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Simon

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  1. 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?
  2. 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.).
  3. 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.
  4. [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]
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. I've only been for brunch and was just there for New Year's, and the cooking was solid and precise as ever. Special shout out for the panna cotta and the lobster ravioli, which has always been wonderful but is getting more and more eye-poppingly pricey if ordered a la carte.
  9. I didn't mean to imply that MK Paris was amazing, just that I'd be shocked if some place around here would clear the bar of Parisian adequacy.
  10. Is the NY Kayser as good as the locations in Paris? I'd be shocked, but delighted, if so.
  11. I ate here tonight based on Tim Carman's enthusiastic review and was very disappointed (Carman, you've misled for me for the last time...). The Akira Ramen (tonkatsu broth, with a couple thin slices of chasu, veggies, fish cake, and half an egg) was deeply mediocre. The broth, thin and bland, had little discernible pork flavor and mainly served as a carrier for the bitter char of the chasu. The curly noodles were little to write home about (or wax poetic about in the Post). Overall, a nothing bowl of ramen. I ordered the grilled yellowtail collar as an appetizer, was told it'd take 15 to 20 minutes, so asked for it to come out before the ramen. After about 25 minutes, the ramen came out first, and the yellowtail a few minutes later. The fish was moist and nicely grilled, but it won't bring me back on its own. Sitting at the bar, you could see bowls of ramen being plated sluggishly by an inexperienced kitchen staff -- nothing like the well-oiled machine at Daikaya.
  12. You can eat at the bar at Vernick, which opens for drinks at 4:30 and starts serving food at 5:00. The bar seats do tend to go quickly on the weekends, but it's worth trying: I've had my favorite meals in Philly there.
  13. I was able to do the tasting menu with the lamb shoulder as a single diner. Lots of leftovers. FWIW, I had a good time but enjoyed Vernick a lot more (they're very different restaurants, though).
  14. What happened to the mushroom lady? Is she still around?
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