Although I don't dine in the type of places reviewed in major newspapers, I find that reading the restaurant reviews can be very amusing. Today's papers offered some reviews about Asian fusion cooking. Among other things, they illustrated that what seems new might not be really so new.
In the L.A.Times, I read about a new Las Vegas restaurant named Shaboo, where a meal costs $500. "Hot pot cooking goes haute" describes Masayoshi Takayama -- "the sushi chef whose New York restaurant Masa might be the epitome of rarefied Japanese dining in the U.S." He's tweaked the once-humble hot pot menu to include the most exotic and expensive ingredients, and eventually hopes to add solid gold hot pots to cook them in. "A supplemental dessert of white truffle ice cream costs $95. The restaurant's name is a slightly infelicitous play on the words 'shabu' and 'taboo.' Will the 'Viva Elvis' crowd go for it?"
In the N.Y.Times "The Way We Ate: Too Old to Tiki?" compared New York Tiki bars and fake Polynesian restaurants through the ages. From 1964 to 1969, the article notes, a restaurant called the Gauguin Room "served liberally interpreted Polynesian to a Park Avenue crowd. The menu was an anthropological marvel of arbitrary Tahitian references and nonsense pidgin—'Papeete' referred to Cornish game hen, and a chow mein dish was sold as 'Pork Ding Dong'—but apparently it all tasted good, and the cocktails were enormous. Nobody really thought it was authentic, least of all Craig Claiborne, who described the food as a pan-Asian fantasy." The article concludes, "This year, two forthcoming neo-Polynesian ventures ... are banking on the return of our lost innocence, or at least a willingness to suspend disbelief."
And in the ultimate fusion craziness: combining self-indulgent eating with Yoga practice: "When Chocolate and Chakras Collide" describes the spread of this trend, where after Yoga class participants eat a variety of food, not necessarily related to any known Yoga tradition -- "The past decade has produced thousands of new foodies and new yogis, all interested in healthier bodies, clearer consciences and a greener planet. Inevitably, the overlap between the people who love to eat and the people who love to do eagle pose has grown."
I've just begun to take some Yoga classes after a long time away from it. This sounds like a completely terrible idea to me. But I expect it to catch on and come to Ann Arbor in some undignified copy-cat way. We have that problem here. We get the worst of such trends.