(2010) by Galina Dargery
GOOD NEWS! Esquire.com now has a new food section called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.
THIS WEEK: In Defense of French Food
ANNOUNCMENT: On Wednesday,
April 18, John Mariani will host a book
signing dinner at Via Vanti restaurant at
2 Kirby Plaza in Mount Kisco, NY.
Five-course meal at $85 per person,
including signed copy of How Italian
Food Conquered the World.
Call 914-666-6400. Click
TO MAKE A
NEW YORK CORNER
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
HOW TO MAKE A
“With a growing number of NYC restaurants accepting only cash and refusing to take bookings, dining establishments that take — in fact, recommend — reservations seem like one of the last-standing modes of culinary civility. That is, until you arrive for dinner and your reservation appears to be meaningless. Restaurants such as The Lion, Beauty & Essex, Pulino’s and other hot spots are enraging diners by making them wait upward of two hours (sometimes sans complimentary drinks) for a table — despite patrons booking reservations up to a month in advance."—New York Post.
For a service industry, many contemporary restaurants have an attitude towards their customers that ranks with doctors’ waiting rooms, Motor Vehicle Bureaus, and the Unemployment Office. As the NY Post article above indicates, way too many trendy restaurants in the city—and the policy is certainly not exclusive to NYC—book reservations then ignore them when you get there, forcing you to stand at the bar and buy $16 cocktails for an unconscionable length of time. Were I to mount a very weak defense on behalf of such restaurants, I would say that, 1) Long waits for a table wreaks havoc with a restaurant’s service and kitchen timing, not unlike a jam-up of jets on a runway. 2) It creates antagonism that causes one outraged customer to tell ten friends who will never go near the restaurant. 3) Restaurant hosts and managers know that many customers either out-and-out lie about having a rez or flagrantly show up late for no good reason. That said, here are some tips on how to avoid getting stuck waiting for your rez.
-Do not consider any
restaurant that has gotten rave reviews in recent
weeks. It will be mobbed by those who just have to
be first through the door. When it cools off,
start to think about making plans to go.
-Consider your reasons for wanting to go to such a restaurant in the first place. Is it because the food is supposed to be spectacularly good, four-star cuisine? If it is such a restaurant, like Le Bernardin in NYC or The French Laundry in Yountville, you are unlikely to be made to wait at all. If you’re going because the place is the hottest celebrity-packed restaurant of the moment—and these places do fade quickly—be prepared not to be treated like a celebrity.
-When you call to make a rez, get the name of the person taking it and end with, “I look forward to seeing you, Chrissy.” Be aware that hostesses are not always very savvy about seating—their job may be only to take reservations and have the manager do the seating--so ask for the manager’s name, too, or ask to speak with him directly and tell him you look forward to a good evening.
-Call in early
afternoon, when the hostess station is not
Be aware, though, that sometimes a request
may go directly to a phone attendant somewhere.
Also be aware that if you’ve been to the
restaurant in the past or are a regular, they have
notes on you, both good and bad, and you may be
-Try OpenTable.com. At least you’ll have a confirmed rez to show the restaurateur and OpenTable does not like to get complaints that affect their business relationship with a restaurant.
-Let’s face it, bribery does work, if you’re pushy enough to try it. Better, and far more civilized, is to tip the maître d’ or hostess on your way out, if you intend to return.
-If the hostess says there’s going to be a wait and to go to the bar and have a drink, refuse and say, “Id rather stand right here.” She may call the manager and he’ll probably try to seat you ASAP.
-Threatening to leave will only make you feel a little better but it’s not going to cut it with a manager who has ten people ready to take your table. Same goes for threatening to write to Pete Wells at the NY Times. The manager’s heard that one a million times and, believe me, Wells is not going to go to bat for you.
-Arrive with a person in a wheelchair, or if you’re a real George Costanza type, walk in on a cane.
Alison Becker opened Alison on Dominick back in
1989, it was considered both a brave move and a
welcome breath of fresh air in SoHo, then a
neighborhood only just on the brink of becoming
gentrified and lacking the kind of fresh
French-American cuisine she favored, via her first
chef, Tom Valenti. There was also something
thoroughly modern and very personalized about the
small restaurant--dark blue banquettes, shiny white
walls, candlelight, a small stylish bar up front,
and photos of France. Alison herself (below) was very
much part of the appeal of the place, even though,
as of 1996, she began dividing her time
between SoHo and Sagaponack, where she opened
an eponymous branch.
The handsome décor,
beginning in the bar, takes on colors of aubergine
and taupe, with red tablecloths and hanging modern
chandeliers, with framed mirrors and whimsical, with
designed figured wallpaper, Payton Cosell. The room
has a very admirable decibel level, which Alison
demanded of her architects, so that conversation can
take place throughout the night, probably with
Alison herself, who is ever eager to tell you about
her newborn restaurant and all that went into it.
Again, I must mention
that Gurvich's cooking imbues everything with a
concentration of flavor, not least in his seafood,
which includes black bass with artichokes,
cannellini beans, cockles and the bite of chorizo;
halibut is braised in olive oil, to give that mild
fish a richness it otherwise lacks, with
chanterelles, leeks, and Brussels sprouts.
meat entrees there's a thick and fatted grilled
pork chop enhanced by tender, garlicky broccoli di
rabe and a touch of chili, with sweet roasted
apples and a bracing shot of vinegar to pull it
all together. From the rotisserie, we had the lamb
shoulder, which took very well to that turning
spit, coming off tender, not at all dry, with
roasted vegetables, a good buy at $27. If you
like, have the side dish of rutabaga and potato
It's wonderful to have
Alison back, if only to restore some balance and
sense to an increasingly frenetic and too often
gimmicky restaurant scene in NYC, where chefs and
owners seem to be trying so hard to come up with
something merely new rather than truly good. Alison
and Gurvich toe a classic line of good taste, which
is what good food is always supposed to be.
Alison Eighteen is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch on weekends, dinner nightly. Breakfast pastry and cheese kiosk open daily.
Appetizers run $12-$28, main courses $26-$45.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Chianti Raises Its Image by Changing Its Stripes
by John Mariani
John Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.
Michael Jackson killer Conrad Murray, who narrowly
escaped being shanked last month in the L.A. County
Jail, is now claiming that the prison food might
up killing him if he doesn't get out. Murray says he
is "extremely sick" with dysentery, and has dropped
30 pounds since November from a diet Murray claims
is mostly "cat food" purchased at the commissary.
Alicia Silverstone (right)
posted a video of herself feeding her 11-month old
son, Bear Blu, breakfast after chewing it in her mouth
and passing it to his.
Any of John Mariani's
books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: 6 Roman Resources; Is This the Most Dangerous Road in the World?
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
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