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Everything posted by Bux

  1. We have stayed at a couple of different places across from the beach in Roses and neighboring Santa Margarida. There's been little to recommend either of the two places, although for me, close to the center of town is actually advantageous in that we can walk to Rafa's and SnackMar/Las Golondrinas, across the street. I also like the gritty urbanity of downtown beach resorts, but I won't claim downtown Rosas really has any charm. Checking in and out is certainly stressful and I wouldn't encourage anyone to travel that way. Nevertheless, it's a habit with us and one we've learned to cope with in spite of our efforts to cut down on the number of one night stands. Admittedly the only thing worse for me than checking in and out, is traveling a road twice. Once to get to a restaurant and once to get back. Girona is also a town that is well worth seeing by day. Even in the rain, we found a second visit rewarding. I can recommend the hotel Ciutat de Girona - http://www.hotel-ciutatdegirona.com The one drawback is that it's almost unapproachable by car. After several trips around the block (actually a very complex series of blocks) we finally found the right street to enter, but couldn't find the unmarked intercom to call the hotel and have them lower the barrier. It was frustrating at the time, but we enjoyed our stay and dinner at Can Roca was the sort of meal that would have compensated for far more frustration. The Carlemany is easier to find and has more convenient parking facilities, but I found the staff less charming. From downtown Rosas, I have driven to and from elBulli and been driven by friends. In the future I will probably take a taxi. Second best would be to drive myself as it's easier to limit my alcoholic intake than that of my friends. We were able to sort of make a reservation at Rafa's about a week in advance. I say sort of, as we were requested to call back the night before to check if they'd have fish and be open.
  2. Personally, I'd take Silly up on his offer. I'm sure the insight into the market will be well worth an early rise, although I don't recall getting up that early to meet him. Then again I didn't have kitchen facilities as a short term visitor to Barcelona.
  3. Bux

    Blue Hill (NYC)

    My best to Michael as well. If rumors are correct, his restaurant will be even closer to me than Blue Hill, which itself is close enough for me to walk even if the weather is inclement. Dan spends almost all of his time up at Stone Barns and the kitchen there is large enough to require talent in depth. Thus I don't expect to see any change in the quality of food at Blue Hill. If anything, periodic new blood will keep the kitchen on its toes. The smaller downtown Blue Hill has earned a reputation with Mrs. B and myself, as being consistent even when Dan and Juan are not there. As I've said about other restaurants and chefs, this is a compliment to the chefs rather than a dig. It takes a truly dedicated and talented chef to hire and train employees well enough to leave them in charge when you're not there. It's very difficult for a fine restaurant to succeed with a chef who doesn't have executive qualities that match his cooking talents.
  4. While there's room for creativity, just how large is the market for a creative steakhouse? Tourandel seems to keep his creativity in check, which is not to say that he abandons his talent. V may have just been trying to create a market and not able to draw diners. On a separate note, Trotter was supposed to be opening a moderately prices place--moderate at least in comparison with Masa and Per Se. One of the reasons, and perhaps the main reason, he offered to the press for deciding not to open, was that costs escalation precluded any restaurant hoping to offer moderately priced food. One man's definition of "moderate," may not be another's.
  5. Never say "never," but in this case, "never" would certainly be close enough to meet government standards. It's probably 80% for good reason, 18% out of personal taste and 2% plain snobbery. I like restaurants and table service, although I do miss the great old cafeterias of my youth and, in fact, I enjoy eating at many sorts of bars from sushi bars to tapas bars, by way of oyster bars. Anyway, those numbers are convincing within Manhattan, at least to me. It's interesting that Aquavit is mentioned as an exception by some. I found a buffet brunch there to be the end of buffet brunches for me. The food ranged from exceptional to banal and by the time I discovered the exceptional, I had filled up on the banal. It was a while back and perhaps Samuelsson has raised the bar on what's offered since, as my experience was many years ago at the old quarters. The pity was that it left a negative impression after an earlier fine formal weekday lunch. I will almost never opt for a hotel buffet breakfast, although I find them often included in our hotel rates at no extra cost. Free changes the equation. I will, however, admit that once at the Palace in San Francisco, we had an early plane to catch and we chose to have the rather pricey buffet breakfast for reasons of convenience. Over the caveats of Mrs. B., I had a poached egg from the steam table. It turned out to be one of the best poached eggs I've ever had. It was a great tasting egg and had been kept at precisely the right temperature for the yolk to stay warm and liquid. Had the egg been contaminated with salmonela, I'd be dead by now, but that's not my point. A really top kitchen can keep almost any food at the proper degree of doneness and at the proper temperature (of course they may have to disregard local codes). Self service may be no service, but the food doesn't have to be inferior to that served elsewhere. However, it almost always is. Indian food strikes me as a much better choice than Chinese food for a buffet simply because so much of it is stewed or long cooked. French stews and braises work far better than Chinese stir frys. The socio and economic factors that determine when and where one will find buffets usually have little to do with the appropriateness of the food to the medium.
  6. Bux

    Sushi Yasuda

    raji, I've just gone bak and read your post on "omakase" in that other thread. Thanks. I enjoyed it very much and appreciate your more learned position on Japanese food and restaurants. I don't know that you've either confirmed or refuted my definition above, but I appreciated the insight in our post. I've spent just enough time in Japan, maybe eight or nine weeks over three trips, to begin to understand that there is more than a language barrier to my understanding the culture. There is the culture itself that sits on a very different base than that of any western European culture.
  7. Bux

    Sushi Yasuda

    I'm no expert in Japanese food, culture or language. That said, "omakase" has always meant something similar to "chef's choice" to me. It's meant that when I ask for "omakase" I'm asking the chef to take care of me and to serve his choices. I assume he will serve his best food, that is the food of which he's most proud to serve and not necessarily the food I most want to eat. That is to say, he has no reason to know my prejudices. I'm asking him to serve what he chooses to serve and putting myself at his disposal. "Tasting menu" doesn't seem out of line as a definition of "omakase" to me. For a sushi chef to interact with his diner seems a plus, but not necessarily essential to omakase. I'd be curious to get a better explanation from a Japanese poster, or one with great experience eating in Japan. My Japanese language skills are short and I've forgotten how I handled the situation at a decidedly down scale (patrons sat on beer crates) yakitori bar under the elevated train tracks in Tokyo. What comes to mind is "moriawase" or better still, "moriawase okudusai" which I believe roughly translates as "a selection please." With luck, a Japanese speaker will confirm this or shoot holes in this post. Either reply is welcome as we'll all be better educated for it. What I also seem to remember, is that my little foray into how to handle the situations that arise when you've managed to gain entrance to a restaurant unused to serving foreigners led me to believe that "omakase" was an inappropriate word to use in a dive under the train tracks. It suggests a more refined situation and more refined preparation. MacDonald's has a Happy Meal, but one doesn't refer to it as a prix fixe, let alone tasting menu. Yasuda would have been a great companion and drinking buddy at this yakitori bar, by the way. It's as easy to picture him in that environment as it is in his own slick well designed restaurant interior.
  8. I would have said much the same about Laurent Tourondel. Then again I suppose doing a series of steak and fish restaurants alieviates the boredom, but the contract mentioned above seems to preclude this.
  9. Bobby Flay, who I hear is a very nice guy and great to deal with--I had an unsatisfactory rabbit at Bolo. So did others at my table. It was hard to believe there was anyone in the kitchen who cared. Great tapas however. I left feeling Bolo was overrated and overpraised. I don't know why Oceana doesn't get better word of mouth. I can't even explain why I don't get there more often other than that it's competing at a fairly high point on the price scale. In my opinion, Blue Hill and WD-50 deserve all the attention they get from serious diners. For one thing, I believe each is unique and far from the molds that produce many of our good restaurants. Even for those who might not appreciate, or enjoy, either of them, they merit attention and discussion. Neither is just another of its type, or even the best of a type. They are their type. Of course this is highly subjective opinion.
  10. Both restaurants focus on Mexican food. Chef Sanchez is the son of Zarela Martínez. Mr. Bruni reviews both in his article. "Essentially unrelated" isn't the term that comes to mind. ← At times, my sister has expressed the opinion that we are unrelated. "One of us must have been switched at birth," is something she says from time to time.
  11. Yes, it's an excellent point. The stars do eclipse the prose, so let's snuff them out. ← It's not necessarily the star which are at fault. It's the people's memory. Perhaps that's our best target.
  12. By the way, I'm not particularly a great fan of awarding stars either to restaurants, movies, or for that matter to books and paintings. I'm not even sure stars work in consumer reviews of washing machines and mobile phones. It's just that by understanding a system that's in use, I can derive the most information out of the system and my time seems better spent understanding the nuances of the system rather than railing against it. My vote is for no stars, but I'll guess that all other things being equal, a restaurant guide book with stars will out sell one with stars. The public wants them and that's why it's a waste of my time arguing for their removal.
  13. That's been my general assumption, but I wondered if the reservation system itself wasn't the real expense of using OpenTable. My sense has also been that it's better to be known to the reservationist as a caller, rather than an OpenTable user. Inline with your comment about no-shows and locals generally being more reliable, I see calling directly as offering a chance at a table that's been taken offline, especially if you develop some regularity as a client. It is however, a mistake to consider an out-of-towner recommended by a concierge as a one shot diner. The concierge that recommends the restaurant may be a better single source of reservations than any one regular diner. That applies only to calls from the concierge. The out-of-town diner calling on his own, as you suggest, is more likely not to offer any steam of business. Thus, I believe Katie's former employer was wise in his approach and eager to make a good impression on the concierge more than the diner.
  14. Actually, one of the evils of the internet is that such a statement can be assumed to offer fairness or that the ability to defend oneself in a public forum should be considered a reasonable obligation.
  15. Thanks, Le Zouave! Everybody should see that blog. There are pictures of a chef in a g-string diving into a swimming-pool. ← So there's no reason to be surprised there's a manifesto in the first place. The French not only love manifestos, but take them with a grain of salt. Any manifesto is a good excuse for a party. On the one hand, I'm quite suspicious that it's all an attempt at publicity to counteract the attention being given to chefs outside France and particularly in Spain. On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of eating in a restaurant where the chef understands the importance of having a good time over rhetoric.
  16. So we agree, the people are the problem.
  17. Thanks to a friend who works at the Food Network, I got to attend the taping of this match -- which happened way the hell back in the first week of May! (I remember because I saw New Order play at Hammerstein Ballroom the same day). Because of taping delays, they actually dismissed what "audience" there was before the Judging, so I have been wondering who won for eight months. I won't reveal the secret ingredient, but will say Wylie brought his own Xantham gum. I'm eating at WD-50 in a couple weeks for the first time for my birthday. Very excited. ← I'm wondering if they didn't dismiss the audience simply because in the past there have been "rumors" of "recounts" until the judges got it right.
  18. Rich, in addition to other things, the restaurant situation in France was rather static when Michelin instituted its star system. Thanks for pointing that out. For all that, the star system would work for me, if I shared the reviewers' tastes.
  19. Bux

    Sushi Yasuda

    Studies have shown that most people tip the way they do because of their predisposed inclination to tip that way. Which is to say that service really has little to do with how much tip most people leave. There are exceptions. Some people will stiff a waiter over the most minor thing and some sports will leave a hundred dollar bill on the bar after two martinis. I pretty much know what I want to tip when I make my reservation based on the kind of place it is and the service I expect. I regard the tip in NYC to be a waiter's basic pay. This has been discussed to death in other threads, but waiters don't usually get paid a living wage and often get paid less than minimum wage if you don't count the tips. Fortunately for management, the government allows them to meet the minimum wage by including tips. Special treatment may raise my tip a few points. Service really has to be rotten and ruin my dinner for it to make much of a difference in my tip. I expect professional service at a top restaurant whether I tip or not. The wait staff should usually expect a tip even if there are problems.
  20. It's all less a matter of speculation than perhaps of subjective opinion. I've not had what I consider a remarkable number of fine meals in NYC this past year, but I can count on Per Se, an eight course tasting at Daniel which ran about the same price as Per Se, Stone Barns, WD-50, Jean Georges, and the Modern (okay, it's not been a dry year either especially since my best meals were probably in Spain). It's not really easy for me to pick any one particular meal as outstanding and each of my favorites might excel in one aspect or another, but if pushed hard, I'd have to say my best meal came at Blue Hill. Perhaps it was not composed of dishes that were on the menu and had more courses than their tasting menu. I can't say. We didn't look at the menu that night. In that there was no caviar or truffle, the meal did not compare with Per Se, but on the quality of the cooking, it did and I believe WD-50 provides cuisine that matches that served in four star (NY Times) on a consistent basis. Neither WD-50, nor Blue Hill, provide what I have come to expect as a four star restaurant experience. Michelin defines a three star restaurant as one that offers (in addition to excellent food) "Fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings" and adds that "One will pay accordingly" Perhaps my prejudices, in all things gastronomic, are based on my early travels in France, but Michelin set the standard by which I interpret other star systems. I believe Craig Clairborne shared the same prejudice in those terms and that historically, those have been an unwritten part of the NY Times system. In response to comment about the stars signifying a certain genre of restaurant, I can say that I've heard chefs speak of unopened restaurants as being three star or four star restaurants, meaning that this particular rating was their ultimate goal. The style of the restaurant was determined by the chef and owner, all that remained was for the food to match the goal and for the critic to agree it did.
  21. Actually, I don't believe the star system is necessarily archaic in itself, but as it has to deal with an audience that is unwilling to accept it for what it is, perhaps it may just as well be considered archaic. English isn't intuitive. Just ask my two year old grandson, but he wants to communicate with others and he's taking the effort to do so with increasing sophistication. What's wrong with having to read enough reviews and thinking about them before voicing an opinion? Trust me, eventually you will get it, with Fat Guy's help or that of others. Communication systems are useful not just if they're transparent, but more so if they can convey sophisticated information and hidden meanings, not just the obvious ones. The problem with too many diners is that first they want immediate gratification and second, that they honestly believe the customer is always right and that their own subjective taste is the standard by which other more educated palates should judge food and communicate opinions. Please don't take this personally. I've read and responded to your posts on the site and respect your opinions. I'm using your post as a door to make a point.
  22. Either that, or once I've gotten used to the concepts, I've been able to focus more on the taste. My guess is that like any artist, Wylie will tell you he hasn't changed. He's doing what he always does. That's why we have art critics and historians--to tell us what's really going on.
  23. Bux

    Sushi Yasuda

    That's interesting as well over a year ago, we made our first visit to Sushi Yasuda. We had no problem ordering omakase, or so we felt. We answered a lot of questions and made our preferences known. As I recall, we asked him to include specific things, but told him to introduce those things at the point he felt was appropriate. We also commented on what he served to us. It was less about which pieces we liked and which we didn't, than about what we liked about a particular piece or flight of tastes. Perhaps he's found it less rewarding to make assumptions over time or perhaps it's a matter of how busy the bar is on a particular night. He's a very gregarious guy. I tend to be quieter, but I found the interaction very important in getting the most out of sitting at the bar.
  24. Bux

    Sushi Yasuda

    When in Rome . . . Tipping may be an insult altogether in Japan and I was once told by the owner/bartender of an old established and now departed Irish saloon, on Third Avenue in the fifties or sixties, that one didn't tip the owner. I could tip his employees, but not him. That was always an all cash over the counter deal. With a credit card, I add the usual percentage to my bill at Sushi Yasuda. If Yasuda finds it insulting, I trust he will understand that it's for the waitress who brought our sake and beer or for the kitchen staff. My conscience is clear.
  25. That was my immediate reaction when I read the description of the dish on the New Year's Eve thread, but while "pickle" alone is almost synonymous with pickled cucumber in western cuisine it's not so in others. In Japan, for instance, a pickle need not mean cucumber and is more often some other pickled vegetable. Although Wylie has a reputation for creativity and originality, I think he'd sacrifice originality before flavor. I don't mean to dismiss your comments about the visual importance of most dishes. There does seem to be a growing interest in visual puns. Years ago, I had a bit of white wine spilled on the sleeve of a linen jacket. It was during an exceptional meal in the dining room of a fine restaurant noted for its service. I paid no attention to the matter not wanting to interrupt the evening. Alas, the next day I found the wine had actually bleached the fabric and noticeably changed the color where it had landed on my sleeve. It turned out to be a more expensive meal than I had planned, but as you say, things happen. I've continued to enjoy that unnamed restaurant and figure that if I have enough meals there, I will amortize the loss of the jacket over many meals so that the average cost is only raise a few bucks a head. I lost a good tie to a bowl of soup once. I will never again knowingly wear a new tie to restaurant where a soup course appears on the tasting menu, otherwise, a good meal is far too important to ruin with distractions. I think we agree.
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