of this method. Even though this method was originated at the kitchens of the Troisgros in the 70s, I would say that Roca fares better than Troisgros (where I ate on the 21st of October the day after Can Roca) when he cooks sous vide. I am also thrilled by Roca's constant search for highest quality ingredients as he brings his suckling lamb from Ribera Duero (churra breed) and his squab from Bresse (France) and so on. His fish and shellfish has been impeccably fresh in the last 3 visits too. In terms of sensitivity to high quality ingredients both Can Roca and Con Fabes score much higher than El Bulli. I have two complaints though. One is that(somehow nobody mentioned) the bread tray is too good and I can not help devouring his various brioche concoctions to my detriment. Second, the wine list is is treasure for rare Spanish (Cantador 2001, Cursion 2001) and great Burgundies at very fair prices so no matter what I do I always leave the restaurant feeling that I could or should have tried bottles other than what I ordered!
  5. Menton you are right. Writing very fast and never editing I said "food" instead of availability of seafood. In summer and at Riviera we are always in the mood for whole fish cooked at the bone and shellfish and somehow I can not satisfy myself in France and we are more content in Italy. We tried Bacon, Tetou, Loulou, Jerome etc., and somehow Italy is winning, on the average for quality and availability of fresh and wild seafood. My best guess is that in Italy there are more fishmongers and local markets are richer. I am always open though to your suggestions as you live in the area.
  6. In my subjective lexicon I called somebodygourmet (and of course thought of myself to be one too)if two conditions were satisfied: 1. The sheer joy of eating well is so important to them that their spirit soar if they eat well and they are in bad mood if they don't. They are willing to forsake a money making or influence peddling opportunity (say a company dinner where they are supposed to show up) if they think food will be lousy. 2. They are discriminating. But this discrimination is not based on snobbism (like I only call Thomas' food great type) but on ingredient quality. So a gourmet, when tasting the "oysters and pearls", will first look at the quality of the oyster and the caviar in question before passing judgment about its texture and the role of tapioca in terms of its complimentarity with other ingredients, etc. (This is just an example. Personally I will forgive an expensive restaurant for not using top beluga but I will never forgive if they don't have good eggs or potatoes or non farmed fish) I wholeheartedly agree that excessive reliance on multi star restaurants is not a necessary condition. I would even go farther and say that it may prevent a true appreciation of food. What goes on in most super celebrated restaurants nowdays is a quite fussy, over elaborate and sometimes tormented/tortured form of cooking on the basis of multi course meals that it is not uncommon to hear even experienced diners proclaim "I can't recall what I have eaten but it was....so Good!). The truth is one can hardly understand the real taste of natural ingredients and how good they can get eating in super hip places run by celebrity chefs.
  7. There are quite a few fascinating posts here and I would like to thank again the organizers and participants. Some minor points: 1. I hope the idea of "golden age of dining" did not come from my post. I have never implied it. 2. I suppose I am more pessimistic than most (those who grew on canned vegetables) because my comparators and baseline are different. It is true that America is a "polyglot" country (as is Turkey) but there are so many pressures for homogenizing which risk to turn it into a "polyglut" culture. The "average citizen" is of course an approximation, an ideal typical model which lives in the mind of socilogists and may not live up to comparisons with flesh and blood examples. On the other hand, for every single story of the immigrant who clings to tradition there are 10 of them which cease to resist and end up microwaving frozen crap. The life pressures are just relentless. 3. I also compare day care food here in Istanbul and there in Atlanta. Our 3.5 years old has been in different day cares. When in US they eat frozen pizza and chicken nougets and processed cheese all the time and, at home, she sneers at our cooking. In Turkey, they eat so much more varied and better and she then devours lamb chops, fish and shellfish and vegetables cooked in olive oil with us. I suppose her palate will be very different depending on where she grows up. Apologies from Molly for gender confusion and thanks to 2 participants for bringing to my attention. At the same time, my brand of male chauvinism is such that when I am intellectually attracted to some arguments from unknown people I may subconsciously wish it is a "she" and then I become more motivated to start a dialogue!
  8. Bux, would you please give some details of your meal in Ca Sento. Somebody whose palette I respect very much (Rogelio) also thinks that it is a very special place. It certainly is on my radar screeen.
  9. It is nice to nice to read this report which conjures up good memories. In the summer of 2004 we had a lovely meal there, sitting in an outside table at the Piazza, and we started new friendships as Trattorias like this emit a "joie de vivre" which is contagious. The tuna, my wife's dish, was slightly overcooked. The rest of the meal was very satisfactory. The wine list was very good and prices fair. Bordighera has 2 one Michelin star restaurants by the way. Carletto and Via Romano. My meal in the former was disappointing, however, one may also eat very well there if you hit the latter part of the week when the restaurant buys fresh fish from the local market. I dined twice a Via Romano (the second one with Robert and Susan Brown) with consistent results: it is a very good seafood restaurant, with mostly but not always impeccably fresh products and the refined cooking respects the ingredients. I agree that Ventimiglia is not as pretty as Bordighera but restaurant Baia Beniamin there can not be beaten for the setting/ambience. Two years in a raw we had superb fresh fish there as well as the gamberi di San Remo (best in the world) were better than what I had gotten in the 2 star French (the one in La Turbie) and as good as the famous Louis XV--for 5 times as expensive of course. But they are a bit short staffed in Baia Beniamin and it takes time to give your first order. They make it up by offering Prosecco though. Incidentally, I liked very much Conchiglia which is not too far from Bordighera. Paolo et Barbara in San Remo is a long story... So over the years we came to the following conclusion. Stay in France (Cap Ferrat), but always cross the border to eat better and cheaper than what is available in France. The only exception to this is Louis XV. It is not cheaper, but depending on the day you can eat there a meal which should score 17 in Gastroville scale in a bad day and a superlative meal which may score 19.5/20 when Cerruti is in good shape!
  10. These are truly dire prospects. You may be absolutely right but the moment these happen in Europe eating out will be devoid of its inherent joy, hedonistic dimension, and communal-joy sharing roots. Why there is less light in the American restaurants by the way? ( I started carrying a flash light to all Atlanta restaurants)
  11. The opening salvo of this thread (by Holly Moore) is excellent and so are the other contributions which challenge her pessimism. How can then one reconcile the 2 sides? The answer may lie in the specifics of the American political economy which defied a postulate of economic development discipline. Students of economics are told that although income inequality tends to increase during the early stages of industrialization and modernization, later stages of development and high productivity have historically gone along with more equal distribution of income. The latter point was accurate for the States till the end of the 70s and it still holds for Western Europe (less for England). Unfortunately, this positive trend of diminishing inequality in advanced stages of development cannot be taken for granted. Specifically, in the United States, income inequality increased substantilally in the 80s as a consequence of changes in economic structure, the increase in single parent families, immigration and a lowering of income taxes in the 80. In terms of income distribution the US of today is a much more polarized country than the Western European countries. One should expect that eating habits and the supply side should reflect this fact and it does. When I look back to my quarter of century spent in the country and casually observe the 2 sides of the same coin highlighted by different commentators. That is: 1. There are many more sophisticated Americans who demand better food and higher quality ingredients. Corporations respond to this need. 2. But the gap or polarization in eating habits has further increased as a consequence of the increasing polarization in political economy. This gap also pertains to knowledge about food and cuisine and its appreciation. It is easier for a Spanish or Turkish or French hedonist to share common feelings with an average citizen than it is for an American gastronome. By the same token eating out is more like a communal joy in European countries than it is in America. Real or imaginary dress codes don't matter in this context. A minor point. I agree with the factual observation that the availability of "luxurious" ingredients such as Reggiano or Balsamico has increased in the States. However, I think this development is partly salutory and partly troublesome. Why it is salutory is obvious. But it is also problematic for 2 reasons: a. Increased availability often comes at the expense of quality. The "luxurious" ingredient is becoming "pedestrian" so to speak. b. The good quality of the same ingredient now becomes harder to find and, when it is available, the already high price now becomes prohibitive. So the very trend that seems democratic also contains the seeds of further polarization.
  12. We have dined in El Bulli this year after the long hiatus since 98 (when we had had some great meals). My overall conclusions are: 1. The staff is better than ever. Now the level of service approximates the very best in France. Signor Garcia is a gem. 2. Overall the meal lacks balance and harmony. The repeated use of similar techniques (freezing thru liquid nitrogen) and ingredients (especially salty--greasy flavors of sesame oil, brown butter and seaweed and similar spices) spoiled the overall experience. Most dishes lacked finessed and subtlety and there was undue emphasis on primal tastes (which makes fast food such a success). 3. There has been no well thought out crescendo over the course of the meal. It was rather a non rigorous pluralistic approach characterized by endless ramifications of the same theme. It is as if too many talented interns created dishes using similar techniques and ingredients and then most of them were included in the menu without a rigorous process of selection. 4. Some dishes were inedible. But most others gave the impression that they are unfinished dishes, or rather concept of dishes ("like ideal types" or "prototypes") which are haphazardly executed. By the same token, there are great potential in some of the dishes--whose ramifications are yet to unfold( I was glancing other reviews and have seen that Rogelio made this point). 5. There are some great dishes. Especially I found 3 of them (oyster and pearl; mackerel belly; lamb brain and sea urchin) memorable. The last came close to equalling bone marrow with caviar which I include in my top 10 list or so. Bravo. 6. In general Adria uses ingredients in pristine form(with some exceptions such as preserved white asparagus). However, there was so much artificial construct(those created by the use of agar agar or other gelatines) that one suspects whether Adria is aiming for a mass market for frozen fast food and that he tested some of his ideas in 2005 in his main restaurant. If so, I suspect that the US market is very important to him as he had some nods towards it (Orea cookies, marshmellow). These said, Catalunya has still some of the best cooking anywhere but the flag seems to have passed on to the 3 Roca brothers: the eldest Juan who is the chef, the middle Josep who is the equal of any top French sommelier and simply the best in Spain and the very talented 25 years Jordi whose desserts are sublime. I want to thank Pedro for insisting that I try Can Roca. I actually cancelled another reservation and tried it twice in 4 days and am looking forward to a return visit very soon.
  13. My wife and I had our third meal at Manresa on September 15th. The first two meals have been very satisfactory and I had thought that David Kinch, whose cooking I am familiar with from the days of Sent Sovi had evolved further and had become one of the best chefs in America. My third meal, however, was by far the best meal David put together and it is not an exaggeration to say that it was as good as the very best meals I have had in the States--as good as when Thomas Keller is in good shape and cooks, as good as when Pepin cooked special meals at Chez Panisse with Waters back in the late 80ss and as good as the very best meal I remember from Gary Kunz at Lespinasse (I had lesser meals there too) and one single all white truffle meal at Boulud for a small group when Daniel was less famous and was giving personal attention. As far as I can tell, David's greatest strength is also his Achilles heel. That is, he has a profound knowledge and undertanding of different cooking techniques and cuisines so he can draw inspiration from a greater variety of sources than most other great chefs. The flip side of this is that, esp. when he concocts multiple courses the flow of the meal may lack some inner logic and rigour and it becomes hard to detect an overall focus and direction. On the other hand, even then, David never adopts faddish methods or resorts to gimmicks to influence the unsuspected. His cooking is essentially respectful of the terroir and the ingredient. I am impressed by his knowledge of local ingredients in the sense that, unlike many other chefs who either excessively resort to local ingredients or import mediocre quality expensive ingredients, David is able to strike a happy medium. He prefers to work with the best local ingredient but, when they are unavailable, he handpicks the best non local varieties of fish, meat and produce and presents them in pristine or almost pristine form. These said, our last meal proved that David is developing an overall style and that he can put together a meal which can have a crescendo effect rather than random progression. His is a personal and pluralistic style, clearly influenced by his Catalunian training but he is an unmistakeable Northern California chef in terms of his sensitivites. That is, his cuisine reflects an ongoing dialogue with all cultures which make their presence felt in California but David is able to create an original synthesis from these influences. There was not a single dish (of the 6 tapas and 6 mains) that was merely good in our last meal and it was the overall balance/harmony and progression which was most memorable. His mi-cuit foie gras and pickled pg's trotters was so bad that the two of us had to gulp down the whole jar to prevent other diners from undergoing a similar shock. His own brand of Gazpacho and corn croqettes which followed it should be named as the entry from California to the world's best appetizers contest. The qualty of all the 5 seafood we tasted had been super and his Japanese seabass (sofrigit) is now inscribed in my memory as one of the best fish dishes I have had in the States. The sweetbread which followed it and the home made choucroute left similar impressions. The beef bavette which ended the meal was also very good--perhaps half notch below sweetbreads in terms of the quality. There is also an intangible element which is hard to explain. That is, one feels that these dishes are put on the plate by a chef who likes what he is doing as is passionate and happy. This is what I meant by the term "personal". I can see that these dishes can be reproduced "technically" but they will not taste the same when David is not present in the kitchen. Fortunately he was there when I dined!
  14. I actually disagree about Venice not being a good place for gastronomy. The molluscs and crustaceans and some fish from the lagoon are quite unique. There are many treasures and one needs to seek them out. I only scratched the surface in my "A Trip to Venice" report and was amply rewarded, esp. by some of the best raw molluscs one can not easily get elsewhere and some very good produce too. Da Fiore is obsessed about the quality of ingredients and it shows. However, one can eat as well for half the price at Alle Testiere. The owner of Da Fiore has a cookbook in English which looked interesting but it is not possible to replicate these recipes elsewhere. Nonehtheless, it may be of interest for most people. Another trick in Venice it to never take the vaporetto and walk to all destinations. We were amply awarded doing this and felt more like part of the everyday life. Thanks Robert for these thought provoking reports.
  15. Nice report Robert, Vissani remains one place in Italy on my radar screen that eluded me so far. I wonder, however, if he can sustain this level of excellence with so few clients. How can he offer fresh seafood dishes without turnover? I was intrigued that he had black truffle on the gamberi rossi dish in August. Was it frozen? I rather have summer truffle.
  16. Moby, I actually have a reservation there on October 9 and I have second thoughts about it after reading your post. Maybe I should cancel it?? Do you think Michel Bras will cook if I order ALC? Is there a particular table I should ask for 2 people? Vedat
  17. As a side note I had really home made scialatelli pasta with melted buffalo scamorza and eggplant at a beach fish shack in Capri (Lido del Faro) a few hours ago which was the type of pasta dish that makes you dizzy with pleasure. Prior to this they dived (upon my request) to collect 10 sea urchins and the patelle pasta (bigourneaux in French) was almost as good as the scamorza. The small island aragosta was also alive when brought to attention and it was perfectly grilled. It was sensational accompanied by fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes and sweet onions. They also have fresh pezzogne right now which is a great fish! This is part of tonight's menu though!
  18. For pizza I actually liked Gatto Mangiano. Thanks to Francesco who had second hand but reliable info. we had very good dough which was like a successful snyntesis of roman white dough and napolitaine style pizza. They also have very good Piemontese trappist beer. I am not sure about the spelling and may be confusing o and a. But it must relate to a cat as the proprieterss seems to be obssessed with cats. This is the only negative in an otherwise friendly, cozy, neighbourhood place with top pizza. Oh. Matricianella is a very good trattoria and you don't leave a fortune. I esp. recommend fried brain and sweetbread and trippa a la romana.
  19. vmilor

    Au Bon Accueil

    Marc, Au Bon Accueil is good and they certainly serve food to outside tables and since it is the side street, sitting there is quite fun. The food is good half notch below Regalade and Chez Michel level. I actually liked one single dish at Clos des Gourmets, which is on Avenue Rapp and very very close to Au Bon Accueil, that is "tete de cochon croustillante" ,more interesting and more in tune with the cuisine bourgeoise that one expects at the bistrots. Looks like you are planning a trip to Paris!
  20. vmilor

    Northern Italy

    Thanks Cy, Thanks Francesco. Hope you will plan another trip to Italy next year Cy. Personally your conclusions are very relevant for my own planning.
  21. vmilor

    Northern Italy

    Cy, Do you also mind telling us some more on Soriso? it was not on my radar screen but after your A+ i can change my mind. Did you have the squab main course at Le Calandre? They do this dish very well but last time they had an Asian inspired preparation which i liked less. May i also request the address of Rigoletto? Vedat
  22. vmilor

    Northern Italy

    Cy, Thanks for sharing your conclusions. I am not surprised about Dal Pescatore as we had a fine but not outstanding meal there last time and it is a good-solid restaurant. I had recently put a post in gastroville on Da Vittorio with shellfish specials but I had found the veal cheek very very good too. I should put Villa Crespi and Al Soriso on top of my wish list now. I am also sorry about the Metropole fiasco--apparently Giardinetto which I found to be very very good is open on sundays. I am curious about the following: 1. Logistics aside how would you rate Trattoria Laguna? How would you compare it with Alle Testiere? If you strongly recommend it, I would go out of my way and put up with the logistics next time I am there. 2. I am sad to hear about Fiordaliso. Do you know if the chef changed? They had a very good shellfish plate with vanilla infused seafood broth, some good sea urchin risotto, outstanding preparation of grilled eel with fennel and garlic, chic and tasty "guitar string" pasta with anchovy, etc. What did you have there? It is difficult to be back after Italy, is not it?
  23. Shit!, you're drinking my wines... Can't wait to go back and drink another Bonnes-Mares from Dujac... Brgds, Luis ← 99 is a bit closed right now. Actually 98 is very good and drinking well. 89 is at the optimum. I finished my last bottle. I spoke to Josep on the phone and prior to my arrival there we will discuss the menu and the wines. He is supposed to be the best sommelier in Spain.
  24. What was the main course? You seem positive but a little less enthusiastic than Con Roca. Is this a correct inference?
  25. Thanks Stephen for taking the time and writing a nice, comprehensive review. This is really a public service and it is appreciated. Do you think overall the a la carte is a better strategy? From another recent report on Bras I understood that the foie gras on the Menu Decouverte is not really the same (and less impressive) that the a la carte version. Besides the gargouillou and the foie gras, what are the dishes you recommend most? I will be there later this year and am planning to concoct my own menu. By the way, have you ever tried his lamb? Have you ever eaten there when it was 2 stars? Some reviewers noted a consistency problem after they increased seating capacity.
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