Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trendy Restaurants

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bombs.

Gah. I went to Billy Kwong last night, home of celebrity chef Kylie Kwong, and allegedly one of the best Chinese restaurants in Sydney.

It was average. And when you're paying $90 a head, average becomes bad. In a 9 course banquet menu, there was only one dish I couldn't have made, easily, at home. The flavours were about as complex as primary school maths, and the meals - though not badly made - were no better or worse than literally dozens of other Chinese meals I've had for considerably less than ninety bucks.

Trendy restaurants, in my experience, are almost always disappointments. This is not a case of high expectations, either. I had no expectations whatsoever when I went to the Danks St Depot earlier this year, and the meal - again - was very average indeed. Not bad, but absolutely nothing special whatsoever.

But back to Billy Kwong: I cannot understand how this restaurant can be feted so much when it was so very, very ordinary. It merely confirms to me that reviewers - floating around in the rarefied atmosphere of the foodie world - have in fact completely lost touch with what real food is, and also are completely powerless to resist the lure of hype and spin.

The food was essentially home cooking. Fish steamed with soy and ginger. And nothing else. Now, I am the last person to deride home-cooking, but there's a reason it's called home-cooking: Because you make it at home. I go out to eat food that is either too much trouble for me to make, or simply beyond my capabilities - criteria that cover everything from $3.00 banh mi to $50 mud crab.

It genuinely surprises me that people who profess to be so genuinely in love with food, can fall so head over heels with something so pedestrian. Clearly, it is not the food these people love - they obviously don't know anything about food. This kind of thing really pisses me off: when something so accessible, so democratic - anyone can get, and appreciate, a good meal - gets turned into some bourgeois, secret, trendified form of knowledge that only a certain type and class of people can understand. The same thing happens with literature all the time.

By the same token, I need to get over myself. People who really love food, they don't give shit that some over-priced restaurant in the inner suburbs is parting fools from their money. They know as surely as I do that something as simple as a good pickled onion and some bitey cheese can provide a culinary pleasure to be reckoned with, and that there are a wealth of wonderful, accessible things to eat, both in the home, and outside it.

Nonetheless, my resolve is firm. No more trendy restaurants for me; it is a waste of time.

Lynn tells me that very few Asians she knows recommend Billy Kwong because it's basically home cooking, and they know there are dozens of better Chinese restaurants in Sydney. And, I should add, my three fellow diners were also distinctly underwhelmed with the restaurant, and they don't bring the culinary baggage I do to the table. So word to the wise, avoid it, a $10 plate in Chinatown will be no different.



At 1:20 pm , Blogger Sarah said...

I'm with you there- if you're eating out, why would you pay for something you could do equally well at home? Let alone pay $90 (eep!) for the privilege. Food writers tend to be wankers, though- there's a lot of the emperor's new clothes syndrome in them all piling on to praise the tres fashionable (i.e. too expensive for the plebs) restaurants.

At 10:25 pm , Blogger Lynn said...

Yeah it was a bit of a waste of (your) money. lol. Though on the other hand, Rise, is quite trendy and it was a delicious find for us.

You should blog about Sussex Centre, honey. Best foodcourt in Sydney and yummier than Billy Kwong. ;)


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