Restaurant Reviews

Mark Bittman Rips "Mystery" Delray Beach Restaurant

What was New York Times writer and the author of How to Cook Everything Mark Bittman doing in South Florida this week?

Well, among other things, he was eating at a Delray Beach restaurant and having a not-so-good experience in the process.

He wrote about the restaurant -- which he declines to name -- in a blog post called "An Open Letter to an Unnamed Chef." In it, he critiques said unnamed chef and his unnamed restaurant (and by association all similar restaurants) by listing a number of design decisions that he hopes to never see employed by an eatery


Bittman mentioned in his post that it wouldn't be tough

for locals to figure out the name of the restaurant just by reading his

post. And that's true enough. Posts via Twitter confirmed that the

mystery restaurant is in fact Taste Gastropub.

Mystery solved. But, while we're at it, since I've eaten at Taste and plan on reviewing it soon in the paper, I thought I'd comment briefly on each of Bittman's criticisms. Here goes nothing:

What I'd like to see, never again, are things like this:

- A list of 20 beers, without a single person in the restaurant who knows anything about any of them....

Taste's beer list is decent, but that doesn't excuse poor beer knowledge on behalf of the staff. However, I did not find this to be the case on my first visit about a month ago. Our server was pretty knowledgeable about both the wine and beer list (or at least he faked it well) .

- An insistence by the hostess that the chairs at the communal table were comfortable...
I was seated at the same communal table, and no, it was not comfortable. The table is parked in front of a couch that's set too far back from the food, so you have to lean forward uncomfortably to eat. The seats are too low and the table too high, so you feel like a child in a booster seat. And the pillows that line the couch are filled with the kind of spiny down feathers that stick out of the fabric and poke you incessantly through your clothing. Not comfy in the slightest.

- The constant harping of the server that the self-declared unusual menu (it comprised primarily small plates, which I think we've all seen before....
Clearly Bittman doesn't realize how far behind the culinary times South Florida is. As an example, a new West Palm Beach burger joint just debuted with a collection of gourmet salts to top its fries with, and it's one of the first casual restaurants to do so in Broward or Palm Beach.

- The presence of the chef/owner, who never once took the time to ask any patron how things were going, but instead watched his staff, without actually touching, cooking, or tasting the food.
Ah ah ah... when I was there, I happened to witness the chef interact quiet extensively with a group of attractive women sitting nearby.

- Not very good food at high prices....
This is, of course, subjective. I won't say more for the moment.

- A more-or-less permanent reminder that one isn't eating "enough," as in the not-very-subtle "Are you ready to order more?"...
I'm suddenly feeling very gluttonous.

- Tuna tartare in sweet ice cream cones...
Can I give Bittman a virtual fist pump now? Here goes: /fistpump

- An intentionally noisy room. Hard surfaces, loud music, an open kitchen ...
But... but... how else will we know if a restaurant is lively or not?

- An overall attitude indicating that we were lucky to be there. Perhaps this is paranoia but I doubt it.
Welcome to South Florida.

- Bad art masquerading as hip. But hey - I can't judge that.

Then allow me to: The art is horribad.

Too bad Bittman had this experience at Taste. I think he would've been much happier if Bamboo Fire had in fact been open.

I don't know if Bittman is still in South Florida or not -- he mentions he's staying at a beach house here. But if he is, maybe some readers want to suggest a few restaurants he might like? 

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John Linn