Is World's Best Restaurant Worth the 12-Month Wait?

triciaeJuly 26, 2013

Richard Vines, Bloomberg profiles Spain's El Celler De Can Roca, voted the world's best restaurant, where there's a full-year waiting list.

Doesn't look like food, to me. :) I'm such a bumpkin. :)

/tricia

Here is a link that might be useful: El Celler de Can Roca Restaurant Review Video

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Teresa_MN

There was a chart in the video with a few facts about the restaurant. Prices from E 200 a head - which is close to $300. They list the sound at 700 decibels. Is that a misprint?????? Does the decibel chart even go that high? That's louder than a Stones concert! :-) If it's not a misprint I personally would not spend that kind of money to damage my hearing. And forget about any conversation during the meal. The sound alone should knock one star off the rating.

Teresa

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:21AM
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mitchdesj

The presentation of the food is exquisite, seems like quite the experience.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:22AM
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dcarch7

Can a painting be worth $50 million dollars?

Yes, for some.

If you have the spare change, absolutely. That kind of eating is not for survival, it is for the experience. Actually, the price is not expensive for a 20 course tasting menu.

My only problem with that kind of restaurants is the incredible waste of good food. I think they throw away 80 percent of the food to get that one slice of perfect meat.

Teresa, the 700 decibel is nonsense. If you look at the design of the restaurant and the layout of the interior, you can see it is a very pleasant atmosphere.

The science of decibel goes logarithmic, not lineal : For each increase in 3 decibels, the power doubles. at 700 decibels, there will be a total global melt down.

dcarch

Here is a link that might be useful: Nice!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:13AM
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Teresa_MN

That's why I wondered if it was a typo. Maybe it's 70 decibels which would be considered pleasant. Noise at the level of 700 really would make it an experience!

The chart also listed 50 seats and 30 chefs. I suppose they would need that many chefs for all the attention to detail.

One would hope if you had to wait a year for a reservation you would at least be seated promptly! :-)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:32AM
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triciae

I do like their little bonsai olive trees. Those are cute. What is that stuff on the rectangle plate that looks like the fishnet hanging in the stern of our boat? Doesn't look pleasant?

dcarch, I would guess that whatever foods are not used for presentation are used for some other purpose and/or sold to other restaurants. No business can afford that much waste. Plus, it would not be responsible. Maybe, they feed the staff with less than perfect food?

If I made a reservation for a year out you could just about be sure when the special day arrived - I'd want Chinese instead! lol

/t

This post was edited by triciae on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 9:55

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:51AM
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sally2_gw

I've often wondered how that many chefs in a kitchen can work together without running into each other or otherwise getting in each other's way.

Sometimes I think it would be great fun to go to a restaurant like that just once, for the experience, like Dcarch said, but I'd have to win the lottery to justify spending that kind of money on a meal, or experience, for that matter.

Sally

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:51AM
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momj47

Hardly, it's only a meal.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 11:02AM
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foodonastump

Eat at any slightly upscale restaurant and have a couple drinks and you can easily spend $100 per person. To think that for just three times that amount you can have a multi-multi course tasting menu at the "world's best restaurant" complete with paired wines which I'm sure aren't two buck chuck, I think it's an absolute bargain. Yes it's expensive, but not out of line with what people spend every day for many types of memories such as sporting events, theater, concerts, etc. I'd be game for a meal of a lifetime.

This post was edited by foodonastump on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 12:15

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 12:13PM
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foodonastump

Tricia - I just realized you questioned the wait, not the cost. I can't plan this weekend, let alone a year from now! I wonder if they lock you into a reservation somehow, financially. (Or if/how they could prevent people from selling their reservations - that could be quite a racket!). Either way, I can't imagine them having a hard time filling a table on short notice. Great way to take care of preferred customers!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 2:24PM
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jadeite

When I was in Spain in 2011 I called El Cellar and asked about getting a reservation. They told me it would be about 9 months before anything was open. They found it funny that we wanted a reservation within two weeks. We ate at many outstanding restaurants during our stay, reflecting the rise to fame of Spanish gastronomy. Now that their economy has tanked, I don't know if the standards are still high.

El Bulli routinely opened bookings one year in advance and immediately sold every table. They could have done this twice or three times over. There are still people who lament that they never got to eat there.

If you couldn't make the reservation, I'm sure you could sell it. El Bulli reservations sometimes came up on ebay.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 3:51PM
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triciae

Well, it's obvious to me that I'm not a foodie. I just like good food and enjoy cooking. I'd rather have Pats tickets!

/tricia

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 4:26PM
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dcarch7

"---dcarch, I would guess that whatever foods are not used for presentation are used for some other purpose and/or sold to other restaurants. No business can afford that much waste. Plus, it would not be responsible. Maybe, they feed the staff with less than perfect food?--"

I don't know what they do with their wasted food. For restaurant of that class, food is 10%, and presentation is 90%. People pay lots of money not because of their food, which are very delicious. People pay to be excited visually by the gastronomic gymnastics, of the artistic creativity, and the cuisine theatrics.

Each creation, once designed, is to be made in exact precision. Any chef deviates from it will be fired on the stop.

The only way to do it is to throw away food that does not fit the design.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 5:16PM
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triciae

Oh phew. The conservationist in me couldn't even enjoy the dinner if that's what is happening. :(

"People pay to be excited visually by the gastronomic gymnastics,..."

Oh, never mind.

/t

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 5:50PM
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beachlily z9a

Triciae, I agree with you. We could easily afford this, but why? I feel like a bumpkin, but I'd rather cook and serve at home than travel that far to sample food. It's an attitude and it's a values based decision.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 7:03PM
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jkom51

I hae issues with Modernist cuisine. One of the biggest of them is, THE CHEFS DON'T EAT THE FOOD THEY SELL YOU. This is one of the dirtiest little secrets in the Trophy Chef Sweepstakes. Only rarely do you run across an article here and there in which these famed chefs confess what they really eat.

So, for instance - Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 in NYC. Chefs like Chicago's Grant Achatz and San Francisco's Joshua Skenes all follow in his footsteps. Dufresne is famed for his exquisite Modernist/Molecular Gastronomy/whatever you want to call it these days.

Know what he eats? Land o'Lakes American Cheese. In big 5-lb blocks. Multiple blocks in WD-50's refrigerators. He eats it all day long. Has done so for years. Not Kraft, btw. Doesn't like Kraft's cheese, only LL. Such a snob (smile).

Atelier Crenn in San Francisco: the Bay Area's newest, and first female, Michelin two-star chef, Dominique Crenn. Her plates are works of edible art (check out Google Images). But at home? Quote from a Nov 2012 local paper article: "Her food at home is all about comfort. Roast chicken and whole fish Provencal are staples, nods to her native France that are usually accompanied by gorgeous California salads."

If a chef doesn't want to eat it, why should I want to, let alone pay for it? We have paid upwards of $200/pp - and we don't drink alcohol - and thought the food was totally worth it. But that's for food prepared by chefs with passion and love for what they're doing, like Perry Hoffman of Domaine Chandon's Etoile in Yountville, or Roland Passot's magnificent foie gras (when it was legal) at La Folie/San Francisco.

We don't like tasting menus. And we hate overly composed plates where we have to guess which wafer or curlicue or it-looks-like-a-rock is actually the kohlrabi, in heavy disguise. Because it's not great food, not really. It's pretentiousness, and in the end unsatisfying.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 7:16PM
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Teresa_MN

Dcarch - I don't know what they do with the food in your area, however, here in Minneapolis excess food, cooked or uncooked is picked up by Loaves & Fishes. It is distributed to soup kitchens to be eaten that day or the next. It's a great way for hotels to donate leftover banquet food as the health department does not allow the excess to be taken home by the guests. The businesses that donate are free of any liability for the food once it leaves their property.

It's a great resolution for both parties involved.

Back to the restaurant - I will be interested in hearing if you end up going tricia. And it will be interesting to see if the restaurant is still that much in demand a year from now.

Teresa

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 7:43PM
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dcarch7

Teresa, some time ago I have read that there was a group of people who specialize in dumpster diving restaurant dumpsters for food.

Other than that, I am not aware of any organization who takes excess food from restaurants here in NYC.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:41PM
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foodonastump

Jkom - It doesn't surprise me one bit that chefs who spend countless hours a week fussing over intricate food would prefer simplicity in their off hours. As such I don't think that's a valid criticism of modernist cuisine. The American Cheese example is the extreme of that reaction - surely you're not suggesting that hunks of this "cheese product" are superior?

Like you, I'm not particularly impressed with finicky presentation - in fact more times than not I'm put off by it - and I personally find "tasting menues" a bit exhausting. That said, I'd jump on the chance to experience the best of the best for a once in a lifetime experience. From the "world's best restaurant" I would expect, and likely receive, absolute perfection in taste, true originality in preparation and presentation, utmost quality and variety of ingredients, and exceptional service. Definitely worth seeking out once in a blue moon, in my book. Maybe not Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but once in a blue moon.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:50PM
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dcarch7

BTW, another extraordinary restaurant Alinea, which will not take reservations the normal way. Waiting is also months:

"Alinea will be selling tickets rather than accepting traditional restaurant reservations beginning with the August 2012 bookings.------------------- Pricing for our Tasting menu will vary between $ 210 and $ 265 depending on the day of the week."

Wine is never included in the price.

dcarch

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:51PM
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foodonastump

Dcarch - Alinea... I seem to recall a dessert video you posted. Have you been there? Worth a quick flight if I've got points to burn and my wife will be there on business anyway?

Teresa - Speaking of business trips, my wife came home from a quick trip to Minneapolis last night. I'm don't recall which she mentioned first, the skywalk or the great food. And mind you all she had was lunches ordered in during meetings and a pub burger at night. "I'm ready to pack my bags and move."

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:30PM
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dixiedog_2007

Huh..."Other than that, I am not aware of any organization who takes excess food from restaurants here in NYC."

This organization has been around in NYC for over 30 years. I hear about it all the time on TV and from many chefs who work in the city.

http://www.cityharvest.org/about

Here is a link that might be useful: Food Organization

This post was edited by dixiedog_2007 on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 21:41

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:39PM
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Teresa_MN

FOAS - miles of skyways in downtown Minneapolis. Over 11 miles (69 blocks) in fact. It's always mind boggling when someone visits here for the first time. The Tribune did an article on the skyway system a couple years ago. The" city above the street"- or some such name.

We downtown workers measure things in skyways. Have you tried that new Chinese place? It's two skyways away at the entrance to the TCF tower. The word has also become a verb. Should we skyway it? Or walk outside? No one wants to take a job downtown if it's not on the skyway system.

Can you tell I love my skyways? The first skyway opened in 1962 and it was a huge event. My dad took us downtown and we took the "tour". And then we ate at the Nankin Restaurant. That same skyway is right outside my building and has the most people cross over it everyday. The last time a count was taken it was more than 70,000 people. One of our skyways has stained glass windows. And one skyway is only 9 feet long!

Would you believe I won the skyway trivia contest at work?

Glad your wife found things to enjoy here. Minneapolis comes as a surprise to many people. We have more than hotdishes and Lutefisk!

Enough of this nonsense!

So Tricia - I wonder if this restaurant that is so hard to get into allows people to talk on cell phones. Some of the high end restaurants here ban cell phone usage. Hopefully after waiting a year to get in people would leave their phone in the car and make the most of the experience!

Teresa

This post was edited by teresa_mn on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 22:11

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 10:06PM
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jkom51

foodonastump, I would rather have an honest cheese than the superficial array of unidentifiable foams and gels, not to mention the whole "let's make this look like an egg, but it isn't really."

Been there, done that, wasn't impressed ANY of the times we've had it. Was it tasty? Sometimes. Was it pretentious? You bet.

Was it as good as true Dover sole in champagne sauce from the old Le Bourgogne/San Francisco (terrible stuff, Dover sole - ruins you for anything else, LOL)? Or real Mediterranean scampi - NOT large shrimp, btw - in garlic butter? Or a perfect foie gras torchon in spiced peach consomme from La Folie/SF? Or that luscious poached egg with caviar and buttered leeks from Etoile/Yountville?

Heck, no.

We live in one of the greatest areas in the world for restaurants and food of any kind. People come from all over to eat in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have spent our retirement traveling around Northern CA to eat, and a whole lot of $$$ doing so.

I have a long list of foods I would ask for if I had to pick a final meal on earth. Not a single Modernist/MG dish would make it onto my list. Different strokes for different folks, that's all.

More power to anyone who loves MG. I appreciate the exquisite Parmesan foam that Madrona Manor did in their heirloom tomato bisque. Commis/Oakland does an amazing "egg cream" dish - always a little different, often phenomenal. Fleur de Lys/SF made some citrus "pearls" that really set off a lovely piece of local halibut.

But if you asked me right now where I'd most like to spend $250 on eating, I'd go (again) to Mourad Lahlou's Aziza, because his Moroccan-inspired fusion cooking makes the most terrific couscous around. My spouse hates couscous but flipped over Aziza's. Lahlou's recipe (in his cookbook) takes ten hours to make. Easier to just drive across the Bay Bridge and have dinner!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 5:14PM
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foodonastump

I hear you, jkom, and I share a lot of your sentiments. Except calling American Cheese Product "honest cheese", LOL.

"let's make this look like an egg, but it isn't really."

That made me laugh. Give it a pass at a kid's birthday party? Served atop extruded chocolate to make spaghetti carbonara that isn't really?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 10:42PM
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dcarch7

'---Was it as good as true Dover sole in champagne sauce from the old Le Bourgogne/San Francisco (terrible stuff, Dover sole - ruins you for anything else, LOL)? Or real Mediterranean scampi - NOT large shrimp, btw - in garlic butter? Or a perfect foie gras torchon in spiced peach consomme from La Folie/SF? Or that luscious poached egg with caviar and buttered leeks from Etoile/Yountville?

Heck, no.---'

I am not sure you can compare some of these restaurants with your more traditional restaurants. You don't go to restaurants like 11 Madison or Alinea for food, you go there for a completely different eating experience, experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.

'OMG! Wow! Stunning!', not just 'That was a yummy dinner'

dcarch

Here is a link that might be useful: Not places for a good steak dinner

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 8:11AM
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ArabellaMiller

Because of my husband's job, we eat out. A lot. And I'm very, very grateful for the opportunity to try so many amazing restaurants. A few weeks ago in Barcelona we ate at a restaurant called "Tickets" which claims a 3 month waiting list. I have no idea if that's true. We had the tasting menu, along with quite a bit of cava along with some additional cocktails. It was quite an experience, and all the bites of food were spectacular and beautifully plated. Every course came with an explanation and instructions. (my FB friends can see pics on my page) And everything was truly delightful. Well, there was one exception: the marinated green olives. They gave us two of them, served on silver spoons in olive oil. My husband and I both HATE green olives, but we were in a trendy restaurant and it was served so beautifully, we were game to try it. It was repulsive. The flavor was ok but not great, nice garlic with a kick of saffron I think, although not enough to overpower the olive taste. But the texture! The consistency was so slimy and it kind of popped in my mouth, I had trouble swallowing it. The look on my husband's face was priceless - I could tell he really wanted so spit it out, but didn't dare.

It was an experience for sure. And one I won't soon forget. So even though the food was incredible, it was the experience that made the night. Every bite of the evening was a memory, some good, some bad, some just funny. But well worth the experience.

Every meal we had on our trip was memorable. From street food to the fanciest of restaurants. Mostly because of the awesome company.

AM

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 5:56PM
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jkom51

>>I am not sure you can compare some of these restaurants with your more traditional restaurants. You don't go to restaurants like 11 Madison or Alinea for food, you go there for a completely different eating experience, experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. >>

As I said, different strokes for different folks. Some people like to be wowed with a flashy, I-have-no-idea-what-this-is experience. Others don't, and I'm one of them. As my spouse likes to say, it's display food: not passion, but ego, and without soul.

Those who have not yet read Pete Wells' hysterically funny column on tasting menus in the NYTimes might get a kick out of it:

(EXCERPT)
Nibbled to Death
By PETE WELLS, NY Times October 9, 2012

"ONE of the most inviting openings to a restaurant meal I’ve ever heard came when I had closed the menu at Bouley and a server asked, “What shall we cook for you this evening?” The question managed to suggest that my choices would bring the kitchen intense pleasure, and that the pleasure would be returned to me many times over.

Compare this with the words of another server this year at an unnamed restaurant that offered tasting menus of several lengths. When I said I would tackle the whole megillah, a 12-course $245 spectacular, this was the response: “O.K., I’ll go get that started for you.”

If the server at Bouley had made me a partner in an imminent adventure, this one turned me into a cog in an invisible machine. The machine would operate for a fixed length of time, and my function would be to eat anything it produced until the gears stopped turning and I was allowed to leave.

Not all tasting menus get off to such an awkward start. Even so, when I face a marathon of dishes chosen by the restaurant, I often feel the same trapped, helpless sensation. "
(Full article at link below. NYTimes allows up to 10 free articles per month)

Here is a link that might be useful: NYTimes Food Critic Pete Wells on tasting menus

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 5:58PM
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nancedar

I wouldn't wait a year for a reservation nor would I enjoy "tastings" that last forever. I would think 20 courses would be gluttony and my body would object to so many different foods presented in such a relatively short period of time. I would, though, enjoy two or three every other night for a couple of weeks or so! Those would be to truly savor each dish, not to have the whole experience all at once and be in overload to every one of my senses multiple times in one evening.

IMHO the artistry of these food presentations is just that - art. In any venture (home building, pottery making, designing chairs or tables, building ice sculptures or sand castles, baking the world's largest whatever) there are always going to be those that go beyond the norm for the art of it - an expression of their craft. And, I applaud them for their expressions, but I might not necessarily enjoy them en masse.

On the other hand ----- I do know people who wait a whole year to spend $300 or more at the annual County Fair on junk food and rides for the "experience". LOL, LOL.

Nancy

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 7:12PM
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maggie2094

If I had the opportunity, yes of course! I would love to dine there.

I have had Wylie Dufresne's food and it was an awesome experience. He is a humble guy with a true passion. Most chefs eat very simply on their own time on a routine day.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 4:37PM
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jkom51

Based on the photos of the food and the delightful review, I'd rather go to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Britain's priciest restaurant, in Oxfordshire. The size of that scallop and lobster salad is three times what they serve at our local Modernist places like Manresa, Coi, Saison, Commis, or Benu; and the ingredients are just as high quality.

Here's the thing: I like a dish to be not too big, but just large enough that I can really enjoy the different flavors as I eat. That's really hard with the Modernist "two tiny bites on a big plate" places.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jay Rayner's review of Britain's most expensive restaurant

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 12:56PM
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rob333

And here I thought you were gonna talk about Nashville's Catbird Seat. I've never seen it say anytihng other than this:

No Availability for Catbird Seat within 30 days
Restaurant Name Price Availability (click time to reserve)
Catbird Seat Nashville : Contemporary American $$$$
No Availability for Catbird Seat within 30 daysUnfortunately there are no tables available that meet your criteria.Change Search ›

and you can't get in. Ever. They have a "rolling 30-day" reservation system. By 12:01AM, it's all booked for that evening 30 days from then. Oh well. Some day.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 3:19PM
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jkom51

As an interesting update to this discussion, Food Republic investigated the new "Pay to Play" systems, where the essential point is "...A coveted 8 p.m. Saturday table at The Clam in the West Village is no longer just a “dinner reservation.” It has become an asset, capable of being resold online for a significant upcharge. One such scalper-friendly site, called Shout, 'described as “a new kind of marketplace', reveals tables available this week at hotspots...for prices ranging from $20 to $60 (yes, that’s just to sit)." "

I think eventually restaurants, first at the upper levels and then drifting downwards, will begin to take management of this and assess their own fees for seating.

Here is a link that might be useful: FR Investigates: What's Up With Pay-To-Play Restaurant Reservations?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 1:07PM
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Islay_Corbel

It's an interesting discussion. As Jkom says, it's horses for courses. No-one's holding a gun to your head, making you eat food you don't want to eat. If someone was to invite me to such a restaurant would I say no? NEVER! hahaha but would I want to pay so much? Perhaps once in a lifetime.

" don't know what they do with their wasted food. For restaurant of that class, food is 10%, and presentation is 90%. People pay lots of money not because of their food, which are very delicious. People pay to be excited visually by the gastronomic gymnastics, of the artistic creativity, and the cuisine theatrics."

Dcarch wrote the above. In Europe, an any of you who have travelled here will know, the food HAS to taste delicious and is every bit as important as the presentation. There are so many good restaurants all over Europe that people would just walk. Good food is the norme and a bad restaurant gets a bad reputation VERY quickly now, especially with the excellent websites where you can check all the reviews before you book.

Wait a year? No. I would also far rather go to Raymond Blanc's restaurant in Oxford where you get wonderful food and they know how to treat a customer. He believes in good quality fresh ingredients cooked (he would say simply!!!) well and with love.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 2:18AM
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dcarch7

Masa in NYC, a sushi restaurant where you also have to wait months to get seats.

Minimum $, drinks not included, tips not included, over $400 per meal.

Other great restaurants give you spectacular food with recipes you can't make yourself.

Let me ask you, with good quality fish, is there a taste difference between a $20 sushi v.s. $100 sushi? Is there a "recipe" for sushi?

But I wouldn't mind trying the $400 sushi once.

dcarch

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:40AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

This is interesting because I have a foodie friend going on a trip to Napa and we have been discussing whether or not the French Laundry is worth the splurge. Neither of us have been and reading reviews still hasn't helped the decision. There are a lot of things she needs more (that I think) than an $1,000 meal and to me, if you have to consider it, you can't afford it.

This post was edited by Bumblebeez on Mon, Jun 9, 14 at 20:30

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:41AM
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Islay_Corbel

Yikes! 1000?!!! I wouldn't be able to afford that!!!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 2:09AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

That's an estimation with tip and wine for two.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:31AM
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mainecoonkitty

Oh, hell no. Looks like wretched excess to me. I like good food and pleasant atmosphere as much as anyone, but for that kind of cash, I could feed 100 homeless people for a week. I'd rather have a nice simple meal at home and do just that, rather than get two bites of something I have no idea what it is, on a plate decorated with splotches of some exotic sauce and a few fancy garnishes. I'm just not into status symbol food. To each his own, but I find those kinds of places pretentious and over-priced.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:23AM
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jkom51

Apologize for the length, but what the heck:

Bumblebeez, I have to say it's one of those individual decisions, speaking as someone who lives a little over an hour away from Napa and visits just for the restaurants.

I've never made it to FL, but a foodie friend I trust made it in on a last-minute cancellation (yes, sometimes those impromptu calls really do work) and he loved it, said it was the best dinner he'd ever had.

OTOH, as someone once commented to NYTimes critic Pete Wells (she is in the industry, eats at these very top-level restaurants without having to pay for it), you are paying for two things: the very freshest ingredients and exquisite precision of execution; e.g., the cutting and placement of food. She pointed out it does not actually taste any better; it is simply beautiful and consistent with no flaws, plate after plate. You need never worry that somebody else's caviar with oyster foam is a little bigger or less salty than yours; the food will be the same no matter who is receiving it that night.

Now...that kind of experience may well be worth it, just as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nothing wrong with that - every gourmet/foodie has their own memories that they hold dear!

I can only say I've given up trying for FL. It just isn't worth it to us. We've eaten great food in Northern CA for 45 yrs, and would rather spread my $$$ around elsewhere at restaurants we can get into, that also have truly remarkable food. We're retired and can spend as much time and $$$$ as we want up there.

That said, your friend might try for Meadowood. Chris Kostow is not the household name that Thomas Keller is, but unlike Keller, Kostow remains the ExecChef, hands-on, at Meadowood, which holds the same # of Michelin stars that FL does. Talk amongst local foodies is that FL is still very good but Meadowood is better and more exciting.

If it was my $2K, this is what I'd spend it on (but I could do it because we don't drink, which saves a lot of money!). Opinions are STRICTLY MINE, ymmv:

- Auberge du Soleil - Upscale resort with glorious food and an even more glorious view IF, and only if, you can snag one of the four tables on the outdoor patio. Sitting there overlooking the Napa Valley, eating a lobster and veal sandwich on brioche and finishing with an after-meal French brandy, is one of our favorite memories. It's the only restaurant in the Napa Valley with a high-hill valley view. Worth every extra penny it’ll cost.
- Ca'Momi @Oxbow Market - Brilliant authentic Italian cuisine in a noisy, uncomfortable market hall. Try to get a patio table because the tables inside are small and smashed together. Bring a cooler and ice for those luscious pastries!
- Etoile @Domaine Chandon - Stunning. Wonderful. Worthy of LVMH's Dom Perignon (they own all three brands, and more). If I had to pick only one dinner in the Napa Valley, Etoile is where I'm going. Perry Hoffman is a genius, with the masterfully understated touch that only terrific talent and classic training (French, of course) can produce. Try the Chandon brandy, 24 yrs old and only available for sale at the winery - phenomenal stuff.
- Solbar @Solange Resort: A Relais & Chateaux property, and worthy of its siblings. Too many people miss this phenomenal restaurant in Calistoga. The service is excellent and the food is exquisite. The heartier side of the spa menu is surprisingly carnivorous as well as generous. But don't miss the spa dishes; they aren't your usual rabbit food. A chicken pasta soup from the spa side was downright stunning; a rich dark brown from roasted bones, full of juicy shredded chicken breast and mini-farfalle. I drag my DH all over to eat and he said this was hands-down the most amazing soup he'd ever had, simple yet utterly perfect.

After that splurge you need something cheaper. Cheese and pate and good bread for a picnic:
- Bouchon Bakery- Croissants a little saltier than Parker-Lusseau in Monterey, but crisp and lovely. Chocolate budino dessert cakes are a winner. Baguettes are extremely neutral in flavor, excellent for a cheese tasting. Note they get very crowded at lunchtime and sell out by 2p.
- Dean & Deluca Delicatessen/Specialty Grocery - The goose mousse pate is worth selling your soul, or more probably all your arteries, for. Come with ice packs and your cooler, and stock up!
- La Foret Chocolatier - Opened by the former pastry chef at the French Laundry, she makes fairly salty chocolates (and still supplies FL for their chocolates). But we did like the white chocolate macadamia ginger bar, which surprised us since we don't like white chocolate or ginger. Hidden in a very obscure, tiny residential strip mall outside downtown Napa. Look for Browns Valley Market which fronts the mall, and BVM also carries Bouchon baguettes (but skip BVM's deli offerings, Dean & Deluca are better).

And yeah, I'd make time to visit the Castello di Amoroso, Sattui's own personal folly. I'm a sucker for brick buildings, and a series of wine cellars with double-vaulted brick arched ceilings? There are only 7 brickmasons in the world who know how to do that kind of artisan work any longer, and Sattui had three of them working on it. Their wines aren't top tier, but they offer a cabernet and chocolate tasting that is a lot of fun. Loved the tour and recommended it to my role-playing Renaissance Fair friends!

It's hard to get bad food in the Valley but it's possible. I'm not a lover of over-the-top, "throw in the kitchen sink" cooking that many young chefs do. And we avoid Napa in summer, when service is more amateur (the summer temps are hired in May) and everybody is crushed under busloads of visitors.

Good for more casual meals:
- Angele, Napa
- Bistro Jeanty, Yountville
- Lucy @Bardessono Resort, Yountville
- Market Restaurant , Yountville
- Redd, Yountville

Avoid:
- Bottega, Yountville (gone downhill)
- Bouchon Restaurant, Yountville (go to sibling Ad Hoc instead, casual American food)
- Brix, Napa (new chef just started)
- Don Giovanni, Napa (tired oldie)
- The Grill @Meadowood - Note this is NOT the upscale FL competitor, Meadowood Restaurant, which is sited upstairs above the Grill. Too expensive for a casual place.
- La Toque, Napa. Erratic.
- Mustards, Napa. Sloppy oversized plates
- Oenotri, Napa. Same as Mustards but Italian
- Siena, Napa. Corporate blandness

Anyway, no matter what your friend does, I'm sure she'll have a great time. Just don't schedule too much in one day -- common first-timer error. Distances are long, traffic is messy in summer, heat is tiring. And remember, bring a jacket for cool evenings! 64 degrees may sound great but when at 3p it was 103, it'll feel surprisingly cold.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sattui's Castello in Napa Valley

This post was edited by jkom51 on Tue, Jun 10, 14 at 11:29

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Wow! Thank you so much! She is going to be thrilled with all this insider information.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 12:16PM
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jkom51

You're welcome!

BTW, for those who might wonder why I included the more modest Ca'Momi in with the upscale French Solbar, Auberge, and Etoile, it's because Ca'Momi is a rarity: one of the few US restaurants that holds two certificates of authenticity from Italy: It is VPN certified, meaning it specializes in truly authentic Pizza Napoletana. Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) is an organization that certifies the authenticity of Pizza Napoletana. This means their Pizza Napoletana is exactly how it would taste in Naples: same ingredients, same techniques.

Ca’ Momi is also a recipient of the Ospitalita Italiana seal, a symbol of quality and authenticity granted by the Italian government to Italian restaurants around the world that promote authentic Italian gastronomic culture and standards.

If nothing else, grab one of their bigne or ciambellina for dessert. Authentic whipped cream Italian pastries to die for! What is in the dairy case in the main mall is ALL they have for the entire day. When it runs out, that's it.

Oxbow Market, where Ca'Momi is, also has a number of other very good food quality vendors, including Hog Island Oysters and Fatted Calf charcuterie. Anette's Chocolates is a local chocolatier (main store in downtown Napa) and the one item we buy as gifts for friends are their chocolate liqueur syrups, which are very good and unusual:

Here is a link that might be useful: Anette's Chocolate Wine and Liqueur Sauces

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 1:05PM
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