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Maybe they just looked at your pictures and decided not to go?

Or it may mean that the board is biased because of features unrelated to the food*. There's nothing wrong with such a bias because we know restaurants are not about food, but Wilfrid and Instagram tog

Oh, I missed the "controversy" regarding the bourride. At least as served last night, I don't think I could describe the fumet as "bland" or lacking concentrated flavor. Usually I attribute disagreements like this to differences in taste, but in this case I almost wonder if Thunk got a bad batch.

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There was no bourride controversy. Joe loved his. My friend and I found it bland. So it may have been a missed pitch. I am delighted you found it good. I reported my reaction to Daniel and he reassured me it would be up to his standard next time I ordered it. I will.

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I should also report that, on the way to Le Coucou from the subway, a guy stopped me and asked if he could take a picture of me in my tee shirt. He was polite enough not to mention my physique (I welcome honest comments from friends, but from a total stranger . . . ).

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3) Now this part is weird. Starr's opened a few restaurants here before, but don't out-of-town places always fail? What's up with this one succeeding? It's not like most New Yorkers know about Daniel Rose or Spring, is it? And this is hardly Rose's flagship.

 

The general rule, is that restaurants by out-of-town chefs tend to fail in New York, unless the chef moves here permanently. There have been exceptions — as there are to most rules — and Le Coucou could very well become one of them.

 

I don't recall any such "rule" about restaurateurs. What's odd about Starr is that his first two NY restaurants, if I recall correctly, were Morimoto and Buddakan. Neither failed, but neither was considered a serious restaurant either. He has done much better with Upland, the Clocktower, and now this.

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Sorry but I fail to grasp the significance of this formal/informal debate. The place is beautiful and comfortable, the staff in foh and kitchen are dressed as appropriate for a serious restaurant, and the food is great. Guest are not required to wear "dress clothes". (Jackets and ties for men, evening dress for women) tho many guests are well dressed. Like Stone Barns, it is a fine dining atmosphere but not stuffy or self conscious...

 

I come to Mouthfuls precisely for this sort of discussion, partly because I enjoy social observation [i'm very interested in what's been happing to Class in this country since the late 20th century], partly for ruthlessly practical reasons. As my position in the dining-out bourgeoisie is rather precarious, if not presumptuous, I appreciate any information that will help me decide whether I should bother braving the Restaurant of the Month.

 

Oakapple points out that Daniel feels comfortable and 'effortless' to the regular Daniel customer, despite being an upscale French restaurant in the Upper East Side. Somewhat to my regret, I'll never try Boulud's cooking because I'm fairly confident I would be intensely uncomfortable there, even if it wasn't the sort of place that treated outsiders noticeably worse. Similarly, as I'm not the archetypal Mouthfuls members, our blanket assumptions of 'not formal' or 'casual' won't do. The more specific the sociocultural detail, the better.

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The formality to the extent it's there is just so effortless that you don't notice it unless you look... and then you see it wherever you look.

This is more of a statement about you than the restaurant. I mean, to regular patrons of Daniel, that seems "effortless," simply because it is what they know and have always been comfortable with.

Two points here:

 

1. Lots of old guard formal North American restaurants are very bad at making service feel effortless. Some are very good at it and some are good for some and not others. It's important to be able to criticize this service model when it's done poorly, though I understand the reticence to do so.

 

2. Some people will never be comfortable in a formal room. But it's also on the restaurant to take the willing, engaged, respectful and open minded diner and make that person feel comfortable. This is the western tradition of hospitality. This is true for the formal restaurant as well as the informal one. I think that people feel worse and more culturally conspicuous when they are made to feel lower class than when they are made to feel uncool.

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3) Now this part is weird. Starr's opened a few restaurants here before, but don't out-of-town places always fail? What's up with this one succeeding? It's not like most New Yorkers know about Daniel Rose or Spring, is it? And this is hardly Rose's flagship.

 

The general rule, is that restaurants by out-of-town chefs tend to fail in New York, unless the chef moves here permanently. There have been exceptions as there are to most rules and Le Coucou could very well become one of them.

 

I don't recall any such "rule" about restaurateurs. What's odd about Starr is that his first two NY restaurants, if I recall correctly, were Morimoto and Buddakan. Neither failed, but neither was considered a serious restaurant either. He has done much better with Upland, the Clocktower, and now this.

Upland's executive chef Justin Smillie lives here and is regularly in the restaurant. As I noted elsewhere, The Clocktower's e.c. Jason Atherton has moved back to London, but it continues to be a big success. So, it is the exception to that so-called rule.
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Two points here:

 

1. Lots of old guard formal North American restaurants are very bad at making service feel effortless. Some are very good at it and some are good for some and not others.

There...fixed it for you.

 

It's important to be able to criticize this service model when it's done poorly, though I understand the reticence to do so.

I agree. But equally so, I think it's important to distinguish service that is actually bad, from that which may simply be contrary to the diner's preference or experience.

 

We had a lengthy discussion a few years ago, about real diners who apparently feel uncomfortable about a coat check — an amenity I do not consider especially formal. If people are put off by that, you can imagine all the other things they might dislike in an actual formal restaurant, where the staff has done nothing wrong whatsoever.

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There was no bourride controversy. Joe loved his. My friend and I found it bland. So it may have been a missed pitch. I am delighted you found it good. I reported my reaction to Daniel and he reassured me it would be up to his standard next time I ordered it. I will.

Under the caption of "Gimme detail", can you pinpoint the blandness more specifically? The fumet? The aioli? The marriage?

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Exactly (although of course real genius is making a spectacle of lower class diners while keeping them unaware)

That's tacky. Proper service supports the diner regardless of his inexperience or gaffs. A server who gets off mocking diners should change careers. A captain who allows it should be fired.

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Two points here:

 

1. Lots of old guard formal North American restaurants are very bad at making service feel effortless. Some are very good at it and some are good for some and not others.

There...fixed it for you.

But it's been a greater problem at the high end, especially the French high end, and not in the bistros. And it's also worse at the high end than in a bistro for the class vs cool reason. Danny Meyer made himself millions of dollars off this insight.

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