joearay@gmail.com / +1 206 446 2425


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WORLD’S BEST? THAT’S UP TO YOU.

I love the hype surrounding the announcement of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants* – it somehow points out how goofy and subjective it is to rank them (where are Pinotxo and the Agawam Diner?!?!) while reminding us how wonderful they are.

For anyone interested in a trip down memory lane to the places on the list where I’ve been lucky enough to eat, here we go…

noma – Rene Redzepi (see photo)

El Bulli – Ferran Adria

El Celler de Can Roca – Joan Roca

WD-50 & Daniel

Le Chateaubriand

Pierre Gagnaire & Plaza Athenée - Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse

St. John

Finally, two conspicuously absent personal faves:
Restaurat Jean-Marie Amat
and
Les Cols


*Congrats to my pal Lexy Topping for breaking the 50 Best story for the Guardian – woop woop!

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner and on Facebook.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monks At The Table

MANHATTAN

There’s a lot to notice when we arrive at WD-50. The most outstanding is a booth of guys who look like they could be fraternity brothers, yet they’re silent as monks, paying close attention to what they’re eating; the antennae are up, they love the challenge.

You have to be up for the ride. Chef Wylie Dufresne bristles at the thought of preparing anything leaning toward making standard bistro fare for his customers. He’s just not interested.

What would he rather do? Stuff like floating plump scallops and pine needle udon in a bowl of grapefruit dashi. He deconstructs eggs benedict. He chars avocado. (?!?!) Even if his family is in the business you have to wonder how he thinks of this stuff, but when you put bites in your mouth, the combinations and preparations will stand hairs on end and leave you wondering how no one thought of it before.

Daniel Boulud’s kitchen at Daniel has a beautiful wall of spices sourced from around the world while Dufrene’s wall has pectins, starches and syrups. Yet the adjectives Dufresne cuisine inspires are words like ‘clean’ and ‘clear’ – you leave feeling like you’ve eaten a healthy Japanese dinner. His parsnip tart somehow makes me rethink my understanding of the vegetable. Parsnips!

Some argue the validity of this type of experimental cuisine - they should eat here to join the converted.

Finally, all hail Dufresne for having the confidence to keep and highlight the work of pastry chef Alex Stupak. Instead of a clash of egos (that would usually lead to the latter getting dumped), you just sit there and say ‘wow’ all meal long.

Count on about $65 plus drinks if you go à la carte. The tasting menu runs $140 plus $75 for wine pairing.

WD-50 – MAP
50 Clinton Street
New York
+1-212-477-2900
www.wd-50.com

Full disclosure: I ate at the restaurant while working on an upcoming story about Dufresne and his collaboration with chef Daniel Boulud. That said, Dufresne didn’t realize we were in the restaurant for dinner until dessert was over and the check was paid.



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Friday, October 30, 2009

Taking off The Cuffs

Chef Daniel Boulud recently picked up a third Michelin star for his restaurant, Daniel, only a few weeks after I spent an hour interviewing him for a Centurion Magazine story.

I was impressed by his attachment to the city – at this point, he’s more New Yorker than Frenchman and when I asked what was most ‘New York’ about Daniel, he replied with a bit of native French impishness: “Moi.”

…and???

“Service – it’s unique to NYC,” he says. “Europeans always find something in the gentilesse of the people here.”

Clearly, this Frenchman has lost his way, giving up his Gallic roots and praising service.

What turns out to be most impressive about Boulud is his openness to outside influences – he is a big fan of experimental chef Wylie Dufresne of NYC’s WD-50 and Basque chef Juan Mari Arzak.

For my story, Boulud works to create a tasting menu with Dufresne, and there’s a huge Asian influence in one of the plates he suggests, pairing scallops with miro, miso and black garlic.

My brow arches.

“Nothing to do with French,” he says flatly.

It’s like he’s cut off the cuffs.

Three stars, indeed.

For a little bit of back and forth between Francois Simon and the New York Times, check out their differing reviews of Boulud’s new restaurant, DBDB.

FS said:
http://francoissimon.typepad.fr/english/2009/10/daniel-boulud.html


NYT…
http://events.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/dining/reviews/14rest.html?scp=3&sq=boulud&st=cse

Courtesy photo by T. Schauer



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