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Restaurants & Bars 12

Barberians vs Hooters

Vinnie Vidimangi | Oct 26, 2005 02:33 PM

1. I wondered how customers with palates so discerning and refined as to require USDA Prime beef and a 15,000 bottle wine cellar with 800 selections could so avidly patronize a retaurant as popular and long lived as Barberians when everything else on the menu seems to be either a nothing or crap. And very expensive crap to boot. My wonder was only momentary; I thought of the character in a Mordechai Richler novel on whom Richler exacted revenge by sending in an intruder who soaked off the lables from all the bottles in his wine cellar; perhaps Barberians satifies many customers psychological needs rather than their exquisite taste.

The appetite for a good piece of meat- USDA Prime- and a good bottle of wine is not to be sneered at. But personally I find this grade of beef too soft and relatively bland; a little too refined to be really satisfying. And the cost is excessive. For a rib steak, about $15 a lb wholesale and $30 at Pusateri's; at a restaurant, approx $35 ++. At the end I ask ,is that all there is?" I have done really well lately at Dominion. I buy a rib roast on sale for $4 alb., I try to get the butcher to cut in into steaks or I do it myself, taking out the bones first for separate BBQing. The meat has been very good on the BBQ and I do not need anything "better" unless the Queen or a very wealthy invalid were coming to dinner. And I can buy a much better bottle of wine at the LCBO to go with the Dominion steak than I would order at the restaurant because I do not pay the restaurant's 200-300% markup and the 17% sales taxes.

Government grading only goes part way in telling you if meat is "quality", that is to say good tasting meat, the grades are based on the age of the animal and how fat is. More meaningful assessment is based also on breed and how it has been raised and fed. I would expect a very expensive steakhouse to make an effort.

But it is not really the high price for a steak dinner that I can easily cook at home that I find offensive.

Grilled steak is not fancy cooking and does not require a fancy restaurant; indeed "steak" and "fancy" are incongruent. Barberian's has mangaged to keep the appetizers, sides and desserts simple and congruent with the main. But a customer is entitled to expect that all these simple extras should be excellent, even if the steak was grilled in a shack on the beach, and costs a fraction of the price, let alone at a place with as much whoop de do, longevity and financial success- and expense- as at Barberians. And when it doesn't happen at Barberians, the customer is entitled to feel that he was taken for a sucker- or a vulgarian.

Which brings me to Hooters. Hooters has on its menu what it describes as the "Gourmet Meal" - 20 chicken wings and a bottle of Dom Perignon, $299.01, celery sticks and cheese dip extra. This meal is much more psychologically wholesome than a trip to Barberians: no masking of latent needs, no insecurity caused by the risk of being found out because one ordered the wrong wine; no submission to the sommelier; no internal conflict because what one really likes is something fruity, no frustration and anger from finding the desire for fine dining disappointed.

2. I didn't go to Barberians for "Dessert!" I went to satisfy a craving for apple beignets which I remembered from years gone by as being good. There is no reason why they should not have been good.

As for a place that has "Dessert!" in Toronto, it doesn't exist to my knowledge. Dessert here generally tends to be been-there-done-that with a large incidence of stuff which is poorly conceived and executed, sometimes it is out and out stupid and/ or (usually and) exploitive. I include some of the best known places; it is improper to name them unless I also criticize the product in detail, which I won't here.


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