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Martin Berasategui - 2003


tony h
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Blind Lemon Higgins and I take full credit for bringing the guy back to his senses.

fuckin' A

although I have to admin after careful consideration of the facts, experiences of all around, my believe in giving someone a second chance & that bux is such a sane and decent fellow - there aren't enough toreadors in all of Spain to drag me back there again

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For two reasons--it was the best meal we had in the area and almost everything on the menu was new since our last visit--it would be the first place we'd be sure to repeat when we return to the area. Mugaritz would be the second.

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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bux, I never knew you had a garden furniture fetish :wink:

There were some iron room dividers holding potted plants--ivy perhaps--in the dining room at Martin Berasategui, were there not. I hardly noticed them although I recall thinking they brought some of the garden indoors. The dining chairs, although painted green, didn't strike me as outdoor chairs. I do like garden furniture in general. It's usually much simpler than indoor furniture.

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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What can I say? I was distracted by the food.

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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Actually we both thought it was clearly the best meal we had in the Pais Vasco. In fact it was the all time best meal in the region for us. Adria belongs in a class by himself, quite above the competition and my suggestion for anyone who wanted to touch the peaks of Spanish cooking would be to dine in Can Fabes, Martin, and Las Rejas, not in any particular order. Who knows what a third trip to Martin or a second trip to the others would bring, but I'm surprised to hear negative reports about Martin's food or service. I'll concede that his logo is peculiar at best, but don't really see how it or the iron dividers would affect the enjoyment of a meal. Even ginger chef who was not happy in the kitchen, acknowledged eating well in the dining room. Although we made our reservations based on the appreciation of an earlier trip, I have to note the mostly very favorable, sometimes ecstatic reports other have left here. I think everyone should be able to come to their own conclusions about a meal they've had and are entitled to form opinions based on that meal without bowing to the opinions of others, but if it's a minority opinion, that also has to be acknowledged.

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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After all the subtle hints, why do I get the vague impression that blind lemon didn't like MB all that much and seems keen on letting everyone be sure of that fact?.........

its called a 330 pound (sterling) grudge

this easily the worst "top" place I've ever eaten in & this is from the guy who's suffered John Brition Race, twice!

Edited by blind lemon higgins (log)
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For us, it was the best spent 300 euros of the trip. You do have my sympathy, but I'd truly feel guilty if your comments led anyone away from booking there.

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'll say it again, but in a somewhat different way. Blind Lemon and I went in there blind, so to speak, and we both left disappointed for the same reasons. When I think of my greatest meals, I can't think of one in which the food was great and the rest of the visit out of whack. By this I mean our meals at Troisgros, Chapel, Guerard, Girardet, and Verget to name a few, and for one-visit experiences I would add the three-star Robuchon and my recent dinner at Arzak. But what we saw at MB's in the composure of the dining room staff was something approaching fear, if not terror. This was clearly a troubled house and it cast a pall over our experience. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this was what made the food taste as less-than-stellar cuisine. I believe we were able to form our opinion of it independent of the problems plaguing the establishment. It would take another visit to change my opinion, and not being part of a minority opinion. Until then, I'm sticking to my guns. This isn't the Zagat, you know.

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Robert, I'm curious to know, and there's no way for me to experience what you experienced then and there first hand, what you saw that appeared to approach fear. We found the staff reasonably relaxed and increasingly so as the meal progressed. Smiles from us were returned and questions were answered with enthusiasm. When Esilda asked in Spanish, what "hinojo" was, the waiter at a loss to translate the name of a Spanish vegetable from Spanish into Spanish said "something we grow here," and immediately left for the kitchen only to return moments later smiling with a bulb of fresh fennel in his hands. I don't doubt your feelings and understand why you questioned the possibility we had connections or might have been VIPs, but I assure you we, on the other hand, are as puzzled as to what you could have experienced to elicit your reactions. With the exception of ginger chef's unhappiness there, I remain unaware of "problems plaguing the establishment."

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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We found the staff reasonably relaxed and increasingly so as the meal progressed.

Its obvious. That was one of the days when Martin B was lying sozzled on the kitchen floor & not interferring

I'd also like to point out that Robert's dad and my dad are bigger than you dad - so back off! :raz:

Edited by blind lemon higgins (log)
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Actually it was a day when he made the rounds of the dining room, though I don't recall him having much to say. He seemed quite shy. He's not one of those outgoing chefs.

Be careful or I'll trump you by mentioning my dad's condition.

I've a good mind not to recommend any other places to you.

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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Bux, it was more like the waiters were uptight and afraid to engage us. They were not forthcoming about the preparations of the dishes, didn't tell us we were ordering two similar desserts or bade us a farewell at the door. Some of them seemed to take delight that the sommelier could not locate the wine we ordered. We felt absolutely no "esprit de corps" either. If it were a language barrier involved, Martin should hire servers who speak acceptable English, espcially give that it appeared that half the cliente was Anglo-Saxon.

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Bux, it was more like the waiters were uptight and afraid to engage us. They were not forthcoming about the preparations of the dishes, didn't tell us we were ordering two similar desserts or bade us a farewell at the door. Some of them seemed to take delight that the sommelier could not locate the wine we ordered. We felt absolutely no "esprit de corps" either. If it were a language barrier involved, Martin should hire servers who speak acceptable English, espcially give that it appeared that half the cliente was Anglo-Saxon.

I recently had an e-conversation with a Spaniard about service in Spain. I'd rather not quote his comments, but I'll repeat the thoughts I expressed, even if they seem a bit out of context.

Service in Spain can vary considerably from place to place and that although it's not possible to define restaurant service in Spain in any narrow way, it's almost always different from what it is in France or the U.S.

I think service in top Spanish restaurants tends to be rather cold. Perhaps it's as a contrast to the sometimes excessive friendliness you often find in casual restaurants in Spain. French waiters may seem snooty when they become cold. Spanish waiters seem to go the other way. They become servile like robots. I distinctly remember the sommelier at JL Figueras in Barcelona. I assumed she adopted such a serious attitude because she was a woman and because she was a very petite woman at that. It gave me great pleasure to finally see her return my smile. And yes, I think we smiled a lot at MB.

I think waiters in first class restaurants in Spain serve with the premise that it's not for them to speak out of turn. I've welcomed it when French waiters took it upon themselves to teach me how to order and eat in France. It's different in Spain. I accept that and work with it. I know that when we had our first dinner at Echaurren in Ezcaray, I would have liked to have known that the dessert I ordered would be the one served on the gastronomic menu the next day. After all, we had announced our intention to have that menu when we reserved our room. I don't think the Spanish have learned to take dining as seriously as the French have, although they clearly take cooking as seriously. On the other hand, the sommelier/maitre d'hotel noticed I had ordered a widely distributed Rioja the first night and took it upon himself to recommend a Rioja from a small producer when we sat down the second night.

I think it's too great a leap to suggest the waiters were "afraid" to engage you. The service in Mugaritz was a bit more overtly forthcoming, but the room was almost empty. The service we had at Arzak might better fit your description than that at Berasategui, but I could not say they were "afraid" to engage us.

French chefs have long been the focus of international attention and French cuisine has long been one of France's major tourist draws. Serving an international clientele has long been a big business for France and one that's a focus of the French tourist board. Spain has had it's culinary importance thrust on them. I often have the sense the Spanish are content to be left alone and I don't want to get into 20th century history for the reasons that might be a cause. I don't believe I am owed a staff that speaks my language though I appreciated the sommelier's efforts at MB to answer my question in English until Esilda told him she spoke Spanish and could translate for me.

Overall, I am still not as comfortable in Spain as I am in France and may never feel as at home there. There are service incidents in hotels more than restaurants that remind me of why I found France more hospitable than Spain forty years ago, but I also find I enjoy Spain more when I learn to take it on its terms.

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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