Archive for england

Tom Aikens (London, UK) – Master of Nothing

All good things must come to an end; unfortunately, the European adventure came to a crashing end. After an excellent meal at Fat Duck the night before, it was time for the often misunderstood Tom Aikens. He trained and excelled under Joël Robuchon, a modern French legend, so his technical skills should not be in doubt. Aikens is often criticized for his controversial plating methods (think Jackson Pollock reborn as a chef) but many have said the cuisine shines through with his distinct signature. Michelin has awarded him one star.

If i were Michelin, I would give him one big black hole – or a laughing Michelin man. Our meal was so bad that after 2 courses the sick niche1 left knowing his evening would not improve. His wife & I braved the remainder of the courses, although i’m sure we both wonder why today. We could have saved $300-400 if we left with him.

1. Amuses
We were served a plethora of amuses, none of them remotely memorable. My notes, illegible, have adjectives like “salty, oily, greasy” – the remainder i can’t read. Not Good.

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Nobu (London, UK) – This is Fish?

I really knew better. I only had 2 hours sleep the previous night and suffered through a plane from San Sebastian to London so Nobu sounded like the easy lunch choice considering it was on the 2nd floor of my hotel. Matsuhisa in LA 4 years ago was an awesome meal. Nobu in NY 3 years ago was a train-wreck culminating with an expensive serving of over-cooked kobe/wagyu beef. Since then, I’ve always been wary of Mr Matsuhisa’s empire of homogenous fish.I walked down and got a seat at the bar. The fish looked ok, nothing special, but considering the horrors of fish in France the previous month, serviceable.

- Toro – I pointed to the one i *really* wanted but i got stuck w/ this piece of crap. Communication barrier – I could not get the decent looking piece. This piece was more maguro than toro.

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Fat Duck (Bray, England) – Master of Production

The Fat Duck, like El Bulli, is a divisive restaurant in serious dining circles. Some say the cuisine focuses on parlor tricks at the expense of taste. Others say it is one of the five most important restaurants in the world because of its willingness to experiment w/ traditional notions of food.

Of all the Michelin 3* restaurants I visited last month (and I made it to many of the important ones), Fat Duck was one of the few that *acted* like a 3*. Despite other restaurant/hotels like Bras & Troisgros, no other restaurant had the production values from top to bottom. The introductory letter asking for childhood food memories sets the stage; the service is effortless & playful; the food does its part; and then they send you home w/ the sealed menu, printed on a very heavy (and costly) stock paper, sealed in wax. The whole thing feels so “honest”; you can sense the chef’s enthusiasm for food *and* experience; instead of his cash register.

The food was in my excellent “second tier” of the trip – L’Astrance, L’Arpege, Can Roca, El Bulli, & Mugaritz – very fine company indeed. (The 1st tier was comprised of just 3 – Gagnaire, Regis Marcon, & Michel Bras.) It was a very solid meal w/ just one or two disappointments – completely acceptable considering the quality of the remaining dishes. It does get better as I reflect back on it.

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