Monday, March 28, 2005

Four Stars

My parents were in town this weekend and so we were treated to a few meals at truly great New York restaurants (Otto with the beloved toddler, Le Bernardin without). The food at Le Bernardin was so good as to transcend the category of nourishment and enter the realm of art. How I love these amazing meals. But why?

Years ago, when I was a teenager, a family friend asked the same question of my dad. We were out to eat in a fancy inn along the Thames: my family of four and another, English, family of four. The other father, staggered at the prospect of the bill facing my dad (eight lunches!), asked him why he did such things. Because, he answered, whatever he did—reading, listening, looking, walking, eating—he wanted, at least once, to know what the best was like. Seeking the best is worthwhile.

Most food lacks mystery. Even a really great roast chicken bears some resemblance to what I often make on Sunday nights. I can imagine, for example, buying a better bird, rubbing it with fresh rosemary or putting thyme between skin and breast, roasting it in a more reliable oven for just the right amount of time and coming closer to perfection. However, like the best literature and the best paintings, the best food cannot be approached or imitated by an amateur, only wondered at. How did David Bouley’s kitchen create that citrusy-green apple foam in the amuse-bouche at lunch? How did Eric Ripert’s kitchen make the perfect foursome of fluke, two chile, two coconut, all distinct, all divine? How delicious to wonder through four courses!

1 comment:

Mr. Waggish said...

If you haven't already, give the prix fixe lunch at Jean-Georges a try. It's the best bargain in town, and similarly amazing.

But there are so many other great options...I am still mourning the disappearance of the gnocchi from Craftbar's menu.