Friday, September 25, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Eating Out

In the last week or so I've been very lucky to eat at some of my favorite restaurants in town. It's always nice to have generous house guest who like to eat out. Momofuku and Double Crown are still as good as ever. Yesterday, after yoga, I was starving and in need of a quick fix so I went to Momofuku's sister restaurant Ssam Bar which I went to when it first opened and it didn't really do it for me. Yesterday all I had was a BBQ Spare rib sandwich with red onion slaw served on a chewy, baguette type roll and it hit the spot perfectly. The highlight though was an interaction I overheard, between two staff members, one of whom was the very friendly and efficient server behind the counter who was doing prep work for the bar, juicing limes? Any way he had thrown all the juice lime carcasses in the garbage when one of his co workers (maybe a manager?) came by and said:

"Don't forget we are composting!"

How fucking great is that? One of the things I most admire about David Cheng's empire is his dedication to things homemade, like pickles. I can't remember a time when I was ever served something at one of his restaurants that wasn't made in his restaurant. And now I find out he is composting! My hat goes off to him.

And speaking of condiments, I had a wonderful burger and deep fried corn on the cob with watermelon butter at Diner for lunch the other day. It was all perfect. The room is one of my favorites, the server was lovely, but why oh why do they have cod in their fish and chips? To get it before its extinct? Truly it is a very confusing situation as no one in the fishing industry wants it put on the endangered species list even though it has been off and on many for decades. Cod is seriously depleted and my two cents is that it shouldn't be on menus especially of very smart informed places like Diner. The thing that really miffed me was the double corn syrup GMO special Heinz Ketchup served in bottle on the table with the burger (tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, and natural flavors).

What? I get that the shape of the bottle of the historic nature of Heinz Ketchup is very cool and in keeping with the look and feel of the room, but come on guys make your own and put it in the same bottles and put a Diner label on it that has the same feel as the Heinz one only that is made with real ingredients. Or just buy bulk organic ketchup. It's very competitively priced at this point.

Which brings me to another wonderful meal we had next door at Diner's sister restaurant Marlow and Sons. I love this room and the food is also fresh and top notch. The only thing that I think is strange is how offended the waitress was when I asked her two questions that she answered all wrong, my first question was: Are you still using corn syrup in your chocolate caramel tart?

She got very flustered and kind of huffy like I'd asked her was the chicken actually a rat from the back alley or something. The reason I asked is because in the published recipe for that tart both confectioners sugar and corn syrup are called for, both containing GMO corn products unless you buy the organic version, but nowhere in the recipe was it mentioned that you should do this. Something I find remiss, but still I think it's a perfectly valid question just as was my second question which was: Do you make your fruit pies with beef suet. Again I asked because they have published a recipe for pie pastry using beef suet and I think for people who keep kosher or for vegetarians, if you are going to serve a dessert item with meat in it you should let people know, it's just an issue of disclosure plain and simple. So I felt my question was not out of line.

The waitress, again was like are you from outer space or what dude? And assured me that they only used butter.

I love these restaurants and don't mean to pick on them, I just want them to be consistent to their dedication to quality food and I find the corn syrup thing off base and kind of weird.

Lastly, Neil and I tried to eat at the new Motorino Pizza on 12th street last night. It's a bustling place, a new outpost of the popular Williamsburg pizzeria. When I first go there I was greeted by a nice guy who looked like he was kitchen staff. I told him I was waiting for my friend and he said that there was a fast turn over so seating would be no problem.

Then a few minutes later as I stood gazing at the menu a woman came up to me and asked if I
was looking for a seat. I told her I was waiting for a friend. I could see that there were two 2 tops open and figured there was no need to put my name on a list. It's a small place, maybe seats 30 tops so it's very tight. It struck me as odd why the previous twosome was seated on the outside table leaving the empty table for 2 on the hard to get to wall side, but this is New York and who knows, maybe they didn't want to sit next to the wall?

As I'm waiting on the street I see two guys go in and instead of being seated the woman takes their names and they come join me on the street. A minute later another couple, a man and a woman also enter and after a minute are relegated to the street with their names on the list.
I'm perplexed: why when you have 4 empty seast are you making people wait outside. I go in to investigate.

I asked the hostess why she is putting names on the list when there are 2 empty tables for 2?
She said that it would be a 15-20 minute wait and that the people sitting in the tables next to he empty seats had already been inconvenienced enough and would I want to put my name on the list?

I said to her: this is New York what is the problem with just asking them to move so people can sit next to them?

What I was thinking, having seen them being seated on the outside of the tables, was: why didn't you make them sit on the inside in the first place?

So I gave her my name and at that moment Neil showed up on his bike. We decided to eat at Cafe Orlin. I found the whole thing to be off putting and rather a strange way of doing business.

Hire a hostess who is incompetent and make customers wait for tables when there are empty ones waiting? Good luck with that.

In a city full of excellent pizza I don't see myself going back to Motorino any time soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A generous house guest is always key. When out-of-towners visit, I always ensure reservations to the best restaurants...on their tab.

I never tire of reading your blog; it's very encouraging for the amateur chef in me.

Keep the recipes coming!


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