In the NY Times today: “You May Kiss the Chef’s Napkin Ring,” a wide-ranging, Swiftian grumble from restaurant critic Frank Bruni about the unbalanced state of the fine-dining world. It’s a fairly wholesale set of complaints about the dominance of Chef’s wishes–in the form of what you order (tyrannical tasting menus), when you eat (9:45 seatings), how long you may take (we’re looking at you, Gordon Ramsay), what you listen to (loud music)–and the subjugation of the diner’s. He almost seems to be asking, “Where my cranky New Yorkers at?” He does a pretty good job of describing the milieu of restaurants where celebrity chef cookbooks line the exits and every smear of sauce comes with a lengthy murmured provenance. And lest it sound too much like a salvo in a new reductive public debate (I can imagine a tedious Mike Wallace rant about all this), toward the end he concedes the fact that many of the places he mentions–Babbo, Per Se, Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier–are places that he gave positive reviews. The food is good. Great, even. So what this is really all about is the ever-escalating tradeoff.
I’m still trying to decide how it fits in my view of things, but it’s an interesting piece. The best line? “It won’t be long before Hooters has a tasting menu.” Bwah! “For your next course, chef is offering ailes de poulet with a trio of regional sauces and suggests, to pair, a flight of PBR…”
(Where is Bruni’s review of the new Gordon Ramsay in New York? Unless I’m missing something it still hasn’t appeared. What’s the backstory there?)