s The Ulterior Epicure: review: the third rail...

Friday, September 08, 2006

review: the third rail...

For far too long, SORedux, or rather its proprietor and chef, Pete Peterman, has terrorized the lives of many a good foodie. Speaking for myself (but I suspect many others), as an eGullter, Peterman, and his restaurant, SORedux has become the third rail on eGullet - you touch it, you die. So too is this review - which I've strategically posted off-site (eGullet) to avoid all the baggage that will come with its "public airing." Surely, whichever eGulleter picks up this third-rail posting and sends it on its merry way to eGullet will get a noneloquent public flogging from eGulleter "monkfish_103." I'm sure I'll get one too.* Peterman invited me to dine at his restaurant (indeed, goaded me) in more than one way. So, I’ve taken the liberty to do so - with my camera. Don’t worry Pete, I doubt Mrs. Jones will be ordering anything off your menu from my pictures. *wink* I ate at SORedux restaurant some months ago, and decided to hold my pictures and critique for some later time. Why post now? A number of reasons. The most immediate being a recent comment made by Peterman that really just set me off. Amidst his latest misspelled, poorly worded and misguided rambling posted on eGullet, he did get one thing right: "Some of the best critics are bloggers..." But, then he ruined the sentence by following with: "...but most of them don't know sweet breads from pastries." (See here for full text)
Well, Pete, if you’re out there reading, I'm here to reinforce the one sentence of your post that you managed to spell correctly. You're damned right - this blogger is one helluva critic. AND, I do know my sweetbreads from my pastries.
Lastly, Pete, just remember what you wrote to me a few months back on eGullet: “I love your blog and I don't want to end up on it. Nothing personal. I'm just tired of people wanting to critic [sic] restaurants.” I skirted your no-photography policy, but was willing to play fair by not posting them. Now, all I can say is, thanks for reading, but this time, you really asked for it. Despite the spitefulness in posting this review, I maintain that the content itself, albeit an opinion, is fair, honest and the dining experience was objectively observed. In fact, I went with a completely open mind and expected, quite honestly, to be pleasantly surprised.
(See the full set of photos on my flickr site)
Pete Peterman, chef-owner of SORedux in Kansas City, is the auteur chef taken to insane extremes. He paradoxically claims he wants open-minded diners, yet he himself is terribly intolerant and controlling of his craft - which can be a good thing. But, he's questionable in his artistry and downright offensive in his approach. His menu reads uncontrollably, often word-for-word, like other famous chefs' menus... "Liver & Onions" - hello, Thomas Keller? The cleverness, of course, is that the liver is not a beefy cut of veal liver (which, when prepared well, is very good sauteed with onions), but rather a filet of foie gras.
"Liver & Onions" Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
You can't tell from this picture, but as soon as the foie was cut and moved, the entire plate was flooded with a good thick layer of grease and oil. Despite looking like the Exxon Valdez had visited the restaurant, the foie itself was rather nicely cooked. It was paired with blueberries (what Peterman called "reds" on the menu) and sauteed onion slivers, which was a rather unsuccessful pairing. Then again, gooped with all that grease, I doubt anything would have tasted good. SORedux’s menu is $38 for seven courses. Peterman groups vegetarians in the “closed-minded” group, so there is no vegetarian option (this is where Peterman diverges from Thomas Keller). There are usually two supplements. The “Liver & Onions” was one offered the night I visited ($10 extra). The other, was “Maine Lobster” - a small butter-poached lobster tail served with a buttery saffron-enrobed Israeli cous cous. ($10 extra) I have to admit, Peterman pulled out one of the silkiest lobster meat preparations I've ever had. Butter-poached, the embarrassingly small tail, which could have been mistaken for a large prawn had it a head, was barely cooked - almost sashimi-rare near the tail. The slightly al dente Israeli cous cous in a buttery saffron sauce was also very good. I’m not sure it was worth the up-charge, but this was probably one of the strongest courses of the evening. The $38 menu sounds like a generous deal - and it is. Actually, the price is so low, that it makes you raise your brows - where is Peterman getting his “high-end” foods? The quality is certainly questionable for what he claims it to be.
Maine Lobster Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
On half of the courses, I couldn't tell if the produce and meats he was working with were bad, or if they were good to begin with and ruined in the preparation and cooking. Take, for instance, Peterman's duck course. This course was a fine specimen of why I avoid ordering duck on Western cuisine restaurants. I guess I've just been spoiled and had a pretty good run with duck at bluestem and zin. (Simply compare the color and you'll see what I mean). Not only were these thin slices of duck breast unassailable by (butter) knife *INSERT RANT ABOUT BUTTER KNIVES SERVED WITH MEAT COURSES* and teeth, they had a very displeasing odorous taste (read: 2-week old wet rag). This was not "3.5-star shoe leather..." this wasn't even 1-star shoe leather. The cuts of duck were draped across very al dente steamed broccoli florets. The accompanying potato "gnocchi" tasted nothing like potatoes and were very gummy, and doughy - and BLAND! They were like wet marshmallows with no flavor.
"Pot Roast" Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
At least the duck was edible. My veal chop was not. It was a *nightmare.* While I appreciate many meats raw, veal is not one of them. IT. WAS. RARE. I could not cut it with my butter knife. *REPEAT RANT ABOUT BUTTER KNIVES SERVED WITH MEAT COURSES* Rare veal = unedible... unchewable... flavorless. AND, possibly unhealthy?? *Boo!* The side of "mac & cheese," however, was outstanding. The pasta had been perfectly cooked and coated with a creamy cheese sauce laced with pungent white truffle oil. Underneath the meat, there were also some nicely done haricot verts - probably the best thing on the plate. Simple, crisp, yet cooked. The veal course would have gone almost entirely uneaten had it not been for the side of pot roast, which was pretty good - very tender and not chewy at all. It could have used some flavor.
Sweet Breads Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
Out of the meat courses, the sweetbread course was the most well-executed. Pete, they tasted nothing like pastries… this was undoubtedly organ meat. The sweetbread was soft and moist on the inside. I appreciated the cornmeal crust - crispy and well-seasoned, it added a nice textural contrast and flavoring to the offal. Unfortunately, the tomato sauce it sat in wasn’t very good. It tasted curiously like canned Campbell tomato soup infused with rosemary. The grits were mushy. The most compelling part of these grits was the pungent blue cheese that laced the porridge. The least compelling part of the grits - in fact mysterious - were little neon blue flecks dispersed throughout (think neon sprinkles on Zingerman's frosted cupcakes).
Trout Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
A trout course was fairly depressing. The trout was shockingly meaty - cooked far past the nice delicate texture that trout is supposed to have. The skin was moist and clung to the fish; I peeled it off like wet wallpaper. The potato puree was unmemorable. Overall, this dish could have used a whole lot more seasoning. It was really muted in flavor. Oddly, this dish came with cubes of lamb’s tongue that were outstandingly tender and moist - almost supple - and had a very gamey lamb taste. ... I wonder if the "tongue and cheek" (suspicious chunk of burn meat in the top right corner) had anything to do with this? It’s sad if Peterman’s telling the truth when he says that he gets his cheese from Costco (click here). His cheese course was the best thing served to me, other than the lobster. But, then again, how could you screw up something you didn’t make? Here, Peterman succeeded to please me with a simple cut of tangy fresh goats milk cheese dusted with sea salt and black pepper. Together with the sweet-tang wedge of a slightly oven-roasted tomato (also dusted with sea salt and black pepper) and the deceptively tart balsamic vinegar reduction (I suspect there was sherry vinegar added to increase the sourness), this course was very simple and pleasing. You get two desserts at SORedux. My first sweet course was small bowl of fresh blueberries blanketed with a nice layer of brulee sabayon (Edited to add: Peterman has since messaged me clarifying that the sauce was zabaglione, and indeed he is correct, as I alluded to in the following sentence. However, this course was presented to me as "sabayon," which is why I refer to it in this post as such). The sabayon was rife with Marsala (a good thing), but had a disappointingly gelatinous texture. I did appreciate the carmelized brulee, but it was too thin to stand up to the moist sabayon. The advantage of brulee (crisp crack of burnt sugar) became disappeared into the gooey sauce. The second dessert, and final course, was a chocolate “Tort” accompanied by a fried banana fritter. The tort was the consistency of a dense flourless chocolate cake - but tasted just like a Hershey's fudge brownie. However, the vanilla bean ice cream on top was very good. The fried banana fritter (I tasted a hint of nutmeg and perhaps cinnamon) was okay. Although warm bananas aren't really my thing, I liked it better than the pedestrian cake. Sadly, the banana sat on a gooey dollop of what tasted like Hershey's fudge sauce. The upshot of this meal is that Peterman may have good ideas (if they indeed are his own), but the execution is shoddy. The volume level on the seasoning was set at near zero. Besides the Marsala-injected sabayon, the cloyingly sweet chocolate finale, and the sweetbreads, everything was pretty bland. Meats were over-cooked (duck and trout), or not cooked at all (veal) - regardless, all came out room-temperature or lower. The duck was cold. The veal was colder. Sauces were goopy, gelatinous, and a few tasted like canned soups. Mmmmm-Mmmmm good - I think not. In his own words, (quoting from here), Peterman gave a sample of one method of restaurant reviewing that he finds sound: “Are the ingredients fresh? Are the cooking techniques on the mark? Do the flavors work together or is there a promiscuous use of ingredients? How's the presentation? Is the meal worth the price?” In evaluating SORedux according to Peterman's method, my answers are (in Pete’s order of asking): Some are, some aren’t, some I just don’t know. Clearly, no. No and yes. Ehhh - wow me with the flavor first. Nope. The service was so horrible, I won’t even go into it. The only thing I’ll say is: expect to be served. That’s it. Eating at SORedux has all the sex appeal of a eating out of a vending machine. You punch in your order and pay the bill. Although it’s not as rough as having to provide your own service ware, I highly recommend you take something sharper than a butter knife. If he serves the duck, you may need a chainsaw, or new teeth. But, then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterman starts hiring ATS employees to run customers go through a metal detector before boarding his roller-coaster of a dining ride. It doesn’t help that Lauren Chapin, the Restaurant Critic of the Kansas City Star, strokes his already outta control ego with a 4-star review. WHAT THE HECK? While many are calling for her resignation (by the way, , the Denver critic just retired (scroll to the very bottom) - *hint hint*, I just sit idly by dismissing her nonsense. (At present, SORedux and Le Fou Frog are the only two restaurants holding a 4-star rating by Ms. Chapin). One can only hope that Kansas City gets a new (and better) restaurant critiquing voice soon!! Until then, bloggers like chicagowench and I push onward. I give Pete Peterman, not the restaurant of his food, (admittedly a one-meal review) one star for trying and another star for the guts to stand against everything that is logical and reasonable. That’s a lot of work. SORedux ** 549 Gillis Kansas City, Missouri 64106 816-221-0664 Dining by reservations only Rating Scale - Miserable: What else do you want to know? * Okay: Go there if you want edible food, you won’t die, but disappointment is possible. ** Decent: Average food. Nothing to write home about. *** Good: Memorable. Quality food and service. Would measure up to most standards… **** Outstanding: Charmed. A jewel of a find and hard to beat. *****Excellent: Flawless. Seamless, ie. must be very finicky to find something wrong. ****** Speechless: ‘nough said. Nothing short of magical. * Peterman has a tendency to delete his previous posts on eGullet. However, I have saved everyone of his comments. Should he alter his postings within the past 24-hours of this post, I'll post his quotes on my blog. In other words, Pete, don't bother... Update: I posted a comment and link to this review on eGullet, but it was deleted by the forum hosts, for good reason. In part, my linked posting quoted a comment by Peterman that had been deleted. While I may have violated eGullet by re-printing a deleted post, I happily re-print my post here for my loyal readers:

Peterman: "I think we need a food critic that will slam the heck out of everyone, slam slam slam and then slam some more. Put it in writing how bad the places suck! Belittle every restaurant in town because gosh I don't know for little things just nit pick the heck out of everything. remove stars Gosh just be consistence. Wait why stop there they should review everything you spend money on. The cable at the kitchen here sucks! I want a review. My mailman now that really should get 1 star. I seen this chick the other day with breast implants now that Dr. gets four stars!!"

u.e.: Be careful of what you wish for monkfish. *wink*

5 Comments:

Blogger GiuseppeWong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/17/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous joiei said...

I thought the author had been removed by the post. lol

9/17/2006 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wink" the ulterior is no long a jenseitig!

9/18/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger GiuseppeWong said...

The previous comment was removed because of a typo. To sum it all up... I had a similar experience like yours, wasn't too pleased.

9/18/2006 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Private Chef said...

Hi There

I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of "all the food blogs in the world" on www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

5/14/2008 06:50:00 AM  

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