Do the meals make the Chowhound in L.A.? [moved from L.A. board]
Tangential to the raves I've been reading about Urasawa:
I want to know where people draw the line when it comes to price. I mean, I pride myself in being a chowhound and all, and yes, I technically could afford a blowout at Urasawa once if I really wanted to, but I wouldn't do it.
Regardless of how orgasmically good a meal would be, at the end of the day I have to step back and say, this is FOOD, it is first and foremost intended to nourish me, and I can't justify spending $350 to fill my tummy on a single evening of sushi, albeit exceptional sushi. I have found exceptional sushi in this city for far less than that, and I can't imagine Urasawa being however many times more exceptional to justify the hit to my wallet.
Anyways, I just like to point this out because a lot of people (chowhounds or not) synonimize being a chowhound with a carte blanche attitude... I want to know, to what extent do you think this is a reality, particularly in Los Angeles, where people are often exquisitely defined by their spending habits?
I think the assumption that having a carte blanche attitude toward food spending is definitely not an LA-centric thing. Believe me, there are many other places in the world where definition by spending is far worse than LA.
Also, I've spent far more money on absolutely fantastic meals outside of LA than I have in LA.
If I can afford it, there really isn't a "max price" I would put on food. So I guess my "max price" is whatever the limit of my affordability is. My most expensive meal in LA, per person was way more than a blowout at Urasawa.
For example, a meal at Masa (old owner of Ginza Sushi-ko, and Hiro's old boss - better than Urasawa now and in the past) in NYC is easily double (or more) than what Urasawa charges... and it is better. Two or three times better? Maybe, maybe not... highly subjective. But in any event, it was very good, and I would not hesitate to go back there.
Now the real issue is that there are lots of REALLY expensive meals in LA that just aren't worth it... when you hear people absolutely raving about that... then you gotta wonder... were they raving about the food or the price? My experience is that this phenomena is also even more rampant in the OC.
"Anyways, I just like to point this out because a lot of people (chowhounds or not) synonimize being a chowhound with a carte blanche attitude... I want to know, to what extent do you think this is a reality, particularly in Los Angeles, where people are often exquisitely defined by their spending habits?"
This is a particular gripe of mine about the Los Angeles board (check out the other regional boards for contrast, there's a pretty broad spectrum of dining represented on most)... and it wasn't always true.
It was always my supposition that being a chowhound meant living out the ethos that the name implied... sniffing out great chow in any situation, regardless of a restaurant's questionable pedigree. But, especially over the past few years, things have drifted upmarket on the LA board as the culture of the Tasting Menu has really taken hold.
Whereas, when I first started reading the Los Angeles board, there were once ten posts about little hole in the wall places for every Russkar (and I pause to assert that I love and resepect Russkar as a stratospheric culi-naut of the first order) inspired no-holds-barred blowout... the board is increasingly Tasting Menu mad. Restaurants aren't taken seriously unless the service, decor, and cuisine create some sort of temporary synesthesia in which thousands of dollars are liberally thrown into tasting the novel reccomendations of the sommelier alone...
The whole situation shocks me a bit. Even though I'm lucky enough to be able to afford to eat like that on occassion... I don't. I don't like it. I don't get it. On those occassions that I'm foolish enough to head out and recreate a particularly ############ Tasting Menu debauch I read about on chowhound, I have a miserable time, and feel more the fool at the end of the meal.
All of which goes to show that some of us just don't get it.
High-end L.A. meals are a bargain compared to much of the world!
Certainly any fab meal you'll get in London or Paris is going to make our meals look cheap after you do the currency exchange. And even here in the west, if we want to faint at the dinner price, we go to Vegas.
For the record, I find the L.A. board to be most passionate -- and vigorously chatty -- when people are talking about the OTHER end of the spectrum: taco joints, great jook, the best tamales, northern vs. southern Indian cuisine, et. al.
Yes, there's some chatter about the high-end places. How could there not be? The food at these restaurants had BETTER live up its price tag! But it's a terrible mischaracterization of the L.A. board to say that its participants are somehow obsessed with $250 meals.
We are obsessed with $2.50 meals too! More often than not.
Re: the LA scene, yeah there's the super rich but they're everywhere (NYC, SF, etc.) and they're not enjoying themselves anymore just not having to think about the wallet. In general however LA is trendier among the "wannabe" class...the ones who believe in the "you are what you drive" mentality usually also believe the "you are where you eat" mentality...but is this different from NYC? No not really just w/o the car thing and different social motives. In SF this is true as well but the boho/hippie tradition takes up half the bandwidth so you don't feel it as much or can ignore it.
Any way about carte blanche, it's a matter of perspective. Normal people perspective and rich/jaded perspective. I do the $300 p/per thing once or twice a year and I think EVERY normal person questions the price of the meal afterwards or at least rationalize it for the moment. I don't know anyone who hasn't, even if they can afford it easily. It's human nature because, as pointed out by the OP -- food is food. The buck-fifty hot dog combo at Costco serves the same basic function. Of course if you're there to be trendy, no you're not going to question the price because your motives aren't the food.
As for eating like that regulary, IMO no CH or person who truly likes food could or would eat like that since it would skew your perspective on food. Hell, many chefs will tell you can't do it, i.e., your palette needs variation and who has the time? Every decent chef, like CHs, have their junk or low-brow food fix, as it should be.
On my first trip to France, I was taking a train to Spain and made a special trip to a small town with a one star Michelin place. Having never eatten at a place with a star, I had done my research and thought this would be my big splurge. So I dress up and head over to the restaurant for lunch. It was spiffy, it was fine, the waiters formally dressed like the penguins in "Mary Poppins." I stood outside for about 10 minutes, reading the menu and not going in.
Next door to the one star place was a small family run hotel with a small restaurant. They had a 4 course lunch special for something like $15 including the wine. I went in and had one of the best meals of the whole trip---started with an amazing Basque soup, then a beautiful cooked trout, then cheese and I think dessert. Wow. I still remember that trout.
I don't think the obsession with the upper end is only an LA thing. I find I feel sad sometimes when I read about people going to Paris [and other places] and all the multi-stared, wallet busting places they plan to eat at.
I confess, I don't get $500 meals. I like good food, I like good wine but I don't get $500 for a meal for one. There are too many people starving in the world for me to ever enjoy something like that, even if I were Bill Gates.
Whatever happened to ducking down a street and finding something new and delicious that didn't cost an arm and a leg?