Hard to say if Gordon Ramsay is helping or hurting his name and reputation in the U.S. From the formulaic mess that was the U.S. version of Kitchen Nightmares to now apparently opening a restaurant that’s getting mixed reviews. I still want to go; maybe it’s new and there are birth pains.
LAist has a pretty devastating but amusing piece on it today. Here’s part.
Step 4: Figure out the menu
In a take on the tapas-sushi-small plates craze, the menu is not divided into courses, but price ranges with little rhyme nor reason. Although the server states that the lighter courses are near the beginning, they are not. Hog’s head and rack of lamb are not light dishes. Chilled pea soup and Caprese are not heavier dishes.
Don’t fault the server for not always knowing what is on your plate – they are not given tastings or even fed cheaper variations on your meal for their group meal. Some of them have never eaten anything in the restaurant before. In addition, the menu is often not descriptive enough, offering simply foie gras when what arrives is actually pate de foie gras.
The small plates, a variation of the bar menu at the London New York, have their problems. One problem is that small plates get cold very, very quickly. It is about surface area and heat dissipation, if I remember high school physics. Cold mashed potatoes are BAD.
Step 5: Take a chance
Duck tongues, really? Really? It is like something out of Monty Python, “I’ll have the lark’s tongues and kitten ears, please, with a side of peacock vomit.” Maybe the weird decor is supposed to hint at Rome during the middle-ages The upside to the menu is that it gives people a chance to stretch their culinary boundaries a little and try something new. The downside is the precious little geometric shapes are sometimes laughable. Make sure to dine with someone who has a sense of humor, as this is going to be kind of funny.
Things are a lot less mixed over on Yelp!, though; Ramsay is getting four stars overall. Here’s what Lillian from Glendale says…
Gordon Ramsay yells a big game, but can he put out some great food? The answer is yes. Great food experience, with some hiccups.
First course: Chilled English pea soup with organic smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and caviar. The vibrant green soup was refreshing and clean. I noticed a hint of fennel or anise in it. Set in the middle was a neat pile of the wonderfully coral salmon with small dollops of creme fraiche and caviar. A great way to get my pallate going.
Second course: Wild asparagus risotto with chive flowers. This was to die for! Creamy and rich. The rice still had a bite to it, not mushy. The wild asparagus were thin and delicate (nothing like your run-of-the-mill asparagus). The most delightful thing on the dish were the chive flowers. They had great onion flavor – delicate not overpowering. Plus they lent a great lavender color to the plate.
Third course: Monkfish in crispy chicken skin and lemon thyme consomme. Beautiful medallions of monkfish wrapped in paper-thin chicken skin. The flavor of this was wonderful, but a little disappointing. I love love love fried chicken skin, and I wanted the flavor of that to ring out with the monkfish. It didn’t quite happen.Fourth course: Braised pigs head. No, they don’t bring you Porky’s head on a platter. Rather, it’s a candybar of carnitas on steroids. Very rich. At some points, I thought it was too rich, but the accompanying horseradish mashed potatoes pleasantly cut through the richness. It was amazing.
Fifth course: Cheese plate. 2 goats’ cheeses (can’t remember the names) and 1 bleu (fourme d’ambert). This was very tasty. Accompanied by quince paste (loved it), fruit chutney (dried apricot overpowered this), toast, sugared walnuts, and honey.
Sixth course: Dessert – 1.) Pineapple souffle with Thai curry ice cream… light, airy, delicious. There was something spicy in it that hit the back of your throat. I’m assuming it’s in the curry ice cream. Not sure, because they put the ice cream in the middle of your souffle at the table. 2.) Milk chocolate sticky toffee pudding… gooey, and wonderful. As you dig your spoon into the little cake, there is an eruption of molten sticky toffee sauce that emerges from inside. It comes with a scoop of banana ice cream. Heaven.
I ran into Gordon Ramsay at the NBC commissary just now – he’s appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight. It’s my second live Ramsay sighting. I said hi, thanked him for signing the cookbooks last time he was on Leno and got a hello and a firm handshake. Damn, he’s huge.
I didn’t want to take his time but I asked him if he’d been by Sebastian’s, the subject of one of the most infamous episodes of the US version of Kitchen Nightmares. I said “It’s closed” at exactly the same time he did and then he added “Thank god! That guy was a knob!” I can only ask you to imagine Ramsay’s accent saying ‘knob'; it almost had three syllables. Ramsay gave me a smile and a wink and that’s the update!
Gordon Ramsay Mania continues and I’ll be covering the new season four of Hell’s Kitchen, even though it’s my least favorite Ramsay show. But this one at least has some extra interest because the winner will become executive chef at Ramsey’s new Los Angeles restaurant at The London – West Hollywood.
This happened a few week ago and I basically had let it slide, but Sebastian’s restaurant is closed. Sebastian’s was featured on the U.S. version of Gordon Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares and probably had the most universal and overwhelming response against anyone – people just really didn’t like Sebastian and I assume most of them won’t be suprised that the restaurant closed just a few months after the show aired.
The weird recent development is all the comments I’ve gotten from someone who claims to be a Sebastian’s cook but who seems like Sebastian himself. Read the comments here and here but here’s a short sample…
i worked for sebastians for the last two years and was there for the entire filming of the show. The show is fake like he said, the microwave didn’t belong to us and 85% of the food was fresh every day. What i can’t understand is how little of the facts all of you know and are making dumb comments based off of what you saw on TV. I hate to tell all of you but not everything on TV is true i saw myself several times the producers to ask sebastian to do certain things, like cry in the alley i was standing off camera when they told him they needed more emotion in the scene. So lern the facts before you make a remark that makes you sound stupid.
But really – go read the comments yourself. Very odd.
Tonight’s episode – the Kitchen Nightmares season finale – is set in Moorpark, California at a restaurant with a French chef and a slightly weird menu. Talk in comments!
9:00 – The most stubborn chef? More than Sebastian’s? And more puking? Oh, man…
9:01 – They love the racial stereotypes, don’t they? This week – the French!
9:03 – It’s the secret door!
9:04 – Really? Nobody told them Gordon was coming?
9:05 – His gram-gram. Nice. And there are sure making Gordon out to be a total dick.
9:07 – Weird – it’s the season finale and Gordon hasn’t had one single good meal the whole year.
9:08 – The waitress says she doesn’t get complaints on the food. And the reviews I read were okay. So…gee, who to believe.
9:09 – wow – the season finale and every single chef or owner has been arrogant all season.
BREAK – Same old, same old, really.
9:13 – Okay – the maggot potato is gross. That is. Is it real? Not sure, but it is gross.
9:15 – I guess Gordon just seems like a total ashole tonight. Nothing of the helpful mentor, at all.
9:17 – Time for a dinner service – I predict it goes badly.
9:18 – Crusted. Crusted. Crusted.
9:19 – It’s 8:45 in Moorpark and there are few diners. I think I know why – because it’s 8:45 in Moorpark, that’s why.
9:20 – Arrogant. Blah blah blah. Arrogant.
9:26 – Fake closed signs. Yow.
9:28 – Can we show more cooking, please? Maybe? Please…oh, no – it’s the end of season…
9:31 – Can I just cut and paste from every other episode?
9:38 – Just a dick.
9:39 – Wow – Gordon bought them new stuff. And the Chef dude hates it!
9:41 – It’s like French Sebastian’s!
9:42 – Miss California just showed up? No…
9:43 – Unexpectedly a bus showed up? No…
9:47 – Boilerplate Kitchen Nightmares
9:49 – He’s peesed!
9:50 – Gordon walks – and pulls out the ‘donkey’.
9:51 – They love those random shots of people turning around, don’t they?
9:53 – Are we getting a happy ending tonight?
9:54 – Devon is a pretty gnarly California cook dude.
9:55 – Oh, here it comes – get ready to cue the happy ending.
9:56 – And another totally fake food critic. Do they not know that food critics don’t COMPLAIN?
9:57 – The producers gave the customers $50 though, right?
9:58 – Happy music! It’s a success! Shock! Stun!
That’s a wrap – I’ll be picking the winner tonight and announcing it tomorrow morning. You have until midnight Hawaii time to enter and maybe win a Gordon Ramsay cookbook by commenting a recipe!
9:59 – “Please do not screw it up” Copyright 2007, Gordon Ramsay
Again if this were the UK Nightmares – this might be a great episode. As it is – meh. I’ll be liveblogging at 9pm east, 6pm west.
Here’s a review and a little about Chef Michel Bardavid.
High energy, charismatic and young Michel Bardavid had all the credentials needed for a food knifeslinger. Born in Lyon, France, the birthplace of haute cuisine, he actually did have a stint on Sunset Blvd. with culinary vunderkint Ken Frank at the short-lived and trendy Argyle. He worked at Checkers in Los Angeles under Thomas Keller, now of The French Laundry as well as at Ma Maison where Wolfgang Puck got his start. The Bel-Air Hotel and the revolving door at Sherwood Country Club also appear on his resume. Capturing the attention of the culinary tenderfeet in Moorpark- Simi and hopefully Westlake-North Ranch would seem to be as easy as roping a calf in a corral. Well, as it turns out, not quite.
It is true that under Bardavid’s rein, the dishes are now easily remembered but no longer pricey. Many main courses are under $20. For $2 you can add a wonderfully dressed remarkably fresh and ample baby green salad with a lemon vinaigrette. My wife had a perfectly pan seared Mahi-Mahi over a medley of vegetables with truffle essence (19.50). I love bouillabaisse and am a hard marker. The copious portions of fresh clams, shrimp, salmon and whitefish (25.00) were poached perfectly moist in a reduced lobster broth, Provence style. Fresh herbs are grown behind the main dining room in The Secret Garden.