In the same cavernous space that held the inappropriately named English is Italian (turns out English is the New Failure), Jeffrey Chodorow's newest restaurant Wild Salmon opens to the public today, Good Friday. Last night, So-So Thursday, we tried it out. It seems to be a Chodorow signature these days to have weird whatnots hanging from the ceiling. Instead of Kobe Club's swords, Wild Salmon features a school of 249 copper injection-mold salmon hanging by fishing line from the ceiling. Caught in the wild race upstream, the mildly abstracted fish bring to mind gilded spermatazoa. One is surprised not to find a giant ovum on one end of the restaurant.
The menu, typically Chodorowian, is a 12"x17" sheet of heavy parchment. The Rosetta Stone is only slightly larger. As expected, salmon comes in all its variants: Alaskan King, Coho, Sockeye, Smoked, grilled, cedar planked, bronze seared, poached or en papillote. Throw in some Wagyu for $85, creamed corn and about a hundred other things and you get the idea. There were some hits (a delicious black cod, a surprisingly strong short rib entree) and some misses (smoked scallops, unhappily salty salmon).
When we went, the room was filled with food journalists and bloggers, happy for the cocktails, the pandering and the free dinner—you can bet the day-to-day clientele will be much better dressed, richer and more appreciative. Be that as it may, there's plenty to roll one eyes about. Though the ingredients are fresh and expertly prepared, they feel asphyxiated by pretension in presentation. The plates are massive white slabs on which the entrees hunch all cowed. And on the flip side, the Dungeness crab would be better had it not been crammed into tiny shot glasses. The menu has more trios, duets, and quintets than a Balanchine ballet. One gets the feeling the Seattle chef is determined to out New York New York.
Then there's the elephant in the room, looming larger than the salmon and weighing heavy on the mind of both Chef Ramsmeyer and Capo Chodorow: Bruni Brundle v. Choad, one of the more epic battles in the catty world of chef v. critic. Times critic Frank Bruni already seems to dislike Chodorow's moremoremore aesthetic. (Higher prices, more decor, bigger menus!) It's like Mondo Restaurant. And Chodorow, well, he hates being disliked. So what of Wild Salmon? As we mapped out previously there are three essential possibilites. Bruni loves, hates, or ignores.
Having met The Choad for the first time last night and having eaten ostensibly the best the restaurant can offer, we're going to say it would be best if Bruni steered clear. More likely is that the critic will visit and throw the place a star. Bruni, sensibly uncaring about the "feud," will in that case have turned the other cheek and Chodorow, as Chodorow likes to do, will stridently claim he makes restaurants not for critics, but for the people. Just not for the salmon.