Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I admire Grant Achatz for his skill and his success in an extremely competitive environment but I don't much care for the aesthetic of his cuisine and brand image. I'm not making any judgement about quality or worthiness or value to the culture. I'm just not a fan of the his technogastronomic   theatrics. Case in point


Heath said...
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Heath said...


I read more about his ventures over here: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/grant-achatz-to-open-a-restaurant-and-a-bar/?src=mv

As a geek, it sounds appealing, in a comic book sort of way. I'm reminded of the beginning of Wu Tang Clan's "Gravel Pit" video, where the Wu Tang discover a time-traveling elevator that takes them back to the past (or future): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOG255GTE8g

More realistically, it is impossible to recreate the cuisines of the past, except in certain very narrow ways.

Just speaking about my own area of expertise (pigs), if you want a pork dish that represents non-present times, you can't use regular pork at all, because regular pork is strictly a modern creation that tastes like chicken. In the case of Mangalitsa it fits the period from 1833-2010, but that's about it - you can't use it outside that range of dates.

Given what's happened to pigs, I have to figure that the chicken, beef, herbs, spices etc. are all very different from what they were in the past.

Looking at it that way, it just comes off as ridiculous gimmicky. Of course, Americans love gimmicks, right?

Aunt Messy said...

Is this just me getting curmudgeonly in my old age? I do NOT buy tickets to a bloody restaurant. Nor, incidentally, do I wait in line to get into a bar. Nice try, Grant.

I think I'll just keep leaving messages at Schwa. I figure they might have space by Thanksgiving.

Cd said...

This is not surprising that ticket sales will be the next evolution in the high end restaurants. There is a limited secondary market for difficult to receive reservations such as Momofuku Ko.

It will be interesting to see how a true secondary market opens for Aviary.

Bob del Grosso said...

Aunt Messy & CD
More power to them if they can create a market for tickets. It's a great idea that will play very well to people who can't cook and who have an overweaned need to be "early adopters."

Heath said...

Bob -- keep in mind, if Achatz is successful with the time-traveling restaurant concept, we'll see more and more "dining concepts" in the same vein, just executed badly.

So as irritating as this one seems, it can and probably will get worse.

Bob del Grosso said...

Damn it, you are right! :-(

Judith Klinger said...

Honestly don't understand why your knickers are in a twist about this.
OK, so the pork won't taste as porky or the beef as beefy, but unless there is an cento-genarian around with an incredible memory palate, no one knows what taste issues we are dealing with. And if Achatz gives a little nod to culinary history, that works for me.
Yes, a gimmick, but it's intriguing.
Tickets? Why not? You want to call and leave messages everyday or just get a ticket and it's a done deal. He's telling us this dining theatre, dining art. Its beats keeping the place on speed dial.

paul said...

from a business perspective it's a good idea, reserved seats, if they don't show up they already paid. As Flo Fab pointed out now they don't have to pay a roomful of receptionists answering phones all day. One thing I'm wondering is if customers exchange no money at restaurant, what about splurges on expensive wine or extra courses, which is how nice restaurants make a fair chunk of sales?

Heath said...

Bob -- you telling me I'm right makes me feel like I'm some sort of wise, ancient curmedugeon. I kinda like being right, but I don't like feeling old and cynical.

Judith Klinger - As someone attempting to really produce a "throwback" kind of food - Mangalitsa pigs - I'm not OK with inauthentic details. It isn't just my pocketbook talking; I'm a stickler for accuracy.

Cold Stone creamery uses an anti-griddle. Their ice cream still sucks. Just give me good, high-fat ice cream.

If I go to an ice cream parlor and the staff wears lederhosen, that doesn't make the ice cream taste like the fantastic stuff - incredibly memorable stuff - I had in Bozen (Bolzano).

Also, knowing how America is, it will all wind up like Chuck E Cheese, but with foams and (my least favorite) the anti-griddle.

Once it goes gimmick, we all lose.

Tags said...

Get your tickets while you can...

seat licenses are next!

Jennifer S said...

Paying in advance for your meal, for the convenience of the restaurant. Seems like we're reversing the hospitality to the comfort and pleasure of the restaurant, not the customers.


Jessika said...

Since I basically find these "concept" restaurants to be playing fields for chefs with, more often than not, too much ego and too little actual brain, I wouldn't fall over my feet to dine there.
I like cooking (duh!). I have cook books from the early 1900s, historic recipes for cakes in another and egyptian recipes from the age of the pyramids in another. I've cooked out of all of them. Authentic? Of course not. Yet, they still eat ful medames (fava bean dish) in north Africa and Egypt. The macaroons featured in the cake book are still being made today and I've cooked food as it was in the Edo-period. I have lived in Japan and took ooking classes. Authentic is in the eye of the beholder, a 2010 macaroon can never be a 200 y o macaroon. I wouldn't make sushi at home. Nor would I ever have come up with the idea of making ice cream using liquid nitrogen as one restaurant did in their quest for notability in the molecular gastronomic quest. Or, as Heston Blumenthal did in one episode Of in Search of Perfection. To create the perfect fish and chips, and especially the batter contained beer. He added, among other things, vodka, and then whacked the whole batter through a soda siphon to get the most fluffiness out of it. It made perfection. I reached for my usual tempura recipe, perfection sought to extremes does not always benefit you. But by all means, if you find it intriguing, cook after Heston Blumenthal.
The thing that trouble me the most with all these concept restaurant is the message drummed out that is essentially the idea of re-inventing the wheel.

If they do Italy and the Tuscany of 1942, I hope they include the Castagnaccio-cake. That should be an experience.