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Everything posted by Gareth

  1. I think the most difficult negotiation of my entire life was persuading the Maitre D’ to continue to honour my 40th Birthday reservation at L’Ambroisie after my sister and brother-in-law announced a change of holiday plans that meant they would now be accompanied by a two-year old. Ten solid minutes of pleading and hard bargaining, made all the more difficult because, actually, I was kinda with the Maitre D on this one. Still, family is family, and a Saturday night reservation at L’Ambroisie is not something to be relinquished without a fight… Fortunately Rhiannon did us proud - as did the restaurant; especially for a place that has one of the most ‘difficult’ reputations of the Paris 3*s. My sense was that, on arrival, half the serving staff viewed us like leprosy and opted out - but the rest were charm itself. Strategies on “How to deal with the Child in such Surroundings” seemed to divide into three approaches which we alternated between: - my sister’s approach: buy up every non-noise-making toy in Hamleys and bring it with you to keep her amused and distracted; - the receptionist/front of house staff’s approach: take her out from time-to-time and wheel her around the Places des Vosges whilst signing French lullabies; and - the kitchen’s approach: bring her an endlessly indulgent stream of Paris’s finest ice cream and little cakes. Anyway, if she had done the “terrible two” thing, Plan B was that one of the Parents would either take her back to the hotel or wheel her around Paris as they staggered courses. Because everyone recognised that other people are paying good money (and more) for what is a special night out for them too, so a hefty dollop of consideration for others is in order. To underline what Howard said and to disagree with spanielking a bit: it’s not a problem of ‘children in restaurants’ (even top end £50@+) per se (thought this was testing that view probably beyond the point to which I was entirely comfortable..): it’s a problem with some parents in restaurants – probably reflecting on their inability to set boundaries in general. Conversely, my experience has been that when children are well-behaved, other diners don't just appreciate it but seem actively to welcome them into 'the community' so to speak. In the end this one will backfire on her mum and dad, though. Age two, Rhiannon looked to the manner born as she supped her water from the solid silver sugar bowl, and I think even now is becoming rapidly accustomed to a lifestyle that will bankrupt them. I may have paid for dinner but it’s her dad that’s going to face the more ruinous bill !
  2. Gets my vote (just in case any of those TV producers you alluded to are reading...). Surely there is some space (esp. on public service telly) for some food programming that is other than lowest common denominator stuff ? Saw "eating with the Enemy" the other day, including our very own Mr Rayner prostituting himself for Auntie BBC's shilling as he and three other critics assessed the predictably dire efforts of some housewife from Barry Island. Is that really as good as it gets for TV cookery? It's like inviting Brian Sewell to do a series on art but telling him to ignore the Uffizi and critique the poster paints of my 2 year old neice instead. I mean, what's the point? Have recently cooked a bit from - and read a lot more of - the French Laundry Cookbook. I know I can't attempt half of it but that doesn't make it any less interesting to read. We didn't all tune in to watch the Olympics because they'd selected 8 members of the public just like us to run round the track. We watched, not because Usain Bolt is 'just like us' but because he isn't. If people thrill to the best in Sport, why not in cooking rather than putting three hacks on Masterchef who can't fry a fish finger and inviting us to believe that these are professionals "at the top of their game" and "looking to join the culinary elite" ? Rant over. G.
  3. For me the highlight was the lass who produced Lamb curry that looked straight from the “Serving Suggestion” box-top of Vesta c.1975 – even down to the sprinkled bits of chopped parsley over the rice. It took a level of naivety that was almost charming to serve Michel Roux a dish that proved that you had what it takes to replicate JD Weatherspoons in a professional kitchen. This was closely followed by the “Classic Test” in which two of the three contestants confessed to never have seen – let alone cooked – Sole Menuire before. But once you got over the comedy value (and not all the contestants have been so limited) there was something more than the voyeuristic social bloodsports that makes Reality TV such a turn-off. Vesta Chef was clearly so far out of her depth she needed a periscope. Like the others who hadn’t cooked a menuire dish, she was a product of her prior horizons. Which probably says as much about Britain’s food culture and vocational training as it does about them (see the recent Jonathan Meades article…). And which also meant that you also sensed that it was the first time she had an opportunity to genuinely appreciate what is expected by way of standards, if she wanted to match her cooking to her level of ambition; and the first time she had direct and honest feedback from someone who genuinely understood those standards. So – like the others who were having their car crash cookery moments as they stepped up to the plate and were found wanting – you felt that she was walking away wiser, but not ridiculed, humiliated or with her dreams diminished.
  4. …no but the quotation from him – as cited in the one page article in the Guardian this morning - was “When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and all you see is a man who is constrained, confined and trapped then you’ve got to change…put a gun to my head, shoot me, put me in a box and bury me because if you don’t I’ll come back and come back. I’ll never give up until I get to where I want to go.” It sort of coveys a sense that “where he wants to go” is not the stagnant stability of the status quo. I don’t know (not knowing the trade well enough) whether the risks that necessarily come with such ambition would be at odds with the business model of the Berkeley Hotel with whom he now will have a direct contract, but I observe that plenty of the Parisian elite are housed in hotels; including Gagnaire. G. p.s. Award self half-pat on back that yestarday’s posting of topic “Is it time for Waringwatch ?” was clearly answered with a resounding “yes” as evidenced by this morning’s Guardian article. Then issue desperate plea to Moderator to see if they can correct my spelling of Wareing in the Topic title before I die of shame.
  5. OK, so now booked in for “Marcus Waring at Petrus” for two weeks after it re-opens. We would have tried to get in opening night, simply because my mate who’s joining me had been to last night of Bacchus and quite liked the symmetry of following this with first night of new Petrus. However, on the relevant opening Saturday he’s at Amador (Frunkfurt) and I’m at Mugaritz (San Sebastian). Which will enable us at least to benchmark Petrus’s ambitions to a third star as once again we go over the top in the cause of fine dining. Ask not what your Country eats; ask what you can eat for your Country…etc etc What struck me in making the booking was how much the (charming) front of house staff were keen to stress harmony and continuity. Much as I tried to dig for salacious gossip about thermonuclear chef/protégé domestics, splits within the Ramsay empire, and Villeroy and Boch being hurled across the pass in a rage of passion and pent up jealousies, nothing was forthcoming. Instead, it was all “amicable terms”…“same menus”…“only difference will be Marcus’s name added to the front door”. Nevertheless one hopes that this is Waring’s “Aubergine Moment” when he redefines himself and strikes out on his own to make that all-or-nothing bid for the third star. For if not him, where is the challenge/next wave coming from ? Bosi and Aikens look frustratingly distant prospects right now and too much of the rest is dominated by Ramsay clones or London branches of Chef’s with their HQ in Paris. Surely the Government ought to be setting a target for the number of 1, 2 and 3 starred Michelin restaurants to be open in time for London 2012 ? With lottery funding if necessary.
  6. Let me add my vote to the Locatelli camp. Have eaten here regularly since it opened and it has always delivered. I was a bit disappointed by Theo Randell’s. It opened to rave reviews which focused on its simplicity and directness of ingredients and flavour. I don’t disagree but for me it was just a bit too Spartan on the plate and at the price. My wood-fired pigeon with baby girolles was lovely – and that’s exactly what I got: a plate of pigeon and mushrooms. For £26 or thereabouts. Which left me thinking “Well, that was nice pigeon and mushrooms.” But otherwise struggled to fire up my interest and excitement. Until the bill arrived. In contrast, Locatelli keeps the simple simple (e.g. in the pasta dishes, such as tagiatelli with kid ragu) but also seems to be able to add a riff of refinement, variation or technique without betraying the essentials of the dish. It’s one of those restaurants that feels special without being stiff and, most importantly, it’s one of those restaurants where I just really look forward to opening the menu. Only eaten once at Latium and found it underwhelming but to be fair I was there on business and it was a fairly tense negotiation, so the food didn’t get my full attention (as opposed to excellent cocktails at the Sanderson – just opposite – afterwards). Passione. Ate at a couple of times. I liked the food. And I suspect that, had I stumbled upon it by a harbour on the Amalfi coast then I would have spent the next year enthusing and urging all my friends to take 100 mile detours on their summer holidays just to visit. However, something about it being sited off the Tottenham Court Road and charging very London prices means that I’ve never quite connected with the place. Can’t speak for River Café and Fifteen is unspeakable . Gareth
  7. Can I ask this too - with the same agenda ? Heading to the area in mid-Sept. First time in FL for 20 years and completely unfamiliar with the terratory. There have been previous postings about Naples but they're all a little dated now. I had good eating on earlier trips to the US this year in LA, Aspen, Seattle (esp. good) and New England. Would be a shame not to do justice to Florida. A case of "See Naples and Dine ?" (Sorry...) Much appreciated, Gareth
  8. I enjoyed it too. Good early evening “popcorn” telly. But I was disappointed to see that when it came to commenting on the dishes Michel Roux went first every time. Like what’s Veg Guy going to do after that, disagree with him ? “So, two Michelin star holding chef at Le Gavroche Michel reckons that dish is a bit of a dud; what do you think Greg…?” Much more fun would be to let Greg go first and then have Michel comment. A chance to judge both wanna-be chefs and wanna-be critics ! G.
  9. Not helpful vis a vis finding places on the Cote d'Azur, but very glad to find a fellow spirit when it comes to the subject of how to celebrate a Stag Night. One of the prouder moments of my foodie career was recognising Gearoid Devaney - the sommelier at Tom Aikens in London: "I recognise you," I said, "Weren't you at Pierre Gagnaire ? You don't get many Irish sommeliers at 3* Michelin restaurants in Paris." "I recognise you," said Gearoid, "You don't get many stag nights at Pierre Gagnaire..." For what it's worth I wouldn't rush to L'Oasis at La Napoule, in case that was on your list. V.disappointing luch there a year or two ago for my father's 80th. Tipped as a rising 2* in Michelin, I thought it was heading in the opposite direction. Granted it was lunch, but thought they could manage better for dessert than simply to wheel round a trolley which wasn't that much more accomplished than your average patisserie. Also "tropical" ambience somehow left me feeling that i'd been dining in a garden centre. Ho hum. Gareth
  10. John, Just to say, by happy coincidence, I will be celebrating my 40th Birthday week after next at the Montagna in Aspen, before repeating the celebrations this side of the pond at L'Ambroisie. So I very much hope to be posting on both 'your' boards ! The plan is a cunning one. I wake up on the morning of my 40th Birthday and decide then whether life is still worth living. If it is, I drink a glass of champagne whilst admiring the mountains; if it isn't I throw myself off one. Having the booking at L'Ambroisie for 3 weeks later is designed to try and ensure that the answer is "yes, life is still worth living" - if only to prevent an unseemly fight amongst my relatives over who gets to inherit the reservation in my will. In the meantime, thanks to you (and the others) for the recommendations on here. I've only been to Aspen once before and the posts have offered up a wealth of new places to try. Didn't get to Takah Sushi last time (was booked out the night I tried) but liked Kenichi which scored major bonus points for offering the option of fresh wasabi. Gareth
  11. Gareth

    Dining Alone

    I agree. I think the choice of reading material is absolutely critical to the solo-dining experince. For me there is only one right answer here: an unpublished screenplay with manuscript amendments. Almost guarantees service so good the waiters will want to tip you. At least it does in the States. Brits can get a little more pretentious about these things so any sort of theatrical project that looks like it might have Nicholas Hytner attached will probably do the trick. Gareth
  12. Actually, Pax, I don’t think it’s the knife skills they have difficulty with. What do I wish I’d been taught ? Nothing about theory, techniques, nutrition, basic building blocks of cooking. Instead: o A basic repertoire of 4 meals I could cook from limited, cheap and readily available ingredients on a weekday night. o One meal I could cook to impress my friends (something with a high ratio of presentational sophistication to actual ease of cooking. Think starting with any of those endless bollox scallops dishes that every Masterchef contestant serves up every week). o And – for history and culture – how to cook a Sunday lunch. If this enthuses you, you’ll self-teach the rest anyway in later life; if it doesn’t, at least you won’t starve. And final advice to Ed Balls would be for once don’t seek to attach any targets or qualifications to this. Just teach it as a life skill and for the pure enjoyment of it. Who knows, having one lesson in which they’re not being calibrated by the state might encourage children to enjoy it. What I would highly not recommend was the way cooking was taught to me. Viz: start the lesson by making a group of 7 year-olds spend an hour pointlessly copying out the recipe before proceeding to cook rock cakes with the density of osmium. Gareth
  13. Eaten there a few times it being (a) close to work; and (b) vastly cheaper than the Cinnamon Club. I like it. It has a sense of authenticity, flavour and skill without getting too frou frou. However, now the Cinnamon Club has introduced a new ‘early bird’ £20 menu ? Hmmm. Quilon risks finding itself stranded in no-mans land between the between the ‘decent curry at everyday price’ (e.g. Meela) and the ‘special treat'; (e.g. Rasoi). I’d give it a Bib not a star. BTW although I’ve only managed one visit I was really pleased to see Apicius get a well-deserved star. Next stop The Sportsman. Live in South East London, call yourself a foodie and you haven’t visited the Sportsman yet ?! (Hangs head in shame…) Gareth
  14. Visited West when I was in Vancouver last year. I found it by accident having put my name down at (the excellent) Vij’s round the corner and then wandered off looking for somewhere more relaxing for a drink whilst I waited for my table. So, whilst I can’t vouch for the food, I can certainly recommend their standards of ‘mixology’ and hospitality. I had an excellent martini and the bar staff were kind enough to call through to Vij’s restaurant a couple of times in order to find out when my table was ready. Excellent wine list too. Gareth
  15. To add to the Haozhan reviews, I visited Haozhan on Monday night. Had been much looking forward to it following rave reviews but I left a bit underwhelmed. Not that the cooking wasn’t good. Starters in particular were a cut above the usual standard: the Salt and Pepper Squid combined excellent crisp,dry batter with a real tenderness to the squid and the quail was knockout. The mains also delivered a better-than-decent standard, though I had real problems with one of the ‘signature’ dishes: the Champagne Black Cod. I’ve cooked black cod before and even steamed with a fragrance and freshness of herbs the richness of the fish threatens to smother. When combined with a butter Champagne sauce well…I could see Monsieur Creosote going for it but most of us have more delicate constitutions (is that what you meant by laowai-heavy, Jon ?). But, as I said, the cooking was good enough. What I had a problem with was the ‘concept’; what was the restaurant trying to do ? Clearly their heart was in the specials. If so, and if you are going to ‘occidentalise’ the service by having Starters, Mains and Desserts, why not have the confidence to go the whole hog and just produce a short menu of your own dishes in a more typically western way (a refreshing difference in this market that would certainly capture my interest) ? Or go for a regional slant (as at Bar Shu or Hunan). Or something. Instead, the menu was more abbreviated than the normal Chinatown job but got stuck in no-man’s land by being still padded out with some of the usual suspects in a way that felt like a failure of nerve (“it’s what people will want you see…”). To put another way, by serving black cod alongside lemon chicken the restaurant managed to feel neither fish nor fowl. So whilst I enjoyed the food enough, I wondered why I was there. Or rather, what about Haozhan itself would stand out enough to draw me back ?
  16. I am a member of the National Liberal Club. The food I think follows the pattern of the other London Clubs (other than the specifically dining clubs), that is to say it is (perforce) very conservative in it selection and can be inconsistent. I have had both very fine meals there and others best forgotten in a hurry. Interestingly, the service has changed very much for the better as more and more of the younger, eastern European contingent have replaced some of the old-stagers. The NLC has what I would describe as a workman-like wine list (I should also declare an interest as a member of the wine committee that chooses it !). Not having the royalties of AA Milne, or the equity of the RAC floatation to fall back on, it is absent any fine cellar (which is not to say that you can't find a few decent bottles on the list !). The commercial realities are also interesting, with wine sales being absolutely dominated by the 'club wines' (i.e. the equivalent of the house red or white) and the 'club claret' in particular which outsells anything else by an order of magnitude. Most of the rest of the business is conducted that the £15 - £25 mark (list price). However, one thing that really sets it apart is the dining room which I think provides one of the most magnificent settings in which to have a meal in London ! For those IT enabled, the virtual tour is here: NLC Dining Room I was interested in what Boomurphy had to say because I always wondered with this kind of club position would be a "don't touch with a bargepole" proposition for any aspiring chef or, alternatively, a very good place to take a first job as head chef, building experience before going on to open somewhere and putting your own investment on the line.Gareth
  17. Since people have asked about it, I was at the Cinnamon Club a week ago. Was very disappointed when it first opened and, after a couple of return visits, I didn’t go back, being able to think of better places by means of which to bio-degrade nose-bleedingly large numbers of £5 notes. However, a couple of lunches over the last year suggested that I was being unfair and standards were a real step above my early-days experiences. The second half of the value equation was supplied last week with my discovery that they offer an ‘early bird’ special of three courses for £22. Relatively limited choice (3 options for each course) and you have to be out (by 21:00, I think) but I had a really enjoyable meal that I thought was great value and we were in no-way made to feel rushed or second best by the service. So this now gives me another option for ‘posh’ Indian in the area (along with the much-underrated Quilon in Buckingham Gate). That said, were I really treating myself in a sod-the-chequebook kind of way I would follow some of the other siren voices on this thread and make an unhesitating bee-line to Rasoi Vineet Bhatia (as Sunbeam says, can we take the ‘authenticity debate’ as read on this one, please?). Which isn’t to speak one word against any of the more ‘bread-and-butter’ Indian (sic) recommendations on this thread (esp. Tayyabs and Kastoori) if that’s more the kind of evening you’re after.
  18. I think, rather than favour one style or another, the next step is for food writing simply to reflect its muse. Under this system, a review of St John might say “Steak. Cooked as requested. Very satisfying”; Tom Aikens: “This was not just steak, this was the very essence of cow, distilled into a surprising expression of protein, the physical manifestation of which underwent an apotheosis into the ethereal upon the eating”; and Gordon Ramsay “F**k me, that steak was the dog’s bollocks”. You should know that this post as been lovingly hand-typed on a locally-sourced keypad using only the very finest of vocabulary… Gareth
  19. Back from my first ever visit to both Vancouver and Seattle. Initally, I posted a meta-review of the whole trip to both the Canadian and US fora, hoping that this would represent another milestone in the comity of nations. However, it transpires such cross posting isn't allowed, so the first part of the trip (Vancouver) can be found on a forum north of the border and our Seattle readers now pick up our story half-way through. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE ...And so south to Seattle, which greeted my arrival with the constant downpour that I understand constitutes the traditional welcome in these parts. I did have some idea to eat somewhere right after a quick Sazerac at Zig Zag (now there’s a phrase that wins points at Scrabble…) to revive my dampened spirits. And very good it was too, and the guys there – Murray the barman, and also the chef – were so sociable and accommodating that it just seemed rude not to have another: a Toronto (don’t be put off: the drink has personality). Then there was that new bottle of Willets bourbon that they insisted I try (firewater with a finish, similar character to Talisker) and…and …dunno. Vague memories of a perfectly well-presented wagyu burger at the Steelhead Diner (tasting notes ‘not as absorbent as I might have hoped…’) before trying the ‘Seattle Sober-up’: viz a long uphill walk back to the B&B in the rain. The following day the constant rain of the night before was but a distant memory since the weather had taken a distinct turn for the worst, adding gale-force winds to the metrological brew. It’s on days like this you really want something hearty, warm and redolent of winter firesides. Sushi perhaps. So I ended up at Shiki where it turned out that casoulet was off the menu but o-toro was on. Quality was fantastic and drew me into a orgy of ichthypophagy, running my way through swathes of the menu with each one hitting the spot. The chef confirmed that he also served fugo but that I was a week too early for the fugo season. Perfect. We could that way establish that, of course, had it been in season, I would absolutely have ordered it and no loss of face to either party was involved. Absent fugo, I consoled myself with an extra order of the spankingly good King Mackerel before waddling, replete and penguin-like back onto the streets. However, that night I’d learnt my lesson: no pre-dinner cocktail binging for me, not least because dinner was at Mistral about which I read much on one of those ‘do I go to Mistral, Herb Garden, or Rovers’ type threads. You know, “Sophie’s Choice”. Anyway, I’d picked Mistral and very happy with my choice I am too. I was quite the freshest, most innovative and well-executed meal I’ve had in the last six months (which means trumping lunch at Le Meurice in Paris among other contenders). Readers will probably know the score: no menu, you get asked how many courses you want and then you’re in the hands of the chef. So the evening duly kicked of with the waitress asking me the spectacularly pointless question “Do you want 7 courses, or 8 ?”. I mean, who seriously says anything other than 8 to that ? “Oh no, sorry, I’d better stick to seven, I’m trying to cut back…” ? That little charade out of the way, what followed was and engaging exploration of yellowfin sashimi in citrus; lightly caramalised Halibut with baby peas in a spinach puree; Parsnip and butternut squash soup with vanilla oil; a crisp John Dory fillet on a retake of nicoise; foie gras de canard with pear puree; best end of lamb with (can’t remember what - the lamb was so flavoursome it just stole the show); a cheese plate; and dessert, the nature of which, this being done from memory, eludes me. I think it might have involved sorbets. (My sorbet little secret, perhaps ? Sorry.) Anyway, there’s little to be gained from a precise list since of the 5 tables in that Thursday night (shockingly under-patronised if quality and talent were any measure; in London I’d have to beg a month in advance to get a seat…) no two tables got precisely the same repertoire. To voice one niggle about the food (other than a strangely discordant note of sea-salt in the citrus sashimi dressing…) it was an overdose of the flavoured oils that seemed to feature in just about every course. Sometimes these worked to good effect – the vanilla oil on the hot soup provided an aromatic in much the same way as shaving on a truffle does – at other times it just seemed a bit unnecessarily additional. But enough of this cavilling: this meal was better than good. The star for me was the John Dory, a beautiful piece of fish, the skin crisp, the flesh steamed just past translucence resting on what appeared to be a Nicoise but the structure of which was provided by micro-florets of cauliflower and the blackness turned out not to be olives but aubergine. Bright, flavoursome, sensational. A further bonus was that this was also a restaurant in which you can feel relaxed dining alone (how often is it that, the better the food, the worse the ‘single diner’ vibe gets..?) and the pattern of the meal, with its eight little courses and no certainty about what was coming also engaged in this respect. I left Mistral a happy man and comfortable after selecting the ‘Wine Flight’ to go with the meal, the quality of which (a mixture of Old World and new) didn’t disappoint. However, there was still work to be done: I was bearing a letter of introduction from Murray at Zig Zag to Jamie at Vessel: “go to Vessel, ask for Jamie, put yourself in his hands…”. This I duly did, enjoying a couple of great drinks (concocted on the spot by the awesome Jamie, who is the recent proud owner of his own still…) and encountering on the way a New York investment banker type who bucked the stereotype by being smartly tailored and spectacularly charmless. He had evidence of a nasty a cut on his cheekbone that I think might have be given him by his etiquette coach. (The alternative explanation, which I won’t dwell on, was that he was a perfectly nice guy who simply had the misfortune to have a half-cut Brit try and engage him in conversation. Ho hum…). The next day was home. I won’t dwell on the food at SeaTac airport; though it continued to linger most of the way across the Atlantic. Gareth
  20. Back from my first ever visit to both Vancouver and Seattle. Initally, I posted a meta-review of the whole trip to both the Canadian and US fora, hoping that this would represent another milestone in the comity of nations. However, it transpires such cross posting isn't allowed, so the second part of the trip (Seattle) can be found on a forum south of the border whilst our Vancouver readers get in at the ground floor. The trip started with Vancouver and dinner at ViJ’s. A cracking meal it was too. In looking up the restaurant on the forum it didn’t take me long to stumble across the accusation that it wasn’t “authentic” Indian cooking. What is it with ethnic cuisine – and Indian in particular – that attracts the Authenticity Taliban in this way ?! A particular body of opinion that suggests that unless the restaurant limits itself to the same range and recipies as Granny in Gujerat used to, then it just isn’t ‘proper’ Indian food. Utter tosh. We get the same thing in London about restaurants such as Rasoi Vineet. And it is an ethnic kick. I like rustic French cooking as much as anyone else but I don’t see a queue of people lining up to accuse Pierre Gagnaire of a ‘lack of authenticity’. As for British cooking, you need to evolve it somehow from its “authentic” roots just to make it edible. ViJ’s is unmistakeably Indian cooking to its finger-tips and I thoroughly enjoyed jackfruit with black cardamom (surprised by the jackfruit, with reminded me quite distinctly of artichoke hearts) and then ‘lamb popsicles’ – tender chops from the best end of lamb in an unctuous, soupy, curry gravy. Indeed the only real black mark of the night was the quite staggering level of pretentiousness involved in calling a chop a ‘popsicle’ – and even that I was prepared to forgive upon the eating. My top tip for ViJ’s - and this is probably teaching grandmothers to suck eggs (not, Gujerati ones, however) – would be to put your name down on the wait list and then hasten round the corner and just up the road to “West” bar which features a fine drinks and wine list. The lass who keeps bar there made me an excellent martini and phoned ViJ’s to make sure when I should return to claim my table. She said she lives in the neighbourhood, so ViJ’s (or rather its offshoot next door) is her local takeway. I envy her. On many levels. Anyway, straight from a discussion of ‘authenticity’ in Indian cooking to racism in Chinese restaurants. The next night I went to Master Hung Barbeque in Richmond. I’m extremely grateful for the recommendation from Ling. Especially pushing me in the direction of the Peking Duck. It’s a ridiculous meal to order for One, but I’m a bit of a duckoholic and prepared to suffer for my art. It really was very well done with the crisp skin and oozy fattiness of the first course for the pancakes being contrasted nicely with the relatively dry stir-fry that formed the ‘deuxieme service’ (?). As I sat there I also admired the cornucopia of great looking dishes being conveyed to other tables. What I really needed was five companions in order to get stuck in and do the kitchen justice. Just wait twenty minutes observing what’s coming out of the kitchen and then start pointing. And here’s my issue. You’d have to point because, so far as I could see, none of those great looking dishes were on the relatively abbreviated menu I got. Perhaps they were on the specials list on the tables or the wall. But how would I know, not being a speaker of Mandarin (or was it Cantonese ?). I should hasten to say that this is not a crime confined to Master Hung’s – the staff there were nothing less than friendly and accommodating. But am I the only non-Chinese speaker who’s getting a little frustrated at the worldwide Chinese conspiracy to exclude me from the good bits ? Is it ‘cos it’s just assumed that those dishes won’t appeal to me ? It strikes me as the equivalent of my going to Beijing and opening a Traditional English Restaurant but ensuring that I only give my Chinese customers the Children’s Menu because I just assume they won’t want Spotted Dick (the fact that no-one in their right mind would want Spotted Dick. Or, indeed, to visit a traditional English restaurant (see ‘authenticity’ discussion, q.v.) is irrelevant to my argument). Racist ? Well, maybe that’s going too far. Exclusionary; certainly. The meal was very tasty. I’d go again. But I’d probably have to take pot luck and point. Lunch was sushi. It being lunch and me being downtown Tojo’s was out so I dropped by Sakae. Far from disappointed, especially since it concentrated on the traditional basics and did them well without feeling the need to turn out novelty rolls that look like Disney characters (for those of you who like this kind of thing and are even now pointing out the discrepancy between this and my ‘authenticity’ harangue above, the answer is simple: I have a black belt in hypocrisy). And so south to Seattle...The actual journey across the border took about 2-3 hours longer than scheduled courtesy of the Dept. for Homeland Security, but you, dear Reader, can rejoin me in Seattle in the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse, courtesy of the power of the Information Superhighway ! A bientot, Gareth
  21. Go to Arzak; avoid Pierre Gagnaire ! You may be starting to get a feel for the diversity of views here...(Pierre Gagnaire was technically astonishing but, well, it just felt too much like hard work - intellectually and on my poor old palette. Arzak was an exciting, vibrant and - beautiful- lunch looking out over the small dot of a painted ship upon a painted ocean). If I could be paid to go back anywhere in Europe (you lucky so and so...) I would go to L'Ambroisie. Fantastic setting in the Place des Vosges in Paris and the most naturally accomplished cuisine I have ever had (Pacaud's simple Chocolate Tart with Vanilla ice cream is the single greatest thing I have ever eaten). However, it is resolutely traditional - so don't expect fireworks and, arguably, if classicism, setting and that traditional 3* grandeur are part of the appeal then you might look at L'Auberge De L'Ill in Alsace. Book your own coronary. But sod it, I'm only recommending these because I haven't yet been lucky enough to get to Michel Bras. Good luck on your delightfully impossible decision ! Gareth
  22. I'm in Vancouver for a short stay in October and would appreciate a steer as to where I might eat out to get a sense of the best the city offers. Much enjoyed reading the boards, but there's so much choice. I'd be particularly (but not exclusively) tempted towards a Chinese meal but much of the recent discussion on that thread has focused on dim sum - where should I try for dinner ? Much appreciated (and happy to return the recommendation favour if folks are ever visiting London !) Gareth
  23. Only been to Nobu once, and whilst the meal itself was excellent, the sushi was the low point. It was from the same school (no pun intended) as Atami (Monck St) or Roka (Charlotte St) - visually beguiling but under-delivering on quality of each element. And very small pieces. I think the best description I can think of is "frou-frou" ! Not tried Umu. G. p.s. Does anyone know, does the new place in the Oxo tower just do yakitori or does it do kushikatsu as well ? Is there anywhere in London that does kushikatsu ?!
  24. Does anyone have more of the background on the Northern Ireland libel case (briefly, the Irish News has been fined £25,000 for a restaurant review about “Goodfella’s” pizzeria that a High Court jury found “defamatory” ?) BBC News Report Recognise this is a difficult topic to discuss without sight of the offending article. Also – for the avoidance of doubt and peace of mind of the moderators – I’m really not suggesting anyone reprint it here ! But I would be interested if anyone has read it, what their take is. Was it patently a step-change more ill-informed or a hatchet job than the usual tosh from AA Gill (especially given that being a) a pizzeria and b) called Goodfella’s, expectations should surely have been somewhat limited to begin with) ? Alternatively, how did it measure up to the kind of thing we throw about on e-gullett, either in our opinions of restaurants or, indeed, restaurant crtics (see AA Gill, q.v.). Gareth
  25. Yes, but that's only because you'd already had to provide those to get in the country. Maybe that's why the restaurants are more relaxed - everyone's still queuing at the airport.
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