High expectations = disappointment? [moved from DC board]
[We've moved this digression from this thread on the DC/Baltimore board: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411432 -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM]
I'll second RE as one of the top 5 in the area. Bistro just as good as tasting room. Heck, eating at the bar is better than some of the high-end places I've tried downtown.
I think the issue is that Pool Boy's expectations are extremely high and RE didn't meet those expectations on the first visit. Fair enough. That's the problem when so many people rave about a place like Eve or Maestro or Palena; some people come to expect the greatest meal of their life every time. Of course people are going to be disappointed when every single bite doesn't make them faint from ecstasy.
Monkey, I enjoy your posts. I think you are on to something about people's expectations leading to disappointments. We can't be wowwed all the time and maybe we're getting jaded - especially with tasting menus. Lots of chefs saying "See. Look what I can do." Course after small course and when you finish it's hard to remember what you had unless you took notes or carried the menu home with you.
I'd like to tell Michel Richard at Citronell that I don't want rabbit 3 ways, I only want it one way so I can savor it. I don't want Komi's entire tasting menu; I just feel like eating a plate of goat ragu with pasta, thank you very much. I'm paying for this and that's what I feel like eating tonight.
I've gotten to think tasting menus aren't meals. They're like cocktail parties with really high quality food. The courses become like demanding guests that intrude on the conversation with my dinner companions. Everything stops while they become the center of attention. There aren't that many worthy of it. I'd rather go back to chefs concentrating on non-tasting menus.
The other issue is that the high-end dining business is pretty cutthroat. Unless you're always wowing your sophisticated/jaded clientele, you lose cachet. Maintaining that level of quality and performance is not easy, particularly with the variables like staffing and raw materials. I like Restaurant Eve because they do a good job using local ingredient from sustainable sources. Some restaurants seem to get their reputations by trying to use the most exotic, expensive ingredients possible. It's like I keep expecting to see a tasting menu that includes kobe penguin chateaubriand with white truffle duxelle and panther sweat coulis or something. And I'm sure people would order it because it's the most expensive and therefore best thing on the menu.
Eventually, people will even get bored of molecular gastronomy and instead of a tasting menu you'll have a smelling menu where you inhale exotic meal vapors at $120 a sniff. Maybe we just need to temper our expectations and take these reviews with a grain of salt.
FWIW, my expectations at Chez Panisse were higher than they were for RE and it didn't disappoint. I wouldn't automatically write off any criticism of it as having too high expectations. Just because I rate it highly, doesn't mean everyone must and if you read the SF board, some don't care for it at all. I'd take all reviews with a grain of salt because we all have our own preferences/biases/expectations and that's the point here. Individual views.
One place where my expectations were not disappointed was when I FINALLY got to The French Laundry earlier this year. All I can say is...whoa.
As for tasting menus....I like having options. Some places give diners better choices when it comes to tasting menus. I like the ones where you might have a choice, for some of the courses, between two or three things. Not enough places do this.
But I like also having choices between regular menus and tasting menus. Some places don't offer both, some do. Some offer only tasting menus exclusively during some days of the week and they are unavailable the rest of the week.
That's what I've been thinking, too. I think some of the best meals I've had have been unexpected which is why they were so good. When I was in the SF area, so many people highly recommended Bay Wolf. I was really disappointed. But, when you go in being told it's so many people's special occasion restaurant, you really do expect a lot and I think that's the case with Restaurant Eve. I also had the same experience at L'Auberge Chez Francois.
Monkey, you hit the nail on the head. The place was, has and continues to be so hyped, that my expectations were extremely high. It is disappointing when a place doesn't meet your expectations when you're so looking forward to it.
Like I said, maybe we'll try it again in the bistro or bar area (the bar looked way too crowded for my tastes, though).
If/when I go again, I'll be sure to report back.