Friday, November 26, 2010

Guess the fake restaurant review


Three of these excerpts from restaurant reviews ran in The New Yorker. (Yes, The New Yorker.) One's fake. Which?

A) At night, red lights line the ceiling and the restaurant is packed. So is the bar, where the Italian mixologist Christina Bini tests the limits of potable weirdness with cocktails like the Zucchidorini (green apple, green squash, and Midori) and the Buffalo 66 (rosemary vodka, Worcestershire sauce, and beet juice); a dry Martini arrives with a vermouth-soaked black stone from Mongolia. (White Ligurian pebbles would make the drink sweet, the waitress explained to a puzzled diner: "they're more porous, so they hold more vermouth.")

B) An amuse-bouche of hen-liver mousse on a rye crisp, presented on a shard of slate, immediately signals a seriousness of intent. The rest of the menu follows through, and is full of unusual combinations that delight more often than they offend. A witty salad features pickled green strawberries with red Russian kale. A sea-urchin bisque comes in a cup and saucer, with the velvety richness of a refined hot chocolate. Lamb sweetbreads sit alongside Concord grapes, a twist on turkey and cranberry sauce. ... An otherwise forgettable entrée of braised lamb riblets is garnished with desiccated slices of cauliflower resembling tiny leafless trees in a stark wintry landscape.

C) The squid-ink fondue is more daunting than chef Auguste Grandvilliers intends. The tenderloins of farm-raised albatross coated in a black viscous gunk conjure up memories of the Exxon Valdez and the recent oil spill in the Gulf--exactly the point, of course, but the gamey flavors of the seabird and juniper-scented fondue simply don't coöperate with each other, and eventually the metaphor collapses upon itself.

D) A simple apéritif of shochu, garnished with tiny morsels of pear cut in leaf and star shapes, tastes the way you imagine dew might. Monkfish liver is presented in a vase of pebbles, abalone on a cushion of salt; you get to sear small rectangles of beef on a terrifyingly hot shiny stone. Dried mullet roe (which you grill over an open flame) looks like carrot, has the consistency of bean curd, and tastes like anchovy, only more so. Coupled with a rectangular tablet of daikon radish, it looks uncannily like a mah-jongg tile. Aigamo duck comes with a cake of mochi--a kind of rice polenta with a texture between dough and string cheese but stickier than either. (In Japan, people occasionally suffocate while eating it.)

14 comments:

Dave said...

You'll be happy to know that and hour and seventeen minutes after your post, a Google search for farm raised albatross gives The Velvet Blog as the top two results.

Jim Donahue said...

Hey, no Googling!

Dave said...

Rules, rules. I'd already picked C), I was just confirming.

Knatolee said...

THey are all ridiculous, but I'll go with the farm-raied albatross...

Jim Donahue said...

And here I thought "farm-raised albatross" wasn't notable more ridiculous than the real reviews.

(The umlaut over the o in coöperate is, or at least was, NYer style.)

punkinsmom said...

The farm-raised albatross was the sticking point for me too. I'd consider eating at B.
You have to feel for these reviewers. It's not that surprising that their prose is a bit stilted (or ridiculously contorted). It has to be difficult to find someone who is willing to eat just about anything, just about anywhere AND be able to write well.

Grammarian@mindspring.com said...

Good gunk is hard to find.

Knatolee said...

It's not, but I know that albatrosses...albatri?..spend most of their lives on or over the water, which would not work well on a farm! :) If only you'd said "hand-strangled" or "selectivelyshot" or "albino" or something, I would have gone for it.

Jim Donahue said...

Hey, if you can farm fish...

Jim Donahue said...

Punkinsmom: Here's the full review I excerpted in B.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/tables/2010/11/22/101122gota_GOAT_tables_lester

ChefNick said...

The albatross was a dead giveaway. Farm-raised albatri are not gamey like their seagoing relatives.

Jim Donahue said...

Is albatri the official plural? If not, it should be.

Will said...

I would imagine that any food served on a shard of slate immediately signals a seriousness of intent.

grokagain said...

either way, i'm impressed with the phrase "and eventually the metaphor collapses upon itself"... i'll have to remember it.