Con-Fusion: How American Ignorance Ruined Cuisine
It’s high time the proprietors of the newer “foreign cuisine” establishments, stop dumbing down their dishes because of the perceived ignorance of the consumers palate. Would you please cease and desist the Americanization of all things Un-American? The problem has to be a financial one, am I right? Making food for the masses that’s “safe” is probably more lucrative than escorting people out of their comfort zone where they can actually experience something meaningful. However, while this country is appropriately known as a melting pot for one and all, those coming from overseas with an immense knowledge of exotic flavors seem to have abandoned sharing their traditions in favor of appeasing the “meek of tongue”. And you know what? It’s all your fault.
The word “fusion” has become an increasing source of irritation for me, mostly because of the blanket definition it tends to assume. Gone are the days when an exclusive breed of chef transformed the food world by mixing cuisines from completely opposite sides of the Earth to create something new and inspiring. Nobu successfully managed to mix Japanese and Peruvian in a way that was groundbreaking many years ago because of two reasons; he was already a master of Japanese cuisine and because the time he spent living in Peru gave him a passion for the culture as well as an in-depth knowledge of the ingredients indigenous to South America. This has allowed him create dishes as an insider of both cultures.
However Nobu’s loyalty to the flavor of his cultures is a rarity among restaurants these days. If you people think you’re getting an authentic rendition of Com Suon Bo Dai Han Bi Cha Trung, and on the menu it just says “rice platter”, you’re probably not going to get the flavor tour of Hanoi you were hoping for. If your plate if full of fluffy rice, char grilled strips of fatty pork and thinly sliced short rib, a brick of pork pate, fresh slices of cucumber, tomato, carrot and daikon, a sunny side up egg, sprinkling of fried shallot, a nice big cup of nuoc cham, and finally a heaping side platter of Thai Basil, Cilantro, Mint and Bean sprouts, by all means let the feast begin.
Sadly, I can’t find that exact dish within an hour of my house unless I break several traffic laws. There are two places that sell similar things, but I’ve had both and neither are worth the time. I’m not going to knock anyone for settling, well, maybe I will. If you don’t have the time or the money to travel a considerable distance to get a better meal, I’d say just do without. Eat somewhere local that does what they do well. If nothing else, maybe you can learn to make that certain thing you like so much, depending on the cuisine, I’d wager it’d be cheaper. Since I mentioned my favorite Vietnamese dish earlier let us use that as an example.
Say four people order the same dish plus drinks at my favorite Vietnamese joint, Anh Hong. It’ll run you about $45 if you include a 20% tip. The same meal at a local establishment won’t give you all the accoutrements I described earlier, and would cost closer to $62 if you leave the same tip amount. I’m sure it wouldn’t cost more than $17 to travel to a city with better food. You do the math.
I don’t usually name names here, but in response to an Urbanspoon troll, Saigon Bistro is nowhere near the level of quality that Anh Hong provides. To compare the two would be like comparing Flip Burger Boutique to McDonald’s. Honestly, it’s dumb, and your ignorant. The service is slow, the food is bland, the prices are exorbitant and I’d sooner have Sriracha sprayed in my eyes than call that Vietnamese fine dining. I tried it twice, as I feel I should to give everything a fair chance, but both times I was completely disappointed. Places like this are a cancer to my local food scene.