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George needs a spanking from the man in the big white hat

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George needs a spanking from the man in the big white hat

Vinnie (Benny) Vidimangi | May 16, 2005 11:22 AM

Curious, we went to George.

Food quality was wildly inconsistent. Of eight dishes, one was just a cute recipe, one was such a nothing that it was forgotten and even looking at the itemized menu didn't refresh memory, three were one or more of (a)been-there-done-that, (b)badly flawed, (c)completely screwed up. One was good; only two showed the mastery of any good, thoughtful French chef.

Much of the menu reads macho but eats wimp.

Presentation is generally two small mounds with a bit of fine sprouts or whatever between them on an oversized rectangular plate. The naif aesthetic reminded us of our children's early work in the sandbox. The signature design feature is some sort of wafer-cracker under the moundettes. Some of the wafers were OK, some were unpleasant and didn't go with the dish.

The kitchen tries to achieve contrast or harmony between or within the mounds but a lack of skill or a bad culinary aesthetic produces unsatisfactory dishes.

It was often an advantage that the food constructions and their components were small. I was able to finish most of the stuff on the plate before it changed from innocuous to offensive. In addition, between the effect of hunger and the time that it took to understand that the plate was bad enough that it should be sent back, there wasn't enough left that I could avoid being told " well, you ate it.".

I was so dissatisfied that after an expenditure of $164.50 plus 15% tip (for 2, 1 1/2 glasses of wine) we went to The Big Ragu where I had a pizza for $10 plus tax and tip which I really did enjoy.

My wife volunteered that she would return to George. My retort was, "Yeah, somebody else pays! I asked her if she would bring someone from France to George and she became evasive.

But she did put together a very nice little meal and she was satiated. It would have been a very good lunch (if the cheese and dessert dishes had been good). But she lunches with girlfriends who have eating disorders and she had three cups of coffee. And for her reasons she had little of the shared cheese and and dessert, which for gastronomic reasons turned out to be a good decision. But in fairness, the better the food the less it takes to satiate.

The Ms. had the better opportunity. I invited her to order first and then chose from what was left. The Ms.
had the tuna tartare ($18), gnocchi ($12), and halibut ($17).

Having told you the prices, I will digress. The waiter
had told us that the plates were quite small. I thought that they were expensive for small. He said that there would be enough to eat because a cheese and dessert course followed. These things were not on the menu and not mentioned. I saw that selling wine at a healthy price was a big push in the place. I thought that a bit of cheese (70 cents food cost) and the chef's selection of dessert (say, a brilliant dry bitter chocolate mousse- cheap to make) came with the meal. Really! After all, in France, at this stage in restauarants as expensive as George a lot of stuff can just appear from the kitchen unasked for and unannounced. And they are not so determined to flog wine. Silly me!

Now the food. The olive oil (I hope) impregnated foccacia was indifferently not good. It was more like an oil sodden Greek style pita and so heavy that one would expect to find it at a place called "Frankie Zucchini" or the like. I suspect that much of what charm it might have had was lost because it had been sitting too long and perhaps in a place where it could not breathe. The papdum-matzo things had a full and unpleasant taste. I couldn't figure our what kind of cooking the taste might complement. There were no spreads or anything else. The kitchen had wisely declined the challenge, as it turned out.

As the bread and soup go, so goes the rest of the meal. But George didn't have soup. So we didn't have enough on which to abort our meal and leave.

The amuse-bouche was salmon tartare. In a larger portion and with appropriate sides this would have made a nice main course at $15 but the place seems determined to get more than than $15 for a third course. So they offered miso glazed salmon with foie gras at $25. It beats me what foie gras has to do with salmon other than to enable the place to charge a lot for a few ounces of a fish that costs $2.85 a pound whole.

The tuna tartare was a small scoop of minced tuna with minced beet mixed in. Quite good but the beets prevented the tuna from tasting too much like fish and vice versa. And the beet sure stretched the tuna which is $13 a lb sushi grade centre cut (best quality).

The wine pair was Burrier Noir from Burgundy, 6oz $14. The wine confirmed that Pinot Noir is a difficult grape and Burgundian wine can be overpriced . But it did sort of go with in that it didn't overpower the food, and even thin, sour wine can have a bit of elegance if from France. They should be able to find something better and cheaper so they wouldn't have to charge $14 a 6oz glass.

They shouldn't have to charge $14 anyway. I think that I found this wine on the website site of what looked like a fancy American restaurant and it was listed at $26US a bottle($32.50CAN at 1.25) George has it at $38 a bottle from memory. My guess is that it costs George about $11-12 before tax. This gets turned into $56 by the glass. I wouldn't object if they had found a buried treasure, but the Burrier wasn't it. No wonder my wine friend refuses to order wine in a restaurant.

The gnocchi were very good. They came in an irregular ceramic cup of about 10ozs. The halibut plate was the nicest dish of the meal and really good. All approx 3ozs of halibut.

I didn't have such good luck in my selection.

First, vanilla smoked duck breast with rhubarb slaw ($15). Duck! Rhubarb! I am Polish! I so much looked forward to the rhubarb- duck combination that I didn't pay attention to the vanilla.

The few thin pieces of duck breast (bacon like, formed into mound a bit larger than than the size of a golf ball) were nice but gentle in flavour. The mildness would have been OK had George not monkeyed around with the duck and if the rest of the plate had been harmonious. No way. The vanilla (I assume) in the fluid on the duck imparted a slight but definite and weird taste; slightly sweet and floral; sickly.. Topping the duck with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry would have been as legitimate gastronomically. And at least customers would have only themselves to blame if they ordered the dish. The corresponding moundette of rhubarb slaw was a teaspoon's worth of sweet red mush which I couldn't identify as rhubarb on a wafer with an offensively strong Cheese Whiz like taste. The combination only amplified the offensive caharcteristics of both. A Pole who might have liked this dish is Liberace on a diet.

But at least I remebered the dish. the next one was snow crab with rice cakes($18). It was forgettable and I did and completely. Even when I saw (on typing this) "rice cakes" on the itemized receipt I couldn't remeber that I had them. I had to ask the Ms. what my second dish was and then my memory was refreshed.

The snow crab was a bit of fine thread, about as much as you would use to finish a small cup of broth as a decoration; it was on rice latkes; more I can't remember.

The veal tenderloin plate was very good, but do cattle offer a wimpier cut?

Then the cheese and dessert menu came. We shared. We chose the Benedictine blue($7). On a a large rectangular plate came one one ounce (it looks better on the the menu- 30(!)grams) of cheese, two very thin, very red skinned slices of shiny red delicious apple and two thin slices of brioche, buttered and then salted. The cheese sounded good and macho: raw milk blue cheese! But it was blue cheese for people who don't like blue cheese, or perhaps cheese at all. Red delicious apples are insipid crap, particularly the large very red shiny ones. The character (other than blah) in the dish came from from all from all the salt that had been put on the brioche, so much that the dish was violent and unpalatable. I do mean that I spat out when I hit the salt. The brioche was stale in so far as I could make out.

Then came dessert. We chose the chocolate pave with pistachio ($11). A nice wet chocolate square. I once had the same thing without the pistachio in an unassuming fish restaurant in Marseilles. It was humbly called chocolate cake but it was to George's pave what the World series Champion is to the minor league champion. And the whole (consistently delightful) meal in Marseilles cost less than one of Georges' "presentations".

The vanilla ice cream accompaniment was as if a beginner's bad effort. Melting glop, ice crystals, too sweet, strong unpleasant dairy taste. Even the little bit served was too much. My guess is that among its other problems it had gone through at least one thawing -refreezing cycle. The ice cream sat on top of a very rich shortbread wafer. The wafer was intrinsically good but together they were double yuk. A consistent aesthetic anyway: a replication of the rhubarb on the cheese cracker.

As much as I don't like Susur's places because I think that too much of the cooking is overpriced self-indulgent pretetntious goofball, I must give him due credit because I think that dishes such as the last two would never emerge from his kitchen.

The cheese and dessert did compensate for the puny first three courses. They didn't leave me satisfied but I sure lost my appetite. I needed to get rid of the sweetness and bad tastes in my mouth and I was determined to have something good that evening so we went to The Big Ragu for a pizza (veg., chef's choice). Quite good and no bullshit.

But you may select better than I did.

V(B)VM

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