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Obnoxious Global Dining Trend


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I've been fulminating in various threads in various contexts against a current global restaurant trend that I dislike very much. You might call it the Global Destination Restaurant. Or the New-Age Tourist Restaurant.

 

Pete Wells of the New York Times complained about it as well this morning on the radio station that broadcasts out of Roberta's in Brooklyn -- right where one of these restaurants (Blanca) is located (Wells was talking in particular about a restaurant in New York called Eleven Madison Park):

 

This is in some ways the way global cuisine is going. There's almost a global circuit of destination restaurants and many of them want to have the same format, which is a long tasting menu, a lot of money, eliminate some seats if you can get away with it, and just pack the place with people who may come from across town or may come from across the world.

 

Just thought I'd start a thread so other people can share the love or hate.

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I've been fulminating in various threads in various contexts against a current global restaurant trend that I dislike very much. You might call it the Global Destination Restaurant. Or the New-Age T

Not much to be done about this trend, I'm afraid:       As for the meaning of "tasting menu," my beef is not about the no-choice aspect. It's about the conflation of what used to be called the t

I've been fulminating in various threads in various contexts against a current global restaurant trend that I dislike very much. You might call it the Global Destination Restaurant. Or the New-Age Tourist Restaurant.

 

Pete Wells of the New York Times complained about it as well this morning on the radio station that broadcasts out of Roberta's in Brooklyn -- right where one of these restaurants (Blanca) is located (Wells was talking in particular about a restaurant in New York called Eleven Madison Park):

 

This is in some ways the way global cuisine is going. There's almost a global circuit of destination restaurants and many of them want to have the same format, which is a long tasting menu, a lot of money, eliminate some seats if you can get away with it, and just pack the place with people who may come from across town or may come from across the world.

 

Just thought I'd start a thread so other people can share the love or hate.

Don't you think it's a natural consequence of the rise of the internet and how much smaller it's made the world?

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Go to small out of the way towns for the best food.

 

We were in Amboise, France this summer (googlemap it) and had exquisite food at the auberge we stayed at.

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Yes! I do!

 

ETA -- In large part, anyway. The internet didn't make it inevitable that people would CARE more about food than social interaction at a meal.

 

San Pellegrino Restaurants. They're aimed at climbing that list even more than the third star. An anecdote:

 

It's easy to think that this is completely demand driven, but it's also driven partially by chef preferences. Recently,I was talking to a Toronto chef about his decision to go downmarket. His comment was "you don't make any money doing fine dining". He has kids, a life, fair enough. But I when I said "don't you want to do a tasting counter, open four nights a week, set menu only?" he seemed amenable to that idea. Not that he's going to do it (though I wish he was), but I think the fixed menu is a more appealing, probably more profitable and less stressful, way for a chef to cook.

 

Also, I don't think that it affects the social quality of the meal for someone like me. Let's be honest, if I was eating at L'Ambroisie (if I could afford to eat at L'Ambroisie), I would be just as food focused as I would be if I could get over to Noma. L'Ambroisie is never going to be a place I go to just to hang out like a Ssam Bar was. So I don't notice the difference in a social way like, say, Orik might.

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EMP. as a fairly seasoned diner, maybe not my ideal spot but food worthy of a visit and service savvy enough to tone it down a but.

 

But, if I were Ma & Pa Kettle, who recently sold their business they've been slaving over for decades to finally take some dream trips they've been dying for. EMP would be a great adventure and a great introduction to the gustatory culture that exists. Also, more marketing towards tourism means better branding for a future location outside Manhattan.

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Go to small out of the way towns for the best food. We were in Amboise, France this summer (googlemap it) and had exquisite food at the auberge we stayed at.

That's a bit of a blanket statement. Might be good for the Loire Valley (and even in that case I might have my doubts) but I don't think it would work in upstate New York for instance.

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Obviously I agree with you but we've gotta be a meaningful % of people in the world who actually care/ and or know enough about this world that we can see whats wrong with it.

 

The average tourist at these places read an article in Food & Wine or a serious broadsheet and booked a table. Its almost like trophy hunting. I mean look at how hard we are on EMP - NYC's nearest analog and then look how hard we are on places like that out of town. Despite our best instincts we commit the same errors.

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A useful start would be to compare “destination” restaurants between the late 1960s until ca. 1995 (most of which I knew extremely well) and those of today. The former group, with the exception of some ersatz French restaurants in the US (New York, Los Angeles and a couple in the Mid-West) were in French-speaking countries, particularly in Paris and in between Paris and the South of France. What characterized these restaurants were:

 

---Rigorously gathering impeccable produce, especially whole fish and fowl.

 

---Large kitchen brigades numbering between 12 and 35 people including apprentices starting out in their adolescence and often spending six years in three restaurants, one of which specialized in seafood.

 

---Service brigades comprised of people who attended restaurant trade schools and who worked punishing hours five and a half days a week. They almost never had to defer to anyone in answering any question, and they were adept in wine service and carving and de-boning, to name just a few of their responsibilities.

 

---Owner-chefs who had but one restaurant, only being absent to earn quick money from time-to-time in order to subsidize their restaurants that for the most part were break-even operations.

 

---Large menus that often offered as many as eight cold appetizers, eight warm appetizers, eight fish dishes, eight meat dishes, a “chariot” of two to three dozen impeccable cheeses with no restriction on the number you could ask for. As for desserts, there was usually of a multitude; if not a “chariot” of cakes, tarts, stewed fruits, ice creams and sorbets, mousses, petits fours and chocolates, not to mention generous “amuses-gueules” and small dishes served with aperitifs.

 

---A spirit of bending over backwards for their clients by letting you order off the menu or preparing dishes you wanted to revist, but that were no longer on the menu.

 

---The non-existence of tasting menus: While restaurants offered prix-fixe menus or menus pre-determined to introduce a first-time diner to some of the renown dishes of the restaurant, the idea of offering little portions comprising many courses never entered these chefs’ minds. The concept ran counter to the notion of the supremacy of the product and the chef’s interpretation of classic, time-tested dishes that they could create because so many of the ingredients were from the region.

 

---Visiting these restaurants almost always furthered my gastronomic savvy and knowledge, The give and take between me and the maitre d’hotel in such matters of learning about products and recipes, choosing appropriate dishes and ordering a well-balanced meal is a challenging exercise I rarely encounter now.

 

---A high level of comfort and refinement that expressed themselves in the quality of china, glass and silver, fabrics, the placement of tables, and the low levels of noise..

 

These days, I can’t think of very many so-called destinations that I want to go to, while the ones I have gone to have ranged from awful (Eleven Madison Park before the sale) to really good (Osteria Francescana in Modena) to miraculous (el Bulli), but right now I have almost none of my target list, My culinary wanderings are determined by produce, particularly fish, and dishes that have stood the test of time. It’s why Italy is the primary object of my affections and why my destinations include annual visits to Uliasse in Senigallia on the Adriatic and La Pineta on the Tuscan coast. The last certified destination restaurant I visited was Can Roca in Girona. It rates as my worst meal in years. It is so regimented, so touristy and offers little portions that were cooked sous-vide to a fare thee well.

 

In general, the notion of having people dictate what I eat and sometimes having to eat it elbow-to-elbow with strangers at a counter are just a couple of markers of how far gastronomy is diluted and diminished.

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