Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
Luke Tsai’s feature story in the August 24th edition is unequivocally the worst article I have read in this paper and it appears as though no one on the editorial staff chose to fact check this story before it was printed. I can say with a large degree of certainty that any person knowledgeable with restaurants in the East Bay can tear apart the factual accuracy of his writing within the first few paragraphs. These inaccuracies show a willful ignorance on the part of the writer as he contradicts himself, cherry picks his facts and sources and outright lies repeatedly throughout the course of this article to reach his conclusion.
First I will start by saying pedigreed chefs are pedigreed for a reason; it takes years of study, training, and practice to land a job in one of the top kitchens in the Bay Area. To start one of these highly anticipated restaurants, a chef must go above and beyond their peers at these top restaurants to attract the necessary investors. It is insulting for him to detract from the training and dedication it takes. I’m not taking anything away from the ethnic restaurants he mentions, but they do not hold themselves to parallel ingredient, preparation, or presentation standards that these pedigreed chefs require. The assertion that the industry is “rigged” shows a complete obliviousness on behalf of the writer.
I can not understand Tsai’s overt hostility toward chefs that want incorporate fusion within these ethnic dishes. I see no problem pairing sauerkraut with kebabs, in fact it’s innovative, it wouldn’t occur to most people. Many ethnic cuisines are heavily influenced by the availability of new ingredients; Europe didn’t have many vegetables, spices, coffee, or chocolate before traders brought them over on ships during the age of exploration, but they are now inseparable from their culinary traditions.
At one point he goes on a diatribe about the kefta meatballs at Penrose, a restaurant that does not even have any particular ethnic leaning. A wood fire oven, higher quality meat, a wine and cocktail selection, fancy plates and flatware is a sizable overhead. That is why you pay $20 versus $12. With all things considered, Aria has a higher profit margin on that dish. Aria is a takeout restaurant, they are not aspiring to offer the elevated standards at Penrose.
In the next paragraph, he partially retracts his ignorance about costs associated with fine dining only to ponder if immigrant run farm-to-table restaurants can enter the high end market. He follows that question with Preeti Mistry’s quote, “People are willing to pay more when the kitchen is full of straight white guys because they look like they should be paid more.” As someone who has worked in a number of fine dining restaurants in the Bay Area (front and back of the house) I can say that this statement does not hold a shred of truth and comes across as bitter ignorant ax grinding that makes me not want to visit her restaurant. Tsai was happy to highlight this particular quote but the Bay Area has a number of pedigreed ethnic chefs he failed to mention that are elevating the cuisine of their home countries and they do get attention and credit from world renowned food critics. There was no mention of James Syhabout, possibly the East Bay’s most critically acclaimed chef at the moment, but I guess Hawker Fare didn’t fit his narrative, and neither did Tamarindo, Ippuku, Yume, or Nido just to name a few, and there are many more.
Why does anyone pay more for fine dining? They use advanced techniques and great equipment, they have cocktail programs, wine lists, nice dinner wear, and beautiful ambiance/decor. The major point missed in this story is that these chefs, be they caucasian, ethnic, or immigrant, are making a statement saying that ethnic cuisine can be valid high end fare if they choose to buy direct from local farms, use better cooking fats, invest in proper equipment and create an atmosphere; that’s what you are paying for when a restaurant is high end, that is the very nature of restaurants.
I guarantee people aren’t ordering takeout from places like Penrose or Ramen Shop and conversely they aren’t having their anniversary dinners at Aria or Oasis. As the proprietor of a restaurant that is the first decision you must make, no matter what style of cuisine you choose to offer. If you change the concept, the restaurant will have an identity crisis and will alienate the established customer base. Among my many friends in the restaurant industry, Tsai’s reviews are viewed as a bad joke and this article highlights his incompetence as a food critic.
East bay Express should get an award for breaking this story; you guys are putting the Chronicle and Mercury news to shame.
The Coliseum is between train tracks and the freeway with a lot of industrial businesses and an airport. Nobody lives in that neighborhood, a new stadium isn't going to hurt the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Chronicle and Oakland Tribune (owned by San Jose Mercury News and also operates the Contra Costa Times) are garbage. The Bay Area deserves to have a decent daily paper, but alas, the East Bay Express is once a week but does a much better job supplying readers with facts than the dailies.
Feinstein is simply out of touch; federal raids on dispensaries are a waste of our tax dollars. Dispensaries do not tolerate under age users, violence is centered around the shady illegal operations, and the environmental impact of growing has more to do with agricultural policy than it does with the growers and dispensaries targeted by the feds. By all means, go after violent criminals, individuals growing on public land, but stop going after those operating within the law.
Smile and wave at every cop you see.
Lacob; love what you have done with the team, but its time you started drawing up plans for a new Oakland; we will let you break ground immediately.
All Comments »
East Bay Express All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation