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joethefoodie

Tejal Rao Throws California "Luxury" Dining Under the Bus

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There is a consumer guide aspect to the critique, which is that she finds the places technically proficient but ultimately boring. Certainly, I read more scathing reviews of cultural products in the New Yorker weekly, which aren't coupled with a list of recommendations in case I want to go to an art show in New York this week. 

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And I've eaten the same micro-season kaiseki meal at six places in a row, and it was terrific (I mean for a feinschmecker - same score by six top orchestras, how great?), but even one meal at TFL sounds like something boring I'd rather not do (I think Single Thread is probably much better as the article sort of indicates).

 

The playground for the rich and bored aspect is separate but really why would it be different from any heavily touristic European rural area? 

 

 

Right - this whole meme about:

 

a concentration of this nostalgic genre of fine dining: grand destination restaurants with big reputations, extravagant food and deep wine cellars. 

 

 

Just has nothing to do with Single thread, in my opinion.

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a concentration of this nostalgic genre of fine dining: grand destination restaurants with big reputations, extravagant food and deep wine cellars. 

 

 

 

Just has nothing to do with Single thread, in my opinion.

 

 

Single Thread has a 61 page wine list with verticals of Rothschild and three Michelin stars. It serves a single no choice tasting menu with intricately plated dishes serving mostly local ingredients but also certain luxury ingredients from around the world. The menu takes three hours. The chef trained at Michel Bras. It has a take on a "bread course". The servers explain the dishes. It has a farm. 

 

I mean come on this is obviously a grand destination restaurant with a big reputation, extravagant food and a deep wine cellar. 

 

I am totally sure it is delicious and hope to go one day. I love eating at restaurants of this kind, but am also sure that it is not immune from a critique that is (often quite reasonably) levied against the genre. I am sure this review won't cost it a single diner. 

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Right. Many (most?) of these SP restaurants aren’t “fancy” in the old sense. Central — a place I found unbearably pretentious — wasn’t Old Skool “fancy”; it could have been in Brooklyn. Blanca is in Brooklyn— and they have a turntable and let the diners choose the sides. That doesn’t make them not grand destination restaurants.

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But that isn't really the point.  This is more the point.

 

In an ancient edition of Emily Post, Mr. and Mrs. Up and Coming Young Protestants are invited to weekend at society doyenne Mrs. Snootypants's summer house.

 

As they're walking up the long long entrance lane to the house's front door, Mr. Up and Coming Young Protestants remarks to his wife, "I never thought Mrs. Snootypants would be so simple.  Look at how simple this all is!  It's almost entirely undecorated.  Just the picture of untouched rusticity!"

 

Mrs. Up and Coming Young Protestants sets her husband straight:  "This isn't simple!  Look at how perfectly edged the lawn is along the lane.  Look at how perfectly trimmed the hedges are.  Look at how the flowers were carefully chosen for their unostentatious color accents.  Look how the lawn is perfectly manicured, but in a way that doesn't make it look clipped.  This isn't simple:  this is perfect!  It took oodles and oodles of work -- and money."

 

Everything I read about Single Thread makes it sound like a place where no expense and effort have been spared in creating an atmosphere of restful rustic simplicity.  That doesn't make it any less, let's say, technocratic -- nor any less luxe -- than similarly expensive restaurants that aim for more traditional and/or ostentatious forms of luxury; it just makes it more to the taste of people like joe and me (not that there's anything wrong with that).  But if (as Rao appears to) you prize vivid roadside spontaneity and real "soulful" simplicity in your food, you're not gonna get it there.

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 But if (as Rao appears to) you prize vivid roadside spontaneity and real "soulful" simplicity in your food, you're not gonna get it there.

 

Didn't Rao know that before?  Did Rao have to eat at these 3 restaurants over the course of a few days to figure that out?

 

My point is what's the point of the article, other than to sound like a big macher, by not liking what a big macher might like?

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But if (as Rao appears to) you prize vivid roadside spontaneity and real "soulful" simplicity in your food, you're not gonna get it there.

Didn't Rao know that before? Did Rao have to eat at these 3 restaurants over the course of a few days to figure that out?

 

My point is what's the point of the article, other than to sound like a big macher, by not liking what a big macher might like?

This is such a weird argument. She is the food critic. The food critic’s job isn’t just to review restaurants that she likes.

 

We also don’t know what she likes. She may like French haut cuisine for all we know from the article. What we do know is that she finds these restaurants perfect and full. That is a reasonable position she justifies with fact. And a far more valuable argument to put into print for a diner than stating that Michelin had it right all along or that the squab was slightly over.

 

This review is far better than Sutton on Arpege or Rayner on Le Cinq, which had no underlying argument beyond them having a bad meal.

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It's not a restaurant review, really, is it?

 

It's a cultural review.

 

Of course it's a restaurant review. Restaurant reviews are a subset of cultural reviews. It's not a pure food review, but when was the last time a restaurant published one of those? It's also not a hatchet job on fine dining. 

 

What did you want her to do? Confirm how good Single Thread is? The art is technically proficient but boring is a very, very, very old criticism. 

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What it is, in my opinion, is a review to help all of her fan boys pat themselves on their backs for agreeing with her that the places to eat are pop ups, truck stops, Smorgburg.

 

Not, god forbid, in Sonapa.

 

I get it - she lives there now.  And there has always had an issue with Northern California.

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What it is, in my opinion, is a review to help all of her fan boys pat themselves on their backs for agreeing with her that the places to eat are pop ups, truck stops, Smorgburg.

 

Not, god forbid, in Sonapa.

 

I get it - she lives there now.  And there has always had an issue with Northern California.

 

She's a food critic who writes about all sorts of food. You encouraged in your first post to write about small Mexican places! 

 

What specifically do you object to in her article? Why are these places above reasonable criticism that is highly similar to (one of) the criticism(s) levied at those places on Mouthfuls and why is she, a food critic, no allowed to make those criticisms? 

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What specifically do you object to in her article? 

 

Listen - what I take away from the article is hip, young NY Times writer moves to LA to become the NY Times' first California based restaurant critic.

 

Hip, young, NY Times writer wants to fit in with all the hip, young artistes who now call LA home. 

 

What better way to do so? Write a piece telling all how boring and predictable Napa and Sonoma are.  Of course, without really exploring Napa and Sonoma at all, just going to 3 restaurants 90% of hip, young NY Times' writers' friends would never go to anyway.

 

And while writing said critique of 3 of the area's restaurants, you might as well throw in some good stuff for your LA friends...they must've loved it!

 

 the Bay Area’s flush diners, as well as international business tourists and middle-aged couples away for the weekend. More than ever, the dining rooms of Napa and Sonoma Counties reflect the region’s growing corporate wealth. 

 

 

At times, overwhelmed by the opulence, I felt like a character in a sci-fi movie who had sneaked onto a spaceship for the 1 percent, now orbiting a burning planet.
the huge doors swing open and a person in a suit greets you, as if you were coming home to the manor after a long journey.
But trophy ingredients in wine country are often flown in from elsewhere: sea urchin and Wagyu beef from Japan, winter truffles from Australia
I know people who have driven hours for a bowl of fresh rice noodles, for two loaves of sourdough, for a particular crop of peaches, for a fried birria taco that leaves the fingertips slick with grease. These journeys are devotional, too.
And what I knew about Napa was that it was someone else’s exorbitant fantasyland — yawny and pampering.
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