Back in the 1990s, I covered movies, books, and music for daily and weekly newspapers. Being a literal as well as cultural omnivore, I was invited to do some restaurant reviewing. I balked.
Not because I was uninterested in the notion, but because, for all the intellectual enjoyment that turning critical thinking into shareable prose can provide, I wanted to keep one of my greatest pleasures- eating -to myself and my chosen dining companions. I wasn’t ready to regularly run another of my passions through the the gears of verbal translation and writerly angst.
Over the years. I’ve become much less interested in serving as a de facto promoter for the industrial product of the film and music industries. And as my writing on those topics has fallen by the wayside, I’ve come to enjoy the more personal aspects of writing about dining and travel: accounts of estaurant meals and trips can be miniature narratives in which the writer is also a character.
I mention all of this in light of a dinner John and I enjoyed a couple months back at The Fifth Floor. It took me right back to those selfish days when I didn’t want to “share my food.” Chef David Bazirgan and his team put together such extraordinary dishes, so smartly conceived and flat-out delicious, that I’ve resisted writing about them here. I’ve wanted to hold them as pure, vaporous pleasures in my memory, not try to pin them down with the insufficiencies of language.
From a culinary standpoint, it was the best meal I’ve had in the Bay Area over the past two years. And I’m afraid I’m going to remain cruelly withholding about it. Please, please manufacture a special occasion to try it for yourself (“I need to take my tongue on a date” or “It’s the first anniversary of today last year”).
“C’mon,” the reader coaxes, “Just show a little leg.”
Of lamb, perhaps? Well…It was perfectly accompanied with a sweet and piquant mix of pickled raisins, cauliflower and cippolini onions.
I’ll also tease you with Bazirgan’s signature Mendocino uni flan, which is like the best chawan mushiyou’ve ever had, exponentially enriched with not only urchin but also a palate-haunting blend of kaffir lime and saffron. Read more…