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Everything posted by Explorer

  1. A couple of items on this discussion: 1- James Chatto food writer for Toronto Life writes in the last issue that he heard a rumor that Michelin is prepping a Toronto guide as well. According to his estimate (and I agree), the city would be lucky if one or 2 restaurants got 1-star. He also pondered whether and how the Eurocentric style of dining rating would apply here. 2- If you want to get a feel for the Michelin Guide without forking out 35 Euros, you can try their English web site ViaMichelin and you get a good feel for what the Red Book does, and how a NY section might get integrated. Finally, I am willing to add to the speculation that I wouldn't be surprised if they came out with an all-encompassing North American version., instead of just a NY section.
  2. Thanks to all. We found a Flavorganics product at Pusateris, although there is another product at McCalls but it's artificial extract. If one buys bitter almonds from a Chinese store as suggested, does it contain the poison cyanide? I have seen Italian recipes where they tell you to add bitter almonds to regular almonds. Does anyone know what % is safe?
  3. I don't see why the current format of the Red book wouldn't adapt to NY's polyglot environment. For those not able to look at a Red book in front of them, the Paris section most likely ressembles what the NY section might look like. Beyond the 1-2-3 star rankings, there are sections that categorize restaurants according to ethnic, type of establishment (bistrot, brasseries, etc.), by the type of food (une andouillette, un cassoulet, un coq au vin, etc..), after-theatre, by arrondissement (aka upper east side, west side, etc. here), by under 40 Euros, open air, special rooms, etc...and there are more. "Adapting"- I don't think will be the problem. They need the time to review, classify and categorize all these restaurants, hence the 2006 timeframe. A strategy or approach was probably already developed prior to the announcement. In typical French fashion, deep analysis precedes any action.
  4. I agree with what Bux and Marcus are implying- namely that Michelin would not change their "system" for NY. I don't see why NY would be treated differently than Madrid, London or Rome. It's up to NY to rise-up to Michelin's standards, and not the other way around. Since this thread has been beating to death the star-system, please be reminded that the Red book includes many non-starred restaurants according to another tier of classification, and this is where I think that the Michelin guide could be useful on top of singling out the few 1-2-3 star restaurants that will emerge.
  5. Bingo. As to the reason behind this observation, it might be in the realm of a separate discussion. I believe it is rooted in the differences between restaurant staff composition and availability; whereas the US pool is more or less transient, France has professional affiliations that are taken seriously, therefore they can operate a restaurant like a clock, whereas it is more challenging to do so here. (there are few exceptions of course).
  6. Although somebody else mentioned that this conversation is on the realm of hypothetical observations, as a benefit, it has probably offered some quick (and free) research to Michelin planners that are involved in this project. Therefore we can't assume that Michelin isn't aware of the particular segmentation and idiocyncracies of the NY scene, but I am sure that they are doing their research accordingly. One other thing I would say is that for some, Michelin guides become addictive. It's almost a culture. What they don't say and "how" they say it is part of the interpretation that an experienced reader goes through. Although the "length" of reviews is short and comparable to Zagat's in terms of # of words, the Michelin reviews use very carefully chosen words and readers extract a lot more value from the same number of words. There is however another challenge I see for them. The nature of the restaurant business in the US is generally more volatile than the slower-to-change Paris scene for e.g.. I mean that restaurants, owners and chefs will go through more changes, more often, making the risk of being outdated more prevalent. I have heard more than one French person say to me that what they don't understand about the US is that star-chefs are made overnight after one success,-- say for a year or a few months; whereas in France, you have to be out-there at that level for 5 years in a row before they start to give you credit. The example was given to me about NY specifically where overnight success is looked at with suspicion. (I am not saying that either extreme is right, ie NY is too lax to grant credit vs. Paris who is very tough) So it would be interesting to see how Michelin "translates" their standards across the border- and I know that at the risk of repeating what others have said, this has been a theme of this converation, that I was belated to enter. On the Relais et Chateaux analogy, the consistency part that Bux mentioned about Relais Gourmands is very true, and that's what I was inferring.
  7. ...but isn't the fact that you brought this up a little incendiary, to start with? The opposite could be said about anybody who brings their expertise to a new area. One could accept and relish its value, or one could think of it as an intrusion.
  8. I find it interesting that someone that hasn't purchased a red guide has so many strong views on this topic. Nonetheless, I think the Michelin Guide for Manhattan will be a much needed addition to what's currently available. Finally, we will be able to see NY restaurants rated by the same international standard as other Michelin-rated restaurants; because the Michelin/Gault Millau are the standards, not NYT. At least, that would be the viewpoint for internationally experienced patrons. I don't understand either the other argument that "New Yorkers don't need Michelin to tell them the names of top tier restaurants in NY. That's just common knowledge". If Parisians need it, why wouldn't New Yorkers, plus you're making a big assumption: that existing top tier restaurants will be the same ones picked by Michelin in 2006. I think you would be in for some surprises! As to the other derogatory comments made by FatGuy (e.g. who are those French people, etc...), I really take offense and will take the French's defense. Don't we owe a lot to the French re: gastronomy? Michelin only has about 100 years of experience at this. The market for the Red Guide is not just Americans, even less New Yorkers; it's the rest of the world who also wants to know by what standards NY restaurants are really measured. And there is a precedent for European ratings coming to America; Relais et Chateaux.
  9. I wonder if anyone knows where we can find Italian bitter almond extract in Toronto. We tried several obvious places, but no luck. Is it available anywhere? (maybe even Montreal?) Thanks,
  10. Toronto Life's James Chatto just picked the 2003 top 10 restaurants in T.O. Do you agree? Any comments? Which ones shouldn't be there? Which ones should have been there? 1. Avalon 2. The Fifth 3. Susur 4. Eigensinn Farm 5. Splendido 6. Rundles 7. Rain 8. Via Allegro 9. Chiado 10. Sushi Kaji (I will make my comments later)
  11. Explorer


    We were there last week for dinner. First of all, it's a known fact that this place turns into a disco at 11PM, so it shouldn't be a surprise to serious diners. Second, that only happens on week-end nights. As far as food and the whole atmosphere, what this place reminded me of (pre-11PM) is Acrobat. As you know, Charles Kabbouth was the previous part-owner of Acrobat, and it's just my gut feel that he has re-created part of that in Ultra. Acrobat was a cool place back in the early 90's where you can get very decent food and a great bar atmosphere at the same time. Food-wise, Paul wasn't there that evening as it was his night off. The venison and steak were fine, although not outstanding. We were told later that the veal is the way to go. Deserts were excellent; I recall a caramel chocolate tart that was amazingly well done, and there was another chocolate desert that was very respectable. Service was excellent, with several high energy waiters with zero attitude, and lots of goodwill and plenty of teamwork that I noticed. All and all, this isn't a place where you can compare its food to a top restaurant. It's one notch down, but they try to be consistent, given the volume. But if you look for overall atmosphere, look and feel, food, wine etc...the whole thing-together is unique and the overall quality is not bad. When I first went inside, it didn't strike me as the out-of-this world place that others have described, but it is different for sure. The booth seats are definitely very comfortable and give you that top-of-the-world feeling as you are perched over everybody else. The wine list was respectable, although not outstanding, but it does appeal to all tastes and budgets without blowing the top end. So to enjoy Ultra, I think you have to have the right expectations as to what it is, and what it is not. The place is definitely gearing-up to become a high-volume, good quality restaurant, club, patio, etc.
  12. Although I don't think she goes deep enough in her critiquing, she hits it on the nail 90% of the time (when checked against my experience). Re: , I have experienced the same stories that she recounts. It's typical if you dine out a lot. I think like frequent travellers, you're likely to encounter many stories the more you travel.
  13. Explorer


    Bingo. You put it very accurately. Unfortunately, I am in that camp. The other way to put it is that his food is "over-manipulated". This leaves little room for "clean" flavors. Contrast this with Gagnaire's who's food is somewhat manipulated, but the end-result is cleaner flavors with many single ingredients that do stand out. (I've only had 3 experiences with Susur's food but have discussed his work with others several times)
  14. This new bistro has opened in the Ile Saint Louis, ex- Le Monde des Chimeres. Antoine Westermann (Buerehiesel) has taken it over installing one of his sous. Apparently, the food isn't Westerman's per say, but Alsacian of course. We're planning to go there next week. (Closed Mondays and lunch Tuesday) Has anyone been there already? 69 rue Saint Louis 01 40 46 01 35
  15. Explorer


    Indeed, he was. I booked, only knowing he would be there. We even spoke when he came to our table (by our request), but he wasn't really interested in "hearing" anything. He was just making an appearance.
  16. Explorer


    Hmmm. He's got you all (or some) fooled, apparently. We are talking about the food. Service at Susur was definitely not at par with European standards. Just as an aside, first they screwed up the dates of the reservation and called to confirm it a day prior, then they gave us an awful table after requesting ahead of time one inside for a birthday occasion. When we arrived and asked for another, they didn't care about it and gave us one by the door where we caught the draft every time the door opened (have you seen tables that catch drafts at Relais or Michelins?). Then, our waiter had body odor every time he came to our table. Obviously, the wine list isn't at par with the level expected, showing that Susur doesn't care about wine, in addition to reversing the menu which makes it even more challenging for wine pairing or on the palate. Next- about the food- I don't have the time to get into every detail, but out of the 18 dishes we had, about 9 were botched up. I will look at my notes and time permitting will provide more details, later. I am not the only one making a fuss about Susur's cuisine. As you recall, even Feenie thought the food there was almost a joke (am paraphrasing). I am willing to put money on a bet that Michelin inspectors would not give Susur any stars on surprise visits. That subject is actually meaningless because the Michelin rating process has not been applied to North America. I am not sure why, but I know that very few establishments would probably qualify. Then when I hear about the guy whom Susur apparently asked what he wanted to eat next and then went inside and made the dish for him and then came out to ask how it was. I wonder if that person believes in Santa Claus as well. Regarding Gourmet, etc., sure Susur is better than most in Toronto. And so is his marketing and PR. They are excellent because of his financial backing and connections that help. I am not sure why you're bringing-up Gagnaire, Strasbourg's restaurants and Loiseau into this. I loved our meals at both Gagnaire and Loiseau prior to his death. Michelin stars (even 1) are earned after years of consistency. Here in North America, a chef could be hailed as a star after a couple of years of fame, whereas it might take at least five years if not ten sometimes of consistent year after year performance for a chef to be hailed accordingly, in Europe. Different standards. I am not saying that Susur is an overnight success as he has been at it for a while. Some chefs do it for fame, others for the money, others for the love of food. I don't mind when there is a balance, but when I see an imbalance, it irritates me because I have seen many aspects of gastronomy at work for the last 25 years. Winemike- I will avoid getting personal with you or Susur as it's not the objective of this forum, and it's not something I generally do. At least, we agree that Senses' Aprile is not as good as could be, either. I haven't been to Perigee yet, but will be curious to compare it to the rest of Toronto, soon. In the meantime, our next destinations are Le Bristol and Le Meurice and some other new places in Paris. Consistency: THAT is the key!!!!! It's a subjective matter of expectations. Susur's food is very daring and creative, almost to the point of inviting inconsistency. He is creative (but not nearly as creative as Gagnaire). Have you seen Gagnaire's latest book Sucre-Sale: the dishes are amazingly creative!
  17. Explorer


    Perhaps you could get the name of the restaurant right? Its' "Au Crocodile".
  18. Explorer


    Hmm...TG you're not a Michelin inspector! I've been at Susur and Michelins and Relais many times. Hit and misses are not allowed nor delivered 99% of the time at Michelin stared restaurants. Yes, Susur's food is overly "manipulated", and the overall service/ambiance is a bit artificial, bordering on not-genuine. The establishment is definetely very commercially focused, so if you like to hand your wallet at the door without due consideration for value delivered, you'll have a great time. Having said that, a few dishes will stand out as works of geniuses. For example the lobster in potatoe and pineapple ravioli (which we also had) are exquisite. I have never seen anyone cut pineapple cubes so small and perfect.
  19. Great report! Thanks Estufarian. I've also dined at Eigensinn Farm exactly a year ago, and I could see "some" of the same threads and tastes that we experienced, e.g. foie gras, duck, seafood amuses, venison, use of apple cider, pickerel, lobster, use of mushrooms. My summary, reading between the lines is "hit and miss". For such a level of experience, there should not be hit and misses, especially for serving 8 people. I think I learned more about the wines than the food. Estufarian is so refined at the wine side of the experience and it shows perfectly well. Having said that, I think that Michael's cuisine is almost on a level of its own- very difficult to compare to others, because he is creative and daring. Actually, one of the interesting parts of the dinner (which Estufarian mentions well- but I want to stress it even more) is the actual "montage" that the food comes on top of. Its is very creative. From my point of view, I wouldn't call it "the best experience" (food-wise), but "the most unique experience". It's a combination of food, history, methods, place, products, feel, nature, your-own-wine, etc...and that is undeniably unique.
  20. I heard that Sunday brunches are becoming more popular now in Paris. We'll be there for a Sunday in Jan. Any somptuous or interesting Sunday brunch suggestions from recent visitors? I am guessing they'll be hotels mostly. Thanks.
  21. Explorer

    Le Meurice

    pirate. i hope your experience was an anomaly. was it a week-end that you were there at Meurice? Anything more specific regarding your experience? Relais and Meurice are different types of restaurants. Incidentally, i had planned lunch at Relais too, but not sure about it yet. Hypnotic-it's dinner for us. i'll pm you on it.
  22. We are thinking about adding it to our list for a January visit. Did you end-up going? It has been a year now that Arabian left there and a new chef (ex-Meurice) has replaced her. GM had a nice review in their magazine on it. If you went, please tell us your impressions. Thank you,
  23. Explorer

    Le Meurice

    I am surprised that nobody has answered that one. I am booking there in early January.
  24. I am biased, but Crocodile is the choice, clearly. The daily choices are a good pick. Don't let them rush you or intimidate you; talk to the waiter to better understand what the daily choices are. If you like game/meat, I will repeat it again- they have great venisson, buffalo, elk, quail.
  25. Explorer


    Also, most credit cards charge another 2% on top of the exchange rate. Actually, Amex charges +2.5% above, so one way to avoid this is to convert to cash at the best exchange place you can find (not a bank or airport). I like oanda as well...
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