Food Journalism

Former Restaurant Critic Bravely Describes the 25-Year-Old Meal That Still Haunts Him

Photo: iStockphoto

Oh boo-hoo. Being a professional restaurant critic is so hard. The injustices you have to deal with! Sometimes you have to go out to dinner twice a night! Sometimes you have to go to a place you don’t like, just to write about it! And sometimes, the food you’re forced to shove down your gullet is bad! So bad it makes you quit the profession forever! Such is the plight that befell former food critic Steve Silberman 25 years ago when he lunched at an eatery in “one of San Francisco’s swankiest hotel towers.”

Yes, even a quarter-century later, Silberman is still upset about the meal. He doesn’t name the restaurant, but says the dining room is described on the menu as being “influenced by the journey of Marco Polo to the court of Kublai Khan,” which — and we’re just throwing this out there — is a phrase that currently appears on the website of Silks in the Mandarin Oriental. Anyway! It was so bad it made him quit! One lunch! Onto the injustices!

First of all: The amuse bouche was too-buttery puff pastry filled with a bunch of pesto that “stung [Silberman’s tongue] with oxidized garlic”! Worse: There were snails in it, too! Yuck. Then there was the pasta course. Ohhh, the pasta! Silberman writes: “These noodles were anything but toothsome and delicate. They had been rolled and cut unevenly, so some strands were slimy and overcooked, while others were raw.” Raw! But the final straw is a veal chop that is just SO awful-sounding that we can’t even bring ourselves to paraphrase. We’ll just have to let Silberman describe it (sensitive readers should avert their eyes):

I had ordered the chop medium-rare, but it arrived bleu, as the French say; ultra-rare, chilly in the center (calf sashimi, if you will), with crimson blood pooling on top, drowning the chanterelles, porcini, Hen O’ The Woods or whatever they were in the unmistakable taste of pennies: copper-laden hemoglobin. This was like veal à la Dexter.

Make it stop! Make it stop! We can’t even imagine the courage that Silberman must have had to muster to revisit that meal in his mind. Somebody give this brave man a medal. And some properly cooked veal.

The Meal that Ended My Career as a Restaurant Critic [PLoS via Zagat Buzz]

Former Restaurant Critic Bravely Describes the 25-Year-Old Meal That Still