Monday, February 27, 2006

Appreciating Citizen Thai in Context

1268 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415)364-0008
Lunch Monday through Saturday
Dinner nightly

Last tried: March 2006

I will admit my bias right off the bat-- I have never been a huge fan of Thai food, which always tasted to me like Chinese food with coconut and/or fish sauce added. I thought that Citizen Thai and the Monkey might change my opinion, given that it was selected among the San Francisco Chronicle's 2005's Top Ten. (Although I do not always agree with the Chronicle restaurant ratings, I respect Michael Bauer's palate, and his reviews have generally provided a good gauge for me with respect to restaurant selections and expectations.) While I cannot go so far as to say my recent dining experiences at Citizen Thai have changed my view entirely, it has made me more receptive to trying more Thai cuisine and restaurants.

Both the "Bag of Gold" and Thai fish cakes were solid appetizers with interesting flavors. The rice paper sacks containing a mixture of minced chicken and prawns seemed to have been left in the deep fryer slightly too long such that the "Bag" was brown and hard and the "Gold" inside a little rubbery. But the chili-flaked sweet and sour sauce that accompanied the Bags of Gold was a delightful accompaniment to wake up the flavors of the chicken and prawn mixture. The same sauce also worked well on the deep-fried tofu triangles, taking away some of the dryness that resulted from the frying. Another condiment that worked well was the tangy cucumber-onion relish with fish sauce and crushed peanuts that accompanied the Thai fish cakes. The fish cakes themselves, however, were somewhat soggy, probably from sitting too long in the kitchen after preparation before being brought to the table. Had the kitchen and servers not been slammed, I assumed these dishes would have been much better.

There was a long pause after we finished the appetizers, during which we finished off nearly half of the bottle of 2003 Studert-Prum Riesling Spatlese from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer we had ordered. I was pleased with the selections on Citizen Thai's wine list, all of which were very reasonably priced (most bottles in the $30 price range or less) and comprised of an array of wines well-matched with the spices and strong flavors of the food, including at least four different Rieslings, several sauvignon blancs, Gruner Veltliner, and gewurtztraminer, among others. There is also a full bar on the first level of the restaurant, next to the Monkey noodle bar (the other half of Citizen Thai and the Monkey).

The spicy mixed seafood soup with fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime arrived in a clay hot pot on top of a flame. The fragrant clear broth, containing chunks of mushrooms, prawns, squid, and clams, would have been soothing, despite the sourness from too much lime, if it had been hot when it arrived. Instead it slowly reheated over the large flame, resulting in further overcooking of the seafood inside. The Sonoma duck breast slices with chu chee thick red curry sauce, topped with crispy shreds of Thai basil, was tender, sweet and spicy in a way that was completely different from any other flavor I had tried in either a Chinese or Thai restaurant. The duck, despite being a little chewy and slightly too salty, harmonized well with the aromatic jasmine rice and the sweet Riesling. The broccoli that accompanied the duck, however, was undercooked to the point of being basically raw. Again, I attributed this to the kitchen being overwhelmed.

The spotlight dish of the evening was the pumpkin curry, served inside a carved Kabocha pumpkin (which also went perfectly with the jasmine rice and the Riesling). The thick and creamy spicy curry interspersed with slices of chicken and chunks of soft, sweet, chestnutty pumpkin, accented by pieces of slightly al dente red and green bell peppers, was hearty and satisfying. In contrast, the spicy tofu with basil in chili garlic sauce was rather sour and contained too much Thai basil, rendering the dish reminiscent of Doublemint gum. The same spicing glitch afflicted the egg fried rice.

Like the rest of North Beach where Citizen Thai is located, the restaurant was packed, and the layout, despite two-levels of dining space, did little to alleviate the feeling of being squeezed tight, with barely enough room for even a single person to pass between the closely set tables. (Neither of the parking garages nearby listed on the restaurant's web site had any spaces left, and although we got lucky, street parking is a nightmare in that area.) This seemed to have affected not only the quality of the food preparation but also the service, resulting in a long wait for us to order after being seated, a long wait for the appetizers to arrive, a long wait after we had finished the appetizers, and then everything else from the soup to the entrees being dumped off at the table all at once, leaving barely enough room for silverware (even though we were given only one fork and spoon each, which we had to save and reuse between dishes). Although I enjoyed the food overall, between the crowded space, the uncontrolled timing of food delivery, and generally harried service, I was not disappointed when our server distractedly brought over the check without ever offering dessert or coffee.

On a subsequent visit, I tried a few additional dishes. The tom ka coconut soup, with large prawns and chunky vegetables, was hot, spicy, and comforting, if a bit on the sweet side. The sauce on the pad thai was also slightly too sweet, although the noodles were pleasantly elastic. The fried appetizers-- soft shell crab and imperial rolls-- were all satisfyingly crispy and spicy, and would make perfect bar food but lacked finesse. The duck curry served in a shelled-out pineapple, while an impressive presentation, was disappointingly indistinguishable from the pumpkin curry I tried on my earlier visit. Also the duck skin, normally one of my favorite things, had the consistency of chewy fat. The crying tiger salad had nice, large pieces of quality grilled beef, but the dressing contained too much fish sauce and vinegar.

On my visits, Citizen Thai seemed to be more hype than substance, but it seems great for large groups, and I appreciate that it has the potential to be very appealing.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Redd Wine Country

6480 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
(707)944-2222
Chef Richard Reddington (formerly Auberge du Soleil and Chapeau)
Lunch Monday through Saturday
Brunch Sunday
Dinner nightly

REDD on Urbanspoon

Last tried: July 2009

Yountville has become so commercial and touristy that it is beginning to take on the artificial feel of Santana Row, and I was sad to discover that this new imprint has infected the atmosphere and cuisine of Redd. The previously subtle Asian undertones in the composition of the dishes have become clunky Asian fusion. The tasting menu portions are unappealingly large, as though the kitchen is attempting to make up in size what it has lost in finesse. Everything, including the wine list, appears to have turned more toward the direction of the kind of in-your-face luxury that would be more at home in the Vegas dining scene.

This style seems to be working for business though. Every corner of the dining room, including the bar area and the patio, was jam-packed.


Tried: February 2006

Redd is the new kid on the block of established institutions such as Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon, and the legendary French Laundry. With Chef Reddington's creativity and versatility, Redd is not only holding its own but a real contender in wine country dining. The restaurant is open and bright, with large windows and a patio encircling the outside. The clean white walls are accented with caramel-colored wood frames and floors, and the airy dining area feels like the spacious living room of a wine country home, with suspended wire light fixtures and retro-60's style chairs adding a modern feel.

This same mix of comfort and casual sophistication is reflected in Reddington's menu, ranging from clam chowder and roast chicken to foie gras, quail, and duck confit. Families with kids, young and old couples on dates, cyclists in their biking gear taking a break, people in suits conducting a business meeting, and wine country visitors looking for fine dining all seemed to be having a great time, whether sharing a crusty prosciutto pizza, reaching for bright green-white iceberg lettuce cups filled with generous heaps of stir-fried spicy chicken, digging into a large shrimp salad with avocado and bacon, or enjoying a leisurely tasting menu elegantly presented by the kitchen with the same finesse as those restaurants that do exclusively formal dining. This chef can do it all and he does it well. Even more impressive is the fact that Redd's tasting menu, available even at lunch, offers different dishes for each diner for most of the tasting menu. I am not sure how Reddington has the energy to do all this when the restaurant is open for lunch six days a week, dinner seven nights a week, plus Sunday brunch, but the diners are the lucky beneficiaries of his aspirations.

The first courses were raw fish offerings: yellowfin tuna carpaccio marinated in lemon oil, topped with half moon slices of beets, with thin crisp fresh radish disks and cilantro microgreens, accompanied by a drizzle of fragrant basil oil; and a ringmold tartare of maguro and hamachi, combined with crunchy sweet pieces of Asian pear and apple mustard dressing, on a bed of sticky rice, accented by chili oil and garnished with sesame seeds, chopped chives, and more cilantro. The radishes, beautifully presented in paper-thin slices, were crunchy and peppery. The red and yellow beets were as tasty and flavorful as they were colorful. Had the tuna carpaccio been fresher, it would have been perfect with the radishes, almost sugary beets, and accompanying fragrant basil oil. The tuna and hamachi tartare were also less than ideally fresh, even though the spicing was very well done, and the sticky rice underneath was mushy. I wished that the sticky rice had been pan-fried into a chewy patty or just left out altogether in favor of the toasted brioche sticks that came with the dish. With fresher fish, these preparations would have been incredible. But the wine pairing with these dishes, a Schramsberg rose sparkling wine and a Junmai Daiginjo sake, were lovely.

The next courses were seared scallops on a cauliflower puree with toasted almonds and a balsamic reduction, and tender, meaty slices of cod in a yellow curry sauce with chorizo and clams. Seared scallops are hardly exciting anymore, but when fresh and prepared well, I still appreciate them. The cauliflower puree was as smooth as whipped potatoes but with an added picquant flavor that complemented the scallops as well as the roasty, nutty taste of the toasted almonds. With a glass of 2002 Trimbach Pinot Gris, the combination was satisfying. A richer, oakier white wine, the 2000 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was paired with the cod preparation, which matched the meatiness of the fish, balanced out the spiciness of the curry, and the saltiness of the chorizo and clams. Each seemingly disparate element of this dish, tied together with the wine, came together to create a very pleasing, unified taste.

Things really started rocking with the next series of dishes. The butternut squash marscapone ravioli was rich and sweet, with just enough savory dimensions added by the brown butter sauce and ragout of dark greens. The gnocchi with wild mushrooms accompanied by a bit of duck confit meat as a garnish was novel and interesting, as well as delicious. The ultimate, however, was the pork belly with burdock root and soy caramel sauce. The kitchen had cooked the pork belly exactly to the point where it was meaty and soft without being overly fatty. The al dente julienned burdock root drenched in the soy caramel sauce added crunch, sweetness, and unbelievable flavor. The 2003 Parador Tempranillo from Napa had enough robust flavor and acidity to bring it all home.

Then came my perennial favorite: Foie Gras. Reddington definitely did the ingredient justice. Each of the preparations-- the soft terrine of foie gras dusted with a layer of crushed pistachios, foie gras cream on buttery, flaky puff pastry, and seared foie gras with apple puree, with a dash of freshness added by a sprig of frisee lettuce-- was dead on, hitting the right notes of richness, savoriness, texture, seasoning, and contrasting yet flattering accompaniments.

At this point, Reddington was on a roll. He followed the variations of foie gras with pan-fried skatewing on a bed of celery root and black truffle puree, surrounded by madeira jus, and monkfish with salsify ragout and a prosciutto emulsion, described on the menu as "saltimbocca" (the sage, white wine, and prosciutto flavors certainly jumped in my mouth). Both the skatewing and monkfish had been cooked precisely until it was soft and yielding to the fork but immediately taken off heat before getting tough. I also found the use of different root vegetables for the purees to be gratifying in that they allowed for different flavor combinations while reminding the diner of the familiar texture and comfort of potatoes. To match these very rich flavors, the young wine director of Redd, Chris Blanchard, very cleverly went with a 2003 Chateauneuf by Vieux Mas des Papes. The wine brought out the black truffles and highlighted the prosciutto and sage, without overwhelming the fish.

The final savory courses were beef tenderloin with a side of horseradish breadcrumb crusted braised short ribs, fingerling potatoes, and a Bordelaise sauce, and a pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes, roasted apples, and a mustard jus. The beef and short rib dish was incredibly opulent, especially with the thick swirl of sauce containing red wine, brown stock, and shallots. While each meat was prepared exactly right, it seemed that some of the individual flavors got lost. The pork tenderloin, however, was faultless. It had all of the satisfying and homey flavors of pork chops and apple sauce, but the extra-luxurious ingredients substituting in for the familiar elements elevated the dish from home cooking to chef's tasting menu. Even though we were beyond stuffed at this point, we ate every single bite.

To close, we had panna cotta with blood orange segments in a citrus basil bath, and banana cake with coconut ice cream. Although the citrus was a little overpowering, the panna cotta had that perfectly jiggly, creamy consistency of undercooked cheesecake batter, and the sweet custard was delectable. The banana cake was warm, sweet and moist, with a syrup-glazed top, and balanced nicely with the icy coconut ice cream.

I can't think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon in Napa Valley than a decadent tasting menu dejeuner with wine at Redd.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

411 on (415)

415 Presidio Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415)409-0400
Chef John Beardsley
Sushi Chef Akira Yoshizumi
CLOSED

UPDATE: October 2006
I was disappointed to see that the sushi had gone substantially downhill in both quality of fish and originality, even in the omakase. However, the makis are surprisingly flavorful and well-balanced (even though I generally do not care for anything spicy in a sushi concoction). Stick to the cooked dishes, which are acceptable if not extraordinary, akin to Betelnut.

February 2006:
Although open barely two weeks, (415) Lounge is already showing the marks of a see-and-be-scene spot, along the lines of g Bar and Matrix Fillmore. The decor, with sumptuous red walls, black tables and chairs, and tiger print painted concrete floor, is lavish enough to forgive the kitschy Asian motif if you overlook the faux Asian lettering of "(415)," emblazened on the sign outside and on the menu-- just in case you can't tell that this is supposed to be an Asian-influenced bar and restaurant. Even on a school night, the impressively opulent lounge area was packed with people dressed in black, sporting Maiden Lane hairstyles and communicating with their friends on bluetooth headsets and Razr cell phones.

In addition to a separate sushi menu, the menu at (415) is divided into "tapas," "salads," "bread & dumplings," "satays & skewers," "curries," "barbecues," "noodles, rice & vegetables," and "other large plates." The large and varied selections offer something for everyone. The not-to-be-missed dish is the Golden Pineapple appetizer with Thai chili salt. The fresh, juicy pineapple chunks in single bite size pieces are speared with toothpicks and presented with a wedge of lime and a dish of finely ground salt, speckled with green chili bits. Squeeze the lime onto the pineapple, dip into the chili salt, and pop into your mouth to experience an explosion of tart sweetness combined with the pleasant spicy and savory zing from the chili salt. It is one of the most unique and delicious flavors I have ever experienced. (Use sparingly. It's REALLY spicy!)

Chef Beardsley continues to demonstrate his experience and versatility with the spicy lamb samosas. The crispy filo wrapping and the moist, well-spiced lamb matched perfectly with the vanilla date chutney. The 2003 viognier/roussane/marsanne blend of Terre Rouge from the Sierra Foothills ($6 for 3 oz. and $12 for 6 oz.) that Sommelier Nicole Burke paired with this dish complemented the spicy, sweet, earthy flavors of this dish quite well.

The sushi is also surprisingly decent for a restaurant that has such a large menu. If you are a sushi purist, go for the sashimi as opposed to the sushi, which generally has fresher pieces of fish (this is true for almost any sushi place, and (415) is no exception). Note that per the terms of the restaurant's agreement with the Jewish Community Center, there is no shellfish (or pork) anywhere on the menu, but the California rolls, even with faux crab, is still quite good. In view of Yoshizumi-san's expertise, I would not hesitate to go with the omakase selections. Definitely also try the tuna-foie gras sushi, with teriyaki/galangal/mandarin orange sauce. The flavor combination is delightful, without losing the taste of either the maguro or the foie gras.

The coconut braised beef short ribs with sweet chili glaze were as tender as expected. Beware of the occasional brittle herb stems hiding in the meat, but the flavors were well balanced and satisfying. I was less enthralled with the miso glazed cod and the crispy duck. The duck was overcooked and gristley. The miso was too thick and sweet and did not match the cod. The cucumber salad accompanying the cod, however, was fresh and crunchy, and hit the right balance of vinegar and sugar.

While (415) has an acceptable although somewhat mundane list of sakes (odd since Beau Timken of True Sake is associated with this list), the wine list is better-conceived. Burke has assembled a varied yet manageable collection of fairly priced, tasty wines that match well with the diverse pan-Asian menu. I also quite enjoyed the Rogue Morimoto Imperiale Pilsner. Apparently these are Iron Chef Morimoto's name brand brewed beers from Japan. The sweet, malty flavor would match well with sushi.

The desserts, however, were disappointing. The Chai tea parfait tasted like marshmallows interspersed with defective maple flavored pop rocks. The tangerine sorbet was so tart and sour that it seemed like the kitchen was just thinking sweet thoughts as it was being made, as opposed to actually adding any sugar or sweetener. The custard of the ginger-bergamot creme brulee, while flavorful, was grainy in texture and lacked the requisite hard candy coat on top.

In the end though, I'm not sure that the foo, while solid and even innovative at times, really matters here. The cocktails and wine list are extensive, and (415) seems destined to be a beautiful people place. I would not be surprised if there were a velvet rope outside the Jewish Community Center soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cyrus the Almost Great

29 North Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707)433-3311
Chef Douglas Keane
Dinner nightly

Tried: February 2006

Housed in the Les Mars Hotel in Healdsburg (where the rooms run from $445 to $1025 per night), Cyrus is a temple of beige marble, silk upholstery, and ebony wood trimming. Billed as the next French Laundry or the Gary Danko of wine country, the expectations for this venture in Healdsburg are enough to topple the best of the best. While it is clear that Chef Douglas Keane is quite talented, the restaurant seems to be suffering an identity crisis in terms of how to deal with its patrons and where to go with the menu.

Cyrus clearly wants to be recognized as a degustation menu and wine pairing type of establishment, yet it is compelled to condescend to its customers to explain the concept of a tasting menu and even what an amuse bouche is. This conflict is apparent in the articulation of the menu and the schizophrenic formality of the service. When we arrived, Nick Peyton, owner and maitre d'hotel, picked up a white phone on a table in front of the dining room and announced, "Chef, the [Finicky] party has arrived. Please send over some hors d'oeuvres to welcome them." Had the food and service lived up to such pomposity, I would have laughed it off. As the evening wore on, I found the inconsistency more grating.

Our server painstakingly explained the variations available on the menu, including what a three, four, five course menu involved and what a tasting menu was, yet forgot to tell us about the possibility of getting a taste of all three foie gras preparations (we overheard the next table of a group of older men in business suits being offered this option). The server also asked several times whether anyone at our table had any dietary restrictions, as though I had not already explained my preferences twice. I also absolutely detest when someone flaps open the napkin and places it into my lap. I am not ten years old.

The commanded hors d'oeuvres that started our meal-- mini foie gras fried wonton with sherry chutney and a spoonful of fresh crab salad with meyer lemon aioli-- were impressive enough to lull my mild irritation. The second amuse, however, a small forkful of lobster on top of shiso wakame salad and a pickled sea bean on top, was less successful. The lobster was tough, and the flavors of the shiso and marinated wakame were sour and not sufficiently controlled to blend the odd flavors and textures.

Then first course brought me back. Despite how hackneyed it has become, I actually like tuna tartare when executed well. For the level of restaurant that Cyrus is aspiring to be, my expectations were pretty high. Cyrus performed acceptably. Although the soy truffle vinaigrette was too salty, the relish of portobello mushrooms, watermelon, and radish mixed with the tartare was interesting. The pairing for this course was a safe one-- Tokubetsu Junmai sake, Ama No Toro "Heaven's Door."

Next with the arrival of a glass of 2001 Monbazillac, I eagerly awaited a foie gras preparation. The vanilla bean gastrique accompanying the seared foie gras was perfect, and the lentil ragout and asian pear coulis were likewise quite complementary. However, the inside of the foie gras was too runny and tasted slightly off. Fortunately the accompanying elements and flavors were pretty enough to cover up this imperfection. I washed it down with the Monbazillac and looked forward to the rest of the meal.

The third course was a tender and sweet piece of tilefish, with a satisfyingly crackly and salty skin lining the edge. The blood orange segments and citrus soy reduction sauce, however, were overpowering, despite the firmness of the fish. While the 2004 Wachau Gruner Veltliner that was paired with this dish was pleasantly floral with nice acidity and appealing fruitiness, the delicate elements of the wine were lost when tasted together with the fish. In contrast, the 2004 Pinot Noir, "Box Car" from Russian River Valley, although too sweet alone, paired very well with the next dish-- slices of Liberty Farms duck breast on a bed of risotto-like farro and truffled cippolini onion, topped with popcorn-like fried farro grains. I realized with this dish though that there is such a thing as too-rare duck. I left half the dish uneaten notwithstanding the lovely seasoning, spices, and accompanying elements.

My disappointment was ameliorated by the the perfection of the next dish, roasted venison loin with red wine braised brussel spouts, gnocchi, and black trumpet mushrooms. The venison had a nice sear on the outside, and the meat had the sweet tenderness of filet mignon with the gaminess controlled exactly right to impart flavor but with absolutely no offputting smell. The brussel sprouts, gnocchi, and mushroom accompaniments highlighted and complemented the flavors so nicely that I missed having a better wine pairing. An earthy Chateauneuf du Pape would have been perfect. The sweet, fruit-forward Australian Shiraz, a 2002 Forefathers McLaren Vale, that was paired with the dish, was a glimmer of the possibility of a better pairing with this well-executed dish.

Next came the cheese course, followed by dessert. The sorbet was bland and flavorless, except for the faint soapy aroma. In contrast, the caramel soup, poured on top of a large chocolate filigree covering the entire surface of the flat bowl, with kettle corn sorbet and kernels of popcorn on top, was almost worth the price of admission. It was unique and original in both presentation and taste, showing yet once again the unrealized potential of Cyrus.

Going back to the service, I tried not to be annoyed that the wine bottles were sometimes shown before pouring, sometimes after pouring, and sometimes not at all unless we asked. Consistency much? I also found it rather novice that some wines were repeated in the course of the tasting menu. When we were served the mignardises together with the arrival of dessert, I got the hint that we were being asked to leave so that the next party can be announced to the chef. We left without ordering coffee.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Service Announcement

When you read about a restaurant in a newspaper, magazine, or book (or blog), it's almost always all about the food. So naturally all of the attention falls on the chef. Yet the arduous task of dealing directly with the diners-- finicky, allergic (fake and real), demanding, (un)reasonable, obsessive, or some combination or permutation thereof-- falls on the servers who memorize the specials (or sometimes the entire menu), explain the food, the concept of the restaurant, and coordinate the food and wine, all the while juggling the demands of the tables, the kitchen, and the bar, and the timing of service and clearing. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times recently observed firsthand, this is no easy task. Me, I would be fired in less than an hour into dinner service.

The difficulty for a kitchen is to execute the same dish in the same way every time multiple times in a single evening (except when someone pulls a Sally, and I guiltily admit that I am often one of those diners). The difficulty for servers is that every diner is different. Some people want to know every single ingredient of every dish on the menu; some want servers to materialize instantly the moment they even think about wanting another drink, a different appetizer, or whatever; and others treat servers as though they were a drive-through microphone and want them to disappear once the food has been delivered. Then there are those who seem to have no issue with keeping a poor server at work even after every other person in the restaurant has gone home. (I've only done that once, maybe twice, I swear, and I felt really guilty when I realized it.)

The server is the one responsible for communicating the diner's desires to the kitchen and vice versa ("Get that f'in four top to make up their f'in mind!" = "The chef requests that you place your order for entrees and appetizers at the same time for the best result.") The server is also the one who placates the diners and/or the kitchen when there is a breakdown or mishap in the communication process. The server is the conductor who maintains the equilibrium between the front and the back of the restaurant. Seriously, I would be fired in less than an hour.

Servers can transform a dining experience from a function of nourishment to theatre and entertainment. They know which is the best cut of beef, the freshest fish, what the kitchen does best, whether the special is really special (or something that the restaurant is trying to finish off-- hey, I read Kitchen Confidential), and often know the wine list as well as the sommelier. When I think back on the great meals I have had, they are almost always inseparable from great service-- Kiki's Bistro and Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, Perry Street in New York, Gary Danko in San Francisco, to name just a few.

In the restaurant summaries I have posted in this blog, you will note that I am just as picky and critical of service as I am of the food. I have great admiration for servers. I cannot do what chefs do but I appreciate their accomplishments. I definitely cannot do what servers do, and while I will still be nitpicky about how wine is served, when flatware is replaced, how drinks are transferred from the bar to the table, how napkins are replaced (versus refolding used napkins, but I know that is my individual psychotic idiosyncracy), etc., I appreciate their responsiveness and their reserves of patience. I would be fired in less than an hour.

My default gratuity is 20%-- 25% or higher for good service, 15% when it really misses the mark. Although I am a high-maintenance diner, I hope that the servers I have encountered meant it when they told me they enjoyed having me at their table and to come back. Me, I would be fired in less than an hour.

Ambivalent About Momofuku

First, am I the only person who thinks "Momofuku" does not mean Lucky Peach or refer to the name of some obscure ramen person from...