Critical Mass,

‘Trickle-Down Tartare’ Is a Thing Now, Says WSJ

Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

Long ago, upper-crusty Frenchman Brillat-Savarin wrote that the “discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” And so it goes, Charles Passy argues at Speakeasy, that the diminutive, $75 beef-langoustine-caviar “triple decker” appetizer at Le Bernardin is really worth the money because its consumption triggers a trickle-down effect that benefits all restaurant diners: Burger King’s ballyhooed bacon sundae exists for the proletariat, he says, because Heston Blumenthal first made bacon ice cream.

The $75 price tag for some chips and meat is based on a $45 supplement to the $125 prix fixe at Eric Ripert’s restaurant, Passy writes, “which roughly equates to a $75 price if the item was available a la carte.” The math makes little sense, though, and because the argument is pitched in context of Gawker’s recent, ruthless, and incoherent savaging of restaurant critics, the “trickle-down” theory of fast food seems all the more suspect. But it’s all good. “Perhaps you’ve recently found yourself munching on Wendy’s natural-cut fries,” Passy writes, “sprinkled with sea salt. Again, you can thank your foodie-friendly chefs for that sprinkle: Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame, for example, has built entire dishes around a particular sea salt.” Good point — Thomas Keller did make “sea salt” a hot ingredient.

We’re thinking someone wanted an excuse to expense his dinner at Le Bern. Issues with the “trickle-down tartare” theory inadvertently showcase the newly evolved, and suddenly rampant, synergy of fast food and fine dining. That’s the one where Ferran Adrià calls Coca-Cola the “spark of life” one week and partners with Pepsi the next, wherein a giant burger-making corporation can paint itself all transgressive and somehow less faceless by riffing and knocking off some Michelin-starred egghead’s whimsical doodad on a plate. Every time a Michelin-starred chef cries, they say, a new Doritos taco shell is conceived.

In Defense of the $75 Appetizer [Speakeasy/WSJ]

‘Trickle-Down Tartare’ Is a Thing Now, Says WSJ