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Woodbury Commons Comes to Fine Dining


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The restaurant phenomenon I’m about to describe is nothing new, even if my way of categorizing it is. The comparison I’m about to make was the result of a disastrous Christmas night dinner I had at the Inn at Pound Ridge, a restaurant whose kitchen Jean-Georges Vongrichten took over last year. The meal fell into the disaster category by dint of the service staff letting us sit for 45 minutes without even a bread crumb to put in our mouths; bringing the preliminary assuaging-hunger “for the table” dish after the appetizers; running out of the dish my wife and I wanted the most; waiting an inordinate amount of time for the main courses with the predictable result that they all arrived at room temperature; and charging me at least double for a main-course-size portion of an appetizer that I ordered because the kitchen had exhausted three dishes; because every piece of fish was farmed; and because ordering a pasta dish or a pizza seemed inappropriate to a restaurant with pretenses. ( I tasted the tagliatelle dish our daughter ordered, and it was truly mundane).

 

 

Soon after my dinner, I reflected on the fact that there was no one there who had a proprietary interest in the restaurant: No owner-chef or owner-restaurateur; no one in the kitchen who was going out looking at produce and coming up with sudden inspiration or trying something new in the kitchen. By invoking the Jean-Georges name, there is no doubt that the overwhelming percentage of naïve diners who go there believe they will be having a Jean-Georges meal without having to drive over an hour to One Central Park West and spending there perhaps fifty-percent more money. Since I will likely never return to the Inn at Pound Ridge, even though I now own a home eight miles away, I won’t be able to find out in what insidious ways Jean-Georges and his group of investors might run the restaurant. I imagine that the chef-de-cuisine learns and is told what he has to make; that certain dishes are started off the premises or between meals, and may even be unloaded off a refrigerated food service truck, thus starting to resemble what goes on in France at the majority of cafes and brasseries. Regardless of how much of this is true, this concept is this: We are deep into the epoch of what I call factory outlet restaurants, but instead of shops and labels with such names as Armani, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, etc. offering cheaply-made “label” clothing, we have Jean-Georges, Daniel Bouloud, Tom Colicchio, Michael White, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, and many other chefs doing the same with their restaurant food. By no stretch of the imagination are we dining on the often-marvelous dishes that came directly from the hands and the kitchens of these chefs with the exception of the times they are in the kitchen of their flagship restaurant instead of training their surrogate chefs and looking for places to open and prepare even more absentee restaurants. If this weren’t quickly becoming the order of the day and taking place with increasing momentum, I would be more sanguine about the relative ease in finding interesting upper-echelon dining.

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I wrote a complaint to headquarters which I will try to post soon. The fellow at the restaurant group headquarters gave me a call and said he would go up there several times and help straighten things out. Another example of my crusading for the Fellowship. Good luck, Mitch.

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....We are deep into the epoch of what I call factory outlet restaurants... By no stretch of the imagination are we dining on the often-marvelous dishes that came directly from the hands and the kitchens of these chefs....

 

We fell into this trap in Paris by visiting the highly touted opening of a transplant kitchen. Drab, cookie cutter food served by overblown FOH. Husband asked me to remind him why we were there. After explaining that this was the baby of a purported genius chef in Asia, he simply said, "Don't do this again."

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