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L'espalier and O Ya (and boston food) in WSJ

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12424...

enjoy.

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  1. This article read like a back-handed compliment. The gist is, there hasn't been good food in this town until 5/16/09. C'mon, now ...I wouldn't say that L'espalier or O Ya are doing anything particularly innovative.

    3 Replies
    1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

      I just came across this article.

      Interesting. I wonder what the "16" restaurants are.

      Who does every restaurant have to be "innovative" these days? Can't they just produce great meals with high-quality products with the environment to match?

      1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

        O Ya not innovative? Try finding anything else like it in Boston or even New York. Regardless, I'm with the poster above, who argues that high quality is all the innovation she requires.

        1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

          I don't see the "back-handed" part of "not much else worth eating." That's a straight up slap in my book.

        2. Would be nice to have that reporter's job...

          1. I love that word raffiné. Totally using that next chance I get.

            I also disagree with the notion that L'Espalier and O Ya are not innovative, unless you only define innovation in terms of molecular cooking.

            New York does have places like O Ya: I'd say Nobu is in that vein.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            11 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Never been to Nobu---is it as good as O Ya?
              About the writing---the "not much else worth eating" lines and other provocative statements, I find that is the way condescending New Yorkers tend to write about places outside New York in general. Plus, it's just the snarky-show-off journalistic style that is currently in fashion---of course no one actually *talks* like this guy writes, but writing (and newspaper writing in particular) is different from speaking. I don't like this style, not defending it, just saying that it seems very much in vogue these days, unfortunately. An article has to have a conceit, and exaggeration helps.

              1. re: bella_sarda

                Sure, I know no one talks like that...even in New York. I'll bet more than half the readers of the WSJ would have no idea what some of those words mean. Your point is really mine, too bad we only have 16 restaurants worth talking about (in this way) in Boston!

                I also disagree that innovation is the key to making a restaurant worth dining at. Still, O Ya, Clio, L'Espalier, maybe some others, were or are innovative in my mind, and set new standards for high-end dining in this city. They can also hold their own against some of the fine establishments in NYC. That even considering we don't or can't draw from the same international pool of restaurant talent, or have the same fierce competition to drive up "innovation" and quality.

                I still totally dig going to NY to eat though.....

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                Ah hah--a rare disagreement! I've been to Nobu in both NY and London, and it is neither as innovative or as good as O Ya.

                I'd say Masa is more in the vein of O Ya, but even it is not as innovative.

                1. re: rlove

                  also been to nobu in london and nyc. it was cutting edge 15 years ago. it feeds the masses now. you know a place has jumped the shark when even legal seafoods rips off the miso-glazed black cod.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    sadly, the best and most creative chefs at Nobu tend to move on to other places after a while (or start their own, e.g. Morimoto, Nishino), whether from ambition or burnout is hard to say...resulting in Nobu going downhill

                    1. re: barleywino

                      Though it's been years since I've been back to Nobu, what I was getting at was not its relative innovation, but how it is not strictly traditional Japanese, is a bit fusion-y (South American flavors in some dishes), and devotes more space to cooked dishes than most sushi/sashimi places, a comparison I'll stand by.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Although there are a good number of places that specialise in just sushi/sashimi, a good number of Japanese place (e.g. izakaya) also serve a wide range of cooked dishes in addition to sushi/sashimi. In that respect, the breath of the menu is not unique to Nobu.

                        With regard to innovation, perhaps the better criteria is how often has the menus changed, and how often do new dishes appear? The Nobu here in London serves a good representation of what's in the Nobu cookbook.

                        1. re: limster

                          It's a shame Boston doesn't have a few more izakaya-like places, which, pardon my potential ignorance here, I tend to think of as rather casual places, mostly about drinks and relatively simple cooked food like skewers. (In my mind, the American analog would be a modest tavern that mainly serves beer but also a few sandwiches and such.) Are izakayas ever more elaborate than that, or would that be abusing the term?

                          We briefly had one yakitori joint (Sumi in Allston), but it had a predictably tough go without a beer/wine license. I think 80-90% of our Japanese places focus heavily on fairly traditional sushi and sashimi and don't get too creative about it. Would that it were different!

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Most izakaya that I've been to have a whole range of dishes that cover different cooking techniques (simmering, grilling, fried etc.) and sushi/sashimi. So yes, they can be more elaborate in the range of dishes they serve, and will definitely serve more than just yakitori and kushiyaki (places that specialise thin those are are yakitori-ya). Mostly what izakaya have in common is a long list of alcohol (sake, soju, beer), which can vary in price range/quality as can the food. A tapas place might be a better analogy than a tavern that just serves sandwiches and beer.

                            1. re: limster

                              Thanks as always for the very educational response!

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          i would totally concur with that comparison

                2. I love both of those places, and perhaps the other fourteen as well, but I have to say that was one of the least enjoyable "reviews" (is it?) I've read in a long time. The food descriptions are ok, but some of the rest is a bit, er, unsettling. Hydra-headed and eminence-grise, who talks like that? Maybe in New York, haha.

                  1. Had to get the dictionary out to decipher this article--decorticated? (did he mean "husked"); raffine?; conurbation? I don't usually find Sokolov so arrogant--seems he has some axe to grind with the Boston restaurant scene--interesting that his son got married here. I don't like the comparisons/put-down of B to NY: New York is NY; Boston is Boston. Can't we be distinctive and still be good?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rosiedq

                      I hate comparing Boston to New York. NY is a giant place, with a much more diverse population and deeper pockets. However, Boston certainly seems to taken huge steps in the since the early 1990's.

                    2. I came across that article back in May and didn't get past the headline: "Boston Goes Way Beyond Cod". That would have been an appropriate headline, when, in 1990 maybe? I knew with a head like that the article would suck.

                      1. I just read the article. I do agree that the tone is a bit out of date given all of the amazing food options in Boston these days. That said, while the tone describing the old days is a bit harsh (mostly rightly so) he sings mostly Boston's praises:

                        "Tony L'Espalier, in the heart of overdeveloped Back Bay, and O Ya, the explosivelycreative, intimate neo-Japanese inn in a rehabbed firehouse hard by Boston's Chinatown."

                        The "not much else worth eating" refers to Boston of yore, not today. In fact, the article starts: "For its size, this Atlantic coastal conurbation of 4.5 million may be the nation's liveliest".

                        I think folks are being a bit knee jerky here. He recently gave Speed's his "Best Hot Dog in America" nod.

                        I always like Sokolov's writing.