So I picked up the phone a couple days ago and it was the lovely GM of the swanky new Four Seasons Hotel, wanting to talk about the review I had written of his hotel’s big-bucks restaurant, Art. The review was, as we euphemize in the trade—challenging. And Mr. GM was, as I almost never get to report in contexts like this, a perfect gentleman.
“I was just wondering if there was anything we might learn from your experience, maybe something that didn’t make it into your review,” he said, in an unfathomably foxy British accent.
Well, yes, I told him. My table had no salt.
It was cheating, actually; I did mention that in the review. Only not as ferociously as I meant it. Here is how I meant it: MY TABLE HAD NO SALT! PEPPER NEITHER! (I go all bad-grammar when I’m ferocious.) EVERY TABLE IN EVERY RESTAURANT SHOULD HAVE SALT ON IT! END OF DISCUSSION!
Because here’s the thing: No salt on the table communicates to the diner that the kitchen considers itself perfect. And I don’t mean to single out Art here, because plenty of restaurants have started withholding salt in the last couple of years. To my mind it’s either a conspiracy on the part of doctors like my friend Chris, who told me at a dinner party last weekend—just as I was taking my first bite of Moroccan chicken—that salt is killing more Americans than tobacco. (Oh, now comes the free advice.)
But more likely it’s part of the trend toward what I call “unrestaurants”. You know unrestaurants—-they’re the places you have to plan a month in advance to get into, or can’t reserve a table in at all, just to sit with strangers and eat food you didn’t order and possibly don’t even like. And as good as the chefs are at these places—think The Corson Building; think Art of the Table ——and as worthy their communitarian motives, the message to the diner is: We don’t care what you want. At all.
(Or, as The Stranger’s Bethany Clement recently put it: Seattle’s Hottest Chefs Want to be the Boss of You!)
Now, the fact that he called for advice tells me that Mr. Foxy-British-Voiced Four Seasons GM doesn’t want to be the boss of me…alas…and I’d be seriously shocked if his colleague Kerry Sear, Art’s chef—another foxy-voiced Brit—wants to either.
But gentlemen: That’s what no salt on the table tells The People. And when I asked our Art waiter for salt—Oh, the shame! Don’t tell Doctor Chris!—it came to the table in the most stylish little push-button salt conveyance I had ever seen. Sleek! German!
Why’re you hiding these cool little gizmos, Art? Bring on the groovy saltshakers! Let The People kill their own damn selves!