I went to Chef Romito’s Reale with the highest expectations and left somehow puzzled. I was puzzled because there was a discrepancy between what I had expected and what I found. I expected purity and intensity in a myriad of deceptively simple but complex preparations. I found interesting cooking, excellent broths, uneven dishes, technically good, but sometimes imprecise dishes. Some courses were excellent, while others were bland, bordering on ordinary. I got the impression that the cuisine is geared more to impress other chefs than to give pure pleasure and satisfaction.
It is no wonder that I revere Guy Gateau. In a remarkable twist of fate or coincidence he prepared the cuisine at both my all-time favorite bistro and formal restaurant: Le Petit Coin de la Bourse in the Paris IVth and Restaurant Alain Chapel in the outskirts of Lyon. About 15 years ago, I tracked Guy down when I was doing some research into Alain Chapel after I saw Guy's name in a photo caption in the magnificent and detailed book from 1978 “Great Chefs of France”. We have had several get-togethers and have always kept in touch. Guy has now written this personal tribute to Joël Robuchon which I share here.
Japan has more than its share of difficult-to-book restaurants, particularly some of the sushi and kaiseki ones in Tokyo. In planning his recent trip to Japan, a provincial restaurant named Yanagiya caught Robert Brown’s eye because of its sky-high score on Tabelog, the Japanese restaurant-goer’s rating site. That it also was the only one of its breed–an irori restaurant, an old, traditional but dying class of grilling-over-charcoal cuisine–among the elite Tabelog restaurants really stirred his juices.
What France in the 1980s was and what Spain continues to be since the early 2000s is what Japan is today—a pre-eminent “go to” country for the inveterate gastronomic traveler. The entire country, however, is blessed for its rich and varied produce, too rich and varied to go into here. What you notice in watching the chaotic, unsightly, unplanned scene rolling past your Shinkansen window is that thrown in with the five-to-ten story apartment blocks; the landless single-family houses with brown tile roofs and a car port; the pachinko parlors and small industrial “ateliers” are small plots of land on which grow rice, vegetables or other produce. It’s no wonder, then, that the Japanese have a gastronomic landscape in the most far-reaching sense of the term.