Is Miami really an unsophisticated dining city?
- lax2mia Jan 18, 2007 01:44 PM
An article in today's Herald about the recent crop of out-of-towners opening branches of successful restaurants from L.A. and N.Y. seems to think so. Here's some quotes and a link to the article. Very sad, but I tend to agree on almost all points. Any comments?
"Their beefs: a lack of culinary sophistication; a dearth of top-quality, locally grown produce; fish purveyors with less-than-exacting standards; a restaurant workforce that's not quite up to speed."
"He serves classic bistro fare (seared foie gras with apple and grape compote, steak tartare and frites), but Delouvrier wishes his customers were a tad more, well, aware."
"But as far as produce is concerned, I was spoiled rotten in L.A. I have great relationships with the local farmers there. Here it's taking more time to set that up."
Forgot this gem:
"I am not criticizing. The customer is always king. But I wish they would trust me more. In New York, they come to my restaurant to eat my food. Here I think they just come to eat."
What gets me is that Miami is going through the same restaurant buildout as Vegas, chefs with successful restaurants in other cities replicating their concept in a hotel or casino. The one difference is that we actually have an agriculture and aquaculture industry whereas I'm almost positive that Vegas has to import almost everything. Yet no one gripes about this in Vegas. Or maybe I'm missing something?
I assume most of the product in Vegas comes from the west coast which is not that far off. Many of the restauranteurs are coming from there too (Michael Mina, Tom Keller, Bradley Ogden, Hubert Keller, etc.) and so are probably using the same purveyors and moving everything quickly - and they can recover the cost b/c people are accustomed to spending big money in Vegas (of course, I don't think our restaurant prices are much different here).
First of all, I don't think the food in vegas is very good. I'd frankly rather eat here. Second of all, Vegas is very near california so can get much produce easily without worrying about freshness. Third of all, the employees, in general, are more professional in vegas than they are in miami.
Wow - where have you been eating in Vegas? L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, which opened in the MGM Grand about a year ago, is one of the best meals I've ever had (and that's his "casual" place, there's a higher-end one too). Bouchon, which is Thomas Keller's French bistro, is excellent. Aureole was very good. There's several more I haven't tried yet which are supposed to be excellent - Michael Mina's place in the Bellagio, Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys... I have been quite impressed by most of the newer places in Vegas and by the seriousness with which they are taken by the restauranteurs.
I think there's some merit to this and indeed their complaints are ones many of us voice too: why is it so hard to find good local produce? why is it, when we're surrounded by ocean, so hard to find fresh locally caught fish? why are so many restaurants staffed with vacant slackers?
On the other hand, I thought the "rebuttal" from Mark Militello was somewhat telling: these folks are coming in from other places and expect everything to be right there for the picking. That's not the case, but if you really work at it you can find good local product. Mark's Place certainly does, I think Brana is also really making an effort too.
I find the complaints somewhat inconsistent and odd, though. Govind Armstrong can hardly complain about Miami being a "see and be seen" environment when that's exactly what he has in LA and when they're clearly pitching a late night martini & small plate deal here.
I thought Delouvrier's quote (whch L2M noted above) is actually awfully arrogant and telling. You think people should "come to eat your food" before they've ever had it? He may be a legend in NY but his reputation here is only as good as what's on the plate. Give people good food, and then maybe they'll grow to trust you. And I've got to say, we've been to Goulue once, and while it was good (the hangar steak in particular), it sure wasn't the best French bistro food I've ever had in the US (that honor goes to Bouchon in LV, with a second place to the old Brasserie Le Coze).
The "see and be seen" atmosphere, and a somewhat unsophisticated clientele, do have a dumbing down effect on restaurants here and there are certain types of places that may never successfully operate here (I'm thinking in particular of the "serious" dining like French Laundry or the Modern in NY, or the deconstructionists like Ferran Adria and other Spaniards or Alinea, WD-50, etc.). But I think there are several places that do serious, sensitively prepared food that have succeeded and show there's a market for it. I'd put Mark's Place, Timo, Talula (and probably others I'm not thinking of right now) in that group.
Wow, how shocking. Folks coming into Florida and complaining things aren't as great as where they're from. Never heard THAT before...
While it's great to have these top chefs here I suppose, I really don't worry too much about these new locations for chefs that made their reps elsewhere - I'd hate for us to follow the Vegas model.
Rather, I root for the local chefs to grow on their own and deliver us another homegrown wave of acclaim a la Norman, Mark M., Johnny V etc. Restaurants that are South Florida based, not the latest sidebar from budding chef moguls. Local chefs know the local produce, seafood, etc and can do amazing things with what they've always had to work with. Miami will never have the fresh produce of California - nowhere else in the States does. So why bash us for it? The seafood however? Indefensible.
That said, I'd die if Keller opened a place here :)