Recalling their meal at French Laundry, the Bay Area's other three-Michelin star restaurant, a food critic in the February issue of Vanity Fair says, "The meal felt like a form of torture." The critic, along with VF editor Graydon Carter, complain about both the climbing expense and the rigidity at esteemed restaurants. As Grub Street points out, "To these two, it's almost criminal that Per Se and Alinea serve multiple courses, cost hundreds of dollars, take hours to finish, and don't allow diners to ask for substitutions."
They do have a point -- an idiotic one, but a point. Restaurants demanding so much from their patrons, including what's inside their wallets, are a bit much. But these print masthead squatters don't seem like folks who might, say, be down with asking for a cup of Ranch at Zero Zero or a ordering a Skinnygirl at Comstock. (We witnessed both of these things go down over the holiday week; gastronomical missteps that sent eavesdropping patrons chortling under their righteous eye rolling.)
And who's to blame, according to critics? You and your social-media ways, of course.
In the last week alone, there have been several stories about how the experience of eating at nice restaurants is becoming less enjoyable. Most of the writers agree that it's the universal obsession with gastronomic food and holier-than-thou chefs that is sucking the joy out of dining. Jolyon Helterman of Boston Magazine criticizes the “foodie hype machine,” which includes everyone from professional critics to Instagram food-porn producers and whiny Yelpers. He says that the nonstop buzz is “destroying the soul of dining out” and causing people to lose sight of the big picture. And since “we’re suckers for anything over-the-top” (a foie gras grilled cheese gets more “Likes” than a kale salad), chefs are in turn creating menus filled with rich foods and complicated themes, like Eleven Madison Park’s $195 sixteen-course Gotham-themed blowout.
A sixteen-course Gotham-themed blowout? That sounds goddamn delicious. Anyway, we look forward to these critics getting wind about the white-hot food truck and communal table trends. Be careful what you wish for, folks.