Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

A quizz about the direct correlation between the amount on the bill, and the respect Meredith pays to the restaurant:

(1) The place which Meredith reviews is preceded by an introduction which is relevant to the subject at hand. Actually, the name of the restaurant is in the first sentence. This means the restaurant's cuisine is:
d-You are shitting me: the restaurant is NEVER mentioned in the first sentence.

(2) Meredith does not mention her father. Therefore the place is located:
a-in the Sunset
b-in the Outer Richmond
c-two blocks away from union square
d-oh, I hope he's all right, he's springy, but not that young anymore.

(3) Meredith visits the place four times. This can only mean:
a-foie gras
b-Dungeness crab
d-the Robert Lauriston experiment is failing as a cost containment measure for Meredith's expense reports.

(4) If Meredith likes the place, it's only because:
a-Paul Reidinger liked it, a year and a half ago.
b-Michael Bauer liked it a year ago, and made it a Chron Top 100.
c-Josh Sens, of San Francisco magazine, liked it and made it a Top 10 SF restaurant a year ago?
d-I liked it a year ago?
e-she discovered a gem in the rough, the girl is blazing new trails.

Answers: need I say?

oh my god. that lead-in ranks up there in the pantheon of meaninglessness. the thesis she presents is negated in the very first sentence of her exposition.

from mcphee: "here... this one man is in himself the entire brigade ... it is in his nature ... to need to work alone". take a look at the accompanying photograph - it looks like there's an army of workers in the kitchen with the guy.

from fisher: "... she accepts the bounty of the unseen chef, cooking only for her behind a closed door." in meredith's very next sentence, she states, and i quote verbatim (i'm not making this shit up!) "AND SO IT IS AT CANTEEN, where everything you'll eat is cooked a few feet away from you in a tiny OPEN GALLEY KITCHEN..."

good lord woman, do you even read what you write? there's a huge difference in meaning vis-a-vis the interiority of the hidden chef and a guy who cooks in an open galley, no doubt chatting with you as he prepares your meal.

this woman is seriously daft. where is her editor? am i insane? somebody please help me!!

on the first point, I tend to disagree with you. There is one chef, and he does work hard. When I visited the place, his waitress called in sick, and he did the whole work by himself.

OTOH, the "Leary is by himself" thing has turned into a cliche, now that everyone has made that point. The angle ("one man band") is just lazy.

On your second point: you are perfectly correct, and I had the same impression. Fisher has a relationship with a chef, whom she only knows from the food. This has nothing to do with Meredith's experience: she even finds that Leary looks like some Coldplay singer. Not much mystery there. Not much picturing the artist from the masterpiece itself going on.

She misreads Fisher here as well:
doesn't the phrase "one man is in himself the entire brigade ... it is in his nature to need to work alone" conjure the image of a man literally working ALONE? not with 3 or 4 helpers, as shown in the accompanying photograph? there are plenty of restaurants where one chef takes care of everything - woodward's garden, for one. but there is plenty of help available, from prepping to serving. the only restaurant i remember in SF where one guy did everything himself was Le Trou, the now-defunct little french place at 22nd & guerrero. he prepped, hosted, cooked, served, sommeliered, bussed, etc. he had one guy in the back washing dishes, that was all the help he needed. he was literally a BRIGADE unto himself. this canteen guy does not seem to fit that bill.

I think I understand what you mean. When I went to visit, a year ago, the place was less than 6 month old. Bauer had not reviewed the place yet: it was not a hot ticket, popular place. You did not need a reservation then. The chef, at the time, was what you describe. He was working breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week I believe, and his attitude was saying he was gonna burn out if he did not scale down.

But the place took off, and business is brisk enough now that he stopped cooking breakfast himself, and I believe the restaurant is now closed a day a week and that he does not cook another night.

My point being: Leary was a one man brigade AT SOME POINT, but MEREDITH NEVER WITNESSED THAT. She just wrote up the review based on what other (Bauer, Reidinger, Sens) wrote. She just repeats the cliche, even though it is not true anymore now that Leary can afford the support of a staff.
... then we are in agreement.

Fantastic work, Ced. I'd like to add one more question.

When he reads Meredith's copy every week, the SF Weekly editor thinks:
(a) "Meredith appeals to our core readership of unadventurous suburban commuters."
(b) "I hope Meredith doesn't tell the police about my basement meth lab."
(c) "How much do I need to indulge this woman before she puts out?"
(d) None of the aboce. The editor obviously doesn't know they have a food critic.
"the man" at Le Trou was Robert Reynolds, a French trained chef of some considerable repute who now lives and teaches in Portland
I'm sad I missed Robert Reynolds cuisine. People still talk about Le Trou. Not a one man brigade, but another talented chef who is closing shop: Vernon Morales at Winterland. I loved that place, and it's shutting down on Saturday.
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