You may have read a review or two by a food critic panning a restaurant. It's a safe bet you've never read a review quite as scathing or memorable as the one by travel writer Geraldine DeRuiter at her blog The Everywhereist. The headline provides a sense: "We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever," it reads. The distinction goes to the restaurant Bros in Lecce, Italy, which does indeed have a coveted Michelin star. For the record, the chef is defending the experience as something akin to abstract art. The details:
- The review: DeRuiter and friends went to the restaurant for dinner and were served 27 "courses" over more than four hours. She sets the parameter early: "I’m not talking about a meal that’s poorly cooked, or a server who might be planning your murder—that sort of thing happens in the fat lump of the bell curve of bad," she writes. "Instead, I’m talking about the long tail stuff—the sort of meals that make you feel as though the fabric of reality is unraveling."
- The courses: They included edible paper slivers, dollops of "meat molecules" served via eyedroppers, "frozen air" (which melted before it could be eaten), shots of vinegar, a tablespoon of crab, and fried cheese balls with what the servers emphasized was "rancid" ricotta, per Today and the Washington Post. At one point, they were served "reconstituted orange slices" alongside actual orange slices, but the latter were only for decoration and not to be eaten, per the CBC. DeRuiter writes that she felt like she "was a character in a Dickensian novel. Because—I cannot impart this enough—there was nothing even close to an actual meal served."
- Weirdest part: That would be the "chef's kiss," meaning citrus foam served in a plaster cast of the chef's mouth, without utensils. The latter detail is crucial because it meant patrons had to "slurp" the foam out of the fake mouth with their own mouths.
- Chef's defense: After the review went viral, various outlets reached out to Chef Floriano Pellegrino, and he responded with a rudimentary drawing of a horse, a famous painting of a horse, and then a piece of abstract art. See it in full here. "Being able to draw a man on a horse does not make you an artist," he writes. "The result of your talent can be beautiful to look at, but it is not art." It eventually concludes: "Contemporary art does not provide you with answers, but offers you great questions. Contemporary cuisine should do the same."
- Critic responds: DeRuiter tells the CBC she is "delighted" by the chef's response. "Once I step away from the hilarity of it, I do believe that he is making a rather legitimate statement about the nature of art, inherently," she says. Then again: "Is food inherently art? And if so, what role does the patron play in that? And can we completely disregard the patron if we are a chef? And can we say what the patron believes is entirely unimportant?"
- Cost: The check for the party of eight was more than $1,500, notes the Post. No word on the size, or even existence, of a tip.
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