Monday, July 11, 2011

The Chef's Table, Rocklin

I'm famous at the Chef's Table, a.k.a "TCT". OK, I confess. I'm not famous. Not a bit. My pig, however, is. He looks something like this but in black and white:

The famous pig: Pure Porkiness!

The pig reclines on the vent hood above the bar, in all his monochromatic glory (I didn't take a set of color drawing tools to the restaurant, alas). He was penned in the days were the tables were covered with butcher paper. Now they're bare granite - or faux granite - in any case they're shiny, black and slightly reflective so you can see the magnificence of your dining partner reflected under their plate of pesto fries.

I'm amazed at the trendiness of the other diners. Latest coiffures, clothes, jewelry. Real state of the art trendiness, so trendy that I don't even know the current hipness babacool lingo to describe their scintillating awesomeness. Luckily, I just go for the food. My trendiness index is probably somewhere around 0.3 Camrys, so it's amazing they even let me enter.

These guys were so trendy that I can't even draw them without the latest cartoon pen.

They serve interpretations of American food. Burgers. Fried chicken. Fries. Upscale, though. Burgers and fried chicken, but not as you know them. Upscale, with fancy descriptions and innovative, fresh ingredients.

Tonight's burger was smothered in hot wing sauce burning chili heat englobing bits of blue cheese, topped with a whole pickle stabbed through the heart with a dull knife. Sounds painful, so it's a good thing that pickles probably can't feel pain. The burger was not for the meek: sour, hot, umami and hot again.

The bathroom is painted with blackboard paint. They supply chalk, so you can write anything you want. Most people write something like "TCT is awesome". That doesn't strike me as the acme of trendiness. I expected something more like "Je t'aime. Moi non plus. Passe les brownies au bacon, cherie". But nowhere did these words appear, and I had no desire to add them. French is no longer trendy, apparently. The torch has passed to somewhere else with a language that I almost certainly can't pronounce, let alone spell.

Tonight we watched a large table of VIP-type people eat stuff that wasn't on the menu, at least not our menu. Maybe there's a secret menu, kind of like In-N-Out only much more sophisticated. The kitchen whisked plate after non-menu plate to their table, while everyone else watched.

The process of acquiring this level of über trendiness, style and sophistication remains a mystery, although it was more than clear that these dishes were coming directly from the chef's imagination, arriving at their table with a flourish and brief explanation of the key ingredients and an occasional joke about pepper fin (he didn't serve any). It was, however, crystal clear that there was none of this fanfare for anyone else in the room, not even a crumb. No, you're not worthy.

The plates accumulated on their table, like diner kaiseki. Grilled corn on the cob (some confusion as to how to eat this), chicken-fried Angus beef, a Caprese salad full of tomatoes, daikon sprouts and some kind of whitish cubes that could have been mozzarella, chicken breast, tofu or all three.

As their dishes accumulated, our service slowed. You can't be everywhere at once, can you?

Curious about some of the plates they were receiving, we asked a passing server. His answer was terse, leaving no doubt that he'd rather not be bothered. He was busy. Questions not encouraged from the riffraff. It's not for you. It's for them. You can watch but not participate.

I find it strange that a tiny restaurant would provide this level of service to some while denying it to others, even though all groups are seated elbow to elbow in the same room. If there were a private room for VIP's, it would be clear. It could have a bouncer on guard in front of an airlock. That would keep out the undesirable and untrendy!

If there's a brown nose special, where you open a line of credit, have the chef make whatever he feels like and give you the opportunity to rub elbows with a culinary genius, wouldn't it make economic sense to give everyone access? If the house can pay a month's expenses in one night with one group, just imagine what they could do if anyone with sufficient credit and the proper elan could enjoy the same benefits?

Their web site is mute on the subject: there is no Chef's Special Prix Fixe menu.  I suppose asking to be admitted to the VIP club would be nekulturny in the extreme, since one does not ask. One either is or is not.

But fear not! In-N-Out will welcome you with open arms, and their secret menu is available to all who ask. I'd rather be a welcome guest in a cheapo burger chain than tolerated as second-class seat-filler. And their burgers aren't bad, either.

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