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Wilfrid1

Is formal dining holding its own?

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I haven't been in a long time, not because of any bad experiences, but because I went frequently over several years; time passes; new restaurants open. Same with Bouley, for example.

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I haven't been in a long time, not because of any bad experiences, but because I went frequently over several years; time passes; new restaurants open. Same with Bouley, for example.

Same. I was just wondering if anyone actually knows if the food is more formal/ less ambitious than in the past. I haven't been in years.

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Here's a thought: at all these really fancy places - Adour, BF, Blanca, Corton, The Elm - I've had dishes that were outright revelatory. As good as the casual places are, I've seldom had anything absolutely amazing there. Plenty of things that were very enjoyable and delicious, but nothing with the wow factor of what the best restaurants produce.

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"Seldom".

 

Is it structural? I think it's structural. I don't think casual "drop in and have whatever" is ultimately that conducive to the best food. Those kinds of places don't need to be great, the way something formal (either in the traditional sense or the Momo Ko sense) would have to be.

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Just a few thoughts on Adrian's hypothesis:

 

1) Wilfrid emphasizes (and Adrian ignores) critic culpability. When you've got Sam Sifton calling The Dutch "restaurant of the year," and Bruni equating Le Bec Fin to food trucks, you can't believe it has no effect on the market place.

 

2) Adrian torpedoes his own argument with the phrase "bidet service". I have never seen a bidet in a restaurant. Obviously, he is trying to describe the concept by insulting it at the same time.

 

3) I haven't seen any credible argument that places like Battersby, The Pines, and Gwynett Street, are as good as Union Pacific, Adour, and March in their heyday (even if you ignore service). If Adrian believes they are equivalent, then it's game, set, and match to Wilfrid.

 

4) For that matter, I'm not even persuaded that Chang's work at Ssam -- though remarkable for what it was -- was ever good enough or consistent enough to belong in the traditional three-star class (again, ignoring service).

 

5) When you limit the discussion to the places that actually do operate on that level, you're left with a remarkable number that do so at dining counters seating no more than 15-20 guests.

 

6) I'd say it's too soon to fit The Elm into this picture, because as good as it seems to be, many people seem think it won't last long in its current form.

 

7) I don't think Fine Dining is dying, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the overall level is lower than it used to be.

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As people here have said, NYC seems to be able to support about five or six four NYT star/3 Michelin star restaurants at a time.

 

That's a misstatement of what "people" have said—or at least, what I have said.

 

There seems to be an arbitrary policy at The Times that the number of four-star restaurants is fixed at about six. The last four demotions from the four-star level are Bouley, ADNY, Masa, and Daniel. It is far from clear that any of them actually declined(1); it was just a new critic exercising his prerogative to choose a different set of six restaurants.

 

Bruni replaced Bouley and ADNY with Per Se and Masa.(2) There's at least a defensible argument that Per Se was an upgrade over Bouley, but bear in mind, that was in the mid-2000s, a long time ago. Sifton replaced Masa with Del Posto, widely considered the weakest of the present four-stars.

 

It's still too soon to tell which restaurant will replace Daniel. Let's say for argument's sake that it's Brooklyn Fare.(3) Even if you assume that BF's food is better than Daniel's, the service model is widely viewed as tyrranical; Ramirez prepares just one menu per night, with no choice for the diner; and he has just 18 (or so) seats. There is, in many ways, a net loss compared to when Daniel was at its best(4), and I am not merely speaking to the removal of the bidets, to use your insulting term.

 

Notes:

(1) There's a reasonable case that Bouley declined after Grimes gave it four stars. I don't think there's a good case for the other three.

(2) Bruni also promoted EMP, but in that case there wasn't a corresponding demotion: the number of four-stars was at five for quite a while, and EMP was (at the time) the sixth.

(3) BF seems to be the most oft-named candidate for the sixth four-star restaurant. I have trouble imagining what else it could be.

(4) For the sake of argument, I am assuming that Daniel's food at some point was one of the six best in the city. I realize that some people never liked it, much as some people never liked Per Se, but I don't know how to have the conversation if we don't assume that every four-star restaurant deserved four stars at the time of its elevation.

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Just a few thoughts on Adrian's hypothesis:

 

1) Wilfrid emphasizes (and Adrian ignores) critic culpability. When you've got Sam Sifton calling The Dutch "restaurant of the year," and Bruni equating Le Bec Fin to food trucks, you can't believe it has no effect on the market place.

 

2) Adrian torpedoes his own argument with the phrase "bidet service". I have never seen a bidet in a restaurant. Obviously, he is trying to describe the concept by insulting it at the same time.

 

3) I haven't seen any credible argument that places like Battersby, The Pines, and Gwynett Street, are as good as Union Pacific, Adour, and March in their heyday (even if you ignore service). If Adrian believes they are equivalent, then it's game, set, and match to Wilfrid.

 

4) For that matter, I'm not even persuaded that Chang's work at Ssam -- though remarkable for what it was -- was ever good enough or consistent enough to belong in the traditional three-star class (again, ignoring service).

 

5) When you limit the discussion to the places that actually do operate on that level, you're left with a remarkable number that do so at dining counters seating no more than 15-20 guests.

 

6) I'd say it's too soon to fit The Elm into this picture, because as good as it seems to be, many people seem think it won't last long in its current form.

 

7) I don't think Fine Dining is dying, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the overall level is lower than it used to be.

 

Well I agree with that, including 4). Welcome back.

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