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Eating New York


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Not exactly how to start this out, but with the blessing of one of the hosts in the forum, I've decided to start a diary of myself (and usually a couple friends) as we eat our way around New York City.

My name is Justin, and I'm a student at the Culinary Institute of America. With the help of my parents, I've been blessed to be able to head down to the big city every weekend to eat at a list of places that I've wanted to go to for a long time. I'm currently in the second half of my education, and I realized that the city was there, but I'd never utilized it for my own education, especially since I have the means to. So as part of a concession to my parents helping me, I'm writing and taking pictures (when I can) of all the eateries that I go to, which I thought would provoke interesting conversation and discussion as a part of the egullet community. How do restaurants compare, and so on and so forth.

A little bit on my background:

I've always wanted to be a chef. Ever since I walked into the kitchen of my Aunt's Chinese restaurant in California and saw the chef making fire with oil, I've always wanted to be a chef... as far as I can remember back. I'm originally from Houston, Texas so moving up here was a great change for me. I started off at the age of 15 as a bus boy, but just during the summer. I then moved to the back of the house after my junior year when I was 17 when I was able to get a job at at a upscale sushi bar helping prep the rice, the fish, and near the end of the summer, I ended up rolling sushi at the bar. I could roll a California roll in 24 seconds, my greatest accomplishment at the time. The following year I enrolled into a part-day vocational school that was in partnership with my district at my highschool. There I basically took skills classes for 4 months. After that winter break, I then got a job as a cook in a large, high volume kitchen and worked the salad, potato/bread, blacken, and fry stations and worked into the summer before I headed up to here at the CIA.

I've completed my externship, which I externed at Spring/Green Zebra in Chicago. Those four and a half months were the hardest I've ever worked, mostly because I was constantly in the kitchen at Zebra and they were just opening. (You may recognize the name, the NYT food section had a complete spread on it.)

My parents have always been open with food for me. I'm Chinese, so I believe myself to have a very developed palate. I'll eat a lot of things that my fellow students hate here. I love foie, I love good sweetbreads, but I can also understand the complexities of things such as swallow's nest and shark fin for what they are, just because of my heritage. My parents and extended family always loved to try new things, and I believe I've benefited greatly from it as a "sorta-cook, hopefully one day a chef" position.

New York, to me is just like a kitchen. One gigantic organized chaos, and the food scene is unimaginable. I just hope that I can get the best of it.

I hope you take to my readings with an open mind. I make these observations from who I am, but I hope you understand that I don't claim to have "the" palate or know everything. I'm well read, getting well educated, and I believe that I have a firm grasp of what I do and love, and I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing for you. If you have stuff you'd like to ask of me, PM me. I don't bite much.

And feel free to discuss and disagree. I love conversation.

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Note: this was two weeks ago. Dec. the 4th.


As I was compiling my list of eateries that I wanted to enjoy around the city, WD-50 was one of them I was most excited to try mostly because I knew there I would be challenged, at least palate-wise. Looking at their website, there were a few noted things that I really wanted to try, and I was hoping that the nine course tasting menu would contain those things. I am fascinated by the designated, “avant-guard” style cuisine, and though I personally don’t think it’s in my future, I love the cerebral context that some of these dishes put me in. I have previously been to Trio as it was under the helm of Grant Achatz, and probably to a less avant-guard extent, Rick Tramonto’s TRU as I was externing in Chicago and was hoping for a more casual avant-guard experience here at WD-50. I’m not sure what Chef Dufresne categorizes his food as, but this is sort’ve what I see it as. New. Exciting.

I’m sure that you can probably look up Wylie Dufresne’s bio up on their website, so I won’t really bore you with the details. So I’ll just tell you straight out that as I approached WD-50, I wanted the whole, “Holy crap that’s cool!” feeling.

I approached the door of the Clinton Street eatery close to my 6:30 reservation and met a couple of my friends at the door. As I walked in, I noticed the very casual atmosphere. It was dim, but the walls were brightly colored in different colors. Along the left wall there was a run of booths, and near the door there was a small glass table which I thought to be the waiting area, but found later to be an actual table. Not sure who’d want to sit in front of the window with people walking behind you staring in over your shoulder at your food, but hey, I wanted weird. The waitress was very prompt and nice, dressed casually with jeans and a navy apron and we were sat at a table right in glaring view of the kitchen, which had an open door. I saw the Chef calmly surveying the dining area as I sat. It was 6:30 on a Saturday night and so I was sort’ve surprised to see that the dining room was nearly empty, with only one other table sat besides us, but I figured that the room would fill fast as 7 approached. I was right. As we left, close to 9, the room was buzzing. I didn’t much care for the menu or the table settings, with a black and white woven setting. The menu seemed to be a kinko’s bound notebook with both the menu and wine list contained in it. I only browsed slightly through it and noticed a few of the items seemed to be the “safe” ones, the ones that would always be ordered by the less adventurous. But anyway, I have 9 courses to describe, so on to the food.

Our “bread” was a box of paper-thin lavash with sesame seeds. This was constantly filled during the meal, and were completely addicting. They didn’t really make you full because they were so thin, but it was an interesting starting statement.

First was an amuse of striped bass, jasmine tea, carrot, and Asian pair. I also noted that the waitress said something about basil seed in there. The single bite morsel was ok, but less than impressive. The flavors just seemed confusing to me with the bass being only slightly warmed, but with a raw texture, and with an aromatic taste to it. It seemed to me that something that they were trying to accomplish with the basil seed was sort’ve a caviar feel or effect? Except that the seed didn’t have the “pop” to it that caviar does. It really wasn’t a wonderful start, but I’ve had less than impressive amuses everywhere.


Next was the highly touted Foie Gras with nori caramel, and a grapefruit-basil crumble with brunoised croutons of brioche in it. I was most excited for this dish and well... it just didn’t work for me. There’s nothing better than a great tasting foie and this dish really didn’t have the foie taste. Either the fact that it was served cold took away from it, or the nori caramel overpowered it. Eaten all together, the flavor was really nice as the foie turned creamy in your mouth, but I had a problem with getting it all in one bite. I must say though, which I never thought, that basil and grapefruit go together very well. I’ve read on here a few rave reviews of this dish. It really just didn’t work for me.


The next dish was the Rainbow trout with pork belly, apple cream, horseradish, and miso paper. Things really started looking up from here. The trout with lightly cooked, and if I remember correctly, it was served with lime salt and another salt that I can’t put my finger on, but the lime salt with the soft fish and the flavor of pork fat around the fish really went well. Together, it really fit. Apples or Peaches with pork have long been a great couple, and a light spice added to that from the horseradish was nice. The miso chip was hard to figure in, but it was a nice salty crunch. Very enjoyable.


The following dish is also one of Chef Dufresne’s more noted dishes, the beef tongue with fried mayo, tomato molasses and onion strussel. I could see why. The combination of cold pickled tongue with the aromatic onion and molasses and the burst of warm mayo was awesome. My favorite was the fried mayo, because the outside crust wasn’t even hot, and as you were enjoying the beef and you bit down to the hot mayo, it was just a great effect. Note, however, go light on the molasses for each bite, it’s a strong flavor. Haha. Bravo on this dish.


The dish following this, the waitress informed us, was just newly put on the menu that night. Lightly Sautéed Nantucket Bay Scallops with Beet Yogurt, and parsley oil. This was a great dish, though less imaginative than I would have expected from WD-50, though the scallops were nice and sweet, combined with the creamy bright red yogurt that was a little sour, and hint of parsley oil. You really had to construct the flavor though, dabbing, swooping the scallops into the accompaniments, but all the flavors together went well.


Before the next course the waitress put spoons in front of us. We debated what it would be due to the fact that it was way too late for a soup course, but what she put in front of us was even better. I love egg dishes, and this was a slow poached egg (an hour and a half in 147 degree water in parmesan broth with a crispy garnish. The fried noodle (I think) garnish with the powder and the dill leaves did little for the flavor, but were a nice color touch and the noodles were a good crunch, but the parm broth was rich and when you broke the egg into it, it was very rich and made the whole dish work well. It was served just under hot, so it was a good contrast to the cold outside. I think this dish really worked well in the winter.


Next came one of my favorite things (if it’s done right. I’ve had them done wrong, really, really wrong.) Sweetbreads! We had lamb sweetbreads with green daikon, black bean, and chocolate powder. Now these sweetbreads weren’t bad, and I don’t think I’ve ever had lamb sweetbreads before, but the texture really wasn’t what I was looking for. They bounced back at your teeth and where kind of gummy. You were asked to eat it with the daikon, which really cut into the gaminess that came from the lamb, but the chocolate powder didn’t do much for me, nor the black bean sauce. I mean, I finished my plate, but this was one of the courses that I ate fast because I wanted to get to the next course faster.


The next course was our last savory one. Squab with encrusted golden beets, and sweet potato juice. The squab was cooked peeerfectly, and it had a skin crackling sandwiched in between there. It only had a hint of gaminess and was completely soft in texture. I have no idea how they did it. But the crispy skin with the nice soft meat and the sweet potato juice went really well. Very nice touch. I didn’t care much for the encrusted beets. They just tasted like crumbly beets, but if you cut into them and looked at the red encrusted around the gold, it looked cool.


Next was our cheese course. Quince and Manchego, Manchego and quince. Always, always. Love it. It was quince and tonic with fried sticks of manchego. The Quince tonic was something I didn’t expect because when I heard tonic I thought soda water, but it coated your tongue sort’ve like cough syrup and was the nice sweet quince flavor. As for the Manchego, I now want all my cheese sticks to be fried. It was a great combination, but it’s quince and manchego. Traditional. Always.


The next course I accidentally ate before I got a chance to take a picture, but I remember being a bit worried because I’m not too big of a fan of sesame. It was Black Sesame Ice cream on top of an olive oil cake with caramelized grapefruit and a sesame sugar tuile on top. I was proven wrong by Chef Sam Mason. The olive oil cake was uber soft that went really well with the ice cream. The grapefruit was simply a supreme of grapefruit with caramelized sugar on top, but everything together went well. It was constantly soft and crunchy, Soft fruit, crunchy top. Soft cake and ice cream, crunchy tuile. Nice developed flavor in the ice cream too, I find a lot of house made ice creams taste too much like their base rather than their flavor.

The last sweet course was Chocolate cream, which was encrusted with some sort’ve chocolate-rice crust, that was once again, soft and crunchy and had a deep chocolate flavor, with tonka bean ice cream and coffee soil. I loved the coffee soil that was soft and stuck to the bottom of the tonka bean ice cream. I can’t really explain the ice cream except that it sort’ve reminded me of coconut... but... like... not. But anyways (If anyone knows what Tonka bean is, please tell me. I was clueless).


The petit fours were ginger cotton candy with a cup of hot mulled apple cider. Because of the cold, the apple cider really hit the spot. It was aromatic, and really, something you should enjoy in a log cabin in front of the fire place wrapped up in blankets. The ginger cotton candy was... well, ginger cotton candy. Watch out for the first bite though, you might not expect that ginger flavor to be that prevalent.

Our mignardises (I can never spell that right) was chocolate-spiced marcona almonds. These were way too spiced for my liking. It sort’ve left a bad taste in my mouth as I left, I could only eat one... not exactly the way you want to leave an impression.


I noticed that as the dinner progressed, and as the room filled, the service really lulled behind. At the beginning, we were really moving the courses along at a smooth pace, but as it got closer to the end, it felt like we were waiting forever between courses.

And as for the bathroom check, I may say that WD-50 has one of the coolest bathrooms ever. It’s downstairs and unisex, and you walk left and realize you’re standing next to a row of sinks... then on the back wall it says push the wood. I was pressing around on the wood wall till I almost fell into the stall. Haha. Well, at least the bathroom matches the food. Fun.

All in all, it was a good meal. Nothing was really memorable except for the beef tongue. I probably wouldn’t go back unless there was a complete change of the tasting menu to see what else Chef Dufresne has up his sleeve. What irked me though was the beginning and the end of the meal. The amuse and the mignardises. Neither were too great or seemed to be completely thought out, which could be fatal because a lot of people can only remember the first and last thing of what they ate. Maybe I was spoiled by Chef Achatz, but only a few select flavors and ideas in the meal really wowed me (I want all my mayo and cheese sticks to be fried now). Of course, WD-50 doesn’t have the special serviceware either. The plating was only so-so, and I fall in love with pretty plates... and another qualm was that they seemed to use the same large, round, white plates. I think the visual effect of the food would have been intensified with different plates. The flavors worked well, but they were all hard to get from the plate into your mouth with just one fork or one spoon... and I sort’ve have a hard time digesting the fact that in a tasting menu, some flavors were reused like grapefruit and beets, but hey, I had a good time, and that’s all I ask. I think that this may be the wrong timing for this type of restaurant though. Avant guard cuisine hasn’t been around too long, and there aren’t enough places that are even fine dining to have a casual place. Maybe Chef Dufresne skipped a phase. Sure there was Paul Liebrandt, but I can’t think of another person in the city that does this type of cuisine. Risky venture, but it looks like they’re doing fine, and the price was very reasonable, and I left with a good feeling so well, I had a nice time.

Out of 10? I’d give it a 5. I liked the meal, but it wasn’t memorable.

Next week (which was this past week): Gramercy Tavern.

(edited for picture viewing pleasure. This thread is not for the 56k'ers. haha)

Edited by tetsujustin (log)
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I'm looking forward to this ongoing thread, tetsujustin, but the photos aren't viewable right now. Here's the message I get when I try to view them in a separate window:

Sorry, this site is temporarily unavailable!

The web site you are trying to access has exceeded its allocated data transfer. Visit our help area for more information.

Access to this site will be restored within an hour. Please try again later.

Perhaps you'd consider using ImageGullet?

Thanks, and welcome!

Michael aka "Pan"


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The pictures look ok to me.

You mentioned that the lamb sweetbreads were gummy and gamey. I've only had lamb sweetbreads once before too (in London earlier this year). They weren't gummy - and they weren't gamey. They were delicious. Wonder if anyone here who knows more about them than I do could comment on whether the difference would be due to the raw ingredient - the cooking technique - or a combination of both. Robyn

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I can see the photos now, as well. Very good report!

The thing that's disconcerting to me is that they give you large plates with very little food on them. Did that strike you one way or the other at the time? How would smaller dishes have worked for this food?

Michael aka "Pan"


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I stated something about the plating in my last little blurb, but yes, I wished that they would have used something other than the large round plate because the portions did look so small, though they were normal tasting-menu size. I believe a lot more emphasis could have been put on the food from the eye's point of view had it been plated tighter or with another plate.

As for the sweetbreads, I've never had any other instance of lamb sweetbreads (that I know of) so I think it may have just been a completely different preparation from the sweetbreads you had in london. I myself love the sweetbreads with a crispy crust with a softer inside, and the waitress herself said they were "gamier" than veal, and I tasted it of sorts, but you know... different chef, different tastes.

I really couldn't feel or taste the egg white in the egg dish because as you broke apart the yolk, it spilled out into the broth as somewhat of a thickener. It made it rich and silky... very complimentary to the parm broth. I myself couldn't really distinguish the texture of the white.

and the parent backers will be thanked constantly. I have the greatest in the world.

Edited by tetsujustin (log)
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and the parent backers will be thanked constantly. I have the greatest in the world.

Outstanding parents, I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed they should be thanked regularly, your fine, fine parents, for this is resource-intensive work, deserving of full implementation of your excellent plan.

So excellent a plan it is, and so fine a set of parents you have, that I believe your research would benefit from the addition of another member of the team -- an assistant to hold the camera or snap photos, or taste the food in order to help you clarify your opinions, to commiserate about weight gain, to help you make call assaults for reservations, that sort of thing.

And, because your plan is so outstanding, and your parents so utterly wonderful, I will kindly offer my services gratis in humble deference as your assistant on the evening you dine at Per Se.

No, really, I insist. I'm happy to do it!


Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Very nice, tetsujustin. Thanks.

"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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Thanks for sharing the experience Justin, this is really great!!

I was wondering what criteria you used, if any, in selecting the list of restaurants you want to visit. It seems that you have a well defined plan in mind. Is it just based on the reputation of the chef? Are you focusing on fine dining only or specific types of cuisine?

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Gramercy Tavern

As my first time around this area of New York, I stepped out of the subway at the Union Square stop off the 6 train, amazed. Not really because of all the bright lights or bustling people, but most notably because of all the recognizable restaurants I noticed as I hurried my way down to Gramercy Tavern.

Gramercy Tavern, to me as the outsider at least, seems like one of the city’s most beloved eateries. It’s up there with Chanterelle, Gotham, and countless others. As one of the big guns of Danny Meyer’s many restaurants, I was hoping for a meal of the season. Something that would cure my yearning for warmth (me being from Texas and all) and soothe the harsh cold. I wasn’t looking for out of this world new ideas, but smart food, good flavor combinations, and just that good, honest, down to earth, cooking... but in an elegant setting and hopefully with a piece of foie thrown in. As I approached the place, I was surprised (but though I probably shouldn’t have been, considering the area) to see that the place was completely packed at 5:30. At least 10-15 waiting patrons in the waiting area. The tavern area seemed extremely busy with people just lounging around and drinking, and eating. It was a tad bit loud in the tavern, and I was a little concerned that it would be hard for conversation that night, but that wasn’t the case when we were seated. It took a second for us to get the table, but we were led to the dining room which was almost completely different from the tavern area. Very warm with earthy tones and a lot of wood. A lot of wood. Branches sticking out from everywhere, wooden wreaths with Christmas decorations. The room felt plush, but not uptight. If this was any indication to how our meal would be like, then I was in for exactly what I was looking for.

Our waitress was obviously an actor, very methodical in her speaking, all smiles, which actually probably might annoy some people because she seemed in the “too happy” category, but I didn’t really mind it all that much. She let us know about the menu as we looked over it, though we’d pretty much set ourselves on the Autumn tasting menu, and though she set out the line there for a white truffle ravioli dish, I almost bit... but restrained myself at the 60 dollar supplemental. Myself not really being a wine person as of yet, I completely forgot what my friend ordered as a bottle of champagne, but it really went very well for my first couple courses. It took a little while for us to actually order, as we brought one of our friends who is basically completely new to upscale dining (we had to muscle her into the tasting menu), and I was worried that the service was going to be a bit slow because it took a while before our waitress showed up for the order when we asked for a little bit of time, but it really didn’t end up like that at all. Everything seemed to run smooth after this. It was so seamless, actually, that we hardly noticed that time passed. Three hours went by really fast.

I found it interesting that our amuse came to us with the menus still on the table. Not sure why, as I’d been strictly taught to send the amuse after the order had be in, but anyway... it wasn’t bad, nothing too spectacular though. A smallish crostini with a bit of pesto and garlicked white bean puree. Nice taste, but it didn’t seem as if they were really reaching for anything too spectacular.

Our first dish was (yessss...) a torchon of foie gras with quince, mint, hazelnuts, a slight salad of frisee and hazelnut oil, and brioche toast points. As you can see, I sorta jumped the gun and took a bite before I remembered to take a picture. I swear, I could have eaten the foie by itself, but every bite of this was absolutely wonderful as I tinkered around with eating each component with the foie then tried all the combinations. Every single one of them were great. My favorite was just a bit of brioche, a schmeer (that’s right, schmeer.) of foie, a cube of quince, and mint. The creaminess and the burst of mint at first, then the sweetness of the quince was great. The hazelnut didn’t do too much for me, though it added a nice crunch, but I discovered that mint and foie together go really well. The brioche weren’t overtoasted as I had experienced in other places, and had that sort’ve crunchy, crumbly, then soft property. It must be said that my friend who hadn’t had much fine dining experience hated... and I mean HATED foie before this, but she finished her entire plate (she used a lot of brioche though.) It must say something about this dish. Great start.


Next was a (I think... most likely) poached langostine. The menu says langostine with sorrel and lemon. I’m a big fan of the langostine as I find it to have a better, firmer texture than lobster, but a sweet flavor than shrimp, and this was a great preparation, with a light lemon butter sauce, the poached langostine, and what was probably micro sorrel (all the sorrel I’ve ever seen are big leaves.) The sorrel didn’t do too much for the dish as I was hoping it would, because that lemon flavor of sorrel on lemon sauce action would have really accentuated the sweetness of the langostine, but this was another better than average dish, though one of my friend found a vein still in his. The sauce was what I call a “bread-sopper,” and oh yes was it sopped. All of our plates were wiped clean.


Our next course... well... I’m still dreaming about. This was one of the top fish dishes I’ve ever had... and I’ve had plenty of fish. This was a turbot with savoy cabbage, Binjte potatoes, cardamom, and ginger. The turbot itself was excellent. Soft, sweet, flakey flesh, and a very nice crispy skin. Eating that with the verblanc that sat on top of it just by itself was a-ma-zing. The savoy was buttery, it came with small diced carrots that were a nice touch, but the potato didn’t really do much besides sit there. It was a small potato, the shape of a fingerling except smaller... and very starchy. It tasted like potato... I think they only put it on there to cover the “starch” part of the dish and because Binjte sounds cool. But this dish... man I love turbot.


Our next course had a very tough act to follow, but it did just fine. It was a cube of fresh bacon with chanterelles, lentils, and sherry vinegar. The bacon was about fifty percent fat, fifty percent meat, which sorta scared our female diners... it was a risky dish just because I know a bunch of people that just completely remove the fat from their meats and set it aside, so maybe not every diner gets to full experience, but I have no qualms with it. The fat was hard seared for a crispy top, which after you slice through goes deep into the fat before hitting the lean meat. The combination of that and the lentils were great, the buttery fat and meat with the texture of lentil, and the chanterelles were nice too, mildly of thyme, my favorite herb. A very well rounded dish for what was so far an outstanding meal.


The last savory course was lamb. Now, I’m not sure why, but I just don’t like lamb. The flavor is just too strong for me and I never grew up eating basically any of it. The only preparation I’ve had it where I’ve actually liked it was at Trotter’s. I asked for a change of protein, but the waitress said that the whole table would have to change if I did that, so I succumbed. For some reason, also, she said that the temperature of whole table, and one of us hated ruby red meat (as they said they loved to cook it pretty rare.) I myself love redder meat, but oh well. I thought that maybe they could have accommodated us a little better on this course, but it wasn’t a bad dish. Good even. Just my least favorite dish of the night. It was a roast lamb with artichokes. Sauteed heart, steamed stem, and puree. The skin, again, was nice and crisp, and for some reason... this lamb didn’t have much of the... lamb taste? The artichokes were ok... but the hearts were overdone and the puree didn’t taste like much of anything.


Our first dessert was an amuse of a double shotglass of sour cream panna cotta with lemon gelee, and concord grape granite. The panna cotta by itself didn’t taste too good, but if you scooped it all together, it tasted great. The sweetness of the grape, sourness on sourness of the gelee and panna, and I could tell that Chef Michelle Antonishek wanted you to do this with the amount of granite give. A lot of times it irks me when there is a suggested way of dining, like eat your foie on brioche, and they only give you like two points of brioche, but this wasn’t the case for this.


Our last course was a choice of desserts. A pumpkin cheesecake with crème fraiche, cranberry sorbet and fresh cranberries, or a caramel cream napoleon with rosemary phyllo, and candied cashews. It seemed to me that they were setting out an adventurous choice in the napoleon and the safe choice of the cheesecake. We split the table in two, with me getting the napoleon, and I think I made the better choice. Though not a spectacular, to die-for dessert, the dessert fit the mood very well. I was surprised that the rosemary worked so well, as it tends to overpower flavors a lot, and the candied cashews were a very nice addition. I found this dessert to be very... rustic, if I may say. It fit the restaurant. I had a bite of the pumpkin cheesecake, and well... it was pumpkin cheesecake. I, nor the people who had it where too impressed with it... but it is what it is.



The mignardises were a strawberry gelee, a ginger cookie, and a passionfruit-white chocolate chocolate. Then also a choice of truffles. Nice touch. It seemed fitting for the meal. Nothing too overboard. We also got a “breakfast” which I ate on the train of a coffee cake with an oatmeal topping and a nutmeg-cinnamon flavor.

The bathroom check? It was just like the rest of the restaurant, warm, inviting... and cushy carpets next to the urinals. Haha.

I was also able to chat with the assistant wine director and he showed me around the kitchen and such as the waitress caught me taking notes and I had to confess that I was from the CIA. He himself was from the school, as was the sous chef. In between dinner and dessert they said “oh it’s not very busy in the right now, you can take a look.” When I walked in, if that’s not busy, then I don’t know what is. Everyone seemed to be moving a lightning speed, with the sous chef in a tangle of chervil for garnishing a set of plates. I want that to be “not busy” in my future restaurant. Haha. I also had a wonderous time gazing at the open grill that fed the entire tavern. I have no idea how they have two cooks feeding that many people. Leo (the asst. wine director) said the tavern was fourty seats and around 20 seats at the bar.

Gramercy Tavern was everything that I asked it to be. I wanted nice setting, good, warm food, and I got it. It isn’t out there and the food isn’t exactly adventurous, but I didn’t expect it to be. It’s one of those places where if I want to feel comfortable and have a homey feeling, I’d go to, which is why it’s been such a success for such a long time. I myself am an adventurous eater, but sometimes I want to tone it back, and Gramercy is the type of place I want to eat at when I want to take it back a little. If I was excited to go to Craft beforehand? Well I now am more excited and have higher expectations of it. I hope it hits a home run as well. I was pretty critical of WD-50 when it came to the start and finish, but I think their amuses and mignardises were completely off. Here at Gramercy they weren’t wonderful starts and finishes, but nice ones. It seemed like they played it safe though. Nice, though predictable platings. Seamless service though a slight hiccup at the beginning. Gramercy Tavern doesn’t need my praise, it’s done so well without it, and I think it will continue to do well. Grand job, Mr. Colicchio, Chef Schaefer, and Mr. Meyer.

Out of 10? An 8. Wonderful night, memorable dishes... just not pristine and I was a tad bit disappointed in the desserts. (and just to let you know, I’m going to have a hard time giving out 9s and 10s.)

Next week: Bouley

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Thanks to everyone's positive feedback. I hope we can start some great conversation.

I've pretty much started to mesh personal/professional together this early in my career. If it's healthy to be obsessed with food? I don't know, but I think I am. Besides, eating is a personal thing, and it is my profession. As for growth, I just want new ideas, new ways of seeing things done in both food, service, and everything in between. I take pretty meticulous notes and I just hope to become more well rounded in my profession because of this. I want to discover new tastes, new ways of being pampered, and to make the customer happy. As much as I want to do this professionally, it won't be too shabby on helping me professionally either. haha. I want to own a restaurant (well, many restaurants... well... an empire.) and knowing about the best will give me better education on how hopefully to one day be the best. Shoot for the stars, nothing less.

As for picking the restaurants, I pretty much want to go to a lot of pretty lauded restaurants. Most, if not all of them are what we would considered high-class fine dining, but I think at the position that I'm given, I shouldn't feel as of a need to hold back. However, as you may notice in my reviews, I review it on how I formerlly perceive the restaurant before I had dined in it. What I expected from it, and what I got out of it. I could post the list of restaurants that I'm hoping to get a seat at, but I think not doing so would be more exciting for you all. I'm also open to taking suggestions though I may say I've covered most of the fine-dining spectrum in my list, I think. If there's a can't miss restaurant, however, don't hesitate to lend me your voice.

Again, thanks for the great feedback.

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You deserve more positive feedback. I thought I learned a lot from that report on Gramercy Tavern.

I don't know what you meant by "not pristine," however. This is the definition from http://www.m-w.com, my favorite online dictionary, despite the aggressively flashing ad that's there now. :angry:

One entry found for pristine.

Main Entry: pris·tine

Pronunciation: 'pris-"tEn, pri-'stEn, esp British 'pris-"tIn

Function: adjective

Etymology: L pristinus; akin to Latin prior

1 : belonging to the earliest period or state : ORIGINAL <the hypothetical pristine lunar atmosphere>

2 a : not spoiled, corrupted, or polluted (as by civilization) : PURE <a pristine forest> b : fresh and clean as or as if new <pristine hard-backs in uniform editions to fill our built-in bookcases -- Michiko Kakutani>

- pris·tine·ly adverb

I usually use "pristine" in the second meaning.

Michael aka "Pan"


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Our next course had a very tough act to follow, but it did just fine. It was a cube of fresh bacon with chanterelles, lentils, and sherry vinegar. The bacon was about fifty percent fat, fifty percent meat, which sorta scared our female diners... it was a risky dish just because I know a bunch of people that just completely remove the fat from their meats and set it aside, so maybe not every diner gets to full experience, but I have no qualms with it. The fat was hard seared for a crispy top, which after you slice through goes deep into the fat before hitting the lean meat. The combination of that and the lentils were great, the buttery fat and meat with the texture of lentil, and the chanterelles were nice too, mildly of thyme, my favorite herb. A very well rounded dish for what was so far an outstanding meal.

I had to jump in on this one.

This dish is on my top 10 list in NY. It is what makes me appreciate my experience at GT each time i go there. Colicchio has a recipe for it in his cookbook, I have tried this at home but obviously, it doesn’t compare with what you get at GT. The way they prepare it just incredible. I do not like eating pure fat either but in this preparation, it almost has a creamy consistency. I've had similar renditions of braised pork belly at other restaurants, but it was never that succulent.

If I may add, Craft is in my eyes a notch below GT, it is an experience of its own though but I am still somewhat bothered by the concept of it. I think that food presentation in individual dishes represents part of the excitement and appreciation of going to a restaurant. In addition, presentation and how dishes are composed/ingredients are combined by the kitchen, can tell so much about a chef's culinary skill and vision. To me, food at Craft is a little too impersonal.

On a different note, I think not revealing your list of places to visit is a better idea. There is one place I have to recommend though. The most interesting dinner I've had this past year was at Blue Hill Stone Barns. The room is drop dead gorgeous, and there is a serious amount of skill that goes into the food prepared by Chefs Barber and Anthony. You should highly consider it if it is not on your list.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Good review. As someone who visits New York perhaps once a year - and likes to eat - I think your reviews are more interesting than Frank Bruni's these days. I'm glad that you're someone who paces a meal and leaves room to eat and critique dessert (I can't eat as much as a large guy - but I love dessert(s) and always leave room for them).

By the way - there's nothing wrong with drinking champagne throughout a meal if you don't want to drink still wine (for whatever reason). I do it all the time :smile: . Robyn

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On a different note, I think not revealing your list of places to visit is a better idea.  There is one place I have to recommend though. The most interesting dinner I've had this past year was at Blue Hill Stone Barns. The room is drop dead gorgeous, and there is a serious amount of skill that goes into the food prepared by Chefs Barber and Anthony.  You should highly consider it if it is not on your list.

Interestingly enough, I worked there as a backwaiter for a grand total of one weekend. Yes, the room is completely wonderful, and even better, when you walk in... since they have the room full of apple barrels it smells like an apple orchard in there. I loved it. I was sorry to have to tell them that I couldn't work for them just because I think driving 6 hour a weekend for backwaiter's pay was a little too much for me.. it actually almost put me in the negative considering what I'm driving. haha.

As for Craft, I'm still excited about it just for the plain fact one of my friends ate there and loved it. Or well, loved the braised shortribs so much he said, "it felt like my teeth were melting along with it." He said the rest of the meal was good as well, but it just sorta got me worked up about the place. I think it'll be interesting when I get a chance to go to see how the two stack up.

And Pan:

I meant "not pristine" as in... well, sort've untouchable. As much as I loved Gramercy, there were a couple of little hiccups here and there. Though small blemishes, still, not everything was correct. I will say though that it's going to be hard for everything to be correct in one night... but I think it would be silly of me not to expect it at all at least once in my lifetime. I think there has to be a belief that there is a "perfect," or else there would be nothing to aim for. I sorta think of the "pristine" restaurant as if you were dreaming the whole time while you were there... like the service at TRU and the signature dish of the finest chefs in New York City all at once. Of course I have my opinions... but pristine to me will most likely not be be "pristine" to anyone else. Maybe I'm using the word wrong. haha. I dunno.

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I don't think the word "pristine" is the right word - but I know what you mean. And I've never had a meal like that in North America - only in Europe.

My husband and I have a phrase for it - "the food sings" (and the atmosphere and the service simply enhance the song). Robyn

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I do my fair share of research when it comes to the restaurants that I choose to go to, about its past, its reviews, the chefs, where they’ve previously worked at, so on and so forth. As I was looking up on Bouley and its colorful past, the one spot that really stuck in my mind was that Bouley previously was a four-star restaurant as reviewed by William Grimes in years past. In my mind, once you hit a certain point, especially if you hit a pinnacle such as getting a four-star review, you never want to go back. If you lose that star, you work harder to get it back. Therefore, though I don’t know on what philosophic premise that Chef David Bouley reopened Bouley with, but I walked into the restaurant with the mindset that this was an above average French restaurant who was charging hard again for that fourth star. From pictures that I saw of the dining room, I expected it be more of an uptight sort of atmosphere than say Gramercy Tavern in which I took part in last week. I wanted the room to be elegant, the service to be pampering, and the food to be very French, though infused with heavily with new flavors.

I arrived late to the hulking door of Bouley, which looked like a cozy little spot along West Broadway, though I found the green Christmas lights outside on the bushes to look a little tacky, and I rushed in about 15 minutes late in meeting my friend, who had seated himself early. I took a quick glance over the menu, though I already had my heart set on the chef’s seasonal tasting menu. Our waitress was dressed very proper with jacket and tie, and the backwaiters actually looked like most frontwaiters would look, which really set a tone on what I was expecting that night. The room was dim and completely red, which might’ve been alright had I looked for a romantic evening, but tonight really wasn’t the case. There were booth seats against the back wall with soft-looking pillows, and each table was adorned with either their own small table lamp or candle. Everything that I came to expect as I settled into the comfortable chair. The flatware and serviceware looked elegant, and the room was filled maybe halfway with a crowd that was well... considerably older than we were. Haha. My only problems at the moment was that the cord from the table lamp was right in front of my foot, and I was having a hard time not kicking it. The problem with kicking it was that every time I did the light went out and it was completely dark for a second, which would get frustrating as the night progressed. Also, there was no music and there was this faint drone that I could hear, probably because of the air conditioning, but that too, became frustrating as the night went on. Our waitress said that the chef’s tasting menu was a ten-courser that the chef sends out as he is inspired. She quoted us a price tag which I found pretty agreeable. Double the amount of the regular tasting menu, and it was double the courses.

The Chef’s canapé came almost a second after she had left the table. A martini glass filled with parmesan foam, which they said was a parmesan cloud, apple, cauliflower, and grated hazelnut. It was a nice opening, as the foam was light and fluffy, and had a deep, rich parmesan flavor to it. The only problem with it was that I only wanted a bite of it, and being stated as an amuse or canapé, it should have been. This lasted a few bites though, and my second and third bites really became hard to swallow because of the richness of the foam.


Our first course was my favorite of the night. A warm seafood salad of diver scallop, squid, Maryland crab meat, and a phyllo-crusted shrimp with ocean herbal broth. All the components of this dish were cooked to perfection, with the diver scallop being the crown of it all, with its sweet, succulent flesh, and though I didn’t really see how the sauce was a broth, it complimented everything well. I really wondered how they had cooked the squid, as most that I’ve had tended to be at least somewhat chewy. This was not the case at all with this dish. Very nice start, I was excited about what was to come. However, in the middle of eating, the bread cart came around and interrupted us, and though their flaxseed bread was outstanding, I found it rather curious that a restaurant of this caliber wouldn’t wait till in between courses to present the bread.


Our next course was a yellowtail with ginger sauce and Japanese mushrooms. I couldn’t hear what the waitress said the mushrooms were called, so I figured I’d just look it up later on the menu. More on that later. The sauce tasted like the miso-ginger dressing that come on side salads at Japanese restaurants... which some might think bad of, but I love that sauce. Except this wasn’t grainy at all, it was smooth and thin and coated the yellowtail well. The mushrooms were a very nice compliment, almost having a comparable texture to the fish, which was very nice... it was like they felt soft against your tongue, but firm to the bite. Another nice dish on what had started out to be a nice meal.


Next came a Rouget with a crust of fingerling potatoes that had been seared crisp and cut to look like scales on the fish. It came with a saffron risotto, parmesan sauce, and a line of smooth tapenade sauce. What I loved about the way they cooked the fish was that the skin was still intact though they put the coat of fingerlings on top. Fish cooked with the skin on holds a lot more flavor, and the skin has a good contrasting flavor to the flesh, in my opinion. Everything on the left side of the plate went well together, the parmesan sauce, the saffron risotto, and the fish, but for some reason I just didn’t understand the tapenade sauce. Maybe it’s classical? To me it was just a very harsh flavor to what seemed to me to be a very controlled dish. Not too strong of a saffron flavor, not too strong of a parmesan flavor, but the tapenade... tasted like tapenade, very pungent. Everything else worked well, though.


The course after this was our egg course... and I want egg courses everywhere I go. I love them. This was an organic soft poached egg (from Chef Bouley’s farm up in Conneticut) with parmesan, truffle pate, Serrano ham, and 25 year old balsamic. My friend made the mistake of eating just the egg first, and decided that it needed salt. He then tasted it with all the components and regretted it. Haha. Everything on this dish had a very strong flavor, which was a nice idea considering the flavor of egg. Salty ham, truffly truffles, strong parm, sour balsamic, and when eaten together it was a great inhalation of different flavors, the most prominent being the truffle. I had two problems with this dish though, the egg, in my opinion, was overcooked. The yolk didn’t ooze when I cut into it, it sort’ve slowly dropped out... like The Blob, and also, we just had the flavor of parmesan in the last dish, and if you’ve read my report on WD-50 before, I hate the idea of having the same flavors in dishes over and over again, back to back, no less.


We then went to our fourth fish course of the night. Sturgeon with leaves of Brussels sprouts, mango, wild mushrooms, and truffle essence. This wasn’t a bad dish, though it, again tasted of truffles. Not that I hate truffles, because I love them, but it tasted like the last dish because the essence overpowered everything else. The only difference was a slight bitterness of the Brussels Sprouts, which I’m glad are getting their due nowadays, and the tougher texture of the sturgeon. Sturgeon isn’t the type of fish you can cut into with a fish knife, it doesn’t flake apart. You sort’ve have to pull it apart, and I’m not sure this was the right fish for this dish. If anything, this was one of the more unimpressive dishes of the night though I might’ve thought differently had it been served on its own in a dinner where the course beforehand didn’t taste like it.


Our last fish course was Maine Day-boat lobster with a ragout of fresh garbanzo beans and mango sauce. Mango again? The last dish didn’t taste of mango... but with the amount of great produce flowing around (even though it is winter) again, tasting menus should not have reoccurring flavors. This course somewhat baffled me. Up until now most all of the courses had a very French flavor. This course, however, was a complete switch in gears, as the mango sauce made it very... Thai flavored, almost. The lobster, just as everything had been up to this point, save maybe the egg, was cooked very well. The worked to an extent to fit the dish well, and the sauce was nice, but it was a very unexpected change in motif of the meal. Again, maybe in a different meal, with a different setting, and different courses, I would have loved this, but I was a bit confused.


Our first meat course came in the form of a small piece of seared foie gras with mango (Again?) Caviar, and beet puree. I was willing to overlook the repetition of mangos again because I love foie, and this dish was so good. A correctly seared piece of foie is magic in itself, but the flavors really worked on this one. The beet puree gave a nice neutral flavor as opposed to the sourness of the mango caviar and the foie gras flavor. Mine had a vein in it, but I’ve fabricated foie. Sometimes it happens... though I’m not sure a restaurant of this caliber, again, should let something like that happen.


Next came lamb, with a truffled potato puree... a green sauce which I forgot what it was, and a mixture of favas and peas with a reduction sauce. I loved the presentation of this dish, especially since the lamb had a good amount of height to it... and again, I’m not too fond of lamb, but this was surprisingly good. It again was cooked to perfection, and though I downed it in a few courses before, the truffles were once again welcome in this dish, just because I had a break from it. The beans, however, were undercooked, or cooked unevenly. Some of the favas were hard. Same with the peas.


Our final meat course was Texan Kobe Beef with a side of potato puree, parsley sauce, and... something that I forgot the name of. It was like... raw shallot-garlic... or something. I love Kobe beef, I’ve had it a few times, but most of those were Washington State bred. The difference I found from those and this beef was that the flavor of this beef came in very big as you put it in your mouth, it plateaued really quickly, and by the third chew, the flavor was gone. Again, potatoes were used as the starch in this dish, though I wouldn’t mind all my mashed potatoes to taste of this. Cheesy and silky smooth. I was a bit skeptical about the piece of raw garlic, but upon taking a bite of it with the piece of beef, it worked very well... the beef cancelled out the spicy raw taste that raw garlic brings, and it left a permeating taste in your mouth that went away easily with another bite.


Our first dessert course came in as a yogurt sorbet with honey gelee, and fresh citrus. This was a welcome dessert, a nice palate cleanser, though it would’ve been horribly rejected as a main dessert, but after having something like the garlic in the dish before, this was well thought out. The flavor was a bit sour, yet smooth. Nice start to the ending.


The next dessert was actually one of my favorite desserts that I’ve had so far in my adventures. It was a napoleon of sorts with a chantilly of pineapples, and curry ice cream. The standout in this was the curry ice cream, which was a sweet curry, and it wasn’t a bombarding flavor. Very gentle with hints of curry that went well with the crisp phyllo, and nice fruity firm flavor of the pineapples.


The next dessert though was mildly disappointing after the first one. It was a chocolate brioche with a saffron tuile, and what seemed to be a caramel ice cream. The brioche was very chewy and doughy in texture, and not at all what I was expecting. The tuile tasted too much of saffron and really didn’t seem to work very well with the other components of the dish, and the caramel ice cream was good, though I probably would have preferred just to eat a dish of the ice cream without the rest of it. Also, the waitress brought out a bottle of Olivares Dulce Monastures Port from Spain. 2000. Very strong bouquet, full of flavor of cherries and figs. I got tired of it after half the glass.


What came out next came out at the same time as the brioche dessert, which I found a bit baffling because it was two desserts that could have lost their properties with the heat of the room. It was a passion fruit parfait with mint granite, and a flash frozen block of white chocolate foam with yogurt sugar. The parfait was good. I could have ended it right there, but the block of foam was just too interesting. If you cut into it, it looked to have a cakey texture, but as you put it in your mouth it melted away to nothing. It was the most interesting of what I had eaten, though I found that there was too much of it.



If I were to grade Bouley on dishes alone, they would be up there. Way up there. Each dish alone had the chance to be great. Plate ups were good, and I loved the plates. Everything save an egg and some beans were cooked to perfection. I can tell that the back of the house is full of talented cooks. However, as a tasting menu, I came out very disappointed. The chef’s tasting menu should have enough thought put into it for there to be a myriad of flavors and combinations for the palate, not just a slapping together of your favorite dishes, which I thought it was. The progression of the food was nonexistent, and as I stated beforehand, there was just way too much of repetition of flavors. Too much mango, mango back to back, truffle back to back, yogurt used twice in four desserts. Also, I will admit that I’m a big eater, but in a tasting menu I want to come out full and satisfied. After this meal though, it hurt. Yeah, you could say that I should’ve stopped eating, but at this price, I don’t think I’ll ever do that. If I want to hurt after a meal, I’ll pay 10 dollars to go to China Buffet up here. I think that should have been taken into consideration.

Something also has to be said for service as well. I read reviews where service was spotty, and I was a little worried. I see what those reviewers meant. Our waitress was nice, and for us, the backwaiters seemed to be fine, but I saw dishes brought to the wrong seats at least two times that night on two different tables. Also, there was a definite lull in between courses. I should never ever yawn in between the course, and I never should run out of things to talk about with whoever I dine with. That said, I should never actually want to leave the restaurant, which near the end, I did. This wasn’t even a problem for just one or two dishes, there was a long wait in between every single course after the first course. We were there for close the four hours. It shouldn’t ever feel like we were there for four hours.

As for the price. I was quoted one price, but was charged more for it. I hate to be a stickler about price, but when you say 150, I want 150, not 175. I could have understood, as they may have charged a supplemental for the port that we didn’t ask for or the kobe beef that we didn’t ask for, but that wasn’t even put on the bill. However, I just didn’t feel like arguing at the end, as I just wanted to leave. Looking back on it, I may give them a call. Also as we were leaving, my friend asked for two copies of the chef's tasting menu and only one came back, so when I realized that outside I went back in to ask for another one and the reaction from one of the hostesses... was less then pleasant. An eye roll, but still. It left a sour taste in my mouth. One of the reasons I can't exactly name everything on my reviews too is because they gave me the wrong menu, as they gave me the regular tasting menu. I just didn't have the heart to go back and ask again.

I wanted to have something close to a four-star night this past Saturday, but it didn’t happen. The food is there, but just the thought process in what goes into a four-star restaurant seemed to be missing. There were a lot of loose ends that were never properly tied into place. I really wanted to love this restaurant, and I hate giving bad reviews, but I didn’t enjoy myself after the fifth course or so, which is a shame because all of the food was very, very good. Maybe I’m just not old enough for this type of restaurant yet. There was a considerable age difference between our table and the rest of the clientele, and maybe it was a bad idea ordering the Chef’s tasting. We might have been better off with the regular tasting which was considerably cheaper. I don’t think I got my money’s worth in what I was expecting. Though the food was great, there has to be something said about other things than just food. It’s only one of the pillars that hold up a house, without the others, the house will unstable or uneven. That’s what I thought my night was uneven, even again, as much as I enjoyed the food. I think Bouley was going for top notch, and priced it as so. It just didn’t quite reach it for me on this night.

Out of 10? A 3. I won’t be returning.

Next up (after the new year, Jan. 8th): Le Bernardin

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Again, a very detailed review that clearly explains how you judged the restaurant, which is more than we get from the main New York Times critic a lot of the time.

I have a minor question and a larger one:

(1) I'm unfamiliar with the terminology "front waiter" and "back waiter." Please explain what those roles consist of.

(2) How do you rate less expensive, less fancy restaurants? Do you figure that in each category, a 10 is possible? Could there be such a thing as a pizza place that rates a 10 in that category for you? The reason I ask is that I wonder how a rating of 3 for a meal at Bouley that did not include any raw chicken that had to be sent back extrapolates to ratings for a Grand Sichuan or a middle-priced place like Bianca.

Thanks a lot, and I look forward to each new installment.

Michael aka "Pan"


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I have a minor question and a larger one:

(1) I'm unfamiliar with the terminology "front waiter" and "back waiter." Please explain what those roles consist of.

(2) How do you rate less expensive, less fancy restaurants? Do you figure that in each category, a 10 is possible? Could there be such a thing as a pizza place that rates a 10 in that category for you? The reason I ask is that I wonder how a rating of 3 for a meal at Bouley that did not include any raw chicken that had to be sent back extrapolates to ratings for a Grand Sichuan or a middle-priced place like Bianca.

A front waiter is usually a person who has communication with the customer, in some restaurants there are more than one front waiter, but one will be a captain, as in to lead the team with decisions throughout the night. A backwaiter I believe is just an expanded version of the bussing position that you see in many other restaurants. They clear plates, refill water, but also in finer dining restaurants they replace silverwear and also are able to bring out food and tell descriptions to the table of what they're bringing out. Backwaiters usually also bring out bread, refill water and other drinks, and usually polish glasses at the end of the night etc. more of the back of the house sidejobs. I'm sure different people and different restaurants have different descriptions of these jobs, but from what I've experienced, this is a general overview.

As for my rating system I will be perfectly honest and tell you all that I have a hard time gadging these things sometimes, but I just really look at what I was expecting from the restaurant and then rate it on how much I think it fulfilled my expectations. Price does factor in because if I'm paying more, I want more. If the restaurant has a lot of hype around it, I want to see why... and no doubt, I could probably give a lower end restaurant a 10 if I just had a perfect night. If the food was great, if the service was attentive, if there were no lulls or hiccups in service, and I also take the "bang for the buck" factor into consideration. I even concede that the rating that I give a restaurant may not actually reflect the restaurant. It just reflects on what happened on my very own experience. A restaurant with usual bad service could get a high grade if they did everything correctly for me. A restaurant with usually outstanding service could get a low one if they kept on messing up that night. I've been in restaurants, I know it happens. I try to be as fair as possible for my ratings, but you know, just take them with a grain of salt. It's only my opinion. I'm not Bruni or anything. haha.

Though that would be a frickin great job though, wouldn't it?

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I'm excited to hear what you think of Le Bernardin, since Ripert's food is almost entirely different from what you've eaten on your journey so far.

What other restaurants are you considering? I'd imagine that one of the most exciting parts of your project would be sitting down with a pen and paper and making a list of all the places you plan to visit.

Also, do you plan on dining alone at all, or do you expect to find enough friends who can keep up with your eating and spending?

JJ Goode

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


"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 understand, Justin. As I said, you'd be a lot better as the main New York Times critic than Bruni, and with the budget you'd have then, you'd visit each restaurant several times, so the relatively better and worse experiences would have a chance to even out and cause your ratings to reflect more than one meal. Of course, I think that it's perfectly valid to rate a restaurant on the basis of one meal, with the caveats you added.

Thanks for the clarification on front and back waiters. I always assumed that there were waiters and bussers, and of course captains, but I didn't know about back waiters.

Michael aka "Pan"


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Oh, one thing about Le Bernardin: eGullet Society member and former Pastry & Baking Forum Host Michael Laiskonis is Pastry Chef there, so I hope you leave room for dessert and let us know what you think of Chef Laiskonis' creations.

Michael aka "Pan"


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