In the NY Times today: "You May Kiss the Chef's Napkin Ring," a wide-ranging, Swiftian grumble from restaurant critic Frank Bruni about the unbalanced state of the fine-dining world. It's a fairly wholesale set of complaints about the dominance of Chef's wishes--in the form of what you order (tyrannical tasting menus), when you eat (9:45 seatings), how long you may take (we're looking at you, Gordon Ramsay), what you listen to (loud music)--and the subjugation of the diner's. He almost seems to be asking, "Where my cranky New Yorkers at?" He does a pretty good job of describing the milieu of restaurants where celebrity chef cookbooks line the exits and every smear of sauce comes with a lengthy murmured provenance. And lest it sound too much like a salvo in a new reductive public debate (I can imagine a tedious Mike Wallace rant about all this), toward the end he concedes the fact that many of the places he mentions--Babbo, Per Se, Joel Robuchon's L’Atelier--are places that he gave positive reviews. The food is good. Great, even. So what this is really all about is the ever-escalating tradeoff.
I'm still trying to decide how it fits in my view of things, but it's an interesting piece. The best line? "It won't be long before Hooters has a tasting menu." Bwah! "For your next course, chef is offering ailes de poulet with a trio of regional sauces and suggests, to pair, a flight of PBR..."
(Where is Bruni's review of the new Gordon Ramsay in New York? Unless I'm missing something it still hasn't appeared. What's the backstory there?)