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C restaurant - over rated or what?


DJOblong
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Hope that title got some attention.

I tried the 14-course tasting menu at C the other night and was not very impressed I must say. It really struck me as a matter of style over substance. Clearly here is an executive chef who has been keeping pace with the trends towards customised serving crockery/plates, innovative use of non-traditional elements and the school of presentation, presentation, presentation. I have had limited opportunities to eat out in Vancouver and was recommended to C by a number of friends. Given the rare occasion I thought it best to sample the chef's tasting menu to truly sample the best this establishment had to offer.

I found the first 3 dishes of the night quite 'showy' and not really one stand-out among them. I don't know if I suffer from small town mentality but if you are going to excel in the presentation stakes I would expect a taste to match:

Cured Trout

asparagus salad, yoghurt - this was dominated by the presence of a large icey ily sphere filled with what was presumably the yoghurt, which itself was quite tasty. The ice sphere was not explained and the waiter did not recommend whether to eat it or not but it collapsed as cracked open so was difficult to avoid all together. It was over icey and kind of dominated the dish. The trout seemed like an after thought.

Sablefish Cheek Confit

tarragon, brioche - I think this was the most disappointing dish on the menu. I have not had sablefish before and it was featured twice here. This first instance was like a terrine and quite a fishy flavour. There was a small sherry reduction which may have been nice however was in too small a quantity to really be noticeable. It may have helped a dish that to me was in dire need of some help.

Evergreen Steamed Salmon

morels, pinenuts - Not a bad dish but again not spectacular and even a little bland.

'Virtual' Smoked Kagan Bay Scallop

cedar, matcha - This was perhaps the most innovative presetnation with what was apparently a customised smoking vessel, resembling an upside down wine goblet. The scallop was skewered on the top pipette so as to best capture the smokiness rising from the cedar. A well cooked scallop and nice smoky flavour. Good dish.

Seared Foie Gras

brioche, pistachio, meyer lemon - Probably the best dish of the night. Strange that this was best despite C being renowned as a seafood restaurant. The brioche was a little crumbly and difficult to compose into forkfuls. I think a slightly softer brioche with a cripsy outisde (maybe slighly thicker cut) would work better (IMHO).

Braised Globe Artichoke

crispy halibut side, parsley - It came with a 'parsley salad' - i.e. some parsley flakes. I think the descriptions on the table menu differ slightly from those taken here from the on-line menu. Again not a bad dish but not special.

Grilled 'Ultra Rare' Albacore Tuna

confit fennel risotto, house made bacon, salsa verde - Lovely piece of tuna. Very nice dish.

Roasted '200 Mile' Sablefish

seville orange, bread, sablefish 'chorizo', green beans - This was the second coming of the sablefish and again disappoitning. I guess I will put this down to a general distasste for the sablefish, one I will avoid in future.

Crisp Pork Terrine

organic peas, black truffle - Nice however I am having difficulty even remembering the taste of this 2 days on. Maybe it was the sheer number of the 14 dishes...

Dry-aged 'AAA' Beef Striploin

beef shortrib, brown butter, shallot - I would have liked a richer jus with this. The short rib did not pack as much of a punch as I thought it would. Just OK.

Rhubarb Soda

chocolate, caramelized cream - I think this was replaced with a small puff pastry and a blueberry soda shot on the night? A nice palate cleanser.

Farmhouse 'St. George' Goat Cheese

lavender, honeycomb, grilled bread - One of the highlights of the night. Delicious.

Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

banana jelly, peanut brittle - Strong chocolate taste. Very nice but not memorable.

Piconcillo Crème Brulee

roast cinnamon, hibiscus, mexican chocolate - Also delicious.

Migardise ?

All in all I think maybe a 15/20. Where 18/20 is superb, 20/20 perfect (e.g. the Fat Duck, which I would class as a 20). I have had maybe 2 dozen tasting menus in my life at restaurants in New York, London, Paris, Sydney, San Francisco among others. This was certainly in the bottom 5. Assuming this is the best the chef has to offer methinks I will try Mr Feenie's cuisine at Lumiere for a similar style of dinig experience next time. In fact I wish I had sent my $500 his way after watching a repeat of his Iron Chef victory over the weekend.

Anyone agree/diagree strongly with this review?

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Nice run down on the degustation menu. I've eaten at Lumiere, Fat Duck, El Bulli, and Tetsuya's and I would put the "C" degusation menu in the same field in the order of Tetsuya's, The Fat Duck, Lumiere, El Bulli, and C.

For a city of our size I'm convinced "C" and Lumiere are gems to be appreciated at low prices compared to the above mentioned establishments.

The wine list at "C" is better than Lumiere and service second to none. To get back to the subject heading; no I do not think "C" is overrated.

Cheers,

Stephen

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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Thanks for the feedback.

Ah El Bulli - never had the pleasure. Tetsuya's - my wife ate there and found it a bit over-rated also. We both found the tasting menu at Becasse in Sydney better and staggering due to the rate at which the menu items are rotated (i.e. weekly) & quality maintained. I have eaten at the Fat Duck and that was definitely in a different league to C IMHO. I would actually say it was the best gastronomic experience of my life. Essenitally flawless. I walked away from C thinking it was very good but I floated out the door of the Fat Duck in a state of bliss.... Plus I think I can almost still remember every dish 1 year down the track.... :)

I agree C had good service. Not too cloying and definitely very efficient.

I must try Lumiere next.

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I do agree that the Fat Duck puts you in a state of bliss and we will always have a great memory as well. I have to admit my wife and I have a soft spot for "C" we had a wedding luncheon there nine years ago with 60 friends and family and we have eaten there every anniversay save one which was at El Bulli.

Cheers,

Stephen

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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On my last visit to Vancouver/Victoria the highlight was dinner at C, so I must also disagree.

Not sure how we diverged around the world as C honestly isn't in the league of some mentioned. But I endorse Becasse (a great meal - best place in Sydney and far more exciting than Tetsuya). And (although this should probably be in several different forums) what disappointed me about both Tetsuya and Fat Duck was the 'age' of the dishes - the menu at both seems stuck - same dishes on offer for many moons now. Won't argue with the quality, but why return to have an almost identical meal?

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Bully for all of you world travellers ! It must be nice to have eaten at these places just please do not do anything so over the top as to post a picture of the bill. That would be too much to take.

I jetted over to Kits ( drove my Chevy real fast ! ) and had a taco at the Taco place. I had a bottle of imported ( Mexican ) soda.

:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

Sorry guys, just takin' the piss.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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We've been to C on three occasions over five years and each experience was unfortunately more disappointing than the last, despite our abiding hope that it should be otherwise.

We have access to some very good seafood here in British Columbia and C in particular is widely respected for sourcing the freshest, best and most sustainable species on the coast. The focus is pretty much exclusively on fish and shellfish. The wine list is tailored to match. It may not be Fat Duck/Tetsuya's/El Bulli expensive, but it ain't cheap either, so for all these reasons our expectations are justifiably high.

The problem is, nothing has ever stood out for us. It's hard to remember much about any of the dishes we've had - even the 'signature' ones. This last time my wife's scallops were overdone - a cardinal sin for any seafood restaurant, much less one of C's stature. My friend found the 'chorizo' in his "sablefish chorizo" overpowered the sablefish. I'm a big fan of sablefish, but had a similar premonition and ordered the lobster salad instead (okay, but nothing special). Diva at the Met, IMHO, does sablefish - aka Alaska black cod - the way it should be done.

It's something of a mystery to me why C gets so many raves. Based on our experience, when it comes to quality and price, there are many mid-priced restaurants in Sydney and Barcelona which could run circles around C.

Fortunately, we have other options here in Vancouver, where the price of that chef's menu would be enough for eight people to eat extremely well at just about any decent Chinese seafood restaurant in town.

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Personally I think Sablefish is underrated. I have been quite lucky in my life to have fished our coastal waters so much I personally feel guilty for having caught so much coho, spring, rockcod, ling, snapper etc. Unfortunately, I've never caught a sablefish. But it hasn't stopped me from loving it. The fat that exists between the meat and the skin is definitely fishy ... quite gross actually. Far be it from me to suggest it wasn't cooked right, but the meat on Sablefish is amazing. Don't give up on this fish.

I've also had the big tasting menu at C, and like you, I would count the best dish as a meat dish. I came away suspecting that they likely do a much better job on their a la carte menu than the tasting menu.

Regardless C, is a great restaurant, but the point of this post is to herald Sablefish (not that I want the price driven up), not everything will be loved by everyone, but ... give it another try.

Personally, any nice briney marinade for ~5 hours, baked upside down on parchment for enough time to render, peel off the skin, serve with a citrus based sauce (no butter, sable is rich enough itself) ... best fish on the west coast.

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Hope that title got some attention.

I agree with Stephen ... nice run down on the menu. Nicely written, well described as to likes/dislikes & why/why not. The post could have stood on it's own without the attention grabbing headline.

And your experiences are not without company. HERE is a thread from a few years back. "C", like Feenie, seems to be a favorite whipping-boy around here.

A.

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Thanks all

Hey great to hear frmo another fan of Becasse! Getting a little off topic for a sec your comments are spot on around restaurants stuck in time with their menus. I'm wondering whether because 'lighthouse' restaurants like those mentioned get such a wide and diverse audience that they like to keep the menu the same/similar so that each new visitor experiences a similar meal. This obviously punishes regular/local diners to some extent.

But back to Becasse. I have had the tasting menu there about 3 times and each time it has been 100% different. That was over the course of 6 months. Justin North has to be one of the hardest working chefs in Sydney to be so constantly changing his menu and still blowing minds with every incarnation of the menu. He even has (not sure if it's still going on) a monthly regional tasting menu based on cuisine from a select region of Europe. From what I could remember this was literally a one off. AMazing work ethic. It helps that they used to only open for dinner Wed-Sat or Sun - I guess it gives them to time to plan.

North really leaves the old workhorses of the Sydney fine dining scene like Rockpool and Tetsuya's for dead in my mind. back to estufarian's comments it's kind of like those are the old Empires who have stagnated and Becasse is a new buck of a Republic on the scene. I must also give 'props' to Restaurant Balzac in Randwick. Another ex-Banc chef creating a new, vibrant restaurant on the site of an old Pizza Hut no less!

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"....your experiences are not without company. HERE is a thread from a few years back. "C", like Feenie, seems to be a favorite whipping-boy around here."

Beat me to the "punch" Daddy-A...when I first saw the title I wondered if "Cabrales" was back

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Thanks for the linky Daddy-A

This comment is absolutely hilarious:

"Yes, I have been quite afraid of C restuarant for awhile now. Oatmeal oil? Dijon Mereingue? Come on.

It seems part of this rising trend in food nowadays to place odd ingredients together indiscriminately. Have you heard of argan oil? Here it is! Taste. What could be more decadent than eating gold leaf with caviar? Nothing, taste!"

LOL. I don't remember anything on the current menu sounding quite as silly but it's definitely still not quite exactly there.

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C does occasionally suffer from a need to make the menu items look interesting, then trying to catch up with the dish itself. If you stick to their more simple items they can produce an excellent meal. I once had a halibut there with summer peas that was wonderful. When you start to design a menu for its impact and shock value and stop designing a menu for the taste and palate then you have to question why. Is it an overwhelming need to be different and unique at the expense of the food? Is it an owner directed mandate that the Chef must produce food that makes media write about it rather then regular clients actually enjoy eating it? I wonder what their goals are at C?

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  "C", like Feenie, seems to be a favorite whipping-boy around here.

Well Rob Feenie himself was quoted on C in The Globe and Mail by one Alexandra Gill back on 22 June, 2002:

" I piss a lot of people off,' he says. "It's fun to stir the pot."

....

"... when they ask me about C, I tell them they have to go there too.  Not for the food.  I think the food is awful.  But I tell them they have to go there because it has one of the most spectacular views in the city."

The article was titled "Cooking up a storm, with a side of rebellion". Feenie is taking a decidedly more statesmanlike approach these days.

Some restaurants, and some people, inspire strong reactions - postive or negative - C and Feenie seem to belong in that category. Both appear to be surviving quite well despite the critics.

Cheers,

Anne

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Beat me to the "punch" Daddy-A...when I first saw the title I wondered if "Cabrales" was back

I was wondering the same thing- she went on for over two years being negative about "c" and would not let anyone have a different opinion. She realy had a great hate on going.

"C" is a restaurant that has a very creative bend and sometimes people will get lost on its appoach- it is like Jazz or any other art form sometimes it is so outhere the audience can not understand or maybe is not there ( same head space).

art for art sake?

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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'Virtual' Smoked Kagan Bay Scallop

cedar, matcha - This was perhaps the most innovative presetnation with what was apparently a customised smoking vessel, resembling an upside down wine goblet. The scallop was skewered on the top pipette so as to best capture the smokiness rising from the cedar. A well cooked scallop and nice smoky flavour. Good dish.

Maybe it's the engineer in me but that description makes me want to find out what the deal is with this dish! Upside down wine goblet? Pipette? Smoke? Damn.

And certainly I will be more likely to see this thing that say that crazy contraption at el buli which involves a boiling item next to a cool one with no apprent divider between the two.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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'Virtual' Smoked Kagan Bay Scallop

cedar, matcha - This was perhaps the most innovative presetnation with what was apparently a customised smoking vessel, resembling an upside down wine goblet. The scallop was skewered on the top pipette so as to best capture the smokiness rising from the cedar. A well cooked scallop and nice smoky flavour. Good dish.

Maybe it's the engineer in me but that description makes me want to find out what the deal is with this dish! Upside down wine goblet? Pipette? Smoke? Damn.

And certainly I will be more likely to see this thing that say that crazy contraption at el buli which involves a boiling item next to a cool one with no apprent divider between the two.

I have a picture from a magazine at home... I will post it tonight! (I'm a slave for engineers anyway, so I might as well be yours too! :wink: )

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I'd consider C among one of the best in the city and have no problem recommended it to out-of-town guests.  It has yet to disappoint.

We find it hit and miss.

We took some out of town guests there again a couple of days ago. One persons raved about their meal - and four were underwhelmed or disappointed.

For one thing this business of taking portion control to extremes seems to be increasingly creeping into C's menu items. As an example I had a foie gras mousse - which was spread flat on my plate, but if you scraped it into a mass it would be no bigger a single piece of penne. My sablefish appetizer - well the fish content was no bigger than my little finger. And I am not referring to the tasting menu.

We are not big eaters - but when the entire party is left hungry after a three course meal - you feel like someone is taking the piss.

The other point is the one made by wine and roses above. What is the point of this seemingly exclusive focus on methd? Art for arts sake? The triumph of culinary method over customer satisfaction?

I made this point in another thread - but we have many visitors from Europe - and none can understand why Vancouver doesn't have a dozen seafood restaurants on the water, serving just fresh fish simply but expertly prepared. There seems to be no middle ground between the Cannery and C. Feast or famine.

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I made this point in another thread - but we have many visitors from Europe - and none can understand why Vancouver doesn't have a dozen seafood restaurants on the water, serving just fresh fish simply but expertly prepared.

Amen!

A.

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It's something of a mystery to me why C gets so many raves.  Based on our experience, when it comes to quality and price, there are many mid-priced restaurants in Sydney and Barcelona which could run circles around C. 

Yup. That is my point. And it is not just Sydney or Barcelona. It is virtually every town anywhere in the Med. You can have a fresh plate of Barbounia with lemon and garlic in any of a thousand (I do not think this is an exaggeration) in the Med., and it will be better tasting, and fresher and better value for money than just about anything we have ever had at C.

I just had an e-mail from our friends (from Italy) with whom we dined at C a couple of days ago, and they thanked us copiously for a great visit - but also suggested that we should not take good friends to C in future. They thought it was completely out of line with what they had been led to expect. Indeed they brought with them a clipping from an Italian magazine that claimed C was the best seafood restaurant in Canada - and they just could not believe this.

They went on to point out that in San Remo, where they live, C would be considered an eccentric anomaly that would not survive for more than a few months.

Harsh words perhaps. But why can no one just do a decent plate of fish in this town - without tarting things up...stuffing things into timbales... stacking things into layers... rolling things into little rolls... or squaring things into little cubes etc? Is anyone really fooled by this? Our European friend don't get it and neither do we.

Would love to hear something sensible in response from people who have spent $130.- upwards per person at C (with wine) and would contemplate going back there again.

Anyone?

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QUOTE(Ducky @ Aug 9 2006, 06:58 PM)

I made this point in another thread - but we have many visitors from Europe - and none can understand why Vancouver doesn't have a dozen seafood restaurants on the water, serving just fresh fish simply but expertly prepared.

The Vancouver Market is really not that big so to have a half dozen restaurants specialising in seafood for a market of 250,000 people is a little over the top, but you can get fresh seafood at many of the good local high end restaurants.

The other main problem is the way we in Canada export all of what we produce, so much of the best stuff is sold over seas and a major percentage of Wholesalers who sell to restaurants is not that big. Albion seafood is one of the biggest to sell to restaurants and many of the smaller ones buy from them, so unless you are buying a tonne of fish your options are limited.

Billingsgate out of Calgary has similarly buying power as Albion so you can get as good seafood in Alberta as good as you can in Vancouver. This is one strange phenominom -yes it is a little mixed up but that is the way it is. We need to stop exporting so much and sell to the local market. Fisherman would be happy to have the cushy support milk gets. A Canadian market that never goes down and a price that is always subsidized, this alone is one confusing thing. We would have so much seafood if the business got the subsidies the dairy industry receives.

The other thing is Vancouver is one of the toughest places to make money in the restaurant business. The customers in Vancouver have spent all their money on their houses and cars and are not willing to pay what it really cost to have a great meal. Dinner prices should be in the 30-40 dollar range not 20-30 range.

There really is only room for so many restaurants and the Vancouver market is taped out. The tourist market is what keeps many places alive. If it were not for that extra seating each night from the Concierge dept of all the hotels many of Vancouver's restaurants that have been around would not be here. Also if many of the old stand byes had to get into the market today they would have a really hard time. The last twenty years in Vancouver you have five open and five close. We really have not grown that much in overall numbers in high end fine dinning. We have the same hard core group who all have been here for a while and they work their but off to keep margins and stay in business it is not a cake walk for any of them. The days are numbered for cheap food in Vancouver, Soon you will all have to pay and pay to get a meal. The labour shortage will have to be addressed by increased wages plus the increase in all cost and high rent will be the end of one of the cheapest dinning cities in north America.

I just saw opening soon and some restaurant spent 3.5 million to open up in the westin in San Fransisco, what do you think they are charging?

So I say enjoy what you have and get out there and enjoy cheap local seafood before you have to get a second job to go out.

Steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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QUOTE(Ducky @ Aug 9 2006, 06:58 PM)

I made this point in another thread - but we have many visitors from Europe - and none can understand why Vancouver doesn't have a dozen seafood restaurants on the water, serving just fresh fish simply but expertly prepared.

The Vancouver Market is really not that big so to have a half dozen restaurants specialising in seafood for a market of 250,000 people is a little over the top, but you can get fresh seafood at many of the good local high end restaurants.

The other main problem is the way we in Canada export all of what we produce, so much of the best stuff is sold over seas and a major percentage of Wholesalers who sell to restaurants is not that big. Albion seafood is one of the biggest to sell to restaurants and many of the smaller ones buy from them, so unless you are buying a tonne of fish your options are limited.

Billingsgate out of Calgary has similarly buying power as Albion so you can get as good seafood in Alberta as good as you can in Vancouver. This is one strange phenominom -yes it is a little mixed up but that is the way it is. We need to stop exporting so much and sell to the local market. Fisherman would be happy to have the cushy support milk gets. A Canadian market that never goes down and a price that is always subsidized, this alone is one confusing thing. We would have so much seafood if the business got the subsidies the dairy industry receives.

Steve

I don't know how Vancouver can possibly compare in the seafood market with Europe (especially the southern parts) and Asia. Just watching some televised shows such as Anthony Bourdain, Mario's when he had that one with his buddy in Italy, even Jamie Oliver, et al, the seafood available overseas is absolutely amazing in it's wide selection of choices and freshness. I realize it is tv, but I've never seen anything like that here, and seems almost as if the local selections are diminishing? Makes me wonder how they can get sooo much out of the oceans surrounding Singapore and Hong Kong, and their harbours are infinitely busier and more congested (pollution?) than our waterways. :unsure: Isn't quite a bit of the seafood/fish offered at some local "seafood" spots imported (such as at the Cannery, KoF, Boathouse, Cardero's, Sandbar etc.?)

"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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Interesting thread! I think that it is unfortunate that C is bearing the brunt of the scorn here, afterall these guys are helping to establish local product diversity with an ethical bent (they seemingly realise that good food derives from good ingredients). There are few others that the same can be said. Yep the good(indeed majority) catch goes abroad, firstly because this market is small & that other societies are willing to pay more for fish. Cheap food is on the way out- we should rejoice & begin to value food for all it's worth. It would be liberating for restaurants in Vancouver if the full diversity of species can be accepted & enjoyed by an enthusiastic population. Ling Cod is slowly creeping up the charts as a popular fish, rightly so, but can still be bought at good value. It seems in europe there is little by-catch because there is always something you can do- zuppa de pesce etc... It really has been C, Bluewater & ethnic retaurants that have pushed local "by-catch" on menus & then sparingly. Too many restaurants are complicit in offering no diversity in menu choices adding credo to the notion that the public wants a plethora of banality(thank god for progressive ethnic eateries- could be a link there??). C should be appluaded as far as pushing public perceptions of food toward a more open minded & thoughtful approach, we need more like them that engage the mind aswell as the jaw.

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C should be appluaded as far as pushing public perceptions of food toward a more open minded & thoughtful approach, we need more like them that engage the mind aswell as the jaw.

I applaud C for all of the reasons you mention although, it has to be said, the ability to "engage my mind" is not one of the criteria by which I generally choose a restaurant. That said, not only didn't I feel that my mind was unduly engaged at C, but, sadly, my jaw was decidedly underengaged.

Undoubtedly this town should have a restaurant like C - creative presentations, tiny portions built around a fish theme. A place where dieters and bulimic fashion models can dine with confidence.

But as I said, we all felt "had" after our recent meal there. It's almost like the owners asked themselves "how can I get these guys to pay the highest possible price for the absolute minimum of ingredients?" and then decided that a combination of "fussy presentation" and "clever plating" was the answer.

There's a wonderful line in the introduction to Bourdain's "Les Halles Cookbook" where he describes, how unsatisfied he and his mates were after a meal in one of the best restaurants in the US, after many courses of lovely and cleverly presented food. On pondering this one of the company concluded that the chef cooked like he "had never been properly f___ed in his life."

That could have been us after our evening at C.

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