Very interesting article in today's Sunday Globe Magazine on the increasing prices of entrees at the higher-end restaurants and the actual sourcing of various meats in the Boston area restaurants. Some restaurants are getting their chickens from the same distributor, but the price differential can be astonishing!
There are comments from NYC chefs Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud, among others, and the article refers to the restaurants of and interviews many local chefs, including Ken Oringer, Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, and Steve Johnson.
The article's writer, Scott Haas, writes:
"I wanted to know if this was a sign of Boston's dining scene evolving into something better, or if chefs are merely charging what they know diners in the region will pay.
"I think they're charging high prices because they can – serving food to people who are grateful to have what they consider big city food," says Anthony Bourdain, the author, commentator, and chef-owner of several Brasserie Les Halles restaurants in New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C. "I think what's going on in Boston is a classic example of chefs working in a place that's not yet a national restaurant city, not by a stretch. It's a period of insecurity. And I can really understand why the chefs are charging so much: If prices come down, they lose their mystique as chefs. They're reluctant to abandon their pomposity, expense, and pretense." Ouch."
Ouch is right. But I have to agree with him on the attempt to "be just like NYC" recently with all of the new, high-end restaurants opening up in Boston. :-) It's that damn rivalry - whether it's sports or food.
"As chefs set their culinary sights higher, it seems, good restaurants with midrange prices – the exact kinds of places Boston's top chefs say they like to eat in – are fewer and farther between."
Boulud is quoted as saying "But does Boston have the demographics to support a luxury restaurant like mine? I don't think so. You have about 750,000 people and if you take away the students and academics, who don't patronize luxury too much, who's left?" That sounds about right. We just don't seem to have the base of people here, nor the "busy-ness" of NYC to support the many high-end restaurants as seem to be opening on a monthly basis. With the many new high-end hotels etc. opening up, more high-end restaurants are being built in them to cater to the rich and famous. But is that what is needed?
Re: the wildly varying costs - D'Artagnan chickens wholesale for about $4/chicken, but the final prices at the restaurant? A $20 difference, which just blows my mind!
"The chicken is the costliest at Radius, in the Financial District, where the bone-in breast is served with seasonally changing sides (last month that meant sweet corn, bacon, wild mushrooms, shiso, and consomme poured tableside) for $34. It's the least expensive at Petit Robert Bistro in Kenmore Square and the South End, where a roasted half-chicken comes with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables and costs $14.75."
So to establish a "good restaurant" in Boston, do the chefs first have to become known as a high-end chef before backing away from the overpriced entrees so they can open a place like Washington St. Tavern or Pomodoro (per Jody Adams), which is the type of place they really like to eat at?
Lots more to read, but I was curious as to the comments from the CH contingent. I'd prefer not getting into the Boston bashing for their "provincialism", as I'm sure we've all heard that before. Just curious as to what others think.