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Is formal dining holding its own?


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QUOTE Perhaps the confusion arises because there are new optionsplaces like Momofuku Ssamwhere you get haute European cooking without most of the trappings. But it's a misconception to suggest that

First, anyplace that forces a male to wear ties is out.   Second, anyplace that feels like a Cathedral and forces hushed tones is out.   Third, anyplace the accepts reservations appears to be on

Just because something is a ten-course New Nordic tasting menu, that doesn't make it fine dining. You still have to see how good the ingredients are and the kitchen work is. It could still be ambitiou

sorry, I was using "fine dining" to mean the chef's best work, or something aspiring to three michelin stars, etc. the larger point I'm making is that the newer type of restaurants you're pointing to should be in two groups, a group of small restaurants serving food that is the chefs best work, and some where the size of the space/kitchen does mean the stuff on the plate is not the same as the first group.

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Sneak and SL, yeah, that's it. Thought I was pretty explicit earlier before I started giving examples. Though there's still demand for something more traditional, even if it's more casual (ie. Jungsik, Ai Fiori, Nomad, Elm, maybe even Louro and I'm sure there are more).

 

Aaron - Yup, but I hear they cook in a pretty small place over at L'Astrance. But they're all cooking at a more ambitious, high end level even if they don't have the kitchen or desire to push to the very top. Annisa's not Anita Lo pushing for three stars, but it's accomplished, ambitious cooking.

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Yes, I think the examples didn't help, because they seemed to be examples of so many different things.

 

I also think "formal" is being calibrated very differently by different posters. Ai Fiori, The Nomad, The Elm--casual? Not in my book (I'll take Liquid's word on Jungsik). Ai Fiori is old-school, formal, hotel dining.

 

aifiori110221_560.jpg

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Jungsik is quite formal (and good).

 

There's a bit of an oddity here, coming from a scenario like

 

1) ADNY was the best restaurant in New York during its time

2) ADNY contributed much less to the broader dining scene than Brooklyn Fare

 

Or the LV dining scene as a whole.

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If Adrian is saying that you can find a version of formal dining and service in casual surroundings, that's exactly what I've been covering at the Pink Pig:

 

It's time to add a new creature to the bestiary, but what to call it? How about "homestyle fine dining"? Where the bistros typically offer a raw bar, charcuterie and cheeses, a burger, meat and fish from the grill, in robust portions, simply served, the "homestyle fine dining" venues push out carefully composed, artistically plated dishes, and sport service which--while casual--retains some of the tropes of swankiness. Okay, you need details. But first let me list some candidates. Gwynett Street and Battersby make the cut...

 

 

But it's hardly a mass trend.

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Yes, I think the examples didn't help, because they seemed to be examples of so many different things.

 

I also think "formal" is being calibrated very differently by different posters. Ai Fiori, The Nomad, The Elm--casual? Not in my book (I'll take Liquid's word on Jungsik). Ai Fiori is old-school, formal, hotel dining.

 

aifiori110221_560.jpg

Yes, that's correct. I've said as much (read my posts). Maybe some are slightly more casual than in the past, maybe some are not, doesn't matter because...

 

what I'm interested in is the presence of ambitious, high end cooking. I have no particular skin in the game of what kind environment serves that food. I'm glad that I can get it some place quieter and traditional, I'm glad that I can get it in slightly more casual places. If there's been a deficit in openings of the former sort, it's been made up for by a stunning number of very small openings of the latter sort (at least 8-10 in the past two years, at various levels of "fine dining")*. What I don't see is the entire ambitious food edifice crumbling. Certainly, I've seen a lot of better, newer places expose some older, more formal places as being style over substance.

 

And, certainly, I think that this whole "blame it on young people sucking back Shackburgers" meme a bit ridiculous. Not only because that group has never been the group that patronizes fine dining establishments, but because that group supports those really great small openings that serve ambitious food, while the 60 year olds who are supposed to be buying $2,000 bottles of 1977 Petrus Pomerol run Pugin out of Veritas.

 

*Torrisi 2.0, ZZs, BF (maybe 2.5 years), Blanca, Atera, Luksus, Battersby, Prospect, Gwynett Street, Maison Premiere, tasting counter at The Elm

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1) ADNY was the best restaurant in New York during its time

2) ADNY contributed much less to the broader dining scene than Brooklyn Fare

 

Or the LV dining scene as a whole.

As an fyi, that's about my feeling about JR Singapore, though the cooking we had was really, really inconsistent. But it's not just Brooklyn Fare that contributes more than ADNY, it's Sripraphi. JR is worse in that respect, no matter how good the cooking is.

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Yes, that's correct. I've said as much (read my posts). Maybe some are slightly more casual than in the past, maybe some are not, doesn't matter because...

But you raised it. It's really odd to pick out these as examples of "more casual" traditional restaurants (except Louro, which is at a whole other level of formality).

 

Sneak and SL, yeah, that's it. Thought I was pretty explicit earlier before I started giving examples. Though there's still demand for something more traditional, even if it's more casual (ie. Jungsik, Ai Fiori, Nomad, Elm, maybe even Louro and I'm sure there are more).

:shrug:

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Yes, that's correct. I've said as much (read my posts). Maybe some are slightly more casual than in the past, maybe some are not, doesn't matter because...

But you raised it. It's really odd to pick out these as examples of "more casual" traditional restaurants (except Louro, which is at a whole other level of formality).

 

Sneak and SL, yeah, that's it. Thought I was pretty explicit earlier before I started giving examples. Though there's still demand for something more traditional, even if it's more casual (ie. Jungsik, Ai Fiori, Nomad, Elm, maybe even Louro and I'm sure there are more).

:shrug:

 

I'm going to guess that The Elm is more casual as compared to places in the 1980s and 1990s, but so what? That's so far beyond my point (ambitious food isn't dying and, if it is in some sort of decline, you can't blame it on "uneducated" youthful hoards). They were cited as examples of "demand for something more traditional" with the condition that the "more traditional" even at that level may be more casual (though it may not be, as you show). I was talking with taion pages back about how The Nomad is like 2012's Cafe Boulud. Is it less formal? I neither know or care.

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I'm glad that I can get it in slightly more casual places. If there's been a deficit in openings of the former sort, it's been made up for by a stunning number of very small openings of the latter sort (at least 8-10 in the past two years, at various levels of "fine dining")*.

 

...

 

*Torrisi 2.0, ZZs, BF (maybe 2.5 years), Blanca, Atera, Luksus, Battersby, Prospect, Gwynett Street, Maison Premiere, tasting counter at The Elm

 

You see, there just isn't a stunning number unless you play fast and loose with your terms and examples.

 

Again, you say "more casual" without saying more casual than what. Like Ai Fiori, NoMad and The Elm, Atera isn't remotely casual. I haven't been to Blanca, but I have my doubts about that too.

 

The Elm serves food to people on stools as well as chairs? So does North End Grill. So what? And Maison Premiere and Luksus are relatively new restaurants (or a bar in the first case) which you may or may not like. Why are they specific examples of...something...?

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I'm going to guess that The Elm is more casual as compared to places in the 1980s and 1990s, but so what?

 

 

Which places? Service at The Elm is (intended to be) comparable with service at Corton.

 

That's so far beyond my point ...

 

 

Good, let's move on, because what you're showing is that there are some restaurants serving good food in casual surroundings, which is hardly in doubt.

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I'm not dwelling on this! Why are you focusing on level of formality? It doesn't matter to me whether Ai Fiori has bidet service or not. If it's as formal as The Four Seasons in 1987, all the better. If it's slightly less formal in that maybe jackets aren't required, cool. I think there's an overall societal trend towards a decline in formality, you may not, but I'm not particularly interested in that. If Blanca is formal, great, I don't care (but I thought your point was that "no one was opening formal restaurants anymore" and that the "kids don't want to dine formal-like" or something).

 

Maybe this is where we disagree. You seem to care about the level of formality that the food is served in. I don't. My questions are:

 

1. "are there still new restaurants that serve ambitious food?" The answer is clearly yes. There are lots. Not only are there traditional openings (which may or may not be less formal than equivalent restaurants from previous eras were, which I thought was part of your point, but I guess not) there are places that are serving ambitious food - the kind that can get michelin stars - in settings, of various levels of formality, where we may not have expected to find this kind of food before. There has been a substantial number of openings. I think ten or so is substantial. You don't. Okay. Either way, it helps to close any perceived "gap" in ambitious openings between now and unnamed point in history when things were awesome.

 

2. "are young people interested in eating ambitious food"? The answer to that seems to be pretty clearly yes as well. Many of these new places - Torrisi, Blanca, etc - are places that have focused on the younger audience. Furthermore, the outlets of the younger foodie audience promote ambitious food (which may be a kind of ambitious food that we don't like. That's a good conversation). Also, some traditional restaurants, such as LB and EMP, have been very successful at appealing to younger people and younger people who have an interest in food very much want to go to these places. If anything, it's restaurants catering to an older demographic that are struggling.

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