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The Platt Thread

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Great piece, but isn't the Sneak response that it's really good to have competent Ed Sheehan joints in neighborhoods where a few years back it was Chinese or pizza? Like, these may not be so good, but the standard is rising.

 

I think I am too old to find the reference.

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This sorta hits the nail on the head, no?

 

But for all sorts of reasons — the high cost of doing business in the city, the erosion of the classic “gourmet” culture — agreeable trends like bar dining, neighborhood dining, and the farm-to-table craze have merged into a single, increasingly formulaic genre that is at odds with what’s left of the city’s cutting-edge dining culture.

With its high barriers to entry and traditionalist meat-and-potato tastes, New York City has never been an entirely hospitable place for rabble-rousing or avant-garde cooking, of course

 

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This sorta hits the nail on the head, no?

 

 

 

But for all sorts of reasons — the high cost of doing business in the city, the erosion of the classic “gourmet” culture — agreeable trends like bar dining, neighborhood dining, and the farm-to-table craze have merged into a single, increasingly formulaic genre that is at odds with what’s left of the city’s cutting-edge dining culture.

With its high barriers to entry and traditionalist meat-and-potato tastes, New York City has never been an entirely hospitable place for rabble-rousing or avant-garde cooking, of course

 

Yep. And I find myself wondering why I don’t think this is a bad thing.

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Great piece, but isn't the Sneak response that it's really good to have competent Ed Sheehan joints in neighborhoods where a few years back it was Chinese or pizza? Like, these may not be so good, but the standard is rising.

 

I think I am too old to find the reference.

 

Right.

 

The problem is more the fundamental economics of the city. The presence of baseline quality restaurants where you can get a halfway decent crudo plate and a decent pork-chop or plate of pasta is a step towards a model where there's a standard, replacement level vernacular cuisine that exists to satisfy a more functional kind of dining. No one complains about good trattorias in Rome or izakayas and ramen places in Tokyo or bistros in Paris or Montreal or various cantinas in Mexico City. If all of those places had to show "ambition" or "creativity" the scene would be comical and tiring, or if they were all bad Chinese and pizza it would just be bad. An ocean of New American filler restaurants is a good thing.

 

The issue is that, even for a high earning professional like Sneak, the economics of NY make it that even your Wednesday New American meal is $200+ for two with a bottle of wine and that's hard to justify with regularity for a lot of diners (even high income ones).

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You're right that the main problem is that it's hard to justify $200 for mid-week New American filler.
 
But that's still only part of what's wrong.
 
One other thing that's wrong is that we AREN'T really getting a lot of New American filler restaurants.  As Platt complains, we're getting a lot of rustic Italian filler restaurants.  I love rustic Italian as much as the next guy, but come on.  First, it isn't local vernacular cooking, and isn't contributing to the development of a local vernacular cuisine.  Second, delicious as it is, it's still basically home comfort cooking, and at least for me hard to justify paying for.  Every time I think of walking over to Fausto, I end up concluding . . . what for?
 
Furthermore -- and this is obviously where I differ from Steve, as the rest of this paragraph is going to make clear -- we're seeing the LCD of even the kind of food that's being presented now.  Not in terms of quality, but conceptually:  in terms of creativity, challenge, etc.  I've already mentioned Fausto, and it's obviously at the center of Platt's essay (although unnamed).  But Fausto is exemplary here.  The contrast between it and the restaurant it replaced shows exactly what I think has gone wrong.  Franny's was a fairly radical, conceptually challenging restaurant.  It challenged you, it educated you, it made you think about food and food culture -- all while staying delicious.  That's what NBC was like, originally.  But now, mainly, it's places like Fausto:  well-executed comfort food.  (There are exceptions, like, in the New American genre, Otway -- but oddly, they tend to be ignored.  That's why even those of us who have reservations about Olmsted and its food are so happy about their huge success.)
 
It's not a coincidence that the rustic Italian style that Platt writes about as predominating is the easiest, least surprising, least challenging cuisine you can imagine.
 
Now Steve will say he doesn't want to be challenged or made to think:  he wants dinner.  I see his point.  But (circling back to Adrian's point) not for $100+ per person.  Especially when these restaurants are just serving stuff that I could make myself.
 
But let's not forget the easy-eating problem, along with the price problem.  To echo Platt, you reach a point where you're getting so constantly coddled, so infantilized, you just want (channeling Dorothy Parker) to Fwow Up.

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The issue is that, even for a high earning professional like Sneak, the economics of NY make it that even your Wednesday New American meal is $200+ for two with a bottle of wine and that's hard to justify with regularity for a lot of diners (even high income ones).

 

This, for sure.

 

You're right that the main problem is that it's hard to justify $200 for mid-week New American filler.

 

But that's still only part of what's wrong.

 

One other thing that's wrong is that we AREN'T really getting a lot of New American filler restaurants. As Platt complains, we're getting a lot of rustic Italian filler restaurants. I love rustic Italian as much as the next guy, but come on. First, it isn't local vernacular cooking, and isn't contributing to the development of local vernacular cooking. Second, delicious as it is, it's still basically home comfort cooking, and at least for me hard to justify paying for. Every time I think of walking over to Fausto, I end up concluding . . . what for?

But I take issue with your statement, "delicious as it is..."

 

Because I don't really think restaurants here do rustic Italian that deliciously...or that well.

 

I might even dare to say I do it so much better at home.

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The issue is that, even for a high earning professional like Sneak, the economics of NY make it that even your Wednesday New American meal is $200+ for two with a bottle of wine and that's hard to justify with regularity for a lot of diners (even high income ones).

 

 

It'd be amazing if it were really $200, but you only get that about 50 minutes out in Brooklyn.

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Entrees at fucking Porsena are $35. The pork entree at Estela, which if you've had you know is about half the size of what would normally pass as an entree is $37...

 

Using traditional menu math - dinner = 2 * entree + $5 for incidentals + wine priced like entree per person, this works out to $143pp after tax and tip, except of course because of entree sizes you're sort of expected to take five plates for two people so it ends up being $150+pp.

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Entrees at fucking Porsena are $35. The pork entree at Estela, which if you've had you know is about half the size of what would normally pass as an entree is $37...

 

Using traditional menu math - dinner = 2 * entree + $5 for incidentals + wine priced like entree per person, this works out to $143pp after tax and tip, except of course because of entree sizes you're sort of expected to take five plates for two people so it ends up being $150+pp.

At that price, I'd much rather go to Le Coucou, and drink modestly, of course.

 

If I could get in.

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You're right that the main problem is that it's hard to justify $200 for mid-week New American filler.... and this is obviously where I differ from Steve, as the rest of this paragraph is going to make clear -- we're seeing the LCD of even the kind of food that's being presented now....But now, mainly, it's places like Fausto: well-executed comfort food. (There are exceptions, like, in the New American genre, Otway -- but oddly, they tend to be ignored. That's why even those of us who have reservations about Olmsted and its food are so happy about their huge success.)

 

Now Steve will say he doesn't want to be challenged or made to think: he wants dinner. I see his point. But (circling back to Adrian's point) not for $100+ per person. Especially when these restaurants are just serving stuff that I could make myself.

Well, sorta. You got my point right, but I don’t think you’re seeing the big picture on this. In NYC, the big deal isn’t finding the almost non-existent cutting edge, inventive places, it’s in finding the above average good solid American, French bistro, rustic Italian, interesting well made Asian or other ethnic food place that’s well under the $100pp mark. And, except for the NBC period, I’d think that this was pretty much always the thing in our city. Hence, Chowhound’s historical popularity & usefulness. And why you can find me at Noodle Pudding, Henry’s End, Nargis and a couple of other Bklyn places well within a mile of home.

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And why I miss La Mancha, Redhead & a couple of other places.

And probably why joethefoodie loves Cafe Katja.

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where you can get a halfway decent crudo plate and a decent pork-chop

 

 

Where is this in Manhattan?

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