I love a good bad restaurant review. The Guardian‘s Jay Rayner reviewed Le Cinq, at the Four Seasons Hôtel George V in Paris and it was genius. This review in LA Weekly titled
Tao in Hollywood Is Worse Than We Imagined
by Besha Rodell is not quite as funny, but pretty scathing nonetheless.
“How else to explain Tao? The outrageously over-the-top mini-chain that originated in New York has seen its Las Vegas outpost become the highest-grossing and most profitable restaurant in America, and its New York locations aren’t far behind.
Hollywood is an obvious place to try to re-create that dynamic, and I can attest to the fact that it’s working…
The dining area is arranged like a theater, with the bodhisattva statue where the stage or screen would be… To reach your table, you descend into the tiered room and get a seat either on one of those tiers or at the bottom, under the statue. You feel as though you’re being presented to the room, like a queen overseeing her (vaguely Buddhist?) kingdom. It’s unnerving and ego-stroking and impressive as hell.
Given how much thought and money have gone into the design, I expected the food to be expensive, decent, Americanized versions of Chinese and Japanese classics.”
“What I didn’t expect were dumpling skins so thick and glutinous that eating them was a little like biting into semi-coagulated library paste. I didn’t expect a mush of pad thai without a hint of tamarind or fish sauce or sweetness, bland and pale and gummy. I didn’t expect an uni hand roll to look like a rice ice cream cone with an uni garnish where the cherry on top might be — a mere smidge of urchin roe in the center of a few fistfuls of rice. Nor did I expect that uni to be the wan, dull-colored variety that you find in small-town, landlocked sushi bars, its creaminess turning to liquid, its oceanic pungent flavor edging on acridity.”
Surely the $34 orange chicken is good, right? No.
“The pieces of chicken were big, almost chicken tender–sized, perfectly sticky and glossy and unfathomably dry. Chewy as jerky. Moderately inedible.
The crab-heavy sushi rolls were unremarkable, at least the ones that hadn’t gone anywhere near a deep fryer — in which case they were as gloppy and silly as you’d expect.
And I was right on one count: The drinks are too sweet, by a gajillion sugarwatts, including safer bets such as the margarita and the Manhattan variation, here called a 58th Street. There’s almost nothing worth drinking on the wine list, unless it’s a $450 Krug kinda night.”
And speaking of expensive, you have to sign not just the CC slip but the actual bill. Huh?
“(In an odd step that seems to acknowledge the insanity of the cost or the drunkenness of the clientele or the volatile meeting of those factors, your waiter will ask that you sign your itemized bill — not just your credit card slip but also the bill itself — to concede that you did indeed order and receive the listed items. In case you wake up the next morning and cry foul? Who knows.)
Perhaps it’s unfair to pick on Tao. But I wanted to try to understand this very popular thing — surely there’s something to learn from Tao’s massive success.
I have stepped out of my bubble long enough to appraise Tao and to declare it bad in almost every way… I set out to understand Tao’s allure, to find the fun in Hollywood’s gaudiest glam, and have found myself only more bewildered — and more aware of the cultural schisms that separate us.”
In other words, save your money.
“To the tourist visiting Hollywood and looking for an outrageous experience, you deserve better. To the guy looking to impress a date, you deserve better. To Americans rich and poor and in between: We deserve better.
Just look at the room. If the cocktails are strong enough, no one will remember the food, which is not even secondary.
(via LA Weekly)