"Tech Culture" — that nebulous boogeyman currently haunting San Francisco — is there anything it can't ruin? Esteemed San Francisco Chronicle food critic and lifestyle blogger Michael Bauer is on a rant over on Inside Scoop today. Well, it's a tech rant wrapped up in a trend piece shrouded in haute cuisine food writing, to obfuscate things further. Fixed-price menus are making a comeback, but they're coming back all wrong. Someone must be blamed.
For what it's worth, the trend is replacing the regrettable small plate movement that plagued us for so many years, Bauer says. "Yet despite what many people thought," he continues, "the fixed price menu is on the rise, whether it’s at the bare-bones Palace in the Mission or the must-order offerings at Commonwealth."
Notable joints like Aziza are seeing an upswing in fixed price diners and even trendsetting AQ in SoMa is dropping a la carte options (although they've got little brother TBD next door for the casual diner). But there's something more sinister about this most recent trend towards the tasting menu. It's too fast-paced. To figure out what's been driving this new trend to wolf down 14 courses in under two and a half hours? Bauer turns his critical eye, honed sharply over more than two and a half decades of dining out in San Francisco, to the city's lifestyle threat du jour: Tech Culture.
The leisurely pace associated with multi courses has morphed into something else, I realized. A couple of weeks ago some colleagues were in town and some went to Benu and Saison, both of which offer tasting menus with more than 10 courses. I was surprised by my colleagues’ complaint: the food came too fast. At Saison the diners were out within 2.5 hours, and at Benu my friends would have finished in record time but they asked the waiter to slow the pace.
That made me realize there’s another trend afoot in San Francisco: time at the table. Diners still want the tasting menu but fueled, I think, by the tech culture, they don’t want to spend three to five hours enjoying it. The restaurants realized this fact and adjusted their style to accommodate.
Emphasis ours. In other words, according to the city's preeminent food critic, five-hour dining has been disrupted. What's a guy got to do to get a five hour meal in this town?