Archive for April, 2007

New York is Calling

I’ve been in a dining lull lately. I’ve eaten out a few times (French Laundry, Bin 8945, Quince, & Iberia) but a few different variables prevented me from creating posts – truck drivers aiming for Porsches, dead camera batteries, large groups, and/or a little too much Burgundy. French Laundry was good but not great; Bin 8945 was very good but not excellent (somewhat my fault); and Quince was very good and then excellent during a second meal. Bin 8945 (LA) is an especially interesting restaurant that I will do a more extensive post in the upcoming month.

But no worries – New York is coming up. The tentative itinerary includes:

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Restaurant Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants – Get Out More

Every year, Restaurant magazine makes some noise with their Top Restaurants list. The 2007 list was recently announced and it’s full of puzzling entries. The magazine bills itself as “for the quality end of the restaurant business” but any list containing references to Nobu London conflicts with that stated purpose. Alas, Restaurant magazine is a business and controversy helps attract viewers.

It’s everyone’s favorite past-time no matter the hobby – car people argue about what make, model, and modifications will triumph the next; food people argue what restaurant/chef can win a theoretical Iron Chef battle, pitting dish against dish. I consistently make comparisons in my own blog, and I’ve eaten at a fair number of the ranked restaurants, so I’ll offer some quick comments.

The Restaurant magazine list can be found here.

According to their rules, a selected voter picks 5 restaurants with no more than 2 from their own region. If I were a voter, my picks would be:

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Boule (LA) – A Patisserie Fit for Paris

I may get into trouble for this but San Francisco leaves me wanting for more high quality desserts 1. Tartine is ok but it’s not worth the wait. The excellent Satura Cakes is an 1/2 hour away. Citizen Cake is hit or miss. Bi-Rite’s ginger ice cream (and toffee chip cookies) might be my favorite ice cream ever but the rest of their flavors are suspect. The chocolate movement is strong but my favorite in the city are the Parisian Richart chocolates. There’s nothing resembling the dessert bars of NYC. And you can only eat so many Beard Papa cream puffs. If anything, the good desserts are scattered and fragmented across the city, each place specializing in one or two .

It is ironic then that LA, that sprawling and fragmented pastiche of modern urban design, has Boule – a one-stop shop for many great desserts. It’s a can’t-miss destination for any LA trip.

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Providence (LA) – Serious Seafood

Despite being a large city, LA has a dearth of fine dining. There are minefields like Spago that have been known to perform to their reputations when you are a known quantity; otherwise, all bets are off. There are question marks like Sona, a restaurants whose menu piques more interest than their national reputation. And then there is Urasawa – one of the greatest restaurants in the country. If you’re in LA for the weekend, and you’ve got 2 dinners, Urasawa is usually an automatic choice. But I did things differently this time – I ventured out.

You don’t jump into the deep waters blindly; various online fora have begun talking about Providence. The Opinionated About review rated it an excellent meal. The chef, Michael Cimarusti, prides himself on pristine, wild seafood. Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine is one of his favorite cookbooks (btw, if you’ve got a copy for $200 or less, I’ll take it.) These tidbits hardly add up to the stereotypical LA chef. I prepared myself for a good meal but I didn’t expect a great meal.

If it performs at this level on my second visit, I will happily add it to my list of Favorite Restaurants.

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San Francisco Fish Company (SF) – Live Sea Scallops

As I’ve said, the San Francisco Fish Company confounds me – previously frozen shellfish, dull red tuna, pale salmon, but sometimes they have a treat. This time – live scallops in the shell – $7.99/lb.

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