More spilled milk…. This Omicron black cloud on top of the Delta surge we are living through has every emergency room doctor, every virologist, every epidemiologist praying that the oncoming peak stays away for a few weeks so they can free up hospital beds that are filled with Delta patients, and that the Omicron peak in America mimics the South African one … short-lived.
Regardless this feels more like March 2020 than the eve of 2022. WTF?
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My “feel-good-where-would-I-eat-anywhere-in-the-world” type of column that I was thinking of writing for you seems a bit dimmer. It was loaded with new recommendations of restaurants that while not BRAND NEW are ones that many travelers haven’t experienced yet … I don’t feel right sending everyone out into the world at a time when we are seeing record numbers once again in many countries and whole cities are gearing up to shut many doors. More on that way below. BUT I do owe you a look at two trips that got me all excited this past year.
All revved up about:
Coming out of several lockdowns here and in the City of Lights, many folks flocked to Paris this past fall and found a re-invigorated food scene. Lighter and experimental modern bistro cooking is not making a comeback—it’s been that way for a while in my opinion, much in the way Stéphane Jego did it well almost 18 years ago when he opened one of my favorite restaurants, Chez L’Ami Jean, which is still a MUST GO. French farmhouse cooking meets reinvented bistro classics shot through the creative mind of a master tastemaker. I would just as well have Stéphane cook my last meal than any other chef I know.
Cèna … Chef Alban Chartron is going to be a global star. He came out of Le Louis XV and Anne-Sophie Pic, so you know the skill set is deep, and he’s only 32 years young. The menu changes all the time, 12 items on the menu including dessert. It’s a must.
MoSuke … just two years old (still new, right?) this place blew me away. The chef is Mory Sacko. He cooks Afro-Japanese food with French accents. It’s breathtaking, personal cuisine, and the restaurant’s name derives from his own as well as from Yasuke, the first and only African samurai from the 17th century. There are the pepper and chile flavors of Mali and Senegal, the finessed umami and fermentation of Japan plussed up with French modernist plating and technique. Sole in banana leaf with cassava semolina, lobster with fermented chiles and miso/tomato nage, a really original and delicious experience.
La Poule au Pot isn’t new, but damn, was it delicious as always…Frenchie, Septime, Clamato and Le Servan still rock.
Does anyone go to Paris anymore for the 3-star Michelin deal??? I like Arpège, Pierre Gagnaire, Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen and Kei, which blows my mind with its French/Japanese hybridity if you like that sort of thing. Japanese influence in Paris restaurants is everywhere, and French food in Tokyo is as good as it gets…. L’Osier has been in the Ginza wowing guests for 40 years, Ryuzu as well in Roppongi…And I love L’Effervescence. But the Japanese aesthetic in Paris, is so profoundly felt … is it just me?
But back to my question, does anyone want to sit for four hours for the big-buck, 3-star experience anymore?? I struggle with it.
The Chairman … not new, but not to be missed. Might be the best Cantonese food, bite-for-bite, in all of HK. Yes, it’s pricey, but since I eat street fare and try to find very inexpensive spots all day, a splurge at night doesn’t sting the wallet so badly.
Wing … Chef Vicky Cheng’s latest. Classics reinvented like Cheng's sugarcane-crusted roast squab or king crab congee. And a real departure from VEA, a 1-star Michelin restaurant that’s an interpretative Franco-Chinois hybrid.
Sushi Hisayoshi … A very traditional edomae experience. Don’t sleep on what may have been the best ankimo (monkfish liver) I can remember eating. And its 24+ courses slide along effortlessly.
Sushi Mamoru … Another sushi bar that serves a seriously honest and VERY upscale edomae tasting menu of 20+ courses.
Japanese food in Hong Kong has never been this good; let’s debate that for a while.
So where am I headed on my next big trip? I want to go skiing in Colorado and Utah this spring and back to Italy in the summer. That’s my short answer today. My dream is to rent a farmhouse in Sicily for a month; that sounds like a real relaxing getaway.
OK, some odds and ends from the mail bag
This Substack thing is new, so we are experimenting with a lot… hit me up with suggestions at email@example.com or comment on our Thursday chat right here on Spilled Milk.
Instagram says a lot about you… Who do you enjoy more on social media platforms: Burak Ozdemir or Nusret Gokce??? That’s @CZNBurak or @nusr_et, better known as Salt Bae. Maybe who do you prefer in general is a better question since the VAST majority of people have never eaten their food.
I have my opinion … someone caught me on Burak’s feed the other day. I love his food, his gentle smile, his humor, his desire to please others, all of it. Salt Bae seems, well, all about himself. And anyone serving a gold leaf steak falls into the “WTF” category for me. I don’t get it.
Earlier I spoke about the state of our nation and the pandemic. For 18 months we have been preaching about a series of closures that will result in our loss of hundreds of thousands more independent restaurants around the country if we don’t refill the Restaurant Relief Fund. Please visit www.saverestaurants.com and join our fight to save these small businesses that represent a massive amount of our GDP when compiled as an entity. I was on a thread earlier this past weekend. I have redacted the names and edited out personal information because it’s the right thing to do, but most of these folks are some of the biggest names in the food world, who have been tirelessly fighting for the good of our industry and inspiring others through their boots on the ground leadership … but this is real, and over the last 24 hours it got even worse. Please, please, please go to that website above and help in any way you can.
Restaurant owner #1:
Hey everyone. How are you all managing the omicron surge? I’m hearing about nyc restaurants closing?? 😳😳
i know of at least 20 closings
I’ve posted 12 in chicago on my feed this morning, including my own. When it happens it happens fast.
Its pretty ugly, we had to close a few places thus weekend. Having some terrible deja vu.
It’s a terrible situation that is made worse by ny’s sick leave law. The law was not designed for 50% of a restaurants staff to test positive.
Sick leave makes sense when you have a couple people out not when you have to close.
I’m not an expert (disclaimer) but on my call with the doctors, epidemiologist Wednesday that I’ve been on with John Doe for the past 8 months. They mentioned that case will rise now through the second and third week of January and then cases should drop .. just like what’s been reported from South Africa. I’ve heard this and other articles that south Africa cases are dropping now and they are a 3 weeks ahead of us …
I was saying to my business partner today that it’s feeling a lot like March 8, 2020
Its similar to March 2020 but there certainly isn’t the same health fear
Me: It’s bad here in MN in terms of closings or going back to takeout only with smaller staff footprint. Many restaurants closing for next week and then saying they will reevaluate but for many that’s their busiest week
It’s a waiting game for us….until someone tests positive we will stay open. We have already closed twice because of breakthrough cases. There are tons of places around us closing. And the city is eerily quiet again.
I still haven’t reopened XYZ Cafe. Every time we start preparing to do it, another surge happens so we stay closed and just run deliveries out of there with a fraction of the staff.
Nyc is a mess!!
We’re hanging in by a thread
Same, we are getting close to not being able to staff the restaurants.
…Need the federal program to come back
Ready to do whatever we need to do. This is too much for everyone to do without REAL support .!!!
All the best,
I would be more than happy to accompany you on your trips next year! 😄😄
Ok..first…now I have DrSeuss stuck in my head..Today is your day..you’re off to great places…love that! This was a lot of info!!! And I feel like you pulled some of it right from inside my own head…just discussing with a friend the need to go back to Paris, until then, cooking French food. Christmas Day will be beef bourguignon reminiscent of the meal we had at La Coup Chou in Paris. Been perfecting my bouillabaisse…it’s become a New Years staple. It’s not perfect…yet. An Italian countryside farmhouse vacation, cooking like an Italian nonna…been on the bucket list for years…I’m available if there’s a spare room! My lil town outside Chicago has done a great job of using social media thru the pandemic to drive biz into our local food spots. Kept many alive just through take out. There is definite concern about the fate of these business over next few weeks. They are starving, and some just getting by. Another blow could wipe them out. I love your passion for this industry! I’m in one of the other sectors getting pummeled…local, family owned retail. Cannot say it enough, shop local! Go to the business! Order directly thru the location. These businesses are often owned by your neighbors!!
Thanks for the glimpse inside AZ’s brain…and Now I’m off to check out Burak’s gram. 😊