Thursday, September 25, 2008


So Wolfgang Puck thinks he can just waltz in and plop his fancy restaurant on our campus, competing with such well-established restaurants like Hi Thai Cafe, Panda Express, and Rubios? Hmm, I guess there's not a whole lotta competition. On the other hand, those other places tend to offer decent portions of food (or something that resembles food) at a price that college students can afford. After all, this is NOT an Ivy league school, or even USC...

Ignoring the business strategy of catering (mainly) towards La Jolla Playhouse patron, which I discussed with the cute bartender earlier today, at this blog, we care (mostly) about one thing: food. (service counts, too!)

I started out with a glass of the Riesling, which actually was one of the nicer Rieslings I've had, so props to the sommelier. Then I watched some of the Cubs vs. Mets game. Seriously, walking a guy for the tying run in the top of the 9th? Ugh.

Yes, so anyway, I ordered the Tuna Tartare and Beef Carpaccio, cuz you know, I'm just a raw food type of guy. The tuna came in custom-made sesame and miso cones topped with salmon skin. The fish was very fresh and excellently flavored. The cone also provided a nice crunch with sweet tones. The beef came with a bit of salad garnish, halved grape tomatoes and a ginger vinaigrette. I'm not sure what purpose the radishes serve, the raw beef and tomatoes provided plenty of red color already. The beef was very very good, flavor-wise and texture-wise. The salad dressing was overly salty, so I couldn't even finish the salad, and without a very gingery-flavor. I'm not actually a big fan of ginger, but I don't think a good ginger vinaigrette is that hard to make.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera, but I will bring it along next time. Still, my feelings about Jai are mixed: some things they appear to accomplish really well (the tuna, for instance), and others, not so much. I don't think it's particularly difficult to create good-tasting dishes with quality ingredients (kobe beef, in this case), but I think the whole fusion aspect adds a bit of a challenge. On the one hand, there are traditional recipes that have been tried and true and present a nice balance of flavors. On the other hand, adding zip to traditional recipes by substituting new ingredients makes the flavors harder to manage. It's not simply a matter of throwing ingredients together and calling it fusion. Just cuz you add truffle oil to your shrimp tacos doesn't make you a fusion chef. (though it is, in fact, delicious)

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