It was a meal perfect in every way imaginable, except for one: it did not move me. In a way, the French Laundry starts off leaden with so much praise that it was impossible to match the hyperbole that has been heaped upon it. To its credit, it nearly did. Everything was executed to perfection, from the quaint and rustically luxurious (or is it luxuriously rustic?) setting to the attentive, yet non-intrusive service, to the food... oh the food was flawless. And I mean completely without any imperfections whatsoever. You could break down each dish any number of ways and examine it to the n-th degree of detail and you will not find the slightest mistake with it. Not the plating, not the texture, not the doneness, not the flavor, not even the spacing or the number of grains of salt crystals on the steak. The mastery and skill involved with each dish was evident—everything emphatically declared that you were experiencing the epitome of fine dining. Even the give-away chocolate truffles at the end were as good as any I've had from the best specialty shops.
All the wows, and it was a non-stop series of wows from beginning to end, were all in response to the quality of ingredients and the absolute precision in execution. No fireworks went off on the tongue. You could certainly argue that this is what fine dining is about, but for a restaurant widely considered one of the best in the world, I also expected to be challenged and surprised by taste, not just be bowled over by mastery of technique.
I've finally gotten around to setting up a long-overdue feed for Figure-Ground.com. You can subscribe to it at: http://figure-ground.com/index.xml.
And the picture above is one I never put up before of Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall [Figure-Ground.com].
The media this week (and all month, really) has been wall-to-wall news, articles and essays about Beijing. Here's my contribution to the avalanche of Beijing coverage:
- Beijing [Figure-Ground.com]
- CCTV Headquarters - Rem Koolhaas/OMA [Figure-Ground.com]
- National Centre for the Performing Arts - Paul Andreu [Figure-Ground.com]
Incidentally, for the first time that I can remember, I'm actually excited about the Olympics. It has not much to do with the Games themselves, but everything to do with the host city and country. All the controversies surrounding this Olympics (the pollution, the media censorship, the crackdown in Tibet, the support of the Sudanese goverment) and the herculean effort the Chinese have made in successfully building a new Beijing that just screams money and power everywhere you look, have made the Olympics interesting again.