Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's all about WHERE you eat


I read this fun (and well written :) post about service and Zingerman's Guide to Great Service.

I'm not sure where Brooke has been eating other than Zingerman's, which I'll have to try next time I'm in LA, (you hear that Kim? Time for a Road trip), but the restaurants we eat at and the hotels we stay at have great, stellar, elegant service: And as you can see by my list, great food as well. Did I mention ambiance? Yup. Ambiance by the bucket full.

Now Brooke is a food writer. She also writes about Alice Waters. The last time we ate at Chez Panisse, I was not that impressed. Food was good, though. Time to go back and give it another try. I've eaten there since they first opened. Same with French Laundry. Shame I was having too much fun in High Tech to become a food writer.

The French Laundry (gold standard)
Per Se (platinum standard)
Tru Restaurant (they sweep here. Terrific.)
Perilla (seamless, homey)
Jardiniere (stylish and elegant)
Boulevard (homey and fast)
Le Bernardin (perfect!)
Elizabeth-Daniel (defunct, sadly, but they sweep.)
Rubicon (very elegant)
March (pretty much now defunct)
WD-50 (above and beyond)
DA|BA (super fun and very nice, above and beyond)
Le Ciel (Vienna) (This was beautiful and old world.)
Spago Palo Alto (now defunct but very personal service. Luke, we miss you. We'll see you in Atlantic City.)

Algonquin (The history and elegance. I love it.)
Four Seasons just about anywhere
Marriott Marquis
Grand Hotel Wien (Pure elegance.)
Simpson House (Santa Barbara) (Perfect.)
Greenville Arms 1889 Inn (homey and country, and if you are lucky enough to eat there, terrific and I hear the chocolatier there is fabulous.)
L'Orangerie (Elegant, beautiful and now defunct.)

Just to name a few off the top of my head.

Here's a story about service at Le Bernadine. I went with Kim, my wife, Joyce, my mom, and a friend, Biffy, aka Lud, aka, Ed. The service was exceptional. Every time I stood up, a waiter was there to assist with my chair and every time I sat down, a waiter was there to assist with the chair. It was like magic. The waiters were invisible but always there. Folding napkins, delivering beautiful food, whatever you needed. It was so magical I could not believe it. I said jokingly, "I bet that if I just started to sit in the middle of the room, I'd have a chair underneath me."

Biffy, to paraphrase, said, "Bet." So, in my tux, I got up, chair whisked away, walked over to an area between tables and sat down, and voilà, chair was whisked underneath me. Beautiful. And true. Perfect service.

Tru has stools for the purses. Plus they sweep. Sweeping is where all the plates are delivered at the same time by a bevy of waiters.

French Laundry and Per Se has very knowledgeable and terrific service. They whipped up service on the spot for birthdays.

And I just want to make a note of Elizabeth-Daniel's Sweet Bread Raviolo with black truffle foam. Kim's favorite dish ever. She LOVED it. If anyone knows where to go to get it again, please email me. Thanks.

The reason I say Homey and Fast for Boulevard was because Kim and I used to eat there before going to the opera. So, we would only have time for an appetizer and a main course. Then the Boulevard shuttle would take us to the San Francisco opera. After the opera, it would take us back to Boulevard where I would eat the largest and most perfect crème brûlé ever made by man. I have a great, sad story about going to the opera and the Boulevard shuttle. However, it isn't about food. It's more directly about life and death, so I'll skip it here.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank WD-50 for sending me my hat. I left it there. It's still at DA|BA. I'll get in when I eat there again. And a thanks Momofuku for trying. I'd also like to thank one of the assistant pastry chefs and the manager at Tru, for suggesting Le Sanctuaire. So many stories, so little time to blog.

The list goes on and on. I would have put Park Avenue Café on this list but I recently had a bad experience there.

By the way, L'Orangerie in LA (West Hollywood) was great. Fantastic service and great food. Elegant. Too bad it is closed. I can't think of too many great restaurants in LA or West Hollywood for that matter, though I do like Shutters a Santa Monica Hotel and they have Krug. Yum. I like the place on the Sunset Boulevard (Strip) that has the mechanical bull. Food is so-so, service is questionable but, ah, the memories. :-) Saddle Ranch Chop House. The steaks were not that good. But a fun place. So, thanks Brooke, for reviewing a LA restaurants on your blog.

For more of my reviews, click on this link. For even more restaurant reviews, please go to Innsane. I originally published many reviews there before I started Life by Chocolate.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Brooke said...

Mark,
I'm certainly jealous of all the incredible places you've eaten at!

One of the benefits of eating at such fine dining establishments is that those restaurants really value their service program as much as the food coming out of the kitchen.

Restaurants that rank lower than three stars, however, often forget about the importance of staff training and following through on high service values.

When I find three star service at the delicatessen, the corner hamburger shack, and the hole in the wall coffee shop I'm always elated.

Sounds like you've had a lot of positive experiences where you've eaten...That's great!

Here's to lots of great service!

Brooke

August 3, 2008 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

Brooke,

Take heart, don't be jealous, you're a better writer than I am. :-) I've had a long lifetime of eating out. From places like the Swiss Chalet in LI to Per Se.

Well, Spago is 3 star. One of the things that one waiter at Spago Palo Alto used to do was touch me. An extra touch on the shoulder or back is inappropriate in a waiter. I hated that. Our favorite waiter, Luke, was a star. Always personable. I like seamless service as well. Perilla has that in spades.

One has to pick and chose. I've eaten at places that would be considered holes in the walls and the service, while not formally great, was always cheerful. Personable and cheerful is what I look for. When I get grumpy, I take it in stride. Everyone has a bad day, so I normally overlook it.

If you look at my roster, how can you not have a positive experience though, truth to tell, one of the times I ate at the French Laundry, we had hours delay between courses because Chef Keller was back from vacation, they told me, and had to reestablish authority. Take back his kitchen. Funny.

My waiters are all fun, personable and give the best service. They may not measure up to Charlie Trotter or the French Laundry, but everyone has a great time and that's what this is about. It's about entertainment. We're a resort and hotel.

Anyway, thanks for blogging. You have a great attitude. If you ever get to NorCal, check out this great Moroccan place in San Jose on 1st. If it's still there.

August 3, 2008 at 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Bethany said...

Thanks for the comment on my page. Lavender is just fantastic isn't it. Alot of people are afraid of using though! I'm in corfu greece at the mo. Do you know of or recommend any good resto/cool place to go? Great site :)

August 4, 2008 at 5:37 AM  
Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

Oh mater, do email back to the States for restaurant recommendations in Corfu. Mater, can we fly in a aeroplane? I just love flying in an aeroplane. Get in the plane and fly to the Grand Hotel Pupp (pronounced Poop) or the Grand Hotel Wien and get ye to Le Ciel. Yum.

I was reading of a new hotel on Mykonos with fantastic food. I think I saw it in Traveler, no wait, Islands, ah, could have been Specialty Foods, Hotel F&B, Food Arts, ah, you get the idea. Try the Tharroe (hotel) on Mykonos or Edem, again, Mykonos.

Corfu? You're killing me. The best restaurants in Greece tend to be little tiny places. You can always go to the Hilton on Corfu. Hmm. Ask a local. You're in Corfu. Sit on the beach and have a Gyro. Kérkira for crying out loud. Eat at a taverna.

Having said that try the Cohili at the Delfino Blu (hotel). It's worth it for the view alone. Try To Dimarchio in Corfu Town or try Rex, maybe Tripa in Kinoplastes. (I have not been to any of these. But you did ask.)

How about Ambrosia?

Ambrosia
Oia Village
Santorini, Greece
Tel: 30 22860 71413


Whatever you decide, review it. I can hardly wait. I'm dying to try the Tharroe. It looks lovely.

August 4, 2008 at 10:35 AM  

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