Gilt: I like the avant-garde, I just don't LIKE the avant-garde
Frank’s dipped his ponderous mug into hundreds of troughs so far in this city, but he hasn’t encountered much avant-garde cooking in New York—you don’t see a lot of guys in NASA suits with particle separators freeze-drying air for your dubiously pleasurable consumption. Chicago’s really the capital of that world; all we’ve got is little Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 holding up his fried mayo cube like the 85th-placed kid at the science fair with a poop colored ribbon slapped onto his mold garden.
Bruni on the cutting edge of futuristic food is actually a rather momentous event.
“At many restaurants I've received tutorials on the workings of the menu. At Gilt my companions and I heard a whole treatise on the ‘thought process’ behind the meal that was getting under way.”
Gross. I have to admit a prejudice against food that makes you feel less like you’re out on the town and more like you’re assembling furniture. Which no one should let me do.
"The baby’s crib is all ready honey!"
“Our server said that specially tailored side dishes with the entrees and even with the appetizers would provide contrasting or complementary effect, a dynamic not so revolutionary as to warrant introduction.”
That’s actually a very good point. Cut to server in futuristic avant-garde getup…
"It’s this conceptually intense approach whereby we broaden your flavor receptor sensitivity by orbiting your main dish with satellite dishes of things like vegetables. Don’t worry about it, you’ll catch on.”
You mean a side? I’ve heard of it. You know who else has heard of it?
I’ve recently been through an experience where I was coached for 3 hours about what and how I was to eat, so I sympathize with Frank’s friend: "'I feel like I'm in my first class of organic chemistry,' one [friend] said, 'and I'm ready to drop pre-med.'"
Definitely drop pre-med, dude. It’s like, why go through eight years of school when you can get the scrubs UPS-ed overnight? Am I wrong?
See how convincing that is? Ignoring the abject pervert grin and hair, of course.
But embedded in the whole exhausting, tutorial experience ("semester"), Frank did find some “extraordinary payoffs, like duck poached in beet juice and lobster seasoned with vanilla and set on a cauliflower purée.” And all of his meats and fish were--gasp!--cooked precisely to order (no doubt a first.)
In the end, the Count’s crystal clear message to mad-genius 29-year-old chef Paul Liebrandt, which you can read between the two shiesty stars if not the lines: CHILLAX. “Gilt sometimes doesn't know when to pull back, pipe down and let superior food speak for itself.”
Liebrant’s fame derives equally from wacky food (crystallized violets) and wacky gimmicks (blindfolding people and making them eat off a naked lady.) Unfortunately for repressed secret lesbians who love new age cuisine, the latter’s been eliminated—“He's not as intent on gadgetry”—but the food still involves “intricate constructions, with so many facets they fatigue.”
Take a piece of ocean trout, garnished with razor clams, sea beans, braised snails, TrimSpa, edible panties, a fire extinguisher, two Doc Martens and some Spam.
The trout “deserved to be big, on a stage of its own” but “was mobbed by an unruly cast.”
I felt the same way. Trout was WAY too good for such ensemble work.
But Frank is not one to quash an effulgence of youthful creativity— he concedes that Liebrandt's stuff “springs from an admirable thoughtfulness” and that Liebrandt is not ”some vacuously flamboyant bad boy, as his detractors have claimed.”
Let me translate this: “I like what you’re doing, Paul, I just don’t LIKE what you’re doing.”
The décor is as out-there as the food, with two rooms that are “like two Kubricks in one, a ‘Space Odyssey’ segueing into ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ With a palate wide open, you embark on a feast worthy of ‘Barry Lyndon.’”
Eiwww. You had me with the Kubrick thing until...EIWWWWW
BARRY LYNDON + a sweatsuit from Price Club = the nooniest 40 year old woman's DREAM come true. This movie is SO NOONY! Even the mention of it makes me want to pluck a hair from my chin and go jazzersize. If you can't intuit what nooniness is from that definition, refer here.
Frank wraps up with a few more demerits (a sole "topped with Comté cheese, which was in turn topped with a tarragon mustard sabayon. What a lost sole." GROOOAAAAANNNN) and some compliments, but he touches on the olive oil drizzled over a wasabi-green apple sorbet:
"Women received a lighter oil from one bottle, while men got a heavier one from another. Gilt could provoke the first condiment-based gender discrimination suit."
You know, that just doesn't cut it for Po-Mo in this town anymore. Frankly, if he wants to do make an extreme statement he should serve men their food on a floppy disk and women from a L'Eggs panty hose jar. It's so avant garde it's almost...avant-garter.
OK, for that, I promise to kill myself. See you next week.