The Art Of Presentation

When I first started going out to eat, and for most of my dining career, restaurants didn’t seem to pay much attention to the presentation of the food on the plate, or the design or decoration of the table, or the decor of the restaurant itself. You might get a sprig of parsley on your plate next to the baked potato as you sat in a dim room, but that’s about it.

The American foodie scene has changed all that—and how. In addition to offering fresh, local food that is packed with flavor, modern restaurants pay much more attention to the whole eating experience, from the point of entry to the end of the meal. The holistic approach makes for a far more enjoyable, and interesting, dining experience, where you can’t help but admire and appreciate the effort that has gone into making sure that your meal is a wonderful time.

Aragosta, where we went for a fantastic meal last night, is at the top of the line when it comes to attention to detail. From the bright interior and huge windows that leave the dining room bathed in light and present a terrific view of Goose Cove, to the little touches like the delicate fresh flowers on the table, to the presentation of the excellent food on the plate, the chef and proprietors have thoughtfully considered every detail. And the plates themselves—shown here by photographs of two of our courses from our meal last night—are like individual works of art, featuring beautifully arranged rocks, mosses, shells, ferns, pine cones, white birch bark, and other accent pieces—all of it local. I’ve never been to Japan, but I expect that the experience of dining at Aragosta is a lot like eating in a fine Japanese restaurant.

I’m an old codger who has to resist reflexively thinking that things were better way back when. But I have no hesitation in saying that the experience of dining out in America has improved tremendously during my lifetime, and is light years better now than it was in the ‘60s, ‘70s, or ‘80s. Aragosta is exhibit A in support of that conclusion.

The Best Restaurant In The World

If you want to go to the best restaurant in the world — at least, according to Restaurant magazine — you need to hop on a plane and fly to Spain.

The restaurant is El Celler de Can Roca, located in Catalonia.  It was started by two brothers in the 1980s, who were then joined by a third brother in 1997, with each brother being responsible for one facet of the restaurant’s operation.  (Guess UJ and I need to get started on our “best in the world” business concept!)  El Celler de Can Roca is celebrated for the pervasive family dynamic in the restaurant, its understated but passionate ambiance, and the creativity and technical innovation of the food.

Five American restaurants make the top 50 list:  Eleven Madison Park and Per Se, both in New York City, Alinea, in Chicago, Le Bernardin and Daniel, in New York City, and The French Laundry, in Yountville, California, in the Napa Valley.

How do you really decide the best restaurant in the world?  Restaurant magazine actually publishes a “manifesto” on the topic — which indicates that the best dining experience is decided by the gut instinct (pun intended) of the gourmets who did the voting, rather than in a dry set of factors to be considered.  I agree with that approach.  When I go to a restaurant to have a fine meal, I’m not weighing checklist items, I’m looking for a wonderful and memorable experience.  It sounds like El Celler de Can Roca delivers.