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Chez Panisse


marcus
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My wife and I had dinner for the first time at Chez Panisse's restaurant on a recent Saturday evening, a restaurant that we had been planning to try for decades. Chez Panissse's reputation for obtaining the finest ingredients and cooking them simply and to perfection embodies a very appealing approach, and we went with every expectation of being enchanted. Our experience, unfortunately, was problematic and as Chez Panisse is such an icon, I have been debating for awhile whether to make this report based on a single visit. However, the extent to which this restaurant is structured to satisfy its own purposes, rather than the needs of its customers, convinces me that a report will be useful.

We made our reservation the required month in advance for a relatively OK dining time without any significant problem, just a few busy signals. There are two seatings per night, so all reservations are either in the 5:30-6:30 or 8:30-9:30 timeframes. The restaurant posts its menu a week in advance, there are absolutely no choices. They offer a three course menu on Monday for $45, four courses for Tueday-Thursday for $65 and with an aperitif on Friday and Saturday for $75. Providing diners with no food choices has got to immensely simplify the entire process of running a restaurant, from purchasing, to interacting with and serving customers, to preparation and cooking. I felt quite pleased, however, when I saw that although the appetizer was a salad, the two main dishes would be based on striped bass and pigeon, both of which are appealing.

The restaurant is composed of 2 contiguous sober wood panelled rooms seating about 60 diners, with an open kitchen. The cooks, about eight, all well decked out, were ranged around a rectangular working surface, and appeared to be impressively choreographed. The impression was one of high seriousness and competence. The diners were dressed relatively informally, and appeared to be primarily local East Bay people with some tourists. It did not appear to be a San Francisco or a particularly foodie crowd and a number of birthdays were being celebrated.

My first surprise when I received the menu was to discover that quail had been substituted for pigeon. This was a real downer. I asked our waitress about this, expressing my disappointment, which elicited a surprised response. She stated that a number of customers had told her that they were quite pleased at the substitution. I thought that this comment provided an interesting insight into their clientele. After further prodding, she asked in the kitchen and came back to tell us that the pigeon were continuing to molt for a third week and so were not ready. She told us that at least the quail was sourced from the better of the two farms that they deal with for this item. I believe that this information could have been known at the time that the menu was posted, showing a level of sloppiness in planning, on the other hand it wouldn't have made a real difference, as there is no choice in any case. Overall, Chez Panisse has very limited capability to respond to any diners particular needs. With regard to the quail dish, a woman at the next table over did not touch this dish, and it was left in front of her, no questions asked, while her partner finished his, and then it was removed.

We turned our attention to the wine list which was largely disappointing. The majority of the wines offered were from no earlier that 1998 and I recognized a number that I new were not ready to drink. The selection of wines were drawn from around the world and the large majority were under $100, but the markup appeared high, although not at the exorbitant NYC level. I really couldn't find anything that I wanted and asked the waitresses advice. Her initial recommendation was a CdP Vieux Telegraph, a wine that I particularly don't like. She then offered a Bandol, Domaine Tempiers, Cabassaou, 1994. I do very much like the single vintage Domaine Tempiers, but felt that 1994 was not a particularly good year in the south of France. She assured me that this was one of the best wines on the list, and then stated the old saw that a good wine from a bad year can be better than a lesser wine from a good year. In my own experience, I disagree entirely, I blame my own hopefulness, the recommendation, and the barrenness of the wine list, for listening to her and ordering this wine for $122. The wine was well made, well structured and in fine condition, however, I found the flavor to be poor and we particularly didn't like it. In the course of the evening, we were never asked our opinions regarding the wine.

The Meal:

1-An aperitif -- This was a small, less than two ounces, pour of an indifferent Prosecco. It was served with warm almonds heated with an herb. I expected the almonds to be definitive, but they seemed only ordinary. I would be perfectly willing to and would prefer to pay an additional tariff of $10 for a Friday or Saturday seating supplement, which this really was, without receiving this course.

2- Persimmon and fresh hazelnut salad with Annabelle's chicories -- This was a composed salad that played off the bitterness of the chicories against the sweetness of the persimmon. The hazelnuts also contributed nicely to the flavors of the dish. This dish was really quite excellent, definitive of its type, and I really respected it, although it is not something that I would ever order as my appetizer if I were given a choice. My wife felt that the bitterness of the chicories overwhelmed the dish. Unfortunately, from my perspective, this turned out to be the best dish of the evening.

3-Sauteed striped bass with brown butter and roasted winter squash -- The squash was very nicely prepared, lightly sweetened with clean and intense flavor and not at all stringy. On the other hand the striped bass was seriously overcooked. It had been finished under the broiler and had a thick and heavy crust and the fish was dry. There was not much flavor and I don't know whether that was due to the fish itself or the overcooking. It was not as all as good as the striped bass that I had purchased from the blue moon fish stand at the Union Square greenmarket the prior Wednesday and simply broiled, or the steamed black sea bass that I had at Great Eastern the night before. Notwithstanding, we finished the dish, and when it was being removed we were asked whether we liked it. My wife responded that it was overcooked which caused serious consternation. We were offered another dish of the same, but this was obviously not what we wanted.

4-Grilled Wolfe Farm quail with braised bacon, Savoy cabbage, white turnips, and crispy potatoes --This was another Jekyll and Hyde dish. The vegetables were wonderfully prepared, each with fine texture and clear lucid flavor, melded together by the pronounced, but light, bacon flavored deglazing sauce. Chez Panisse is known for its Mediterranean cooking, but there were few if an such touches this night, but much more of a winter vegetable Northern European feel. The problem was the quail around which this dish was constructed. From my table I was able to crane my neck to look at the large floor level, I believe wood fired, grill on which were placed the large number of quail. A cook would walk over periodically to turn them over. The end result was that they came to the table under-processed. The quail had a slack feel to it, there was no crispiness and no infusion of flavor. There was no evidence of the hand of a fine chef drawing out the essence of the foodstuff and surprising and enlightening the diner, it was just there on the plate. It was OK, nothing really wrong, nothing more.

5-Cheese -- At this point we were offered a cheese course which was not on the menu. I assumed that it was a complementary offer in compensation for the overcooked fish and I accepted. I hoped that we would receive some of the excellent local California artisanal cheeses which I was very interested to try. The waitress then suggested that we really might want to share this dish rather than have two portions. I was no longer sure that we were being comped and I went along with her suggestion. What came out was a plate with three tiny slices of French cheese, one each from the Basque area, the Loire and Savoy. The brebis was excellent and the other two good, but nondescript. In the end we were not charged for the cheese, but directing us to half portions ultimately displayed an attitude of stinginess rather than generosity.

6-Walnut tart with warm Barhi dates and clove ice cream -- In line with our previous dishes the dates were sweet and intense, the ice cream excellent, and the walnut tart was a void in the center, lacking the flavor intensity necessary to balance it against the accompaniments.

The check at Chez Panisse is presented with a fifteen per cent service charge added. However the credit card slip also provides an additional line to allow the customer to add a tip. I find this to be confusing and in the US almost deceptive, as people here are not used to bills which already contain service charges. My own practice in this country is never to add anything on top of a bill which contains a service charge.

Overall a disappointing experience, especially considering that to justify such a focused menu with no choices, there needs to be close to perfect planning and execution. My feeling is that the Cafe upstairs may be a better choice, as they do provide choice, still focus on fine ingredients, but I believe aim at simpler preparations with which they are more likely to succeed. That will be my choice for next time, who knows when.

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A very interesting report, marcus. Thank you.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Even simpler preparations upstairs?

Thank you for taking the time to craft this:

"Our experience, unfortunately, was problematic and as Chez Panisse is such an icon, I have been debating for awhile whether to make this report based on a single visit. However, the extent to which this restaurant is structured to satisfy its own purposes, rather than the needs of its customers, convinces me that a report will be useful."

Very useful, very revealing, as was the rest of your report, especially as to service issues. Were wines offerred by the glass--paired with each selection, since with only a fixed menu these selections would be known to the staff well in advance--and, ideally, even created around particular wines? Did you get the sense there was a sommelier or wine director? (You'd think the best restaurant in the country--according to at least one major national food glossy--would have a wine director or somm on the floor at all times?)

Let's see, first eGullet thoroughly deconstructs the Herbfarm and now a revealing assessment of Chez Panisse. One down, one to go? There didn't happen to be a non-refundable credit card guarantee if you decide you don't like the restaurant's menu offer weeks after making reservations, did there?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Marcus - Sorry you had a bad meal but I'm not surprised. Restaurants have off nights to begin with and when there is only one choice on the menu it intensifies it. Next time you should try and eat upstairs which is a delightful experience of simple bistro food. What used to be a good wine list sounds like it has been picked over. Next time you should BYO which I know they allow.

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The check at Chez Panisse is presented with a fifteen per cent service charge added.  However the credit card slip also provides an additional line to allow the customer to add a tip.  I find this to be confusing and in the US almost deceptive, as people here are not used to bills which already contain service charges.  My own practice in this country is never to add anything on top of a bill which contains a service charge.

I had lunch in the Chez Panisse Cafe on Saturday, 12/7. The lunch menu and credit card slip both stated "Service charge: 15%. Tipping is not necessary." Was this stated on the dinner menu and your credit card slip? Our credit card slip for lunch did not include a spot for a tip, and "Tipping is not necessary" was written in capital letters.

We were very pleased with our lunch and the service was great, but of course were not spending as much as marcus.

I also had fish (sole) that was perfectly cooked. [shrug]

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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Funny Steve Klc would mention the Herbfarm :angry: ...it came to mind immediately as I was reading Marcus' excellent post of a disappointing meal (especially quail for pigeon :sad: ). There seems to be a certain arrogance involved in these two spots...you will eat 'what we serve and you will enjoy it...(and if you don't too damn bad!)

Steve Klc- what is the third member of the trio...FL?

edit to remove possbile insulting phraseology.

Edited by southern girl (log)
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SG--you know me, I can just listen to chefs babble on about (and gullible writers regurgitate) the by now well-heeled mantras about "pristine organic local artisanal ingredients simply but impeccably prepared yet oh-so-elegantly presented" before I feel compelled either to spit or to focus on other issues. (Like, what's with those three French cheeses--guess the self-touted CP definition of "local" exists on a conveniently global sliding scale--and in any event these must have been organic and fair trade and hand-carried wrapped in straw rather than flown into the US thereby 'eating less oil' and reducing their number of 'food miles' or some such diversion.) I thought of you the whole time, SG, as I savored the way Marcus critically guided us through his experience.

No, I think the CP issues for me, apart from errant iconography and some misguided myth, are 1) how can a restaurant with this philosophy and these customer service policies be considered in any way a valid choice for best restaurant in the country? and 2) though rigid, does CP make a fair offer to its prospective customers--do they know going in what to expect--and does CP allow prospective customers to opt out of said offer without any financial penalty once the offer is fully revealed? (I can accept arrogance as long as it is wholly out in the open and if diners aren't deceived going in. I've had excellent meals at the hands of arrogant chefs--Michel Richard is as arrogant as they come--yet at his hands I had one superb meal and been grateful for the experience ever since.)

I'm not prepared to complete this troika with FL just yet--I still come out pro-FL after considering all factors and far more worthy contenders exist anyway--though I appreciate the bait. Plus, it's not like FL hasn't generated enough interesting discussion on this site already and with the ballsy pending move to NYC, our best days wrt FL "East" and FL "West" are undoubtedly ahead of us.

(For anyone piqued by my food miles reference, visit:

http://www.sustainweb.org/chain_fm_eat.asp

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I promise I wasn't trying to bait you- I was honestly curious. I have dined at the FL many times (used to date someone in Napa who is in the wine industry in another life)...and have had excellent meals and service...That was 3 years ago, I will be going back in Feb. and expect the same...I don not however expect that level when Thomas Keller comes to Las Vegas...and will be ready to compare the NYC version to the Yountville version (as I am sure most people who have been to the 1st one will).

I like (and agree) with your thoughts re:CP...and I too can accept arrogance when there has been no deception...

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Steve Klc -- Thanks for your comments and observations. I saw no sign of a sommelier, although I assume that they must have a wine director. Wine orders were negotiated and handled by the waitstaff. I didn't notice any offer of a wine pairing option, but I could easily miss this as it's not my thing. I don't know whether this is normal practice, but I was clearly so unhappy about the quail for pigeon substitution that they offered us a table in the cafe, which I declined. Although a credit card number was required in advance, there was no advance billing and I'm sure that they don't invoke this except for the most egregious no shows.

MsRamsey -- I took another look at my credit card slip and you are at least partially correct. It does say in small capital letters on top that 15% service is included on your bill and tipping is not necessary. I did not notice this before. What I did notice is that the tip is folded into the amount and is not separately visible on the slip. What are shown individually are an amount and tax which are then added together to show a Subtotal in large capital letters. There is then a space with a $ to add something additional followed by a Total in large capital letters. If you don't want to leave a tip, you still need to carry down the subtotal to the total line. They are clearly encouraging you to leave an additional tip, if they weren't they could have had just a printed total.

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the Herbfarm . . . came to mind immediately as I was reading Marcus' excellent post of a disappointing meal. . . . There seems to be a certain arrogance involved in these two spots...you will eat 'what we serve and you will enjoy it...(and if you don't too damn bad!)

I agree heartily, SG. These places (e.g. The Herbfarm, Chez Panisse, French Laundry, *and might as well mention Antoine's in NO*) give off a vibe that exudes "this is the way we do things here, and if you don't like it, you can stay home--or go elsewhere." Strange attitude for any business in what's after all a service industry.

It's like selling you a car and then telling you where and how fast you can drive it. I hate to sound reactionary, but "in the old days," the idea seemed to be catering to the customers' whims, not making them jump through a specific variety of hoops in order to dine. I guess it's the price you pay (in addition to the price you otherwise pay) so that you can say you've eaten somewhere.

If I want my stomach churned for fun, I'll ride the roller coaster at an amusement park. I'm not going to pay >$100 per person for the "privilege" of having it churned for me in a restaurant.

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It's that hard left authoritariansim thing. In the process of making people do things "the right way," they eliminated choice and defeated a cornerstone principal of democracy. It would be nice if instead of automatically adding 15% to your bill for service, they would post a notice on your menu that while they do it, they would be happy to remove the charge if you are unhappy with the service.

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"She then offered a Bandol"

On a very disappointing visit to Chez Panisse several years ago, the waitress, who acted as sommelier, said, "We have this Bandol, which Alice likes very much."

By the time we finished dessert, it was ready to drink.

I'm a card-carrying member of the group that thinks that CP has tried and failed to co-opt the Mediterranean way of eating, while succeeding spectacularly at selling the sizzle.

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

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One should never order a Bandol in a restaurant that is less the 12 years old and 18 is probably better advice. Considering the location of the terroir, those grapes are constantly baking in the hot sun. And like Mike Rijkin at Beaucastel taught me, grapes that ripen early from excessive sun are hard and tannic. If you drink the syrah they make in Chateauneuf it fits that description. That is why you need to go 150 miles north to Hermitage and a cooler climate for the syrah to show its best. But fortunately the Bandol grape is a tough sucker. And even with the deluge of sun, with time it overcomes those hard tannins to show a great wine. But its a good wine for fathers celebrating the birth of a child. The wine should be ready to drink when they graduate high school.

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the Herbfarm . . . came to mind immediately as I was reading Marcus' excellent post of a disappointing meal. . . . There seems to be a certain arrogance involved in these two spots...you will eat 'what we serve and you will enjoy it...(and if you don't too damn bad!)

I agree heartily, SG. These places (e.g. The Herbfarm, Chez Panisse, French Laundry, *and might as well mention Antoine's in NO*) give off a vibe that exudes "this is the way we do things here, and if you don't like it, you can stay home--or go elsewhere." Strange attitude for any business in what's after all a service industry.

It's like selling you a car and then telling you where and how fast you can drive it. I hate to sound reactionary, but "in the old days," the idea seemed to be catering to the customers' whims, not making them jump through a specific variety of hoops in order to dine. I guess it's the price you pay (in addition to the price you otherwise pay) so that you can say you've eaten somewhere.

If I want my stomach churned for fun, I'll ride the roller coaster at an amusement park. I'm not going to pay >$100 per person for the "privilege" of having it churned for me in a restaurant.

They're up-front about their policies. No one's forced to eat there. If you buy a Ferrari, do you complain about not being able to tow your boat?

I think it's about offering a specialized service/product and those who choose to may partake. And the others can buy pick up trucks. :wink:

That said, I've never been to CP in a large part because I know the one time I go, it's going to be something I despise on the menu. :smile:

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If you buy a Ferrari, do you complain about not being able to tow your boat?  

Fair enough, but now that I think of it "Rolls-Royce" would be a better analogy. A friend of a friend owned one (actually, several in a row) and reported that they were nightmares to maintain--constantly in the shop. So the Rolls analogy would be "Here's a luxury item. It's expensive and difficult and hard to obtain, but your friends will be suitably impressed, provided they never find out from personal experience just what a bitch having one really is."

Which brings us back to marcus's original post, trying to warn us that the effort to get a table isn't worth all the trouble. I got the impression that, for such a grand restaurant with such a high reputation, the staff weren't as devoted to the customer as they should have been, but rather were trying to standardize the Chez Panisse experience like some sort of foodie boot camp.

More and more, it seems, these restaurants at the highest levels almost seem to be something that you have to not only pay a high tariff for, but to actually survive to tell others of your war stories. It's a little, I suppose, like military personnel trying to one-up each other, Navy SEALs vs. Rangers vs. Green Berets:

"*I* survived The Herbfarm!"

"That's nothing! *I* made it through The French Laundry!"

"You're all a bunch of wimps! *I* graduated from foodie boot under Gunnery Sergeant Charlie Trotter! What a hard-ass!" :hmmm:

Edited by Deacon (log)
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Fair enough, but now that I think of it "Rolls-Royce" would be a better analogy. A friend of a friend owned one (actually, several in a row) and reported that they were nightmares to maintain--constantly in the shop. So the Rolls analogy would be "Here's a luxury item. It's expensive and difficult and hard to obtain, but your friends will be suitably impressed, provided they never find out from personal experience just what a bitch having one really is."

Which brings us back to marcus's original post, trying to warn us that the effort to get a table isn't worth all the trouble. I got the impression that, for such a grand restaurant with such a high reputation, the staff weren't as devoted to the customer as they should have been, but rather were trying to standardize the Chez Panisse experience like some sort of foodie boot camp.

More and more, it seems, these restaurants at the highest levels almost seem to be something that you have to not only pay a high tariff for, but to actually survive to tell others of your war stories. It's a little, I suppose, like military personnel trying to one-up each other, Navy SEALs vs. Rangers vs. Green Berets:

"*I* survived The Herbfarm!"

"That's nothing! *I* made it through The French Laundry!"

"You're all a bunch of wimps! *I* graduated from foodie boot under Gunnery Sergeant Tom Keller! What a hard-ass!"  :hmmm:

I can think of many things which are better in abstract than in reality. :laugh: I think Marcus was recounting a single disappointing experience, which several people have echoed. But if you do a search for Chez Panisse, you'll find as many, if not more posts from people who have had good experiences there. Who's right? All of them, of course. :smile: Is it a case of the Emperor's New Clothes? Was it an off-night? Is it just different expectations and standards? Whose experience is more predictive of the one you'll have if you go there? Who knows, really.

Caveat emptor after all.

Here's a question, not to veer too far off topic, is there something inherently wrong with a set menu or is it just that the execution fell short in these instances? Could the CP (and others) set-menu be likened to having the chef cook for you instead of ordering off the menu at a more conventional place? In other words, a sort of "okay, here's what we have and here's what we decided do with it" philosophy?

Isn't that what one hopes for in both situations? Of course, in one instance it's a choice and in the other it is forced upon you, but is there a level of trust between the diner and the kitchen that goes beyond ordering from a list of possibilities because personal control over the specific dishes is relinquished? And in exchange for that, certain expectations are heightened?

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Isn't that what one hopes for in both situations? Of course, in one instance it's a choice and in the other it is forced upon you, but is there a level of trust between the diner and the kitchen that goes beyond ordering from a list of possibilities because personal control over the specific dishes is relinquished? And in exchange for that, certain expectations are heightened?

It's all a matter of how they sell it isn't it? They can make you feel good in the way you described or they can act like you're in a dormitory and have no choice. It all comes down to the graciousness of the service.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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gknl-In my personal experience I have only been to one restaurant where you had no options- and that was the Herbfarm (where I had no complaints with the food...just the crappy wine they served and-most importantly, the ATTITUDE of the owners). I have not eaten at CP...and French Laundry offers choices. I think anytime you dine out, there is a chance you will get something you don't like. There are no guarantees...whether there is a set menu, or you choose the item yourself, and it doesn't live up to your expectations- due to poor preparation or less than stellar ingredients. Or when a chef offers to cook for you. It has always been my experience when a chef has offered to cook for me, that he/she or a server inquires as to my likes, dislikes and allergies. I will try anything they set in front of me (unless it contains caviar-the only item I am allergic to). I might mention I like game or red meat more than poultry, but that is the extent of the constraints I would put on a chef. And I think you have to have that attitude when having a chef cook for you. I think you are less likely to have a good experience if the kitchen gets the idea you are a "picky" eater. It can be a gamble...I had refused all my life to even try sweetbreads...Thomas Keller sent out a special amuse of roasted sweetbreads...not being in a position to decline them, I tried them and now they are one of my favorite things :wub: .

In my case it was all about the restaurant's attitude- I do not think you go to a high end restaurant with the expectation that you will experience that "boot camp- you will eat what we serve and like it" attitude. Thus it is very difficult to practice "caveat emptor" in regard to attitude. It is much easier to apply to the type and style of dining experience and the selection of items to be consumed. IMO, MOST high end restaurants are more than happy to work with you to ensure you will enjoy your experience...Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the rule and I prefer to hear about those so perhaps I can keep my less than satisfactory experiences to a minimum.

Edited by southern girl (log)
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What used to be a good wine list sounds like it has been picked over.

Really, Steve? When?

I've never thought the list was up to the food. A real shame, since I've had occasional delightful meals there. It's been a while, though.

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If you buy a Ferrari, do you complain about not being able to tow your boat?  

Fair enough, but now that I think of it "Rolls-Royce" would be a better analogy. A friend of a friend owned one (actually, several in a row) and reported that they were nightmares to maintain--constantly in the shop. So the Rolls analogy would be "Here's a luxury item. It's expensive and difficult and hard to obtain, but your friends will be suitably impressed, provided they never find out from personal experience just what a bitch having one really is."

Which brings us back to marcus's original post, trying to warn us that the effort to get a table isn't worth all the trouble. I got the impression that, for such a grand restaurant with such a high reputation, the staff weren't as devoted to the customer as they should have been, but rather were trying to standardize the Chez Panisse experience like some sort of foodie boot camp.

More and more, it seems, these restaurants at the highest levels almost seem to be something that you have to not only pay a high tariff for, but to actually survive to tell others of your war stories. It's a little, I suppose, like military personnel trying to one-up each other, Navy SEALs vs. Rangers vs. Green Berets:

"*I* survived The Herbfarm!"

"That's nothing! *I* made it through The French Laundry!"

"You're all a bunch of wimps! *I* graduated from foodie boot under Gunnery Sergeant Tom Keller! What a hard-ass!" :hmmm:

Well Deacon, it isn't such a grand restaurant. A very high end Saab/Volvo analogy (if there were such things) works better than the Rolls/Bentley or the Ferrari. I didn't eat in Chez Panisse per se, but I did eat in the cafe and received a kitchen tour of the downstairs during prep time.

I don't think Chez Panisse is in the same league as a Fleur de Lys or ADNY/Paris. Not that it's in a worse league. More like a *different* league.

gknl is right. Everything is up front. You are going to eat Alice Waters particular *design* philosophy. That is clear. There is no trying to hide that. Everyone knows that (or should) going in, even without Chez Panisse being upfront about it (which, IMO, they are).

I ate there, expecting absolutely *no* culinary wizardry. No artful little asides. No intellectual references, and no brilliance. It was clear to me from what I'd read and what i was seeing when I arrived that Chez panisse doesn't deal in such. What I did expect was simple and straightforwrd preparations of great seasonal raw materials that were carefully selected and sourced. This is what I received. Hell, my dessert was a Pluot in a wooden bowl. That's it! But for me, based upon what I already knew about the place, it was enough.

There is a definite *vibe* running through the place. It *is* Berkely after all. That Ginsburg, Dead, JA thingie. Hell, I woulda lit up a doob for the walk from the BART to the front door no problem (palpable nostalgia). :smile: I don't think one has to necessarily lower ones expectations. More a matter of the right expectation for what it is.

The tip thing. I don't know about downstairs, but up in the cafe it was clearly printed on the bottom of my menu that the Grat was included. In fact, it was my feeling that the place went out of it's way to make me feel that a gratuity was not necessary. A spot on the receipt for a tip? maybe more to do with the POS software than Chez Panisse. I palmed my very pleasant waitress a Jackson any way. I liked her.

It's only one restaurant so a naturally a reservation is a difficult ticket to score. *That* shoudn't play into a given meal experience, though I don't doubt that your food was ill-prepared. That stuff happens, and as was mentioned, hard to hide when there is no recourse to other menu items. Chez Panisse cooks what they cook. That's clear. If one can't or won't eat it than perhaps a cancellation woulfd be in order.

SG- Boot Camp? But at Chez Panisse, that's what is is (Ok, to a certain extent). Everyone knows this (don't they?). If you're looking for more than this, I think one should reconsider dining here at all. I read with great interest all the places where you enjoy dining(fascinating) :smile: . None of them are Chez Panisse (philosophically speaking). It's one of a kind.

edit: smiley

editII: Klc- Best restaurant in the country?? Is it referenced as such? But as I've mentioned above, they are quite clear. Menus may be tweaked, but I think they are skeletonized about 60 days out. If you don't like the selection you should be able to check and confirm or cancel your res.

editIII: FWIW,

My Lunch At Chez Panise

cheers

Nick

Edited by ngatti (log)
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ngatti..actually when I used the term "boot camp" I was referring to Deacon's mention of "foodie boot camp" re: CP (sorry I didn't use the quote mode-but I'm not computer literate--obviously :raz: )...I have never been to CP- and actually (to most CP fan's horror- I am sure- :huh: ) have no desire to go there, even though I have had the opportunity, I have declined. I just have not found the past menus I have seen to be of interest to me. I would much rather try Diwan or Ali's in NYC (or for that matter, even Dreamland barbecue :biggrin: whos menu I am very familiar with!!) than go to CP.

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ngatti..actually when I used the term "boot camp" I was referring to Deacon's mention of "foodie boot camp" re: CP (sorry I didn't use the quote mode-but I'm not computer literate--obviously :raz: )...I have never been to CP- and actually (to most CP fan's horror- I am sure- :huh: ) have no desire to go there, even though I have had the opportunity, I have declined. I just have not found the past menus I have seen to be of interest to me. I would much rather try Diwan or Ali's in NYC (or for that matter, even Dreamland barbecue :biggrin: whos menu I am very familiar with!!) than go to CP.

Yeah, Well that's my point. I think that based on your extensive and particular dining experiences (as i read them), that maybe you wouldn't like it there (I think you might). Well maybe you wouldn't cross the street for 'em. :biggrin: That's okay. It's what makes the world go round.

I was being pretty longwinded and repetative. All I wanted to say is that I thought Chez panisse was pretty clear as to what they're about.

In a nutshell: It is what it is. :wink::smile:

Nick

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