restaurants

Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they'll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris.

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A couple of years ago, I wrote about our visit to a most unusual Zürich restaurant, the blindekuh, where sighted people can experience what it's like to dine in total darkness. Yesterday it was announced that the founder of the chain Stefan Zappa, was honored as the Swiss Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

According to the story, "The "Blind-Liecht" charitable foundation was set up in December 1998 by Zappa, a partially sighted psychologist, with help from three other blind people."

It's still the most unusual restaurant experience I've ever had. If you have a chance to visit Zürich, I'd highly recommend a visit there if you want a dinner you'll never forget. There is a blindekuh restaurant (it seems it's officially spelled in lowercase) in Basel also.

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Please stop with the Flash-only sites. If you must have a Flash site, please provide a plain HTML alternative, for those of us who might want to visit your site in a hurry, or on our Plain Jane cell phones.

For goodness sake, please get rid of those annoying, meaningless, splash pages. That is so 1998.

You want a useful front page that your customers would really appreciate? Put your address, your reservation phone number, and hours of operation there.

Please take a little time to convert your menu to HTML. Stop with the PDF-only menus! If you must, provide a 'typical' menu in HTML and then a link to your current PDF menu. But PDF-only menus? I'm not even going to bother. And this is coming from someone who makes their living from PDF programming.

AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD STOP WITH THE AUTOMATICALLY PLAYING MUSIC!

Thank you. Have a great day.

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I may either have a short memory, or have been lucky, but I can count the number of bad experiences I've had at restaurants, and still remember, on one hand. Unless the offense has been quite obvious - say, a big green caterpillar in my salad (happened once!), or a hair in my soup - I've never felt like lodging a direct complaint. The most I do is to call it a 'three-time experience' (an in-house joke) - the first, last and only time I'll go there.

I do wonder though if complaining would have done anything. I tend to shy away from confrontation, but eating out, especially at a high end restaurant, is a very special, not to mention expensive, occasion. When such an experience is screwed up, as it was for this commenter, it can be very frustrating to say the least.

What do you do when you have a bad restaurant experience? In this case I'm not talking about merely mediocre or bad food, but something really off-putting in some way, such as exceptionally bad service, or something amiss with the food, or anything that really makes you angry. Do you simply go away or complain about it, and if you have complained, has it made any difference?

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Johanna of the passionate cook has been running a series called Culinary Snapshots, of cities around the world. The Culinary Snapshot of Zürich that I wrote is now up there. (The pictures there were taken in late March by the way, when it was warm enough for t-shirts!) Re-reading it now I think I may need some armor against proprietors of Asian-Fusion restaurants in town. :)

Yesterday, I found out that one of the most talented sushi chefs I've ever known had died. He was still relatively young (in his 50s). He was at one time one of the itamae at the late, lamented Sushisay in New York.

The authorities are investigating the cause of his death. They have to do this, because his body was found in his bath, at least a month after he had died.

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David Rosengarten, former Food Network host (his show Taste is still my all-time favorite Food Network show), former Gourmet writer, etc. sells a subscription service called the Rosengarten Report, but also has an interesting free newsletter called Tastings. In a recent issue, he steps into the recent restaurant vs. critic fur-flying incidents and proposes a certification program for restaurant critics. I guess certification fever is in the air at the moment.

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On the New York Tiimes Diners Journal blog, which is no longer just written by Frank Bruni, Julia Moskin writes about a Japanese food symposium held at the Japan Society. She reports that "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto called the Japanese government's plans to certify "authentic" Japanese restaurants "nonsense". Now, fans of the original (and best) Japanese version of Iron Chef may remember Chef Morimoto's ongoing "battles" with chefs who cooked "authentic Japanese"; while a lot of it seemed like fake drama for the cameras, perhaps there was some truth in it after all. He did make some pretty outrageous, not to mention downright odd, things under the guise of "nouvelle Japanese" on occasion, which seemed to get some more "authentic" Japanese chefs rather upset. If we assume that the standards of 'authenticity' might be dictated by such chefs, people like Chef Morimoto, not to mention Nobu Matsuhisa, may not pass muster. Not to say they don't produce good, even great, food. (Though I must admit I'm not a big Nobu fan. To be fair I've only been there once, years ago, and had a 'server problem' which clouded things. And I've never been to a Morimoto restaurant.)

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Frank Bruni gives the steakhouse at the Penthouse Executive Club a pretty entertaining one star review. "Hmm, where have I heard of this place before" I thought, and rummaged through my stacks of recorded food shows. Ah, celebrated don't-call-it-molecular-gastronomy chef Heston Blumenthal paid it a special visit on his TV show last year, to show his drooling mostly British viewers er, great looking meat. I mean the aged sides of beef, of course.

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  • Extra virgin olive oil goes rancid just as fast in the fridge as at room temperature, so storing all those bottles in the fridge is pretty meaningless. Another great report on Harold McGee's blog.

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