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New York's finest restaurants


Wilfrid
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Why are they not innovating at the deep level - i.e. ingredients and techniques?  I guess because their first job is to put those big-spending upper middle bums on seats frequently enough for the restaurants not to go bust.

Are you suggesting that if a innovative chef, as Vongerichten once was, came along now, he’d fail to put bums in seats? What’s changed?

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Without addressing whether Steve's explanation of how we have got to where we are is right or not, I think it's still valid to ask whether we are satisfied with the status quo.  The twin experiences this week of reviewing old menus at the NYPL and having a let-down dinner at Lespinasse sharpen my sense that variety and adventure are now at a premium in upscale restaurants in New York, unless maybe one orders off menu.  Maybe the new rich, or whoever, do like everything soft and smooth, but am I the only dissenter who despairs of the monotone?

Wilfrid -

similar questions are being asked of the Broadway theater as well.

why risk capital on a new and untested writer (chef) when you can recycle an old standby, reliably fill the 1200 seats, and pay off your investors?

When an evening at the theater can easily run $600 for a pair of suburbanites, a gamble is often not in order. (And, that doesn't include the night in the city)

A new, cutting edge, exciting idea better have a deep pockets backer (Cello, Bid, etc) willing to finance it, or the sign comes down and a new style marches in...

Paul

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Railpaul - You can't compare the theater to restaurants. There isn't really much exciting new theater and there is almost no such thing as an exciting new musical. But there are some exciting new restaurants. They are just not in NYC. And if cost was the issue, this new exciting theater would be Off-Broadway where it wouldn't cost $100 a ticket. But it isn't there either because it doesn't exist. And if it does, the public has little or no interest in it.

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Where is a new chef to be innovative if it's hard to attract patrons and the rents are so high? Add to that, the start up cost for a new restaurant can easily be a million dollars. That's quite a bit if debt.

I'm sure that that has a lot to do with it, but wasn't it equally onerous when Vongerichten, Boulud and the rest were starting? Or do you think that costs have risen disproportionately, or that the dining public have become more conservative?

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There isn't really much exciting new theater and there is almost no such thing as an exciting new musical. But there are some exciting new restaurants. They are just not in NYC.

I probably wouldn't have known that there was no exciting new theater anywhere, let alone in New York. Thanks for keeping tabs on this stuff, Steve. :wink:

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but wasn't it equally onerous when Vongerichten, Boulud and the rest were starting? Or do you think that costs have risen disproportionately, or that the dining public have become more conservative?

Do you really think there was as many high end restaurants around then as there are now? Even if the costs were as high (including cost of living increases,) the potential to attract diners was much better because there were so few places at that level that were meaningful. And I think the cost of real estate in this city has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. Forgetting about national chain stores, show me a successful independant retailer and I will show you someone with a good lease.

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Railpaul - You can't compare the theater to restaurants. There isn't really much exciting new theater and there is almost no such thing as an exciting new musical. But there are some exciting new restaurants. They are just not in NYC. And if cost was the issue, this new exciting theater would be Off-Broadway where it wouldn't cost $100 a ticket. But it isn't there either  because it doesn't exist. And if it does, the public has little or no interest in it.

You are correct, Steve, there's much less exciting theater left in NY. A little bit here and there, like Temporary Help, or Metamorphoses, and a few things being done in lofts. A the rate things are going, we may find there's no exciting restaurant activity in NY, either. And, for the same reasons.

Theater can be exciting, challenging, even scary. Like cooking. Scary scares investors.

If you can pack fannies into seats every night, and collect $100 a head ($250 for Hairspray, Producers, etc), why change what obviously works?

How is that any different than collecting $350 for a dinner at Lespinasse? If the customer likes what he or she is getting, why change? With the much higher stakes of a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, the risks are amplified. So, we get more of the 1960s (Flower Drum), 1930s (42nd Street) and 1970s (Follies warmed over). And, less of Amadeus...

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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I was able to recite a recipe from memory of a foie/apple dish that could be prepared in 4-5 minutes (excluding that nasty prep time of course.) And when you make that dish which isn't difficult, it's every bit as good as what you might get in Le Cirque. .

Mmmm. Would you mind posting that on the Cooking board? :smile:

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Theater can be exciting, challenging, even scary. Like cooking. Scary scares investors.

If you can pack fannies into seats every night, and collect $100 a head ($250 for Hairspray, Producers, etc), why change what obviously works?

So would you conclude that we need real estate prices to crash and tourists from to stop coming here for Bway shows in order for restaurants and theaters to become innovative again?

M
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Theater can be exciting, challenging, even scary. Like cooking. Scary scares investors.

If you can pack fannies into seats every night, and collect $100 a head ($250 for Hairspray, Producers, etc), why change what obviously works?

So would you conclude that we need real estate prices to crash and tourists from <unnamed provinces, so as not to offend anyone> to stop coming here for Bway shows in order for restaurants and theaters to become innovative again?

Might be a start. Similar to the willingness to dispense with investment managers when EVERY stock was going up 5% per day. Now, with prices down a bit, the quality of management is perceived as making a difference.

I suspect that many restaurant goers and theater people prefer to be reassured in their comfort zones, rather than be challenged with the new and different.

Why should a chef continually reinvent the menu when you can train your help to churn it out every night while you go on FoodTV, or roll out your next book, or visit your shop in Cannes? Deliver a quality product, consistent, recognizable, at a price which makes you money. Works for ADNY and Mickey D.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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So would you conclude that we need real estate prices to crash and tourists from to stop coming here for Bway shows in order for restaurants and theaters to become innovative again?

What drives businesses are the opportunities for talented people to express their talent and combine that with making money. So it isn't empty theaters, it's empty theaters with the potential to be full theaters that encourages people to enter a profession. Why be a playwrite when you can be a screenwriter or someone who writes for television? And do you think young chefs are as motivated to work in Carrol Gardens as they are in the Flatiron District? Or in an industry where the menus at every restaurant in the country are that same so that the environment stifles innovation? Talented people need an outlet to express themselves. Economics manages to play a silent but unbelievably important part in that equation.

I guess there is a business model we can impose on this question (maybe JD can chime in here) that has to do with immature vs mature businesses. Part of the problem with the restaurant industry is that over the last 30 years it became mature, i.e., big business,. There are models for getting everything done. Much of the innovation that we are pining for historically took place in a mom and pop business environment.

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Interesting that the discussion has developed in the direction of pondering why there is a lack of innovation at the high end of New York restaurants. Maybe that is the problem and I just have an idiosyncratic perception of it. I am not sure I want to see more innovation per se; at leadt, I don't assume that's going to lead to an overall improvement in my restaurant experience. What I think would improve matters is actually restoring the palette of flavors, textures and cooking techniques which have been driven out by the conservatism of the four star market (I guess - no-one seems to have contradicted that yet).

Really, anyone participating in this should consider checking out the Grimes curated exhibit at NYPL. I remember Fat Bloke saying on the Craft thread a while back that the Craft approach, rather than being as revolutionary as coverage suggested, was actually a revival of an old menu style, where the diner would be confronted with a long list of meats, a long list of fish, several columns of vegetable sides, and so on. A revival of the carte in the true sense.

I disagreed with Fat Bloke on the specifics (I said that on the old menus, one found long lists of made dishes, rather than of ingredients as at Craft). But now I wonder whether innovation and the recuperation of the best aspects of the past are mutually exclusive.

Take a look at St John's in London. Either it's a radical, minimalist example of the new British cooking, or it's a revival of the cuts and garnishes and cooking styles of Victorian England. I think it's a bit of both in fact. I think a chef who could embrace more challenging ingredients at the high level (not just weirder garnishes) and broaden the range of kitchen techniques to include more stewing, braising, and boiling, would enhance my New York dining experience. And to be fair, there are patches of such activity in evidence, aren't there? The odd pork belly (or fresh bacon) at Gramercy Tavern, the occasional outbreak of braising at Ouest, some fine galantines and ballotines at Craft. Good thing too.

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Wilfrid - Well things don't always move in one direction. Retro is always part of fashion along with modern isn't it? But I think that for a long time, cooking has been about manipulating textures to make things easier to eat. I doubt we will see that change. In fact techniques like foaming etc., move even further in the direction of changing the shape and form of food. But there will always be someone like Fergus Henderson who modernizes traditional cuisine, or someone like Tom Collichio who restates traditional cooking technique through a more modern pallet. But I think our boredom comes from lack of innovation.

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The pop hit ala Beatles, the mini-skirt and sea bass wrapped in a potato crust all probably have similar useful commercial lives (I'm waiting to see what is going to replace the mini skirt.)

Dude, don't look now, but I think the mini skirt has been replaced by the thong. :blush:

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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"I think that for a long time, cooking has been about manipulating textures to make things easier to eat. I doubt we will see that change. In fact techniques like foaming etc., move even further in the direction of changing the shape and form of food. "

Mmm hmm. I understand it's happening, and I see lots of reasons why. Does anyone else want to raise their hand and say if they think it's good or bad in terms of what's on the plate (independently of whether it's inevitable or predictable or unavoidable).

I am increasingly convinced it's bad. Liebling expressed a preference for flavors which "know their own mind". To the extent there is any room for improving Liebling, I might say flavors and textures . And I'm not writing in the abstract; I am burdened by the knowledge that the best way a "top" New York chef can serve three successive game birds on a game menu is the breast of each one cooked rare, the monotony broken only by wrapping one in cabbage leaf with some foie gras. Forty years ago, a chef at the Waldorf would have made a better fist of that menu.

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Interesting that the discussion has developed in the direction of pondering why there is a lack of innovation at the high end of New York restaurants.

At least it hasn't evolved into a discussion of table manners like another, somewhat related thread...

Maybe that is the problem and I just have an idiosyncratic perception of it.  I am not sure I want to see more innovation per se; at leadt, I don't assume that's going to lead to an overall improvement in my restaurant experience.

What I think is the problem with the restaurants on your list (at least the first four, haven't been to ADNY), is that they combine the pretense of being French haute-cuisine restaurants with total failure to deliver that dining experience in each and every aspect. If any of them were able to give me a 90% guarantee of being served a meal that is worth the price (by Paris standards, maybe with 30-40% added for cost of living adjustments), I would be happy, but for now I just avoid them and spend my $350/meal money where the probability distribution is better.

As for pockets of non 'CIA Standard' menus, you can spot them here and there, but you're still not going to be served wild hare in blood sauce or similarly gamey dishes anywhere I know of.

edited for syntax.

M
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I am increasingly convinced it's bad.  Liebling expressed a preference for flavors which "know their own mind".  To the extent there is any room for improving Liebling, I might say flavors and textures .  And I'm not writing in the abstract; I am burdened by the knowledge that the best way a "top" New York chef can serve three successive game birds on a game menu is the breast of each one cooked rare, the monotony broken only by wrapping one in cabbage leaf with some foie gras.  Forty years ago, a chef at the Waldorf would have made a better fist of that menu.

Wilfrid -

unwittingly, perhaps you and mr plotnicki are in the same bed, I fear. Customers expect certain treatments, and few will accept more than a minimal degrees from the expected. You lament the unwillingness of many chefs to seek a new treatment, he laments the declines in truly high end, innovative, fmj-d cuisine. Same problem.

Most chefs, I suspicion, would love to blaze a new trail, and become the herald of a new approach to cooking (wrapping foie gras in a greek grape leaf mainated in ouzo). Book deal, TV, sexy supermodel / NFL player, etc. But, their career path requires them to innovate at a safe distance from the acceptable, so to fill tables. Matt Seeber learned that the hard way at Bid.

I loved the food, but the place was NEVER more than half filled. If Chika Tillman would stop by and deliver me a dessert once a week, I could pass from this mortal coil a satisfied man...

Paul

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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I apologize in advance for this very long post.

I am confused by the argument on New York's best restaurants. Do most members feel it is a lack of innovation in preparation or a lack of culinary skill in what is prepared?

I decided to check the web sites of Jean Georges, Daniel, Bouley, Ducasse and Le Bernadin. Below is what turned up. Do members feel these are safe menus? What would you rather see? Are they being prepared sloppily? Not living in New York, it is of interest to me why members have become jaded and why the menus below reflect this.

JEAN GEORGES

Appetizer

"LANGOUSTE" SALAD WITH GRAPEFRUIT AND MINT 

PORCINI TART WITH WILD HERB SALAD  

CHESTNUT BROTH WITH MUSHROOM RAVIOLI AND FALL VEGETABLES

SEA SCALLOPS, CAPER-RAISIN EMULSION, CAULIFLOWER

TUNA AND HAMACHI MARINATED IN OLIVE OIL, LEMON JUICE, RADISH AND CHIVE

YOUNG GARLIC SOUP WITH THYME, SAUTEED FROG LEGS WITH PARSLEY

GREEN ASPARAGUS WITH MORELS, ASPARAGUS JUICE

FARINETTE OF ESCARGOTS WITH SCALLION AND PARSLEY OIL

TOASTED BRIOCHE OF FOIE GRAS

Entrée

BLACK SEA BASS WITH SICILIAN PISTACHIO CRUST, WILTED SPINACH AND PISTACHIO OIL

SLOW BAKED MAINE CHAR, SAUTEED CHANTERELLES AND ARTICHOKES

WOOD SORREL COULIS

BAKED DORADE WITH BAY LEAF, LEMON AND FENNEL SEED

GREEN TOMATO MARMALADE

TURBOT IN A CHATEAU CHALON SAUCE, TOMATO CONFIT, ZUCCHINI

LOBSTER TARTINE, PUMPKIN SEED, FENUGREEK BROTH, PEA SHOOTS

MUSCOVY DUCK STEAK WITH SPICES, SWEET AND SOUR JUS

BROILED SQUAB, ONION COMPOTE, CORN PANCAKE WITH FOIE GRAS

LOIN OF LAMB DUSTED WITH BLACK TRUMPET MUSHROOMS, LEEK PUREE

SWEETBREAD EN "COCOTTE" WITH BABY CARROT, GINGER AND LIQUORICE

MILLBROOK VENISON WRAPPED IN CABBAGE, KUMQUAT-PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY

JEAN GEORGES TASTING MENU:

WARM CELERIAC RAVIOLI FILLED WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PECAN NUTS

FISH SOUP WITH JUMBO SCALLOPS AND LITTLE NECKS CLAM

GRILLED LOBSTER, SMASHED POTATOES, TARRAGON OIL AND LOBSTER EMULSION

SLOW BAKED SALMON SPIKED WITH SMOKED SALMON, SEA URCHIN VINAIGRETTE

BONELESS LAMB SHANK WITH MAROCCAN COUSCOUS AND CHICK PEAS

ROASTED SQUAB WITH QUINCE PUREE AND DRIED APRICOTS

SAUCE "PAIN D’EPICES"

FLOATING ISLAND IN A CHESNUT "CREME ANGLAISE"

MILK CHOCOLATE NAPOLEON, CRISPY GAVOTTE HAZELNUT

MILK CHOCOLATE CHANTILLY

JEAN GEORGES AUTUMN TASTING MENU

TOASTED BRIOCHE OF FOIE GRAS

SEA SCALLOPS WITH SOUR CHERRIES AND PORT VINAIGRETTE

CHESTNUT BROTH WITH MUSHROOM RAVIOLI AND FALL VEGETABLES

SEA BASS WITH SICILIAN PISTACHIO CRUST, WILTED SPINACH AND PISTACHIO OIL

LOBSTER TARTINE, PUMPKIN SEED, FENUGREEK BROTH AND PEA SHOOTS

MILLBROOK VENISON WRAPPED IN CABBAGE, KUMQUAT-PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY

Desserts

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE, WARM RASPBERRIES

VANILLA ICE CREAM

BANANA PETIT BEURRE WITH

BANANA ICE CREAM

ROASTED PEAR AND FIG WITH LIQUORICE ICE CREAM

CHESTNUT ICE CREAM WITH YOGURT PANCAKE

AND CHOCOLATE SAUCE

GOLDEN PINEAPPLE WITH KIRSCH SAVARIN

APPLE CONFIT WITH ORANGE ZEST

AND GREEN APPLE SORBET

DANIEL

Appetizers

L'ARTICHAUT ET LE FOIE GRAS

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with a Foie Gras Crostini and a Black Truffle-Parmesan Cream

LE POTIRON ET L'AIRELLE

Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Handmade Cinnamon Marshmallows and Cranberry Chutney

LA MOULE ET LA RACINE

Herb Crusted "Bouchot" Mussels with Speck Ham, Fall Root Vegetables, Parsley and a Saffron Cream

LE HAMACHI ET LE FENOUIL

Marinated Hamachi Tuna with Fresh Fennel Bavarois, Shaved Fennel

Pink Grapefruit and Avocado

LE CRABE ET L'ANANAS

Peeky Toe Crab Salad with Gold Pineapple and Celery Gelée and Lime Dressing

LE THON ET LE CAVIAR

Tuna Tartar Seasoned with Wasabi with Crisp Cucumber and Radish

Topped with Sevruga Caviar and a Lemon Coulis    $25 supp.

LE HOMARD ET LE PANAIS

Roasted Lobster with a Light Parsnip "Mousseline", Button Mushrooms, Crispy Lardons and a "Civet Sauce"

LE FOIE GRAS ET LA FIGUE

Terrine of Duck Foie Gras with Spiced Dry Figs, Baked Fresh Figs with Almonds a Purslane Salad with Almond Oil and a Port Reduction   

LA BETTERAVE ET LA NOIX

Salad of Fall Greens with Yellow and Red Beets, Celery Root

and a Mustard-Walnut Dressing

Daniel : A CELEBRATION OF HUDSON VALLEY APPLES

LA CREVETTE LE CHOU-FLEUR

Carolina Shrimp with Caramelized Cauliflower, a Curry Cream

and Ginger-Gold Apple Chutney

LE FOIE GRAS ET LE CIDRE

Foie Gras Terrine with Red Delicious Apples, Shallots Confits in Cider

with Endive and Toasted Walnuts    

Main Courses

LE "BLACK BASS" ET LA SYRAH

Paupiette of Black Sea Bass in a Crisp Potato Shell with Tender Leeks and a Syrah Sauce

LA RAIE ET LA GIROLLE

Skate Stuffed with a Girolles Duxelles, Creamy Spinach and a Bordelaise Sauce

L'OMBLE CHEVALIER ET L'ESTRAGON

Roasted Arctic Char with Lentils, Fall Root Vegetables, a Tarragon "Royale" and "Sauce Diable"

LE CABILLAUD ET LA PALOURDE

Pan Roasted Cod in a Clam and Smoked Haddock Chowder with White Root Vegetables, and Parsley Leaves

L'ESPADON ET LE CHOU

Grilled Swordfish with Cabbage Confit, Brussels Sprouts, Black Trumpets an Apple Vinegar Jus and a Bacon Emulsion

LA POULARDE DE FERME ET L'ARTICHAUT

Spit Roasted Farm Raised Chicken with Foie Gras, Girolles, Artichokes, a Pearl Onion Fricassée and Crushed Butterball Potatoes with a Garlic Jus

L'AGNEAU ET LA MOUTARDE

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Mustard and Caramelized Shallot Crust

Braised Spiced Shoulder, Swiss Chard, Winter Squash Confit, Cippoline Onions and a Bulgur Wheat Risotto

LE BOEUF ET LE CELERI

Duo of Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine and Peppered Filet Mignon

with Celery Root Purée and Braised Green Celery Stalks

A CELEBRATION OF GAME

LE FAISAN ET L'AIRELLE

Wild Pheasant and Foie Gras Terrine with a Black Truffle Dressing

Celery and Chestnut "Rémoulade" and Pickled Girolles (appetizer only)

LE CHEVREUIL ET LA CHATAIGNE

Chestnut Crusted Millbrook Farm Venison with Braised Red Cabbage, a Seckel Pear, Spiced Sweet Potato Purée and "Sauce Grand Veneur"

LA GROUSE ET LE CHOU

Wild Scottish Grouse with Foie Gras and Porcini, "Compotée of Savoy Cabbage and Turnips, Chestnuts and Salsify "Au Jus Truffé"     

BOULEY

Appetizers

Panache of Three Salads:

Roasted Foie Gras with Quince Puree,

Fricassee of Porcini, Hen of the Woods and Shiitake Mushrooms,

Satay of Scuba Dived Sea Scallops and Florida Shrimp with Fresh Bay Leaf Sauce

Spanish Blue Mackerel

Marinated Canadian Chanterelles and Praline Sauce

Return from Chiang Mai:

Chilled Maine Lobster, Mango, Fresh Artichoke and Serrano Ham

Passion Fruit, Fresh Coconut and Tamarind Dressing

Freshly Harpooned Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi with Shaved Fennel

Dressed in Herb Oils and a Spicy Marinade

Fresh New York State Trout Smoked to Order with Green Apple

Avocado and Oregon Hazelnut Sauce

Chilled Maine Belon, Pemaquid, West Coast Yaquina Bay

and Kumamoto Oysters on the Half Shell Wine and Shallot Dressing

Grilled Eggplant Terrine with Red Bell Pepper

Italian Parsley Sauce

Steamed Malibu Sea Urchins Served with Kaffir Lime

Shiso and Baby Celery Leaves

Thinly Sliced Scuba Dived Sea Scallops in a Carpaccio Manner

Fresh Pomelo, Cherry Tomatoes, Cape Gooseberries and Citrus Dressing

Seared New York State Foie Gras,

Quince and Granny Smith Apples Baked with Lemongrass and a Foie Gras Terrine Salad with Crisp Yukon

Japanese Yellowtail with Cavaillon Melon, Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms Ginger Aromatic Sauce

Entrees

Roasted Monkfish with a Fricassee of Porcini, Maitake, Hedgehog Mushrooms and Fresh Artichokes

Roasted Wild Salmon with a Pecan Crust, Sweet Corn, Organic Sorrel

a Sugar Corn and Garlic Sauce

Maine Lobster with Snap Peas, Fava Beans, Haricots Verts,

Yellow Wax Beans and Concord Grapes Sauce

Wild Striped Sea Bass Prepared in a Scallop Crust with White Asparagus, Salsify, Jasmine Rice and Sauce Bouillabaisse with Tahitian Vanilla

Atlantic Halibut Prepared in a Borscht Manner with Local Ruby Beets,Cauliflower, a Celery and Horseradish Dressing

Roasted French Belle Rouge Chicken ,Fall Vegetables Prepared in a “Chop Suey Manner”

Long Island Duckling with Acacia Honey Glaze .Castelluccio Lentils and Tender Cippiolini Onions

Rack and Loin of Colorado Lamb Roasted with Young Carrots, Turnips and Roma Beans, Zucchini Mint Sauce

Roasted Loin of Venison with Chestnut Glaze, Baby Brussels Sprouts, Endive, Black Trumpet Mushroom Daube

Seattle, Washington Kobe Beef with Asian Celery Puree and Horseradish Sauce

BOULEY TASTING MENU:

Chef’s Canapé

Phyllo Crusted Florida Shrimp, Cape Cod Baby Squid, Scuba Dived Sea Scallop and Sweet Maryland Crabmeat in an Ocean Herbal Broth

or

Freshly Harpooned Tuna Sashimi with Shaved Fennel Dressed in

Herb Oils and a Spicy Marinade

or

Mediterranean Rouget with a Crisp Potato Crust,

Saffron and Bean Sprout Risotto

Atlantic Halibut with a Cauliflower Couscous Oscetra Caviar Sauce

or

Wild Striped Bass Prepared in a Scallop Crust with White Asparagus,

Salsify, Jasmine Rice and Sauce Bouillabaisse with Tahitian Vanilla

or

Return from Chiang Mai:

Chilled Maine Lobster, Mango, Fresh Artichoke and Serrano Ham

Served with a Passion Fruit, Fresh Coconut and Kaffir Lime Dressing

Maine Lobster Prepared in an Exotic Manner, Sautéed Baby Bok Choy, Mango and Papaya Cooked with Tahitian Vanilla

or

Farm Raised Squab in a Crust of Cabbage, Foie Gras, and Lemon Thyme Perfumed with Chives, Tarragon and Parsley Juice and a Banyuls Wine Sauce

or

Organic Baby Lamb from Cooperstown, NY

Baby Fall Vegetables, Eggplant Moussaka and Harissa Spices, Zucchini-Mint Sauce

or

* Seattle, Washington Kobe Beef with Asian Celery Purée and Horseradish Sauce

Fresh Blueberry - Pineapple Soup with Yogurt Sorbet and Pineapple Chip

or

Meyer Lemon Parfait with Strawberries Cherry and Litchi Sorbets

or

Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé with Prune-Armagnac,

Maple and Vanilla Ice Creams, Chocolate Sorbet

DUCASSE

Appetizer

Confit of half-wild duck and foie gras, following a traditional recipe from the South-West of France, sweet and pickled fruits and vegetables

 

Osetra caviar, crab and soft-boiled egg in a shellfish gelée

Roasted langoustine "en cocotte", cèpes, garlic and parsley

 

Fish and shellfish

Filet of striped bass à la plancha, crisp and tender celery, black truffle sabayon

Filet of sole, cooked "au plat", glazed with comté-walnut  

Thick slice of halibut filet in fig leaves, roasted in a cast-iron pan, braised fennel

 

Meat and poultry

Grilled bison loin miroton studded with black truffle, foie gras and olives, tomato - onion condiment  

Venison chop, marinated then roasted with juniper berries, "civet" jus and garnish  

Sweetbreads of milk-fed veal, browned "en casserole", cèpe marmelade, cooked and raw slices of cèpe, real jus classical

Grilled ribeye of certified "Black Angus", served in a cocotte, Rossini  

 

All about shellfish

Cocotte of farm-fresh egg, crayfish in its jus, tender spinach leaves, toasted country bread  

Finely sliced Maine lobster, caper-herb-lemon condiment, Osetra caviar  

Velouté and royale of sea urchin, lightly whipped cream, chervil

Langoustine, roasted in its shell, curried coral rice  

Quickly seared soft shell crab, glazed spring onions, heart of romaine, pepper-shellfish sauce  

LE BERNADIN

OYSTERS

Single Variety or Assortment of Oysters (Nine Pieces)

TUNA

Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio, Brushed with a Light Ginger-Lime Mayonnaise

FLUKE

Progressive Tasting of Marinated Fluke: Four different Ceviches; From Simple to Complex Combination

GEODUCK

Thinly Sliced Geoduck Clam Simply Marinated with Wasabi-Lime Dressing

SCALLOP

Lemon-Splash Slivers of Scallops with Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

CAVIAR - SPANISH MACKEREL

Tartare topped with Iranian Osetra Caviar with Egg-Caper Vinaigrette

IRANIAN OSETRA CAVIAR

Served with Warm Crêpes, Toast and Crème Fraîche

 

SCALLOP

Ginger Smoked Maine Scallop "Sandwich" with Endive and Apple Julienne in a Potato- Leek and Bacon Chowder

TUNA

Rare-Seared Yellowfin Tuna on a Salad of Spicy Mint, Watercress, Peanuts and Bean Sprouts with Red Curry Vinaigrette

SMOKED SALMON

Warmed Scottish Salmon on a Bed of Green Lentils, Black Truffle and Foie Gras Stew

OYSTER - CLAM

Minute Baked Kumamotos and Little Necks with Fresh Thyme and Sweet Garlic Butter

BOUILLABAISSE

Aïoli Crab Cake melting in a Rich Saffron Lobster Broth; Poached Shrimp and Croutons

SHRIMP

Ravioli of Argentinean Shrimp and Wild Mushrooms; Sautéed Chanterelles and Foie Gras Sauce

HAMACHI

Seared - Rare Yellow Tail; Steamed Bok Choy; Marinated Citrus and Shallot Vinaigrette

BAKED POTATO - CAVIAR

Warm Baked Potato Filled with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream and Iranian Osetra Caviar; Caviar- Smoked Salmon "Lady Fingers" ($ 65 Supplement)

LOBSTER

Duo of Lobster - Truffle Consommé and Lobster - Cauliflower "Shepherd's Pie"

GOAT CHEESE

Fresh Vermont Goat Cheese "Parfait"; Layers of Baked Apple, Beets and Potatoes; String Beans - Truffle Salad

MESCLUN SALAD

Salad of the Day's Market; Herbs and Vegetables with Balsamic-Shallot Vinaigrette

 

JOHN DORY

Pan Roasted John Dory on Creamy Jasmine-Coriander Rice; Fresh Mango Salad; Lemon Grass and Ginger Scented "Pot au Feu" Broth

SNAPPER

Steamed Red Snapper with Spicy Coconut - Lime "Basquaise"; Yuka Fries Tossed in Shallot and Parsley Butter

SKATE

Poached Skate Wing with Lemon Brown Butter, Toasted Hazelnuts and Braised Lettuces

CODFISH

Pan Roasted Codfish; Sweet Roasted Garlic Sauce and Chorizo Essence; Marinated Preserved Tomatoes

SURF AND TURF

Oven Roasted Monkfish Loin on Silky Mashed Potatoes and Braised Oxtail - Stuffed Cabbage in a Rich Red Wine Reduction

SALMON

Barely Cooked Salmon on a Bed of Parmesan Polenta, Mushroom Consommé and Sautéed Chanterelles

FLUKE

Sautéed Fluke, Aged Parmesan, Peppers and Ponzu Marinade; Croutons and Japanese Eggplant

HALIBUT

Steamed Halibut on a Bed of Celeriac Purée; Salsify, Oregano and Black Truffle Sauce

STRIPED BASS

Steamed Wild Striped Bass Topped with Roasted Foie Gras and Grapes; Porcini Mushrooms; Aged Port and Sherry Vinegar Reduction ($15 Supplement)

LOBSTER

Roasted Maine Lobster with Butternut Squash, Chestnuts and Baby Leeks; Black Pepper - Brandy Butter Sauce ($15 Supplement)

RED SNAPPER

Whole Red Snapper Baked in Rosemary and Thyme Salt Crust, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a Casserole of the Day's Market Vegetables (Please Allow 24 Hours Notice; Two Person Minimum)

 

VEAL

Rack of Veal with a Casserole of Asparagus and Seasonal Wild Mushrooms

LAMB

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Rosemary and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

PASTA

Tagliatelle with Basil, Preserved Lemon and Aged Parmesan on a bed of Tomatoes and Fennel Ragout

Le Bernadin Tasting menu

FLUKE

Progressive Tasting of Marinated Fluke: Four Different Ceviches; From Simple to Complex Combination

BAKED POTATO

Warm Baked Potato Filled with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream and Iranian Osetra Caviar; Caviar - Smoked Salmon "Lady Fingers"

LOBSTER

Duo of Lobster - Truffle Consommé and Lobster - Cauliflower "Shepherd's Pie"

HALIBUT

Steamed Halibut on a Bed of Silky Celeriac Purée; Salsify, Oregano and Black Truffle Sauce

STRIPED BASS

Steamed Wild Striped Bass Topped with Roasted Foie Gras and Grapes; Porcini Mushrooms; Aged Port and Sherry Vinegar Reduction

PINEAPLE CHARLOTTE

Pineapple "Charlotte" with Buttermilk Panna Cotta and Cassis Sorbet

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Restaurants are businesses. They exist, as do all businesses, with the ultimate purpose of maximizing the return to their owners. As has often been pointed out here on egullet by the FG, and on this thread by Steve, economics plays a role, a decisive role. A huge capitalization, a choking rent, relentless operating expenses; the upshot of it all is the taking of great care to give its customers what they want, not just in the flush of opening, when spirit and vision may have more freeway, but over time, when customers with the ability to return regularly will make a decision about whether to do so. Wilfrid may well be right that what such customers want is to be comforted with generalized familiarity, not to be challenged. When we wonder about why high end customers in New York City won't support a high end restaurant array such as is available in France or Spain, we inevitably reach the conclusion that these customers, when they go out for their dinners here, don't want that experience repeatedly, nor do the tourists of the same level of financial capability. When they want it, they go to France or Spain. The Lespinasse dinner under discussion now is a case in point. Look at the room. Look at the other customers. Do the same at Le Cirque, to name just a couple. They are mostly getting what they expect, what they want. The lapses in menu and dish design and execution, which to you or me - to us here - are inexcusable, go largely unnoticed, or uncared about by the core customer. Steve is right too that the economic impetus is downwards and outwards, and the Vongerichten example is a good one. I had the garlic soup and frog's legs recently, and the scallop and cauliflower. They were fine; they were good, but the whole event was, well, it was dull.

The competitive economic environment in New York City still breeds innovation. Artists find lofts in the Bronx instead of in Soho or Chelsea. Special places to eat will still be found outside the high cost core. (When Chanterelle first opened, it was in a tiny space, I forget on which street.) But the stakes for a French model, certainly for an El Bulli, are just too high. They would burn bright and burn out. The same has happened to our high end dining scene, such as it is. The light is gray because the steady customers are gray.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Robert S - Your post was near poetic.

Liz - When I read those menus my eyes bug out of my head. Because while they read in a way that indicates that they will each taste differently, I know from experience that in many instances they will all taste the same. I had dinner at Trottter's last night and aside from the issue of whether I liked the meal or not, an aspect of the meal is that a defined cuisine didn't seem to be expressed. Yes that might be nitpicking on my part and that is clearly a higher standard then other diners impose but, when you eat a lot of meals at this level, one looks for (at least I do) something distinctive about the way the food is thought out. And while I had a number of excellent dishes, nothing about those dishes left me with an image in my mind that this is what Charlie Trotter stands for.

This statement was never true of Jean-George's cuisine. It was always distinct. But what has happened to his restaurant isn't that his cuisine still doesn't have his personality, it's that since he's a corporate mogul instead of just a chef and the edge has been taken off the cuisine. And one of the ways they have toned down the cuisine is by not making the flavor pairings as acute. So the menus read well, but the finished dishes often lack the level of precision that I desire. And you know what, I think their standard customer doesn't want that level of precision. They don't want sharp edges and acute flavors. They want softer, more palatable combinations that don't scare them off.

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Wilfrid -

unwittingly, perhaps you and mr plotnicki are in the same bed, I fear.

There's an image to treasure, Paul, thanks.

There some notes of agreement between me and Steve, I agree, although I think we are miles apart when it comes to solutions. Lizziee"s post certainly helps focus the discussion (if I didn't say so before, I haven't eaten at Bouley) - sure, there are some departures from the mainstream here and there, but if you strip away the garnishes with which the chefs attempt to make the dishes seem innovative and intriguing, what a litany of sameness one finds: tuna, salmon, halibut, char, scallops, lobster; rack and loin of lamb, chicken, venison, squab breast, duck breast. And a significant preponderance of pan cooking (sear it on top of the stove then bung it in the oven).

There are other meats and fishes, other cooking methods, other flavors and textures out there - and unlike Steve, I am speaking less of the wild frontiers of Spain than what one might find in French and even American menus (and cookbooks) of thirty or forty years ago. Lizziee, there is the question of competent execution also - put in my mind by the poor dinner at Lespinasse which started the train of thought. For the record, I can recall only one badly executed dish at Jean-Georges; at Daniel, the curse of Wilfrid struck - chilly roast pheasant. But I am not calling into question the competence of these kitchens across the board - more a sense of weariness in the cuisine.

And Robert - like Steve you give good reasons for why things are as they are, perhaps implying there's nothing to be done. But again, my interest here - not that it need govern the thread - is not the economic and social whys and wherefores, but how we feel about the situation.

(Good discussion, everyone, by the way.)

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I'm running, not walking, to Bouley for the Scuba Diver sea scallops and the freshly harpooned bluefin tuna.

Although I always say that you can't imagine a dish based on how it appears on a menu, I thank Lizziee for taking the time to post the menus. I found them very interesting and they seemd to imply a few reasons why I only occasionally dine in the restaurants that comprise her post. Other than the above pretense, I noticed a large number of dishes that would appear to be sweet. I also was reminded by a large majority of the descriptions that all the most memorable dishes I have tasted in my life were conceived in the spirit of A+B=C. Somehow the vast majority of patrons at these New York high-end restaurants equate fussy, complicated, multi-component dishes with culinary artistry, as though if you ordered a fish with a sauce (salmon with sorrel is the reference from the last 25 years), that such a dish is bistro food. (In all fairness, however, I did see a few interesting straightforward dishes in Lizziee's post).

The best meal have had in a long time in America was at Citronelle in DC. Were it not a specially-arranged one, I would have written it up. Nevertheless, one reason it was so memorable is that Michel Richard understands what great and classic dishes are made of. The dishes had an immediacy and approchabillity that this classic, veteran native French chef has never abandoned.

I had a very satisfying meal the other night in my first visit to Ouest and, as always, the night before at Jewel Bako where I have been going nearly every week. I suspect that these straight-ahead, unpretentious restaurants offer the consistently best kind of dining in New York.

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Too many good directions to address them all, but I think it supports at least one of Wilfrid's points that all three of Daniel's game dishes list the garnsishes, but make no mention of how the game is cooked. I think we can safely assume they are cooked as Wilfrid describes "sear it on top of the stove then bung it in the oven." I've no doubt however that all of the preparations are delcious, but I don't think that's the issue here.

Fixing the blame, if that's what we seek to do, on the chef or the diner is not easy and both chef and diner are influenced by other stimuli. The same conservative pressures that may have the diner seek comfort food will also temper the chef's resolve to be daring. NYC has not, at least in my lifetime, had the kind of dining public that Paris has. At the close of the century there was a euphoric spirit largely fueled by the economy and we saw unprecedented interest in sophisticated dining out. From time to time, Danny Meyer was accused of dumbing down fine dining, but in essence, he raised the middle considerably and in doing so, upped the ante for all restaurants. One of the side effects of all this was to bring new diners to the tables of excellence. These new diners may have had their appreciation of fine food knocked up more than a few notches, but as they became clients of even the finest tables, the average appreciation of food and dining may have dropped a bit at the top. This is just a thought and rather came to me as I was typing. It's worth a moment of consideration of why as Steve Plotnicki says diners "don't want sharp edges". What I had been thinking was to write that we have seen an economic bubble burst and that's a major factor in all this.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I deliberately omitted economic factors in my post just above, but since Bux has raised the bursting of the economic bubble, I wonder if there is an aspect that was part of the the bubble itself. I have been thinking if the quick, easy money that people were making, illusory as it may have been, created a mentality in some of the restaurant investors that also emphasized quick returns. A major result of this (and I am not sure of the degree of impatience of restaurant investors of the mid-to-late '90s) would have been a preoccupation with the bottom line that would have resulted in less "return" for the patron. Nonetheless, it appears to me that decent to very good restaurants that have something to offer and are well-managed are, in the main, getting through the economic downturn rather well.

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