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Simon

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  1. I believe both of the referenced restrooms are in the attached office building. And, fwiw, I (non-disabled) have always been directed to take the elevator up to the presumably accessible restroom.
  2. Simon

    Dining in Paris

    This is just one data point, but I do have to stick up for the sommelier at Gagnaire, c. 2006. I was dining solo and looking for a half bottle to go with the seafood-heavy lunch menu, and the sommelier recommended a white St.-Joseph, which was the absolute cheapest wine on the list. And it made sense: a relatively simple, fruity wine to go with really complex food. Gagnaire also had the best overall service I've encountered at a 3-star. My wine sitting in the ice bucket was getting too cold, so I mentioned to a waiter that I'd like to leave it out. A few minutes later, another server came by to top up my glass and returned the bottle to the bucket. Just as I was reaching to take the bottle back out, the first waiter practically leapt across the dining room to do it for me. And it wasn't this dramatic or overly fussy gesture--just an expert reading of the room that gave me confidence that I was in good hands for the entire service.
  3. I really like I Sodi and Via Carota in the West Village, but they're more strictly regional and less fancied than Marea, Ai Fiori, and the like. More along those lines, maybe Del Posto?
  4. Andy, Thanks again for your wonderful contributions on this thread. Based on the places you've visited in this country, what would you say are the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the kind of fine dining restaurants you seek out and review in the United States? And where would you place the U.S. on the scale of Michelin standards (from Europe at one end, to some of the newer Asian guides at the other, as you suggested in a previous answer)?
  5. Simon

    Dining in Paris

    I'm not Andy but happy to give some recommendations based on my last trip to Paris. Re: 3-stars: they're all so different, so it's difficult to make a recommendation without knowing your tastes. But if you're open to modernist/experimental/molecular cuisine, the lunch menu at Pierre Gagnaire is a steal (at 90 euros now, I think). You'll get less luxe ingredients than ordering ALC, but my lunch there was still perhaps the most exciting meal of my life -- a four-hour-plus thrill ride in the hands of a creative genius. On the more classical end of the spectrum, L'Astrance was underwhelming, and L'Ambroisie was the most perfect meal I've had but probably out of your stated price range. I loved Ledoyen under Le Squer, but he's at Le Cinq now, and Alleno is in (I haven't been to either new iteration). There's a bargain online lunch offer at Guy Savoy, too, but I've never been, and never figured out exactly how it worked -- perhaps you could call and ask. Another great lunch bargain is the lunch menu at Nomicos (65 euros, including wine and coffee), where you'll find excellent, Robuchon-esque food. I found the cooking more correct than exciting, but at that price, I had absolutely no complaints. A major trend is Japanese chefs taking charge of Parisian kitchens, cooking French cuisine (NOT fusion) but bringing a technical perfectionism and attention to detail that are otherwise fading qualities. I had a wonderful dinner at L'Alliance (a one-star) -- elegant, refined, contemporary cooking in a stylish (and intimate) dining room. Tasting menus at 95 and 120 euros. As for more casual eating: Chez L'Ami Jean is a perennial modern bistro recommendation, but for good reason. Great soba at Abri Soba, if you need a break from French food. Jacques Genin for spectacular desserts (his cheesecake was a revelation). Laurent Dubois was my favorite cheese shop (wonderful Comte, among other things), but it's very much a retail shop, and not set up for tourist grazing (though the people there were helpful--though having a modicum of French helped, I think). Georges Larnicol for macarons. Hope this helps. You'll find so many more recommendations than you'll have time for.
  6. Andy, thank you for so much for doing this chat! Two questions for you: 1) Aside from obvious destination cities like Paris, Tokyo, Kyoto, and the like, what cities or regions would you say have the best cluster (say 3-4, or more) of fine dining restaurants? 2) And perhaps a related question: what cities or regions do you think have the best ingredient-driven restaurants? Here, I'm counting both explicitly ingredient-driven places, like Hedone in London, and also places like L'Ambroisie, which source the best ingredients as a matter of course, and excluding molecular gastronomic restaurants. Thank you again!
  7. I wrote this in a PM to Don back in 2016, not sure why I didn't just post it here, which I will do now: Just to clarify, this was in the main dining room, not the special menu for Roberto's 8. I dropped in on a Monday night, thinking I'd get some pasta -- and saw Roberto on the line and asked him to cook for me, since the restaurant was pretty empty. (They did move me to the kitchen bar that's usually used for Roberto's 8 but was empty that night.) Roberto was working the line that night and basically cooking everything (at least all the pastas and the hot dishes). He personally cooked everything for me. He gave me five courses in total -- four of which were from the regular menu. The one off-menu course he served me was genuinely great: spinach risotto with octopus. But the four dishes he served me from the regular menu were middling at best, with none of his trademark finesse. The dishes all relied heavily on richness and saltiness for flavor: sauces were over-reduced or over-seasoned, everything had a handful of parmesan cheese tossed over it. The chocolate dessert was inedibly sweet. It was sad to see him cooking for a nearly empty restaurant, putting out a lot of indifferent food. When he asked me if I liked chocolate for dessert, I told him I did and that I liked the gianduja chocolate dish he used to make at Galileo. He replied, "People remind me all the time of dishes I used to cook for them. I don't remember..." I took that more to mean that he doesn't like to dwell on the past. I'm sure people come in all the time talking about his glory days at Galileo, and he wants to deflect that kind of talk. And that was part of the sadness of the spectacle. Yes, he gamed the tax system, and deserved worse than he got. But he's toiling away on the line six days a week in a kind of a backwater. It's clear he still has cooking chops, when he wants to be bothered. I did have a bold-worthy meal at Roberto's 4 back in 2013. I actually saw Scalia there (it was the night after the oral argument in the Proposition 8 case). He was putting away heaping plate after heaping plate of pasta... I'd be optimistic about a future meal at Roberto's 8. *** Speaking of which, has anyone done Roberto's 8 / chef's counter or the equivalent recently?
  8. Simon

    The Michelin Guide

    Michelin in the States =/= Michelin in Europe. It's a relative scale, and even Michelin has acknowledged that. I've been to many of the New York 3-stars -- Le Bernardin, Per Se, EMP, Jean Georges (at the time) -- and none of them even begin to approach the likes of Gagnaire or L'Ambroisie, both of which were transcendent for me: Gagnaire for sheer thrills, and L'Ambroisie for its sheer perfection. For that matter, many of the 2-stars in New York I've been to, like Aquavit, Aska, Daniel, Ko, Marea, The Modern, would barely merit 1-star on the European scale, if that. I think, at least in regards to New York, two major constraints on quality seem to be the need to turn tables and the prix-fixe/tasting menu model. In France, you get the table the entire night, and the best food is often on the wildly expensive ALC menus (something I've never really seen in NY.).
  9. Nakazawa reportedly doesn't cut his own fish, so I wonder how much these chefs will have learned from essentially a figurehead? Anyway, while I haven't been, at these prices and based on Tom's report, I can't imagine Nakazawa in DC even beginning to rival Sushi Taro's omakase counter at this price point.
  10. [Okie, dokie - for this to make the laugh committee laugh, or even not break the computer, I had to clip the video. I do appreciate the enthusiasm and the sentiment. DR]
  11. I had a funny experience at Mirabelle recently at lunch. After I'm seated, I mention to my server how excited I am to be at Mirabelle for the first time, after being a long-time fan of Frank's cooking at Palena--and I rattled off a list of my old favorites, like the roast chicken and consommé. The waiter then asks me: "well, do you want me to see if the kitchen can make you the consommé" (which is ordinarily on the dinner menu but is not available at lunch). I remain noncommittal, wanting to take my time to mull over my choices. Nothing especially calls out to me, so when he comes back, I tell him -- thinking that, well, if Frank is on the kitchen, I should just leave myself in his hands -- "I don't necessarily need the consommé, but if Chef is here today, could you ask him to choose one starter and one main." The waiter gives his assent and scurries off. A minute later, I see him at the waiter's station, putting in an order. I then hear him conferring with another server: "You like the bouillabaisse, right? That's my favorite on the menu right now." And, you guessed it. For my starter, I get the bisque, and as my main, the bouillabaisse. In an otherwise sparsely filled dining room (there was only one other party there when I ordered), it's pretty clear what happened. Why don't restaurants want to admit when the name Chef isn't in the kitchen? It's like the one Saturday night dinner I had at CityZen eight years ago, when I asked whether Eric would be in the kitchen that night -- and was told he had stepped out but would be back. And I could clearly see the *freaking open kitchen* working on auto-pilot without him all night long. The bisque and bouillabaisse were fine, but it's not the way I would have drawn it up (and maybe not Frank, either: two soups?). But it's mainly my fault for giving up my agency and being too trusting.
  12. Simon

    Dining in Philadelphia

    Same deal with Vernick, which I highly recommend. I've had wonderful experiences eating at the bar solo, but you have to get there early, too.
  13. Scene from Restaurant Week: a prep cook in a side room at Sfoglina reviving a sorry looking box of greens, wilted leaf by wilted leaf, using a spray bottle. I can forgive many shortcuts during Restaurant Week, such as setting out nine pre-plated orders of salad on the pass, waiting for orders to come in, but clearing plates before everyone in the party has finished a course is poor form at any time.
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