Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Civilized dining... an endangered species.

A recent article in the LA Times [ Upscale restaurants are dressing down ] struck a chord with me.

The brilliant restaurateur Gordon Sinclair had a delicious policy.  No mobile phones in the dining room.  Diners were required (and complied) to check their phones with the bartender - who would take messages for the guests while they enjoyed a quiet lunch or dinner in his eponymous restaurant.

His service was polished.  The food fine.  The room lively.  Nothing stuffy about it.  Just civil.

Would that fly today?  According to this most seriously demoralizing account of the state of fine dining - no.

It just begs the question - does serious dining and fine dining have to be defrocked, so to speak, to be palatable to the loud, disheveled masses?  Does every dining room have to be devoid of linens and ever table within eyeshot of a big screen to watch the Lakers or Dodgers or Bears or Bills?  

Do our dining hosts have to bow to the Yelpsters and other online commentators?  Do you really base your dining decisions on the opinions of people you don't know whose comments are based solely on their one experience?  Frankly - though many food journos are barely more qualified - I would look to Los Angeles Magazine or the LA Times or LA Weekly for direction.

This is what really hit me {with my comments in brackets}...
"She revisited Water Grill recently and was impressed by the relaxed atmosphere and the absence of 'old money bags' customers {read: more cell phone call, ironic T-shirts and ridiculously short skirts than suits and quiet conversation}. The tablecloths were gone and the floors stripped of carpet {read: the room is more comfortable and safe like Fridays or Red Lobster}.  French fries, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese were on the menu {read: I don't have to think or be challenged and can order the same thing at every restaurant - YAY!}."

Give me...
NO TV.  NO CELL PHONES.  CLOTH NAPKINS.  Any day.  Every day.