Friday, June 27, 2008

Stuff I've Learned: Don't Believe the Hype

I'm just as excitable as the next gal...perhaps more so. I did used to live in LA. When someone says there's a hot new [insert food trend] restaurant in town, I think, Could this be the one? The food equivalent of true love? Will I eat there once and be unable to forget the delectable pleasures?

I have this reaction despite of the fact that I have been burned by this town too many times. When I first moved here, I ate at all the hot spots of the moment--Mixx, Public, Town, BLT Fish, Del Posto--and you know what? I've never gone back. I went through a bit of a mourning phase. This town's all glitz and show and no substance, I thought. Nothing I could sink my teeth into, literally.

I learned that the greater the hype, the fancier the digs, the more celebrated the chef, the greater the expectation, the higher chance of disappointment. This is not to say some restaurants don't live up to the hype. When they do, you really want to shout it from the water towers, "This is amazing!!" Eleven Madison Park did that for me. Megu and Le Bernadin too. That's why you keep slogging through, eating at culinary equivalents of plane movies, just to find that one gem.

I had that "no big whup" experience a couple times this week. First, ordering burgers from the newly opened Wall Street Burger Shoppe. I was all set to post a glowing review. It's not every day a new eatery opens up in the FiDi. But the patty was dry and the bun flaccid. The sauce was underwhelming, and there wasn't even a tomato or onions. Just shredded lettuce. If I find myself saying I'd rather have a Big Mac, you know I won't eat it again.

I also tried another dessert bar this week--Kyotofu. It's a beautiful space, and the food is presented beautifully, as you would expect from the Japanese. But if I find myself saying I'd rather be eating at the Mitsuwa food court, you know you've got a problem. It wasn't bad. I had the lavender tea (pretty good) and the dessert prix fixe. Every course was tasty, but I guess when I paying $30 for dessert, I guess I expect more. I want to be transported. I want to leave craving the food. Thus, the catch-22, as stated above. I probably won't be going back.

In fact, I'm sick of this dessert bar trend. I can't even remember what I ordered at Room4Dessert, over a year ago. That's how memorable it was. Sometimes, the simpler, the realer the better the food. Sometimes pretty plating and fancy furniture doesn't add to the experience. When it comes to food, the only sense that needs stimulating in the end are the taste buds. Everything else is gravy...

So, score is NYC: 2, The Girl Next Door: 0. But that's part of being a New Yorker. Knowing you'll get had 4 times out of 5, but boy, is that 5th time worth waiting for.

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