Le Bec Fin, Soon to be No More

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Going to restaurants that are considered institutions can be tough, after many years, restaurants that don’t change will eventually lose their clientele. It happened in Boston with 150 year old Locke Ober closing late last year. Sometimes restaurants adapt like Canlis did with bringing in Eleven Madison Park chef Jason Franey to update the menu. Sometimes the restaurant falls victim to the economy and problems with the partners. This was the case with Philadelphia institution Le Bec Fin. Le Bec Fin was founded 40 years ago by chef Georges Perrier and for many of those years was considered one of the best restaurants in the US. It was an over the top, white glove experience with course after course of decadent and rich French inspired dishes. I had the pleasure of dining there once back in the late 1990’s and it is still the greatest restaurant meal I have ever had.

The economic downturn and infighting between the owners lead to the departure of Perrier and an attempted relaunch after the restaurant lost its way. There were rumors that a Michelin starred chef, Justin Bogle, was being brought in to right the ship.

Well, that rumor was true, but it means that the institution that is Le Bec Fin will be Fin at the end of June. I think changing tastes and a ton more competition in the industry really lead to the downfall and it is sad to see such an institution close, but it was probably time. I will always have fond memories of that meal and I do own the Le Bec Fin Cookbook, so who knows, there might be a dinner in the cards for sometime this fall…

The Art of Complaining

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Former Top Cheftestant and all around douchebag John Tesar recently tweeted the following:

Why do people wait in line for hours for BBQ and then go to a rest. and then complain after waiting 10 minutes for a table ?

I think that the difference is that going out to certain BBQ places require advanced planning and waiting in line for 2 or 3 hours is an expectation whereas going out to a restaurant is really much more about instant gratification, although I have to admit, I once did wait 3 hours for a seat at a restaurant. Was it worth it, hell yes, but I am also a really patient person when it comes to things like that.

I really don’t like Tesar, but he has a point, although it depends on the circumstances. These are my rules for complaining, not anyone else’s:

If I have a reservation, my expectation is that I should be seated within 15 – 20 minutes of my reservation time, especially if the restaurant has a policy that they will give my table away if I am not there within 15 minutes of my reservation time. Look, I get it that sometimes there are circumstances that will cause a delay (and I am fine with that if you explain it to me when I walk in), but if I am waiting for 45 minutes with a reservation, you are definitely not doing something right and I am going to complain.

If I don’t have a reservation and the place doesn’t take reservations and I wait more than 15 minutes for a table and I see empty tables that are set for service, I am also going to complain. I sometimes wonder if restaurants realize how much business they are losing in this scenario. Ever y minute that I am standing in the waiting area means you are not producing revenue – putting a butt in the empty seat means drink and food orders coming in. Yes, you may be slammed, but if I am sitting down, I am probably going to order that second beer or another bottle of wine while I am waiting, an order that I probably would not have placed on a normal dining night and one that I am definitely not going to place in the waiting area.

If I don’t have a reservation and the place does take reservations, I think I have no right to complain about not being seated in any timeframe. The only time I would complain is if someone who walked-in after me with the same number of people got seated ahead of me and they obviously did not have a reservation.

I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Hello, hello.

October and November are cruel months for the Seattle dining scene. By the end of November, we will have said goodbye to Iron Chef favorite emmer&rye (where I had possibly the best burger in Seattle one night), the venerable 35th Street Bistro and my favorite pizza place in Seattle – Crash Landing Pizza (whose pies were nearly as good as the ones I grew up eating in NJ – who says that Seattle has no good pizza). Those places will be missed as they were regular stops in the Iron Chef family dining excursions.

Do not shed too many tears though, as we also get to welcome the reopening of Revel Joule in Fremont, the much anticipated opening of The Whale Wins, right next to Joule and Eltana Bagels just a couple of blocks up from Joule. Eltana does a “Montreal” style bagel (if you have not had one, you should try it) and they are as good as the ones I have had in Montreal.

When Web Designers Attack

By Iron Chef Leftovers

There are plenty of sites where you can find people’s opinions, good or bad, about restaurants. I have been known to check out sites like Yelp to see the bad reviews of a place just to see the kinds of stuff that people are complaining about when it comes to a restaurant that I am considering going. Any places that have consistently bad reviews and people are complaining about the same things are probably places to avoid.

In many cases, if a restaurant is terrible, the owner probably has cash flow issues and is not paying staff, vendors, taxes, etc. A recent case of this happened in Pennsylvania at a place called the Italian Village Restaurant (which also appeared on an episode of Restaurant: Impossible).

While not paying your restaurant staff can lead to lots of whispers and anonymous angry tweets, not paying your web designer can be a sticky situation for a restaurant owner.

Recently, the webmaster of The Italian Village in Milmont Park (which was on an episode of Restaurant:Impossible) decided to replace the cheesy web presence of the restaurant with detailed lists of shitty Yelp, Yahoo, and Google reviews. The very best one of the batch suggested throwing the live accordion player in the dumpster because he “belittled people” who didn’t request “Irish Eyes” and “Happy Birthday.” Instead of negotiating with the spurned HTML jockey, The Italian Village went ahead and bought a new domain.

I guess that when you fail to pay your webmaster, you probably deserve having all of your bad reviews put in one place.

Looking for a Restaurant Recommendation?

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Next time someone asks you for a restaurant recommendation, have them fill out the following mad lib:

I’d like to dine out with my (noun) this (day of the week), and am having trouble finding the perfect spot. I always prefer a restaurant that (everybody/nobody) knows about. I (don’t want to/don’t mind to) wait in line; what really matters is the (food/service/value/ambiance).

I’m envisioning a restaurant where we can drink a (craft cocktail/pitcher of beer/foreign soft drink) while (reading/listening to a server recite/trying to translate) the menu. I’m (adverb) devoted to local, seasonal cooking, and I (verb) if the chef kills his own (noun) or forages her own mushrooms.

I don’t eat (kind of food) or (kind of food), but I’m not picky. I love (type of cuisine). My favorite restaurant experience was in (city), where I ate at (name of restaurant). That place is so (adjective)!

I (enjoy/could do without) a leisurely, multi-course meal. I’m thinking my budget is about (price). Do you think that’s doable? I just don’t want (greatest restaurant fear).

That was written by Hanna Raskin of Seattle Weekly in response to constantly being asked about what restaurant should someone go to. I may start having to have Mrs. Iron Chef fill this out when she tells me she doesn’t care about where we go out, but actually does. You can read the full article here.