Sunday, August 23, 2009

Last Night's Lesson: Where the Best Table in a Restaurant is Located

Interesting night -

I had a 'fantastique' meal at ONE Midtown Kitchen (still one of my favorite restaurants).

Informed that it was Concentric Week with all their restaurants offering a 3 course meal for $25, it was less surprising to see a packed house. It was especially great to chat it up with co-founder Todd Rushing who made a surprise visit. With restaurants opening here in the ATL and 3 new ones in Chicago, he's a busy fellow to say the least. And yet it was like the days when ONE was the only Concentric restaurant and the talk of the town, and therefore really nostalgic to catch up with Mr. Rushing over the wines from which he and I used to drink and choose.

Our decision to sit at the bank of seats facing the final prep area turned out to be an incredibly good one. Like an ESPN SportsCenter-caster I gave color commentary to my wife who quickly picked up the intricate handoffs of plates and what each player was responsible for. She correctly noted how the executive chef called out my special request on the Memphis BBQ brisket with grilled asparagus in place of cheese grits.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Eric Ripert's book, On The Line, which delves into great detail how a kitchen built on efficiency can produce 10,000 meals each week. The book is a must read if interested in knowing how a team working together can turn simple, great ingredients into 3-4 star food. Last night ONE had the same efficiency going - nothing was fazing the individuals assigned their tasks or the overall team from delivering.

We caught this one priceless order-in, barked by executive chef Tom Harvey:
"I need 1 duck pizza . . . HOLD THE DUCK!"

When we dine out in the future by ourselves, the 'front row' by the players will be the place we'll request if available.

We then went to the Mint gallery in the Old Fourth Ward for their MIXT event - actually within sight of and across some abandoned railroad tracks from Rathburn's STEAK (which threw me geographically for a moment as to where my surroundings were).

The gallery turned out to be the size of a NYC Midtown "spacious" studio but featured intriguing art work with headphones and the artist's inspired songlist available for listening.

The duo of art and music made sense for many of the specimens - matching space-age bachelor pad music with some 1960s Mad Men inspired pop art. Others seemed far fetched at best. Selling Pabst Blue Ribbon for $2 and pumping dance music over the general space, made the mismatches less pronounced - or important enough to notice.

And to think the evening's fortuitous events were all last minute - it was almost dinner and a movie. I'm glad I did a quick look over at Twitter which helped me plan the evening! Substitute the day and city on the link below when you're headed out on the town!


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