Monday, September 22, 2008

A Great Restaurant

(yep that's me)

"How many restaurants in the city will serve you that" quoted one chef (yea take that Mrs. *** I started with a quote), "not many" I thought to myself, gazing down at the fermented black bean paste vinaigrette. I licked a spoon clean, savoring the salty, sweet, sour, and slightly bitter dressing, created by combining fermented black bean paste with lime and honey, among other ingredients. The question made me think about restaurants, and what determines their greatness.

We were in the process of determining what was to go in the salad for the night. Figs had been decided on- there was a surplus. I thought I was soooo smart when I voiced my idea of goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette to one of the chefs, yet received a verbal slap in the face when I was told something along the lines of "do you know how many restaurants in the city serve that" (obscenities removed for your reading pleasure)? What was I thinking? I had been thinking of a classic, no risk, sure to taste good combination. Was I an idiot? I was thinking far outside the lines of Lacroix's philosophy. People don't come to Lacroix for rare cooked tuna and wasabi mashed potatoes. They come for tuna carpaccio, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and Chinese barbecue spice, topped with tangerine segments and fingerling potato chips, garnished with micro basil. Lacroix prides itself on ingenuity, not continuity.

(psst, I plated that)

Lacroix's greatness resides in its ability to wow you with new foods and flavor combinations, without forgoing importance of taste, whereas a bistro like Parc aims to wow you in its recreation of the classics. Both can be great, but they are in different realms of greatness. I would call Chipotle an incredible restaurant, but could I compare it to a restaurant with a completely different aim and philosophy? Absolutely not. Maybe all restaurants shouldn't be rated 1-30 on food by Zagat. Most restaurants aim for great food, yet there are definite sub-categories determining how they go about doing so. Can Qdoba really get a 17 while Le-Bec Fin gets a 27 (actual 2009 Zagat rankings)? Is their food even somewhat comparable. Both are great in their own sense (at least I think so, big greasy burritos, and roast rack of lamb both hit the spot at different times).

Ultimately, it seems restaurants become greater through improvement along the lines of its philosophy. Does that make sense? In other other words, whether it be wowing diners with flavors they won't get anywhere else, or impressing them with a perfectly crafted classic, it seems to all come down to refinement and delicacy, in performance, execution, and artisanship, or as Thomas Keller calls it, finesse.


Craig Dryhurst said...

Hi, ive just been reading your blog and it is refreshing to see somebody jumping straight in and getting great experience in a great restaurant. Keep up the great blog and enjoy cooking.

Sarah Goodman said...

This is a great blog. We're so glad that we can share this beautiful moment with you.
You're probably wondering who this is, and we don't know how to tell you this, but it's Sarah and Emily.
We'll be back soon! Keep up the good work!