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A Few of My Least Favorite Things

By Stett Holbrook

CHEF David Chang, owner of the hysterically popular Momofuku in New York City, roiled the Bay Area food world last month when he quipped that "every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate." The nerve! The NorCal Asia Society went so far as to cancel an event with him during his local book tour this month to promote his beautiful new book, Momofuku. Chang thinks the whole dust-up is ridiculous and encouraged San Francisco foodies whose panties are in a bunch over the comment to "smoke marijuana." Smoke more weed? No one would go to work anymore.

Anyway, as far as I know Chang hasn't bashed Silicon Valley's food scene. Even though Manresa's David Kinch introduced his buddy Chang at a book talk at Kepler's last Saturday, the South Bay's restaurant scene isn't really on the star chef's radar. Shocking, I know.

So rather than wait for him to dis our food scene, I'll do it for him. While we've got a few standout high-end restaurants and a wealth of delicious and exciting ethnic restaurants, in between the two poles is a great boring expanse of blandness and predictability. For example, we have so many steakhouses, their density is actually visible from outer space. If Silicon Valley restaurants are ever going to step out of San Francisco's shadow and distinguish themselves, here are several dishes that absolutely have to go.

Seared ahi: This was once an exciting appetizer. An East-meets-West starter that seemed kind of exotic. So raw. So dark. So meaty. So—1997. It's now available at sports bars and probably 7-Eleven. Time to retire it.

Beet and goat cheese salad: I don't care if the beets are locally grown and come in a rainbow of colors and the chèvre is creamy and fresh. If one dish epitomizes Silicon Valley's lemminglike lack of creativity and new ideas, I'd say this is it.

Caesar salad: A Caesar is kind of like every song by the band Boston. Their songs are good enough, but after listening to them 1 million times I could go to my grave happy if I never heard "Don't Look Back" again. Same goes for Caesar salads, with or without grilled chicken on top. Please play a different song.

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes: 2001 called. They want their cliché comfort food back.

Double-cut pork chop: To me, this fat piece of hog, usually soaked in salty water to keep from drying out, represents the mindless excess and greed of the subprime mortgage crisis. The pig is a noble animal, but as far as most Silicon Valley chefs know the chop is the one and only cut available. Lean times require a new, more thoughtful approach. Bring on the chitterlings and trotters.

Crème brûlée: Stop it. We've had enough. I happen to like the dessert, but for the love of God it's time to move on, people. Make something else, just make sure it isn't something as equally tired as molten chocolate cake, tiramisu or cheesecake. Chefs are supposed to be creative. Create!

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