Tickets and 41 Degrees, beyond the food
My wife and I ate at both, on back to back evenings, this past November. I apologize for being tardy in posting this but feel I needed to let some time pass in order to reflect on the experience. You’ll also find my comments to be less about the food than about the whole dining experience.
If you are looking for further confirmation that the food is expertly prepared at both, I can give you that. The sheer nature of the number of dishes tasted at 41 degrees, results in there being some clear winners and then some that were less than extraordinary.
My wife and I found Tickets to be one of the most joyful meals we have ever had. Everyone who worked there seemed happy. Our waiter was highly personable, interested in what we liked, and created a tasting menu of one treat after another. He checked in just enough, to see if we were in need of either more food or wine. The ambience of the room was a treat for the eyes. You could choose to watch the intricate food being prepared, or the soccer game on TV, or the diverse crowd. Overall, it was fun, and after a two week trip to both Barcelona and Paris that included a number of top restaurants, Tickets is the one my wife still talks about.
I knew 41 Degrees would be different going in. I have had multiple course tasting menus at many restaurants. But it didn’t occur to me that because of the large number of courses, the waiter would come to your table so frequently, that it is virtually impossible to have any sustained conversation with your dining companion. The wait staff exhibited none of the warmth found next door at Tickets. I don’t know if that was because they take their jobs too seriously, or they are under such pressure from the kitchen to convey the food in just the right way. It also didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom without stressing out the kitchen. I could hear our waiter informing the kitchen in hushed tones of my departure and the need to hold on whatever item was next up in the queue. When you add to this, the audio visual effects, which did nothing for the ambiance, I can’t recall a more joyless dining experience. It was like a foodies 3 hour death march.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that Tickets is about you while 41 Degrees is about them.
I'd sum them up slightly differently.
Tickets is a series of music videos - great fun and no particular schema.
41° is a comprehensive work - using a similar analogy it was a symphony, an opera, or a Broadway (or similar) show - which told a 'story' over the course of the meal.
Of course, a bad 'show' seems to go on for ever - but a great show is memorable for a long time.
I like both formats; but for me the show lingers (?the melody lingers on?).
This is so interesting - my husband and I went to both restaurants a few weeks ago and felt the opposite. We LOVED everything about 41 Degrees. The service was stellar - attentive, informative, fun, a beautiful choreography. They joked around with us - it was all very relaxed. In fact, we were smiling and laughing throughout the entire meal. Also loved the design of the space and the visual and audio accompaniment. (And we got up to use the restroom several times and never had any issues.)
On the other hand, for us, Tickets seemed way too commercialized and over-hyped. The food was good, but the service was only average (that could have just been our particular waiter) and the staff all seemed really stressed out and on edge. We were seated at the bar of one of the prep stations so we had a good view, and there was definitely tension in the air with the staff. I wouldn't say it was "fun" although clearly they want it to be with the carnival theme atmosphere. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but even at the higher price tag, I wouldn't hesitate to go back to 41 Degrees, but am not interested in going back to Tickets.
Love hearing about different people's experiences! Thanks for sharing.
It is really interesting to get these nearly diametrically opposite reactions to Tickets and 41Degrees (and I urge everyone to read ksyoung's more elaborate trip report, detailing personal reactions to these two places, bite by bite).
It is great that you both revealed your highly personal reactions, and that you are both so articulate and good with language (not just "yum" and OMG!!!" or "belch :( because it provides a spectrum, and I think most of us now have a more vivid picture of each eatery, and have some sense of where we would fall on the spectrum in our reactions.
After reading both reports, I now which of the two I would choose -- but I'm not saying! If I do go -- and I might not go to either or I might go to both, mind you -- I'll report back for sure. Thanks to you both for taking the time to write up your reactions to these 2 much-talked about places.
Thanks so much for the kind words, barberinibee! I would love to hear more reactions to these two very different restaurants run by the same chef and right next door to each other (in fact, they share the same bathrooms!)
Curious to know which one you would pick, but if you do go to either some day, I will look forward to hearing your thoughts!
My full report is here which also includes a link to my blog with tons of pics: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899182