Chef Interviews – We get it; you have a back story. The problem is, it’s always the same story. If you’re from Europe, you were a bad student and a delinquent who got thrown into vocational (chef) school at age 14. If you’re from this side of the pond, you were a troublesome kid who was “redeemed” by the kitchen. If you’re from Asia, you were working too hard to think that anything you have to say is profound. Which is another reason why we love Asian chefs.
Caviar Promiscuity – Here’s the thing: caviar used to be a luxury item. For centuries it was a wild product, difficult to obtain and expensive to buy. There were good reasons for this. The best quality came from giant sturgeon, many decades old, that were mainly found in the Caspian and Black Seas. Beluga eggs were prized by connoisseurs for their delicate salinity and an almost otherworldly nuttiness. Eating these eggs was a sensory experience few will ever forget. You, my friend, will never have this experience. You will not have it because America (with good reason) has put severe limitations on the importing of wild sturgeon caviar, making the real stuff harder to find than a six-pack at an AA meeting. What you get today is cheap-ass, farmed stuff. Tons of it. Which is why every chef in the world puts it on everything — not because it necessarily compliments the dish being adorned, but because it gives the illusion of luxury. Don’t believe the bullshit that restaurants (or caviar purveyors) throw at you about their Chinese or Spanish or Brazilian caviar. Most of it has as much in common with real, Caspian Sea beluga as a wild turbot does with a Mrs. Paul’s Fish Stick.
Steak Tartare – Or anything tartare for that matter. Face it: chopping up proteins and mixing them with herbs ain’t exactly pastry science. I love it, but like Adam Platt, I’m tired of seeing raw meat on every menu.
Asking If Everything Is Alright (or if everything “tastes delicious”) – Quit asking a perfunctory question you don’t really want to know the answer to. And really quit asking 20 seconds after the food hits the table. If anything’s wrong, we’ll let you know. And if anything’s really good, we’ll let you know that, too.
Food Allergies – SCREW food allergies! And SCREW the lame-ass, medically-suspect, narcissistic types who (probably don’t) have them. If YOU’RE allergic to something, it’s up to YOU to let THEM know. Or better yet: save everyone the trouble and stay home.
Sommeliers Everywhere – Everyone does not need expert advice for every liquid (water, tea, hot sauce) they put in their mouth.
Odd Cuts of Beef – Spinalis? Teres major? Denver steaks??!!! Geez Louise, it used to be enough to know what a hangar steak was. These days, steak chefs try to dazzle (and confuse) you while they try to squeeze all sorts of profits out of lesser (read: tougher) cuts of steer. Give me a porterhouse, strip or rib eye and be done with it. If I want a cheap cut of meat, I’ll take it home and cook the shit out of it myself.
Beer Chic – I don’t know what’s worse: the guy who can’t stop talking about his love of Flemish sour ales, or the dude who drinks PBR “ironically.”
Pictures of Food – Unless you’re a pro, or a semi-pro, (and have an iPhone 7 and take high-quality tasty snaps), just stop it. The world is not waiting with bated breath to see what you had for dinner.
Food on Anything That Wasn’t Meant to Hold Food – WE WANT PLATES! (see picture above)
Spirits Gone Wild! – Back in the day, there were four or five vodkas, a half-dozen gins, and a handful of bourbons at any bar. Which was more than enough to get us all drunk and contribute to whatever wacky cocktail some mixologist was dreaming up. The question has to be asked: Does the world really need a thousand brands of tequila?
Fried Eggs On Everything – Especially on sandwiches. Especially on sandwiches that aren’t egg sandwiches.
Once in a while, I’m able to eat out anonymously and see how the other 99.99% live. It doesn’t happen often – I get spotted everywhere these days, even sometimes in Chinatown – but when I can sneak in and experience restaurant service the way most people do, I am, to put it mildly, appalled.
Exhibit A: A brand new Indian restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. Two visits; two head-scratching experiences. Visit number one found me as the only diner in the place. I ordered two beers off the list; they were out of both of them.
I ordered a gin and tonic. “We have that!” and everyone sighed in relief.
I placed my order…and it took for…ev…er for the food to appear.
In an Indian restaurant.
Where I was the only person in the joint.
Getting the check was as challenging as getting the food, with my waitron apparently preoccupied with all of those other people who weren’t eating there. Visit number two was even worse. The food came faster, but the waitron disappeared multiple times, again taking care of who-knows-who. (The two other people seated were as lonely as I was.) When it came time to pay, I got her attention (if memory serves) by waving my underwear and singing the Star Spangled Banner.
When I finally get the bill, it has an item on it that was ordered and never delivered. To make matters worse, after I got home I found that they double-charged my account (for the price of the entire meal – $104) after someone disappeared for another 20 minutes to supposedly “fix things.”
Exhibit B: A brand new pub-restaurant on east Charleston serving English meat pies. Two different waitresses ask me three times if I want water. Water never shows. Ten minutes go by. Finally it does and I order. The soup comes reasonably fast, but a single meat pie takes for….ev…er. (Did I mention there were only six other people in the restaurant? And three of them were already eating?)
Three different sauces were offered with my meat pie, but I got the mustard cream whether I wanted it or not.
My dirty soup plate sat in front of me throughout the meal. Only when I was ready to pay did someone ask if I’d like a water re-fill. And for all I know, those dirty dishes are still sitting there.
A menu, some water, a little attention, the check — IT’S NOT THAT HARD, PEOPLE! If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire someone who does. Or don’t open your doors until you do.
Try as I might, I can’t get excited about the Wine Spectator “awards.”
Because they’re really not a measure of excellence; they’re only a publicity stunt that restaurants from coast to coast buy into for whatever free publicity it garners them.
They’re also a fraud.