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My (Fantasy) Restaurant


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Buy a small ship, like in the 180-200 foot range.  Pull the engines so I don't have to employ a watchstanding crew full time.  Net over the maindeck with mosquito mesh and put  a couple dozen tables out there.  Fantail/stern would be the lounge, with the best collection of Carribean and African rum I could put together (maybe some cigars for sale, too, when the wind is right).  Dogfish Head 60 IPA on tap, that's for sure!  Perhaps a banquete on the bridge seating 6 for VIP occasions.

Call it Vessel and put a lot of thought into making the Ladies' washroom a comfortable place.

Menu... Mediterranean fusion, changing to reflect the seasons and whatever produce is good right now.  Scallops on linguine with hummus alfredo, duck tagine, maybe a nice Eggs Benedict with prosciutto di Parma and organic eggs on little foccacia rounds with Sauce Maltaise, because who doesn't like breakfast for supper now and again?

Music?  Morphine, Brubeck, the Specials--Crom have mercy, anything but Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley.  Good live jazz combos if available in whatever mythical city will grant a permit for this enterprise.

Let me know when you open - I'll be there :smile:

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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First of all, it's a brewpub. Fine lagers and ales served at the peak of freshness.

The food can be described as: German Cajun BBQ Fish Fry Pizzeria

The brewpub is actually getting close to happening. The food, however, is not part of the initial plans. But as soon as is practical......I'm hoping.


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That's the name of the place & its reason for being.

Go to Switzerland, learn how to make the stuff properly, import some sausages....

I've had attempts to duplicate the stuff at allegedly Swiss places in NYC & they are sad sad sad.

America loves fried taters - the world does! - & I bet that, given a taste of the real deal, this would take off. It's a nationwide franchise concept just waiting to happen.

Actually I would just love to be able to go somewhere nearby & get a good sausage-&-rosti platter.

(Blame FatGuy's potato dish thread for this.)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I'm going to tell you about the world’s best restaurant. But first a few ground rules:

I can't tell you the name or location of the world’s best restaurant. Regarding the name, I've been sworn to secrecy. Regarding the location, I don't even know it. Only the chef, the maitre d’, a few staff members and the restaurant’s driver and helicopter pilot know the precise coordinates. Customers are met on a street corner or at the airport, blindfolded and driven or flown to the restaurant.

I also can't tell you the name of the chef, who goes only by the designation, "B". Suffice it to say that he's the one of the world's greatest chefs and that he gave up his position at the best restaurant in the history of New York City in order to devote his full attention to running the world’s best restaurant.

Finally, I can't tell you the name of the maitre d’, who goes only by the designation, "M". Suffice it to say that he is the world’s greatest maitre d’ and that he engineered a phony scandal to get himself out of his contract with the second-best restaurant in the history of New York City. When his former customers inquire as to his whereabouts, they are told only that he is now working at a private club.

What I can tell you is that the world’s best restaurant is not in Europe. It is, rather, in America. Many customers (myself included) have speculated that it is somewhere in the borough of Staten Island.

If you're wondering why you've never heard of this restaurant before, it is because I'm the only culinary journalist ever to visit. This is because I came by my preferred customer status before I started writing about food. Now, every time I show up, "B" reminds me, "No reviews, okay?" It was only after a particularly hedonistic evening and too many glasses of wine that "B" agreed to let me reveal even this much.

The world’s best restaurant is an invitation-only operation. Only close personal friends of the chef, the maitre d’ or the other customers are allowed to visit--and even then only after submitting to an extensive background check. I don't want you to get the idea, though, that the world’s best restaurant is aristocratic. To the contrary, you're just as likely to see plumbers and electricians as you are to see the King of Spain (one of the restaurant’s best customers prior to an unfortunate incident after which he was banned from the premises) or Sting (who often provides musical entertainment after dinner). The only requirement is love of food--nobody is kept out for lack of funds.

The world’s best restaurant is surprisingly modest and informal. It's in a building that could easily pass for a two-family home in Queens. There's only one table at the world’s best restaurant--a banquet table with 12 seats. Everybody sits together and, especially if you are alone, the maitre d’ tries to place you next to compatible guests. On my last visit, while my wife was out of town, I sat with Nicole Kidman, whose husband was indisposed. She was absolutely charming, highly intelligent and, incidentally, looks even better in person.

Dinner is prix fixe, 35 courses (15 of which are desserts). There is one seating, at 3:00 p.m., and meals usually last until around 4:00 a.m. The restaurant is open only on Mondays in order to insure a steady supply of the world’s best waiters (who tend to have Mondays off from their primary jobs).

You probably think I'm going to say that there are no menus at the world’s best restaurant. To the contrary, the menu is 300 pages long. You must place your order approximately two months in advance in order for the chef to purchase the right ingredients and contract with the right assistants. For example, if a few people order a sushi course then "N" will usually show up to prepare it (after which, if he is in the mood, he performs an astonishing tap-dancing routine).

The restaurant is strictly BYOB, although the sommelier is available to advise on wine and food pairings (he and I exchanged 14 lengthy faxes prior to my last meal). His name is "L" and he claims to be a tenth generation Latour whose ancestors were denied their rightful share of the Domaine by evil cousin Louis. He requests that you send the wines ahead a couple of weeks in advance (you used to leave them in a locker at the Port Authority and place the key in a specific trash can, but post 9/11 they use Manhattan Mini Storage) so that they can be placed upright, allowing the sediment to settle.

What really makes the world’s best restaurant the best restaurant in the world, though, is the quality of the raw ingredients. Ingredients are obtained through a secret global supply and distribution network that, in scope, rivals that of OPEC. If you're lucky enough to arrive early for dinner (and if "B" or "M" is in the mood to give you a tour), you'll see all manner of exotic fish, meat, game and vegetables being delivered through the restaurant’s underground tunnel system. Go to any of the world’s top markets (Rungis in Paris, Tsukiji in Tokyo, Hunts Point in New York) and you will see certain items (a particularly nice bluefin tuna, a carton of perfectly ripe raspberries) marked with a small gold circle with three lines through it. This ancient Runic emblem indicates that an item has been set aside for "B"--yet "B" selects only one in a hundred of these samples. The rest are shipped off to second-tier chefs like Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon. I once asked "B" why he doesn't emphasize local ingredients, and his response was, simply, "Fuck that shit."

The fanaticism of "B" and "M" for ingredients has led them to produce several items on the premises. "M" was long dissatisfied with the available supply of dairy products so the restaurant acquired three cows a few years back. The restaurant now serves only its own cheese, butter and milk. At one time, two of the cows grew ill and didn't produce milk for three months. Bread was served without butter and there was no milk available for the coffee (the one remaining cow, a red wagyu, provided just enough milk to ensure a steady cheese supply). I won't go into all the details, but it was during this time that the King of Spain committed the faux pas that got him ejected from the restaurant.

When you first enter the world’s best restaurant, "M" rushes over, shakes your hand, kisses you on both cheeks and offers you a glass of Champagne (the "Special Cuvee B" from Krug) and says "I am so happy to see you!" (and means it). The guests are permitted to mingle, during which time "M" circulates with his latest cheese creation. People smell and touch the cheese, after which everybody is called to the table. There is one waiter for each guest. He stands behind your chair (at a respectful, unobtrusive distance) and ministers to your every need. Most customers, however, insist on bussing some of their own plates in order to visit with "B" and stretch their legs between courses.

There's a lot of tableside presentation at the world’s best restaurant. On my last visit, for example, Nicole and I shared a whole baby lamb. First, "M" walked the live lamb over to our seats for inspection. Nicole and I petted and played with him for a while, named him "Buster" and grew quite attached to the little fellow. We pleaded with "M" not to slaughter the poor thing but "M" was non-negotiable. "It is God’s will," he said reverently, "and now I must prepare him for the journey."

We said goodbye to Buster and "M" took him out back. We heard a few cries, a dull thud and then nothing. Nicole, in particular, was visibly shaken. A while later, we were presented with a beautiful rack of lamb, carved tableside. Our next 11 courses consisted of all imaginable parts of the lamb, each prepared in an entirely different way. By lamb course number four, we no longer missed Buster at all. Nicole was kind enough to share her magnum of 1982 Petrus with me (I had brought a Ridge Zinfandel for the lamb courses, but we tasted the two wines side-by-side and agreed that the Petrus was much better). When it came time for dessert, we were particularly lucky in that "B" had just received a shipment of Japanese mountain pears (the best specimens are only available fresh for a couple of days a year). Served four different ways, they were sublime. I will not bore you with the details of the other 20 courses, but they were all equally outstanding. At the end of the meal, no bill is presented, all accounts having been settled in advance of the evening.

I do have a couple of complaints about the world’s best restaurant. First, the meals feel rushed. To serve 35 courses (plus the amuse bouche, petits fours, mignardises and coffee) in 13 hours requires the restaurant to bring out approximately one course every 20 minutes. I have spoken to several of the other customers about this, and they agree that the pacing is too fast. Try as I may to convince him, however, "B" refuses to scale back the number of courses or start the meal earlier ("Americans are always looking for the easy solution," he argues). Second, there's tremendous pressure to eat every bite of food you are served. If plates are returned to the kitchen with substantial leftovers then "B" is likely to come out and confront the customers. This is as true for course number 33 as it is for course number 17. Granted, portions are small, but I think the chef needs to realize that some people like to pace themselves. As it stands, customers often resort to bizarre schemes (zipper bags, secret briefcase compartments -- those with prosthetic limbs have a great advantage) to hide the leftovers. Finally, I think the metal folding chairs get a bit uncomfortable after six or seven hours. I'd like to see some new chairs--or at least some seat cushions.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That sounds like the restaurant that would be in the hidden Colorado Mountains of Atlas Shrugged...

QUOTE(adegiulio @ Jun 19 2007, 09:39 AM)

I would love to see a prime steakhouse with no wine list. BYOB only...

Are you listening, Philadelphians?



byob every friday except during restaurant week

(Philadelphia location)

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've had plenty of bizarro ideas go through my head, although a couple of them are still holding on up there.

I remember having a lengthy group conversation about Chinese food a couple years back, and one of the people in it was born and raised in China (although having lived most of her life in America.) Well, we asked her what her favorite dish was; she blushed and said "orange chicken." :biggrin:

So, how about a restaurant that throws any semblance of authenticity to the wind and embraces the blissful 19th-century ignorance which created our most beloved Chinese-American dishes. Anything stir-fried, deep-fried, or steamed and even remotely Asian would be fair game. Let's even call the place 18 Dragons to really drive the point home. I just want to give some talented chef a handful of roasted garlic, say "make something Chinese-ish," and see what happens. :raz:

But more than anything, I would want to open Panton (Latin for "Everything.")

Picture a restaurant no smaller than a warehouse. A place so large that it can never be empty, never be closed, and never be full. It is the last remaining piece of real estate on the San Francisco embarcadero waterfront and looks like it was designed by Ceaser Pelli and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Red brick, intricate glasswork, exposed iron, and industrial lighting. A basilica of iron. Nevertheless, the interior is low and dark like a Frank Lloyd Wright structure. The place will be a maze of standalone tables and booths in every configuration. We're talking semi-enclosed smoking booths, booths with couches instead of chairs, hookah-chambers, romantic booths for couples, party rooms, and the like. Decor will be vibrant, flowing curtains of deep blue, sandy-stucco walls, and a pitch-black floor. Artifacts from around the world mounted carefully in shadow boxes hang between booths with brief descriptions. Music will be ambient with a taste for the experimental (Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, and the mellower end of Blue Man Group should be some indication.)

But most importantly, the food. Dim Sum style without any bounds, cultural or otherwise. At least three executive chefs working at any time, making whatever they feel like from whatever ingredients are on hand. Sushi, bar food, and Tapas are fair game. The idea is for every cart to surprise every table every time. Desserts, protein, and mixed drinks will all come around on the same carts. Bring in celebrity chefs to go nuts every now and then. Of course, there will be several managers designated reconnaissance to send feedback to the chefs in real-time using camouflaged kiosks littered throughout.

Most will not even realize that Panton is on the second story until most of the way through their meals. Downstairs will be a small mall of cultural oddities (think Ukulele shops and wooden handicrafts,) book stores, and even a coffee shop spread out over a dock-motif. An underground parking garage will run up to the edge of this mall. Off to one side will be a small, mellow hotel for people that want to make a day trip out of the place. On the other side will be an eclectic nightclub and lounge. Of course, everything is quietly owned by Panton.

The logistics would never even begin to make sense, but who cares?

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My fantasy is, all things considered, rather dull... I've been playing with ideas for opening a restaurant ever since I last worked in one, over 10 years ago now... The basics stay the same -- small (seating 20 people max), one seating a night, only open 3-4 days a week. A medium-length tasting menu, perhaps a dozen or 18 dishes or so, depending on moods and whims, focused on the things I love to cook... Two options for wine parings -- a reasonable priced one and an over-the-top one. etc etc.

Oh, and the critical issue -- it should be able to lose about $100,000 - $200,000 a year, forever, without running out of money. :raz: That's the only way I think I'd actually be able to enjoy it! (The obvious solution is to first become very very rich, and *then* open it... Unfortunately, I'm a university professor, so that's out, too.)


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My fantasy is not exciting either, but I think about it often. In my hometown of 1,000 people (give or take a few hundred) in very rural North Dakota, there sits vacant a small restaurant formerly called Maggie's Cafe. Maggie was a short, surly woman who felt that cheapest was best in all endeavors, so the restaurant had the lowest quality plastic glasses and melamine dishes, the hamburger patties were wafer thin and dry as a bone, and the soda came in cans so she didn't have to pay for a fountain. Maggie ran the cafe for countless years before her retirement, after which the place limped along for several years with a string of owners that ranged from incompetent to lazy, many possessing both qualities. Now it is sitting forlornly, glass in the front door cracked. It beckons me to revitalize it.

I dream of bringing it back to life with the quality it never had. White tablecloths, real china, and some new paint to replace that godawful yellowed wallpaper (which has been yellowed since the 1970s). I would keep the basics (burgers and such) so the old Germans in the town wouldn't rebel, but would add bistro classics like Beef Burgundy, one or two items at a time. I would add ethnic dishes a few times per month to expand people's tastes and gradually turn the entire town into food snobs. (That's the real fantasy part.)

The crazy thing is I think it could actually work (except for the last part). The only other restaurant in town is a squalid dump called the Prairie Winds, probably referring to the intestinal distress that happens shortly after eating there. I might be able to eke out a living there, and enjoy all the benefits of living in a small town (being near family, leaving the house unlocked and the keys in the car). Now that high-speed internet is readily available, I could even imagine not going stir crazy in the winter.

But alas and alack, the building continues to sit on a main street that is slowly dying. I think someone is turning it into an apartment, because I returned a few weeks ago and there are signs of work, a houseplant and a cat.

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