#8 Chez Panisse: The Restaurant That Changed the Way America Eats (Revisited)
While I find the food consistently good, the service is inconsistent – there are good days or off days. The service at the restaurant is much better than the Café. On my very first visit, for instance, the service was slow that my friend was able to run and to feed the parking meter in between the entre and main course. The waiter was very apologetic and brought us a complementary wood-fired pizza. It turned out to be a very long lunch. But the wait was well worth it. This is where my taste bud rediscovered how local produce should taste, and discovered ‘sandab’ fish. I never had fish that tasted so fresh. The chicken dish made me wish I could eat here every day and the tarte tatin unforgettable. I totally agree with Patricia Schultz’s assessment “If you want to remember how food should taste, eat here.”
The restaurant is still popular and still difficult to book. I thought it would be a treat for the food enthusiasts to eat here on their birthdays. So I tried to make a reservation to the restaurant downstairs through opentable.com, but the system kept giving me an alternate date and time. I called and ended up making a lunch reservation at the café upstairs.
We went back the following Friday for a birthday celebration. We were seated at the banquette table across the open kitchen. Since we had a 5-year-old (another food lover) in our party, the waiter provided her with crayons to doodle on the paper mat. The restaurant was full and busy; the waiters frenetic; the service slow. Everybody joined the 5-year old doodling. I was getting inpatient. I ordered a plate of olives and asked for more bread. The other two did not mind the long wait. They found all the activities in the kitchen, especially the pizza maker (do you call the pizza maker here a chef), amusing. For our main course, we ordered the grilled yellow tail, squid and soul food farm chicken and pizza. The little girl hardly touched her pizza and started to complain about her tooth. (I thought she was full from eating the crusty bread). But when the ‘chocolate pavé with caramel chocolate-almond ice cream dessert’ arrived, the little girl’s eyes light up with enthusiasm. Both toothache and dessert suddenly gone! Never mind the slow service! We are food enthusiasts after all, we are here to eat and enjoy the food and the food here never disappoint.
|Alice et Alice|
It’s ironic that locally grown, organic foods are getting so expensive and not affordable for so many. This made me question the viability of the slow food movement. But I still give Alice Waters credit for bringing it to the forefront of discussion, especially in this tough economic environment when creativity in finding cheaper alternative is needed the most. I may not be going back to eating out anytime soon, but I left the restaurant feeling good and connected. I have Chez Panisse to thank for introducing me to all those ‘weird-sounding' fruits and vegetables. Who would have thought that ‘kumquat’ has a place in my vocabulary of food. It feels good to know that as an alternative to eating out, I can prepare my own dish at home such as crab salad with kumquats picked from brother’s backyard. Chez Panisse, the restaurant that changed the way America eats indeed!
Note: The title of this blog has been lifted from the book, "1,000 Places To See Before You Die", page 582.