Rocky Mountain Low
Sometimes it takes a trip out of town to make you realize how good we have it here. One of the most eagerly anticipated aspects of Dish's trip to Denver last week was dinner at Zenith American Grill in the company of John Kessler, the Denver Post's food editor. Bon Appetit readers will remember the rave Zenith received in the April issue. And dining with a local food guru, the experience had all the makings of a truly memorable meal, right up there with the lunch Dish once shared with then-International Herald Tribune restaurant critic Patricia Wells in Paris. Ah, but the culinary gods were not smiling upon us that night. A sweet potato tamale had the density of a bowling ball and the roast duck resembled a salt lick. The latter was sent back to the kitchen, only to be returned 10 minutes later by the waiter who, setting it back on the table, informed us the salty taste was soy. (I guess he thought cold bad food would be more desirable than hot bad food.) The only member of our party who had the good fortune to order well — she had the herb ricotta ravioli — zealously guarded her plate all night. Dish is now excused from ever having to visit San Francisco's version of Morton's of Chicago, having endured a meal at Denver's Morton's, one of 30 in what unfortunately is a growing chain. Diners are treated to a Wheel of Fortune-type display, wherein the waitress, who looks like she'd rather be anywhere else, holds up Saran Wrapped steaks and chops, lobster, swordfish, even a tomato and a Bermuda onion. Everything is oversize (shades of Sleeper), which adds to the absurdity of the experience. Prices are astronomical, just under $30 for a steak. If you choose to order asparagus, it'll set you back $6; a baked potato is $3.75. Dish admits that once we got through all the theatrics, the wet-aged porterhouse was excellent. But who needs all that nonsense when you can go to the city's own Harris', Alfred's or Izzy's?
Yuppie Guilt Defined
Last Sunday's Examiner business story, “Changing Appetites,” told us three of the city's “glamour” restaurants — Abiquiu, Embarko and Umberto — folded because high-end dining is going out of vogue. According to reporter Wendy Tanaka, they are being replaced by moderately priced places like Fringale and Firefly. OK, so far. Dish was stunned, however, to read that Restaurant Lulu is such a runaway success because its “family-style service appeals to younger customers who don't feel comfortable being served.” Where'd she get that? Does she think they'd feel better if they could shop for that plate of pasta and cook it themselves? What a concept: It's called eating at home.
By Barbara Lane