Two specific "fine-dining" questions
I'm moving to the Bay Area after five years away and have started fantasizing about where I will eat. Here are two questions I have.
1. One of the best meals I can remember was the dinner I had at Fleur de Lys maybe six years ago. I was pretty shocked to see it wasn't on Michael Bauer's Top 100 list. Is there general agreement that it is not as good as it used to be? Was there some specific change?
2. I can't imagine eating at a restaurant with the name "The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton". It sounds like the antithesis of a Chowhound destination. I've never been in a Ritz Carlton, I don't think, but to me they're about exclusivity and fawning employees (who probably wouldn't fawn over me). I guess this isn't really a question, but I'd like people to tell me either: "I felt the same way, but the food there is creative and amazing" or "If you don't like uppity places, you should probably stay away".
The food there is creative and amazing -- the chef is Ron Siegel, who has a long and distinguished pedigree, including winning against Iron Chef French in the original Japanese Iron Chef. I've never heard any complaints about the service there being snooty -- I think they figure if you want to eat there and can afford to pay the tab, you're good enough for them! I'm not aware that it's the kind of place that draws people who are there to be seen and fawned over, either -- not like Fleur de Lys, which does have that reputation. If Fleur de Lys wasn't too uppity for you, then I can't imagine The Dining Room at the Ritz would be.
As for Bauer's Top 100 list, I don't know why he left off Fleur de Lys, although I think some people would say that it's coasting. It's believed he left off TDR because at the time the chef was rumored to be leaving in a deal that eventually fell through.
re: Xiao Yang
So, that would mean that since the name is a minimum of three words and seven if you count the hotel name, you wouldn't avoid it. Same number of words as Fleur de Lys.
I loved my dinner at The Dining Room a few years ago. Definately the definition of a Chowhound destination in that class. Also the Ritz has some of the best service I've ever had. When you are in a top-notch place like The Ritz, they don't fawn. They make you feel welcome and comfortable.
The chef, Ron Siegel can often be seen shelping around the SF or Marin farmers markets picking up items next week's menu. The food to me was both creative and full of flavor.
What I like about Siegel is that he is just focusing on that one kitchen. He isn't trying to open the next topscale chain like Minna, both Kellers (Tom and Hubert ), etc, etc, etc.
So have you returned yet or tried anything? You might look through some of the Place records and reports for restaurants in that same class to catch up.
1. I don't know why Bauer left it out, but there has been a general feel on this board that FDL hasn't had top notch food and service in a while. Maybe Hubert Keller branching out to his Vegas restaurants has negatively affected his old restaurant.
2. The Dining Room gets lots of attention on here not because of the hotel or the stigma of its name but because of its head chef and the quality of food he puts out on his tasting menus. As for the front of house staff, I think it can be hit or miss depending on the waiter. Some waiters are clearly a little more standoffish, some are very friendly, and some can need more experience working at a place of the Dining Room's caliber.
I also don't know what you mean by "fawning" but most front of house staff in the states try to be very friendly regardless of who you are.
The bar has been raised a bit in Bay Area dining, and while FDL might be the same, other places have stepped up and offered new, better or different. So in that sense FDL might be coasting or staying the same but it doesn't mean it's not good...just that there's evolution around it (real or percieved).
Heck there are people saying the same thing about The French Laundry, hasn't changed, and they have a point. But why would you change much if you're 100% booked, year round and charging a hefty price? Does that make it bad?
I think within the past 6 years SF has become even more competitive and gone into a bit of the "what's new is good" mode, not that's bad at all. It many ways it's very good but the reviews (like the Top 100) follow this ethos since that's their job but it pushes out places that are still perfectly good. I take the Top 100 and Bauer with a huge pile of salt. You still might like FDL. There's plenty of places that fell off the Top 100 list that are still good or excellent.
I was at Fleur de Lys earlier this year (first time) and was not wowed in the least by the food. Things were relatively prepared well. But at that price point, people tend to expect more. I think if the restaurant charged more moderate prices for what they were offering, I would have been happier with the food. And their signature burger dessert was just not tasty at all. Brioche was really dry and nothing really sung to me. Sure, it was kind of cute. But I'd rather have a piece of "boring" perfect chocolate cake or perfect apple pie.
And I've only been to the Dining Room at the Ritz a few years ago and was really impressed by the tasting menu. It was certainly a food marathon. Problem was that our reservation was really late (as that was when our plane arrived). The first four courses were heaven. Then I think the main kitchen staff left as there were execution problems with the rest of our courses. But it was still delicious, creative, and had a "wow factor." DH ordered the wine pairing and they were super generous with the pours (full glass pours). We ended up having to take a cab to our hotel even though the hotel was just a few blocks away.