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ADNY (Alain Ducasse @ Essex House)


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What I'm hearing today is that an unfavorable review of ADNY has just appeared in Gourmet, a predictable but unfortunate occurrence if true. I think the magazine has just arrived to the first wave of subscribers, but I haven't been able to get a copy yet.

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

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That expensive glass of wine was a 1997 Meursault-Charmes, Clos de la Barre, by Lafon. It's $336 the bottle on the wine list, which makes a 4 oz glass at $56 seem almost reasonable. It was very good.

More food comments.

They give you a first class cheese puff as a freebe to start. It was very good. Glad that only give you one. They have two types of bread, both are good, but not super. Salted and unsalted butter, good, but not as good as $2 Polish stuff I once bought at Agata.

From the tasting menu:

The starter was pumpkin soup with crushed cheshnuts and I think thick bacon or some sort of smoked and salted pork product. It was very good.

Next comes the carpaccio of blue fin tuna with eggplant caviar. This was very good. Based on that picture Ellen took, my knowledge of Japanese cooking, and the fact that mine came with pickled eggplant, I bet that shiny thing on top in her picture is a pickled piece of negmi or the like, the white part of a bunching onion.

Next was the sauteed duck foie gras with purple figs and Banyuls sauce. Inside was raw and I mean raw. Very good, but the general cooking style here is raw everything.

Then comes the fish. Wild Alaskan Salomon, lightly cooked (so he tells you) with a bearnaise reduction. Actually, I've been served rawer salmon elsewhere. It was very good, but actually needed a bit more pepper. The side on this was lettuce(!!!), slightly blanched I think. Very crispy salomon skin on side, almost like paper. General comment, they include no carbos in anything. No rice, no cous cos nothing like that.

Now the meat. Roasted milk-fed veal with fall vegtables. The portion is rather large, like probably 6 ounces of meat. It's like butter, with a very mild flavor. I loved the assorted vegetables this was served with.

Next comes the cheese and guess what, they have very good cheese. This comes with two types of what they called brioche, one sweet and one salt. They look like tiny cinnomon rolls actually, like a piece of dough made into a spiral. Both are worth considering murder.

My dessert was the Pear declintion, which is pear cooked three ways and topped with carmel. It was good. My dining friend loved it. The most popular dessert seemed to be the chocolate souflee, which I will order next time.

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What I'm hearing today is that an unfavorable review of ADNY has just appeared in Gourmet, a predictable but unfortunate occurrence if true.

Please fill us in on why that would be predictable.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Because attacks on ADNY have been standard operating procedure for the American food media since before it even opened, and the Gourmet reviewer has already given a number of hints that he has it in for Ducasse in his review of Ducasse's other New York restaurant, Mix, in which he referred to Ducasse as a "haute cuisine imperialist," and accused Ducasse's European restaurants of "pretentiousness." I'll refrain from further comment until I read the review.

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

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the Gourmet reviewer has already given a number of hints that he has it in for Ducasse in his review of Ducasse's other New York restaurant, Mix, in which he referred to Ducasse as a "haute cuisine imperialist," and accused Ducasse's European restaurants of "pretentiousness."

I forgot that.

Thanks for reminding me, but yes, let's wait for the review.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Just read the Gourmet review.

A few excerpts:

"the food and surroundings were never in sync"

"pink veal with ham and Gruyere was an oddly pedestrian riff on an old housewife''s dish"

"undercooked langoustines"

"dull salmon"

"an abysmally dry hunk of veal"

"apparent neglect"

"far from a standout meal"

"Before dessert arrived the kitchen had been scrubbed to a polish and turned dark for the night"

But I think the line that sums it up would be:

"With former Lespinasse chef Christian Delouvrier running the show, the menu has changed and the prices have risen even higher. But now more than ever, the food falls short of its mark."

Ouch.

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Just read the Gourmet review.

A few excerpts:

"the food and surroundings were never in sync"

"pink veal with ham and Gruyere was an oddly pedestrian riff on an old housewife''s dish"

"undercooked langoustines"

"dull salmon"

"an abysmally dry hunk of veal"

"apparent neglect"

"far from a standout meal"

"Before dessert arrived the kitchen had been scrubbed to a polish and turned dark for the night"

But I think the line that sums it up would be:

"With former Lespinasse chef Christian Delouvrier running the show, the menu has changed and the prices have risen even higher. But now more than ever, the food falls short of its mark."

Ouch.

If anything, the hunk of veal I got was too juicy!!! The Salmon I had was perfectly cooked, but perhaps a little more seasoning would have been better. On the other hand, my Japanese dining friend thought the Salmon was world class, and she doesn't usually like Salmon (she likes more unusual fish).

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"Gourmet."

I wouldn't wipe fish guts off the floor with it.

"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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As a factual matter, have the prices risen? Last time I checked, prices had changed not at all or at least not significantly since the day ADNY opened, nearly 5 years ago. It's unfortunate that the Gourmet reviewer's aesthetic sensibility isn't up to the task of reviewing a restaurant at this level, but facts are facts and I'm not sure the claim of any significant price hike (say, more than a 5 or 10 dollar adjustment over a 5 year period) can be substantiated.

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

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The thing that I find so nonsensical about reviews like this is that, given the number of entirely opposite "peak experience" reviews I have seen in these forums and have heard personally from people I know and whose palates I trust more than any print reviewer, I find it incredibly hard to believe that ADNY serves dry veal, undercooked langoustines, etc. In fact, it makes it all the more obvious that the reviewer has an agenda.

--

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As a factual matter, have the prices risen? Last time I checked, prices had changed not at all or at least not significantly since the day ADNY opened, nearly 5 years ago. It's unfortunate that the Gourmet reviewer's aesthetic sensibility isn't up to the task of reviewing a restaurant at this level, but facts are facts and I'm not sure the claim of any significant price hike (say, more than a 5 or 10 dollar adjustment over a 5 year period) can be substantiated.

As far as I know, the prices are about the same as when they opened. I don't think the problem is the food prices, its the wine. And I think Alain Ducasse may know that. About 1/3 of the bottles on the montlhly special list were in the under $100 a bottle catagory, and I think one was $48 if memory serves. About as many "cheap" bottles on the monthly special list as on the entire main list, and that is interesting. I would also say that for a French place, they believe in wine from around the world. For example, I saw a bottle on the list from the North Fork of LI and a monthly special from the former Yugoslavia. They also served me a sake with my tuna, and couldn't find sake on the wine list!!! Still, even with all of that, the wine gets very expensive in a hurry. The 3 glass paring set (its on the menu) is $90 and I told that is not really meant for the tasting menu, for that you need the 5 glass option, which is either $120 (which is what I had) or I think about $200. The pairing for the truffle menu is $220, the single glass we had was taken from that pairing. I think the printed and priced pairings are nice. It is good that you can point and say "I'll have that pairing" and then be sure that you will really have 5 glasses at the agreed upon price (and they topped me up a little).

And 5 glasses in case you are wondering was a sake with the tuna, a port with the foe grais (I can't spell), a white with the fish, a red with the veal and a red with the cheese. I'll try to add more details later. Yes, there was no sparkling wine to start (unlike say Danube) and no dessert wine. I was thinking of getting a glass of maderia (they have some rare ones), but decided against it on the theory I would add at least $50 more to the bill.

On the other hand, my prix fix was $220 I think (or maybe $225). Add one expresso at $8 and a $120 wine pairing and a $12 bottle of water, and we're at $360. We've now hit the price at Masa, $300 for food, I wouldn't have coffee, and $60 buys a very fine half bottle of sake. With tax and tip, we've hit about $450. I had dinner at Danube a few months ago. $65 prix fix and $60 set wine pairing. With tax, tip and coffee, something like $160. I can eat three times at Danube for the price of ADNY. Was ADNY better? yes. was the wine better at ADNY ? yes. did I get more wine at Danube? Yes (I thought it was a great bargain).

Of course, someone is going to point out that I spent equal amounts on food and wine at Danube and only half as much on wine at ADNY. That is true. Still, $600 per person is more than I can bear. And note, while I don't claim to be a rich man (I'm not), I have a job that pays me enough so that I should be able to afford to eat where ever I want every few months. My co-workers think the prices at ADNY are obscene (Fat Guy may remember where I work, and he may find that interesting).

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I definitely remember where you work, Todd, and am disappointed but not surprised that your colleagues at Burger King don't perceive the value that ADNY offers.

I tasted that wine from Slovenia -- it's called 2000 Santomas "Big Red" -- and enjoyed it quite a bit. But I certainly agree that the wine list at ADNY is painfully overpriced. I don't know that it has increased in price in any appreciable way over time, though. Of course it is hard to quantify wine price increases because they need to be viewed relative to wholesale and auction prices as well as the age of the wines in the cellar. But I think it is most likely the case that both the food and wine prices at ADNY have increased very little or not at all in almost 5 years, while the average fine dining restaurant's prices have gone up somewhat. That's why the price gap between ADNY and the next tier isn't as great now as it was when ADNY opened.

Do we have any collectors of old ADNY menus around? I'd love to know some prices over the years. I think I remember the early prix fixe (implemented shortly after opening, when there was individual item pricing for a very brief period) being $165 but I can't remember if that was for 3 or 4 courses (plus all the extras). Now you get 3 courses for $150 or 4 courses for $175. Whether the $165 was for 3 or 4 courses, I just don't see this as much of a change either way -- $10 more or $15 less at the most.

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

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Do we have any collectors of old ADNY menus around? I'd love to know some prices over the years. I think I remember the early prix fixe (implemented shortly after opening, when there was individual item pricing for a very brief period) being $165 but I can't remember if that was for 3 or 4 courses (plus all the extras). Now you get 3 courses for $150 or 4 courses for $175. Whether the $165 was for 3 or 4 courses, I just don't see this as much of a change either way -- $10 more or $15 less at the most.

From Grimes's first review: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...752C1A9669C8B63

Lunch and dinner, three-course prix fixe, $145; four-course, $160; five-course truffle menu, $250.

Now, according to Ducasse's Web site:

-Choice of one appetizer, one fish or one meat and one dessert is $150.

-Choice of one appetizer, one fish, one meat and one dessert 175$

-Alba Truffle menu is $320

Only the truffle menu represents a significant price increase. But that price is dependent on the market, and truffles are expensive this year.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I think it's also important to put the review in context.

The New York review this month goes by the theme of "Banking on the Stars" and includes reviews of four-star restaurants that might be worth the big splurge for the holidays: Le Bernardin, Daniel, Jean-Georges, and Ducasse.

The first three merit a rave. Ducasse is all but trashed.

Interesting, because it goes against much of what you read on this site. Also interesting because the newest four-star, Per Se, is not inlcuded (probably because you can't book a table or because they have not yet reviewed it in Gourmet, not sure).

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Thanks for digging that up, JJ. I'd actually like to get some primary source data, because as I've explained in the past some of Grimes's reporting on prices at ADNY has been questionable, but assuming those figures are correct, the increases are:

$145 --> $150 (a 3.4% increase)

$160 --> $175 (a 9.4% increase)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in order for ADNY to have kept pace with the Consumer Price Index, the price increase should have been:

$145 --> $160.75 (a 10.9% increase)

$160 --> $177.38 (the same, of course)

In other words, measured against a meaningful yardstick, the food prices at ADNY went down slightly between November 2000 and November 2004.

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

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Do we have any collectors of old ADNY menus around? I'd love to know some prices over the years. I think I remember the early prix fixe (implemented shortly after opening, when there was individual item pricing for a very brief period) being $165 but I can't remember if that was for 3 or 4 courses (plus all the extras). Now you get 3 courses for $150 or 4 courses for $175. Whether the $165 was for 3 or 4 courses, I just don't see this as much of a change either way -- $10 more or $15 less at the most.

From a mailer that arrived announcing the fall 2001 menu at ADNY that was received in September of thhat year:

6 first courses

4 fish

4 meat

Compose your menu:

Amuse, choice of 2 dishes from menu, dessert, friandises et gourmandises $145

Amuse, choice of 3 dishes from menu, dessert, friandises et gourmandises $160

Tasting Menu "Autumnal Themes" 4 savory, cheese and dessert $160

Shellfish Menu 5 Savory, cheese and dessert $250

I thought it was interesting to note the change in verbiage in the a la carte selections from "any two/three dishes on the menu" to the current

"one appetizer, one meat or fish or one appetizer, one meat and one fish."

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I definitely remember where you work, Todd, and am disappointed but not surprised that your colleagues at Burger King don't perceive the value that ADNY offers.

On a somewhat serious note, we are supposed to have one of the better cafeterias in town, its actually been reviewed in the press, and trust me, it has its bad days. But those burgers are fine :raz:

On a more serious note, on the way out the door, ADNY gives you what they call a brioche to take home. I would describe it as being more like a pantone, it has bitter orange peel and almonds. It is very light and very good. Hands down, that brioche, the two cheese course brioche and the canali are by far the best I've had in the US. They need to open a retail bakery.

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I don't read many restaurant reviews because I don't find them interesting as a form, but having just spent time in ADNY's kitchen I picked up Fat Guy's copy of Gourmet from the dining room table this evening and, after struggling to even find the review via the incomprehensible table of contents and buried deep within reviews of three other restaurants, was surprised by something.

I was not surprised that ADNY's kitchen overcooked a piece of veal. Stuff happens. What I was surprised about was that Mr. Cheshes had nothing nice to say about the dishes at all. Not one positive assessment of a dish!

For me as a writer I would feel compelled to give examples of both the good and the bad, not just the bad, even if I felt the restaurant was overrated. As an editor I'd point that out to the writer. Otherwise it feels like the writer is unfairly stacking the deck.

P.S. I prefer what most people would call "undercooked" langoustines.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Yes, Lesley. The pastry kitchen is on the other side of the hallway that runs back from the dining room to the kitchen areas and is not visible to the dining room. Nor is the downstairs production kitchen. Only the main service kitchen is visible. Once the last savory dish goes out, that crew cleans up and goes home, while the pastry crew remains until the last petits fours go out. I hope to be able to show some photographs of the pastry kitchen one of these days, but the restaurant is so busy around holiday times that it may be impossible for me to nail down the appointment I was hoping to have. So this may have to wait until January.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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I just do not understand why ADNY has suffered from so many negative reviews. I have dined there four times in the past three years and each meal has been a benchmark culinary experience.

I can understand why people may think ADNY is overpriced, and I can understand that not all people are a fan of Ducasse's approach to cooking. What I find ridiculous are the accusations from supposedly knowledgeable foodies (i.e. "food critics") that Ducasse is turning out mediocre food.

I have had the privilege of dining in many of the world's top restaurants on a wide variety of occasions, and I just cannot believe that anyone who has done likewise could truly feel that ADNY turns out a mediocre (or anything less than world class for that matter) product.

In my opinion, the meals I have had at ADNY in each instance have significantly surpassed all but a handful of many, many meals I've had at places like Daniel, Jean-Georges, Cafe Boulud, Bouley, Danube, etc....

What is going on here?

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In my opinion, the meals I have had at ADNY in each instance have significantly surpassed all but a handful of many, many meals I've had at places like Daniel, Jean-Georges, Cafe Boulud, Bouley, Danube, etc....

What is going on here?

ADNY has subtle food, which may not be what people expect. The best baba rum I've ever had, but its a classic dish that probably hasn't changed in a hundred years, and its subtle. The same for the egg and truffle dish. Except for the truffles, no obvious fancy ingredents. This may be part of the problem. The food just doesn't look fancy, or sound fancy. It's very well prepared, but not exactly from the impressive to look at department. ADNY also opened with a high pressure media campaign, which created both very high expectations and a need for people to knock it down. The same thing happened to Masa. While I have not yet eaten at the real Masa, I have eaten at the bar twice and it wasn't very good. Someone I know who really knows Japanese food told me her opinion of the real Masa, and it wasn't good. (this is not my usual friend). Sometimes overhyped places deserve their subsequent bad press, and Masa seems to be an example of such a place. ADNY is not. And if you want salty and highly seasoned food with 60 ingredents, ADNY is not the right place.

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According to Feran Adria, by the mediterranean palate, the US and UK vastly overcook shellfish - so it's not surprising that an accurately cooked langoustine would seem underdone to a US reviewer. As would most French preparations of eggs.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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