Friday, November 12, 2004

Lost in Transliteration

by Tom Bozzo

This post was originally going to be a brief reflection on some odd Kanji spam that's been evading my ISP's filtration but not (after a little training) the Bayesian filter in Apple's OS X Mail program. (How does one respond to a come-on one cannot read?)

Then I saw some gnashing of teeth at Ocean over the early demise of the Big Bowl Asian Kitchen in the Greenway Station strip mall lifestyle shopping center. Nina asks:

Why cannot we sustain a fresh and original Asian eatery in this town – one that wont break the budget and will reliably deliver ingredients in wonderfully simple, crisp and appealing presentations?

I might point to Firefly, which seems to implement the same basic idea. Uniting good restaurant concepts with good implementation has been the challenge for the Food Fight outlets, but we've had a couple decent meals there. We haven't been there recently (pregnancy time scale), and perhaps Nina's mileage has varied regardless.

I haven't been to Muramoto yet -- still mourning the loss of Dog Eat Dog, in whose former King St. space Muramoto resides -- but one of my bosses, who I'd consider to be picky about such things, gave it an enthusiastic recommendation.

While the proliferation, and sometimes unfathomable success, of upscale chain restaurants may point to a Gresham's Law varation in which unoriginal restaurants drive out the indigenous and original, quick research suggests that Madisonian tastes are not solely to blame for the demise of our Big Bowl.

Instead, it looks to be a matter of corporate reshuffling. The Big Bowl chain was sold back to its originator, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), a prolific Chicago restaurant group (*). Cf. press release. LEYE wants to focus attention on the Chicagoland Big Bowls, according to the State Journal blurb.


(*) LEYE's restaurants include Tru, where some of my D.C. restaurant friends engaged in a how-high-can-we-make-our-check's-per-cover-average game a while back, and Brasserie Jo, our usual post-opera dining spot (a mostly Sunday matinee series constrains our Loop/River North choices somewhat).
I was a card-carrying member of LUEY! They are much like Food Fight in their promotion of establishments which rely on the "fresh and honest," regardless of the price range. I only had one encounter with Tru, but it was New Year's and I took my whole family (of 4). We may as well have gone to Paris for what it cost us -- the most expensive meal of our lives. That was then. We've scaled back New Year's considerably since both daughters hit their university years. But I'm straying: I gave Firefly four tries. The first in June: great! The second -- uh, I must have ordered wrong. The third -- everyone must have ordered wrong. The fourth -- well, it was *okay.* Meaning, it's unpredictable and therefore a risk. It's never awful though, that much I'll say. My first meal at Muramoto (last Monday) was great! I have to now have my next three. Is the young couple with a couplea youn'uns up for a run some time?
...that would be LEYE. It's been a long day!
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