restaurants

What it was like to run a popular sushi restaurant in New York City, with memories

sushisay-counter-natsukashi.jpg Two itamae (chefs) prepping before the store opens, circa 2001.

[If you have been following this blog or my Facebook page, you may know that I haven’t been doing too well. I was going to write yet another moan-y thing about my radiation therapy and stuff, but instead, I thought I’d end the year by posting this, an edited and expanded version of something I wrote a little while ago. I hope you have fun reading it, especially if you have ever run a restaurant, or lived in New York. Ah New York, I still miss you. Anyway - here’s to a much better 2014!]

I never ran a restaurant myself, so most of my knowledge on this matter is second hand. My mother ran a very successful restaurant in midtown Manhattan called Tsukiji Sushisay. In addition my stepfather was the accountant for several Japanese restaurants in NYC. I did however work the front desk for a few months, and helped out over the years with things like translating legal documents, making brochures, or creating their website. I translated the menu to English, and even taught basic ‘sushi-counter customer-service English’ to many of the chefs. “I’m sorry, we don’t have spicy tuna.” is one phrase I remember teaching them.

I also want to note, that I feel OK writing this because the restaurant closed its doors in 2002, and various statutes of limitations or whatever have run out. ^^; continue reading...

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Would you seek out a restaurant for its sustainable practices?

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Do you care if a restaurant has sustainable practices? continue reading...

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Printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan

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A selection of print and cut cards to communicate your dietary requirements and restrictions in Japanese. I’ve edited it to add some more information about food product labeling. continue reading...

Dining Out in Japan

A collection of handy things for eating out in Japan.

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Monday photos: Coffee break in Japan

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In Japan, coffee is just as ingrained in everyday life as tea. continue reading...

The "Indo Karii" at Nakamuraya in Shinjuku, Tokyo plus the three degrees of curry hotness

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Japanese curry hotness levels, and my favorite childhood curry. continue reading...

Taimeiken, Nihonbashi, Tokyo - home of Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette)

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I finally made it to Taimeiken, an old time yoshoku restaurant in Nihonbashi, to indulge in the original Tampopo Omuraisu (rice omelette). Yes, that Tampopo. continue reading...

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A visit to Obana, a traditional Edo-mae unagi-ya (old Tokyo style eel restaurant)

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A little slice of old Tokyo in an out-of-the-way area of Tokyo, Obana is an unagi-ya (eel restaurant) that even someone who’s not an unagi fan can love. continue reading...

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Postcards from Kyoto - Tofu from bean to plate: Kamo Tofu Kinki and Sosoan Restaurant

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When you go to Kyoto, you must have at least one tofu meal. It’s just the way it is. Fresh tofu in Japan is far better than it is anywhere else, and the tofu in Kyoto is generally held to be the best in the country. This is generally attributed to the skill, refined court and/or temple-influenced culture and the quality of the local water. Whatever the reason, to most Japanese people Kyoto means tofu, and vice versa. A visit to a fine Kyoto tofu restaurant is very likely to convert even the most die-hard carnivore into a tofu fan.

During my week in Kyoto, I was able to pursue one family business’s vision of what tofu should be from beginning to end. Kamo Tofu Kinki, a company that’s been in business since 1834, makes tofu and related products in two tiny workshops located in the Gion Kiya-cho area of Kyoto. Later on, I visited Sosoan, the tofu restaurant owned and operated by Kinki for a multi-course tofu feast. continue reading...

Another New York roundup: From Bagels to Madison Park

Russ & Daughters, Lower East Side, New York

I still consider myself to be a New Yorker (technically I am) and go back there at least once or more a year. So I don’t write about my trips there all the time. This time I did have more than a few notable food encounters, so here is a not-so-short roundup. continue reading...

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Per Se: Jackets required, huh?

I’m in the New York area at the moment, doing some family things, required government-oriented paperwork and so on. Whenever I’m here I do like to treat myself to at least one interesting restaurant meal. So, this time around I thought of going to Per Se, the famed Thomas Keller establishment. I’ve never been to a Thomas Keller establishment.

I went to their pretty but so user-unfriendly Flash-only website (see my rant against this deplorable practice) and, after having to reload the site because it was coming up blank a few times, was dismayed to find that they require jackets (though not ties) and ‘no tennis shoes’ (I guess they mean sneakers…tennis shoes, how quaint) for lunch and dinner. I am travelling light and only have shoes of the ‘tennis’ variety, and my planned dining partner (who is a much more exacting and well-travelled gourmet than I am) is rather firmly anti-jacket, so it looks like Per Se is out for us. Bummer. continue reading...

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A Frugal Eats blitz through Düsseldorf's Japantown

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I’ve long been intrigued by the famed Japantown or Japan Quarter area of Düsseldorf, Germany, but haven’t had a chance to go there. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Zürich, and there was no work-related excuse to go there - until last week that is. So, following up on my mostly Japanese frugal eats blitz through Paris, here is my 2-day all-Japanese blitz through Düsseldorf. continue reading...

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A Frugal Eats (mostly Japanese) blitz through Paris

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Pursuing cheap Japanese (and other) eats in Paris. continue reading...

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A followup report on being vegan in Japan

Asha, the reader who sent me the question that inspired me to write Japan: A Survival Guide for Vegans has sent in a great follow-up comment. I’ve posted it here so you won’t miss it. She found it a lot easier to follow her vegan regime in Tokyo than in Nagasaki, where she has been living. That makes sense I thin: any major metropolitan area these days is likely to have many people who are vegan or at least interested in a vegan way of eating, while the same might not hold true for more regional towns (Nagasaki has a long history of being a very international city, but is much smaller than Tokyo of course.)

What follows are Asha’s words. continue reading...

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Japan: A Survival Guide For Vegans

At the moment I’m sitting in a cottage in France (recovering from a cold, but that’s another story), a land notorious for not being so vegan friendly except in the larger cities. The native cuisine is generally not vegan - even vegetable dishes often use things like dairy products or animal fats or stock in the cooking process, which can make things difficult. But if you are a vegan you probably know about this, and come prepared accordingly. (I think it’s a lot easier for lacto-ovo vegetarians in France; you could live on the delicious bread and cheese.)

If you are going to Japan, you might think that being vegan would be a lot easier. Japanese cuisine has a reputation for using lots of vegetables, seaweed and other vegan-friendly products. There is even a particular kind of cuisine in Japan called sho-jin ryouri (精進料理), a mostly vegan temple cuisine, with a long and highly regarded tradition.

But as a reader who emailed me recently found out, being a vegan in Japan is just as hard as it is in Europe. continue reading...

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Sunday Survey: Your most memorable 'famous person' restaurant encounter?

I’m sitting here sorting through the giveaway entries, checking out the overnight Twitters, and doing laundry. Typical Sunday morning for me. @macratlove tweeted (twittered?) this, which is inspiring this question:

What’s the most memorable famous-person encounter you’ve ever had in a restaurant?

Here’s mine! continue reading...

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From the $1500 dinner to Russell Baker's Francs and Beans

Being pleasantly reminded of a classic piece of food writing. continue reading...

New poll: Should there be more restaurant cuisine authenticity verifiers?

Here’s a new poll to chew over this Monday. The Japanese government has been ruffling some feathers in the restaurant world with their attempts to set up a program to certify the authenticity of ‘Japanese’ restaurants around the world (read about it here). Should more countries start such schemes, government-sponsored or not? Should a Spanish group be going around the world verifying if a paella is properly Spanish? Should the Germans inspect the quality of wurst? Or, what about the Americans - should they go around the world inspecting bagels? (You can get some mighty unusual bagels in Japan for instance, I can tell you.)

What do you think? Have your say! continue reading...

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Should there be more restaurant authenticity verifiers?

Yes, I want to know if the food I'm eating is authentic.
43% (80 votes)
No, it's a bad idea
49% (91 votes)
Other (tell us in the comments!)
6% (12 votes)
Don't know
2% (3 votes)
Total votes: 186
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The Japanese restaurant authentifiers start moving

Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they’ll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris. continue reading...

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Swiss restaurant news: blindekuh "blind eating" restaurant group owner honored

A couple of years ago, I wrote about our visit to a most unusual Zürich restaurant, the blindekuh, where sighted people can experience what it’s like to dine in total darkness. Yesterday it was announced that the founder of the chain Stefan Zappa, was honored as the Swiss Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

According to the story, “The “Blind-Liecht” charitable foundation was set up in December 1998 by Zappa, a partially sighted psychologist, with help from three other blind people.”

It’s still the most unusual restaurant experience I’ve ever had. If you have a chance to visit Zürich, I’d highly recommend a visit there if you want a dinner you’ll never forget. There is a blindekuh restaurant (it seems it’s officially spelled in lowercase) in Basel also.

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A plea to all restaurant web site creators

Please stop with the Flash-only sites. If you must have a Flash site, please provide a plain HTML alternative, for those of us who might want to visit your site in a hurry, or on our Plain Jane cell phones.

For goodness sake, please get rid of those annoying, meaningless, splash pages. That is so 1998.

You want a useful front page that your customers would really appreciate? Put your address, your reservation phone number, and hours of operation there.

Please take a little time to convert your menu to HTML. Stop with the PDF-only menus! If you must, provide a ‘typical’ menu in HTML and then a link to your current PDF menu. But PDF-only menus? I’m not even going to bother. And this is coming from someone who makes their living from PDF programming.

AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD STOP WITH THE AUTOMATICALLY PLAYING MUSIC!

Thank you. Have a great day.

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What do you do when you have a bad restaurant experience?

I may either have a short memory, or have been lucky, but I can count the number of bad experiences I’ve had at restaurants, and still remember, on one hand. Unless the offense has been quite obvious - say, a big green caterpillar in my salad (happened once!), or a hair in my soup - I’ve never felt like lodging a direct complaint. The most I do is to call it a ‘three-time experience’ (an in-house joke) - the first, last and only time I’ll go there.

I do wonder though if complaining would have done anything. I tend to shy away from confrontation, but eating out, especially at a high end restaurant, is a very special, not to mention expensive, occasion. When such an experience is screwed up, as it was for this commenter, it can be very frustrating to say the least.

What do you do when you have a bad restaurant experience? In this case I’m not talking about merely mediocre or bad food, but something really off-putting in some way, such as exceptionally bad service, or something amiss with the food, or anything that really makes you angry. Do you simply go away or complain about it, and if you have complained, has it made any difference? continue reading...

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Zürich Culinary Snapshot up on thepassionatecook

Johanna of the passionate cook has been running a series called Culinary Snapshots, of cities around the world. The Culinary Snapshot of Zürich that I wrote is now up there. (The pictures there were taken in late March by the way, when it was warm enough for t-shirts!) Re-reading it now I think I may need some armor against proprietors of Asian-Fusion restaurants in town. :) continue reading...

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A lonely way to die

Yesterday, I found out that one of the most talented sushi chefs I’ve ever known had died. He was still relatively young (in his 50s). He was at one time one of the itamae at the late, lamented Sushisay in New York.

The authorities are investigating the cause of his death. They have to do this, because his body was found in his bath, at least a month after he had died. continue reading...

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Certification for restaurant critics?

David Rosengarten, former Food Network host (his show Taste is still my all-time favorite Food Network show), former Gourmet writer, etc. sells a subscription service called the Rosengarten Report, but also has an interesting free newsletter called Tastings. In a recent issue, he steps into the recent restaurant vs. critic fur-flying incidents and proposes a certification program for restaurant critics. I guess certification fever is in the air at the moment. continue reading...

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Chef Morimoto disses the "authentic" Japanse certification plan

On the New York Tiimes Diners Journal blog, which is no longer just written by Frank Bruni, Julia Moskin writes about a Japanese food symposium held at the Japan Society. She reports that “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto called the Japanese government’s plans to certify “authentic” Japanese restaurants “nonsense”. Now, fans of the original (and best) Japanese version of Iron Chef may remember Chef Morimoto’s ongoing “battles” with chefs who cooked “authentic Japanese”; while a lot of it seemed like fake drama for the cameras, perhaps there was some truth in it after all. He did make some pretty outrageous, not to mention downright odd, things under the guise of “nouvelle Japanese” on occasion, which seemed to get some more “authentic” Japanese chefs rather upset. If we assume that the standards of ‘authenticity’ might be dictated by such chefs, people like Chef Morimoto, not to mention Nobu Matsuhisa, may not pass muster. Not to say they don’t produce good, even great, food. (Though I must admit I’m not a big Nobu fan. To be fair I’ve only been there once, years ago, and had a ‘server problem’ which clouded things. And I’ve never been to a Morimoto restaurant.)

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Everyone's favorite steakhouse is at the Penthouse Executive Club?

Frank Bruni gives the steakhouse at the Penthouse Executive Club a pretty entertaining one star review. “Hmm, where have I heard of this place before” I thought, and rummaged through my stacks of recorded food shows. Ah, celebrated don’t-call-it-molecular-gastronomy chef Heston Blumenthal paid it a special visit on his TV show last year, to show his drooling mostly British viewers er, great looking meat. I mean the aged sides of beef, of course. continue reading...

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links for 2007-01-21

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  • Extra virgin olive oil goes rancid just as fast in the fridge as at room temperature, so storing all those bottles in the fridge is pretty meaningless. Another great report on Harold McGee's blog.

links for 2007-01-20

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links for 2007-01-16

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  • Really nice 4-part feedback/contact cards for using in restaurants by the Chubby Hubby A & S team :). The only problem is that I may be too shy to use them....depending on the restaurant.
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Weight loss and eating out

Continuing my week of weight loss related posts, this time it's about eating out.

When I lived in New York, about 80% of my meals came from outside - restaurants, fast-food places and takeout. Coupled with that and 80-100 hour work weeks, I basically ran myself into the ground. Nowadays I don't eat out nearly as much. This has a lot to do with a change in lifestyle of course, but it I also consciously made the decision to try to cook for myself as much as possible. continue reading...

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Is it possible to have bad food in France? Of course it is.

I think I'm guilty of waxing too lyrical about the food in France sometimes, and I'm certainly not alone in that. If you believe some people (many of whom have a vested interest in upholding the myth) you may think that French people eat delicious, fresh, well-prepared gourmet food and heavenly pastries all the time. That's just not true, of course. I'm just back from a two week stay in Provence, and while most of the food was wonderful as usual, there were some definite low lights. continue reading...

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TV: Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection

heston1.jpgHeston Blumenthal makes aerated chocolate with a vacuum cleaner, among other things continue reading...

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The Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire, UK

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Since I pretend to be a sort of serious foodie, I have of course been reading a lot about this food movement called molecular gastronomy for a while. I've been mentally dodging it however. I am not against innovation in cooking by any means, but the reports I'd read about it sounded a tad too precious. continue reading...

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Impressions of England, strictly food-related

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tavistock_bobscafesign.jpgI am back from England. As is usual when I go there, in a food sense it was a mixed bag. On the positive side, I got to experience two real, unique - and very different - highlights in The Pudding Club and The Fat Duck.

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How to behave in a European restaurant, a guide for American (or Japanese) tourists

(Related to my previous post - this is something I was originally going to submit to the How To... event held by ProBlogger, but I ended up posting something else. To be taken it with a big grain of salt.) continue reading...

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There's a different pace in Europe

This month, Frank Bruni of the New York Times is writing about his experiences eating in Rome on his Diner's Journal blog. One of things he mentions is what he perceives as the inferior level of service in most Rome restaurants. A number of commenters chime in, some claiming variations of "it's because Europeans hate Americans". continue reading...

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Reading: Heat

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Heat book coverIt has actually been a while since I last put down Heat - or to give its full title, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

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From the other side of the restaurant front desk

In his blog post Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Frank Bruni of the NY Times recounts a long and unpleasant wait for a table, where he says the front desk person didn't handle the situation well. I worked for a while as one of those hapless front desk persons, or FDP as I'll call them here, at a very busy NYC restaurant. Here's my take from the other side of that front desk. continue reading...

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Final New York notes

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Dim Sum

I understand that there are supposedly better-quality places for dim sum in New York nowadays, but those gringo-run and/or uptown restaurants require bothersome things like reservations, and personally, making reservations for dim sum just seems wrong. Waiting for a table at a garishly lit noisy restaurant with cafeteria atmosphere is part of the fun. Besides, what non-Chinese-run dim sum palace would serve stewed tripe? continue reading...

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Papaya King: the best hot dog / juice joint in New York

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There is one food pilgrimage that I make without fail every time I'm in New York. It's not a visit to a famous, expensive restaurant. It's not even a bagel stop at my favorite bagel place (Ess-a-Bagel) or a trot around my favorite gourmet mega-mart (Fairway). It's a stop at the best hot dog joint in the city, if not the world, Papaya King. continue reading...

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Craft and 'wichcraft: two sides of Tom Colicchio

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Yes, I admit it - my intensive viewing of the Top Chef reality show gave me a renewed interest in Tom Colicchio. I have been to Gramercy Tavern, but I'd never had a chance to go to Craft, which presumably is his more personal vision of what American cuisine should be. I'd also never made it to 'wichcraft, his growing mini-chain of take-out sandwich joints. continue reading...

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My restaurant review philosophy

I'm about to post a couple of restaurant reviews, but before I do that I thought I might as well put down my thoughts on how, and when, I do restaurant reviews.

I don't post a lot of restaurant reviews here. That's not to say I don't eat out - I do! Though I guess when I am at home, I don't really eat out that much, since I made a conscious effort to cook at home as much as possible. When I'm on the road as I am now, I do eat out a lot. I always make it a point to try at least one 'top' restaurant in whatever region I find myself in. continue reading...

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Going to New York for...sushi!

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I found out this week that I will have to go to New York in a week for about 10 days for work reasons. As much as I love New York I am sort of dreading the hot weather. But on the brighter side of course, New York is nirvana for a foodie and I plan to enjoy that side of the city as much as time and budget allow. continue reading...

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Fantasy Strawberries

Although we can get mediocre strawberries now year-round, and even decent ones from warmer climates starting in late April or so, around these parts and in many of the chillier areas of the northern hemisphere, June marks the real start of the season. continue reading...

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Food Destinations: Restaurants in Zürich

Posted by Max continue reading...

What's it like to work in a restaurant?

If you don't normally read my personal site, and you're interested in an account of when I worked at a New York restaurant, you may want to take a look at my most recent entry over there:

Link: Working as a host in a New York restaurant.

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Judging a good sushi restaurant

A reminder to those of you lucky enough to live in a town with good sushi: This is tuna season! Tuna that is caught in colder waters now has a lot of fat on it, so if you like the fattier cuts such as chu-toro and o-toro, then this is the time for you.

While we are at it, here is how I judge a good sushi restaurant, wherever it is. continue reading...

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Reading: Michelin Red Guide New York

The Michelin Red Guides are considered to be bibles for dining and hotels throughout many European countries - France in particular of course, but also in the U.K., Germany, and other places. Their first North American edition is out now, for - where else - New York City. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago when I was in New York, and I've had a chance finally to peruse it thoroughly.

I have to say I'm quite disappointed. continue reading...

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New York roundup

I never finished my musings on food during my summer trip to England, and in the meantime I spent a month last November in the U.S., partly in New York. Before it totally disappears from memory, here is a brief roundup, from a foodie perspective of course.

Before we proceed, you should know that I am an ex-New Yorker, and had a fairly specific food agenda this time around, which included the following: continue reading...

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Standing on the buffet line

The appeal of a buffet is rather obvious. It’s that notion of having no limits. No limits, unlimited, all you want—all you can eat. Human beings respond to the notion of no limits very positively.

And yet…about 99% of the buffets I’ve encountered are pretty bad. Food is either dried out horribly (such as chicken, or the surface of sushi rolls), is overcooked (such as…chicken again, or fish), or smothered in an insulating blanket of sauce that effectively chokes out any kind of real flavor. continue reading...

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