" diabolically chortling like Batman villains"
January 7, 2015 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Restaurant Review: Kappo Masa on the Upper East Side: The cost of eating at Kappo Masa is so brutally, illogically, relentlessly high, and so out of proportion to any pleasure you may get, that large numbers start to seem like uninvited and poorly behaved guests at the table.

Gastronomics: Where the One Percent Eats (2012): But more often, you’ll meet a fellow Upper East Sider for lunch or for dinner, and you’ll go somewhere mutually convenient rather than schlep somewhere noisy and trendy and well reviewed downtown or (heaven forfend!) in Brooklyn or Queens. Proximity trumps quality, even when you have a car and driver.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (75 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have noticed that my restaurant bills are a lot lower, now that I no longer get drinks when I got out to eat.

I'm all for scamming the filthy rich by serving them overpriced shite.

I'm guessing most of the restaurant food bills are written off the taxes by patrons as a business expense and if the place folds, the owners can write it all off as a business loss.

Everyone wins, kinda.
posted by Renoroc at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone wins, kinda.

Except the little people who have to make up the tax-write-off in their taxes..
posted by k5.user at 10:11 AM on January 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


Did anyone else expect the prices to be *higher*? Like a thousand bucks for an entree or something. You know, a thousand here and a thousand there and eventually you're talking *real* food.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


If Crazy Quilt and the Calendar Man opened a restaurant, I'd probably pay a lot of money to eat there.
posted by Shepherd at 10:14 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh lord Kappo Masa - I keep holding out hope it's an elaborate joke on the nature of consumption or at least some kind of conscious scam.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2015


I'm always struck by how unusual restaurant trends seem to be in New York, but perhaps it is because my foodyism is West Coast infected. The biggest issue I have seen with restaurants in the past few years is that truly brilliant chefs were being torpedoed by utterly incompetent front-of-the-house work, and there has been an increasing move toward a customer-based approach, where there isn't one giant head chef who dictates to everyone in the restaurant what they must eat, but instead a strange hybrid of fast-food and health food, so that cheap, really well-made food gets out to the public in a casual and sometimes surprisingly daffy setting.

I assume there must be some trend in New York that Kappa Masa represents, where bad food is served indifferently to patrons at preposterous prices, but it is a trend I am so unfamiliar with, and so perplexed by, that this might as well be a dispatch from the center of the universe, from an alien species who's eating habits are so unlike our own that we cannot even use the word "dining" to describe it.
posted by maxsparber at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Keeps the riffraff out on the street where they belong. (I'm Rif)
posted by sammyo at 10:19 AM on January 7, 2015


I don't have any problem with a restaurants being this expensive; I've eaten a few $200+ meals and they were phenomenal experiences that I cherish. But at that price they damn well better be good. Particularly if you're a sister restaurant to Masa, which sets the standard for very high end Japanese. This review is quite a nasty takedown,indicating both the kitchen and the front of house are sloppy. If it's accurate Masayoshi Takayama should be embarrassed.

(Corollary: if you want to eat at a very high end restaurant, pick one where the head chef only has one restaurant and is actually in the kitchen. Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison has been my standard for best meal I've had in the US, although I haven't been in a few years and am nervous that opening NoMad has distracted him.)
posted by Nelson at 10:27 AM on January 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Stars I might have given Kappo Masa if the prices were, say, 20 percent lower: one.

Stars I am giving it: zero.


Ouch.
posted by Melismata at 10:27 AM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not a new trend. There have always been places in that neighborhood selling ok food at extortionate prices. What's news about this is it's Gagosian and Masa and it's nothing more than one of those places.
posted by JPD at 10:28 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If Crazy Quilt and the Calendar Man opened a restaurant, I'd probably pay a lot of money to eat there.

Don't expect the usual, seasonal favorites predominate with colorful, local ingredients! Plate presentation is a mess, though, such that it may cause permanent vision loss and if you miss your reservation, which must be made exactly one week in advance, you will be hunted by gruesomely mismatched henchmen named "Pocket" and "Wall."
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:30 AM on January 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Price of dinner for one before tax, tip and drinks: $450.

I once bought a Chrysler Laser for that much and drove it for two years.
posted by octothorpe at 10:30 AM on January 7, 2015 [47 favorites]


I had a big comment ready to go, but on preview Nelson said it better (and more succinctly) than I could.

I don't think the takeaway from this review is "rich people suck and expensive restaurants just for them are terrible," but that if you're going to be that expensive, you had best make it worth every penny, which this restaurant clearly doesn't.
posted by cvp at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I once bought a Chrysler Laser for that much and drove it for two years.

Well, we'll let that go. I'd say you've been punished enough already.
posted by Naberius at 10:34 AM on January 7, 2015 [18 favorites]


I guess next time I'm in New York I'll save my money and just eat at Guy Fieri's place.
posted by TedW at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


Actually it's pretty much the same idea. The most expensive meal I've ever had was at the Times Square TGI Fridays.
posted by The Whelk at 10:47 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


What the rich think they have: class
What the rich actually have: money

If I want a great meal I'll go to the boroughs and drown myself in Uzbek manti or Nepali thukpa. If I want to be fleeced and underwhelmed I'll waste my time with "fine dining" in Manhattan.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:50 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ah yes. Gastro anti-intellectualism rears its head as always .
posted by JPD at 10:54 AM on January 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


This place sounds fucking horrible, and in the same way places like the Olive Garden are horrible: shitty food at high prices.

The quality of the food is better here, of course, but the price is also much much higher. Were we to calculate overall value, I'm not sure which shitshow would be shittier.

I mean, at least at the Olive Garden, you get breadsticks.
posted by Myca at 11:01 AM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, I am lead to believe when you're there, you're family.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 AM on January 7, 2015 [24 favorites]


Ah yes. Gastro anti-intellectualism rears its head as always

Eh. Consider it skepticism.
posted by smidgen at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


uh oh villains i think tony stark is in your restaurant look at the picture you can see the arc reactor glowing on the first dude on the left
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:13 AM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well seriously, "gastro anti-intellectualism" is a completely accurate description of some people's disdain. Very high end restaurants, when they work right, provide an amazing and different experience from less expensive places. Better ingredients; there really is a difference between chuck roast and filet mignon, you know? That goes triple for sushi. Service should also be much better, although perhaps annoyingly too attentive in some place.

But what I enjoy most about high end cuisine is the extra work and technique. A single appetizer might take someone four hours to prepare. An all-day demi-glace, bits of pigeon roasted up just right, hand made ravioli with a quail egg yold delicately inside, four kinds of microherbs and a lovely little yellow flower on top. It can be beautiful and subtle and complex and at a place like Eleven Madison you may be having twelve separate dishes with that much effort. (If this interests you, their cookbook is amazing. No way I would ever cook from it, but it's fun to read how a place like that works.)

I like inexpensive, unpretentious good food too. No Uzbeki restaurants I know of in San Francisco and I've yet to get to my local Nepalese place. (It's $17 for an entree, oh dear I hope that's acceptable.) But we have great taquerias, my biggest sadness for today is I won't be able to get the chicharrones burrito I'm craving. There's nothing quite as satisfying as greasy Thai street food eaten out of hand, preferably after you've had a few beers, and I've never been to a high end restaurant that cooks beef as well as good Texas pit barbecue brisket.

Good food comes in all price ranges, and is different depending on what kind of place you're in. Sadly some of the high end places are not good. At least with a bad burger you're only out $10; I'd be pissed as hell to spend $400+ on a dinner and have it disappoint.
posted by Nelson at 11:16 AM on January 7, 2015 [36 favorites]


I like a well-written snarky restaurant review, so, thanks. Crappy and inconsistent cooking (just as ripping off other people) is surely as old as mankind, so these things are dear to our hearts.

I personally don't worry much about rich people this and that (even if I'm not among them), but to be served messed-up food that was perfectly fine to eat before it entered the kitchen is just so evil.
posted by Namlit at 11:19 AM on January 7, 2015



But what I enjoy most about high end cuisine is the extra work and technique. A single appetizer might take someone four hours to prepare.


Yeah my rule is if I'm paying a lot for it, it can't be something I can reasonably make at home, so I always end up eating the oddest thing on the menu.
posted by The Whelk at 11:22 AM on January 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


Satisfactory (No Stars)

What? The whole review says, no, it is not satisfactory. Shouldn't this be "Dismal (No Stars)", or "Oh Hell No (No Stars)"?
posted by thelonius at 11:23 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Although this review was quite a slam, it's quite clear that Kappo Masa serves food at a higher level than a typical greasy spoon or, indeed, Olive Garden. It's just nowhere near where it should be for that restaurant. "Satisfactory" is quite a damning evaluation for a restaurant that was shooting for "exceptional" and pricing itself accordingly.
posted by slkinsey at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Nelson, I can vouch for Little Nepal: That entree price gets you rice, naan, and little curried vegetable-y things as well as your choice of curry. And the service is attentive but not obsequious.
posted by vickyverky at 11:31 AM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


What? The whole review says, no, it is not satisfactory. Shouldn't this be "Dismal (No Stars)", or "Oh Hell No (No Stars)"?

NYTimes ratings - zero stars means poor to satisfactory.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:32 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I am lead to believe when you're there, you're family.

Heh. We have a local pizza chain here in central NY whose tv/radio jingle is a similar "We treat ya like family..." and my knee-jerk reaction is always "Damn, I'm not gonna come to your restaurant if you threaten me!"
posted by aught at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Succulent and succinct writing, though. Pete Wells: *****
posted by Dashy at 11:40 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I assume there must be some trend in New York that Kappa Masa represents


Different place. Kappa Masa is where you eat hiyashi soba out of the hollow in the top of the head of a mythical anthropomorphic amphibian ($350.)
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:40 AM on January 7, 2015 [19 favorites]


we're so over the mythical anthropomorphic amphibian fad
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 AM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Have to say though, the space is absolutely stunning. (Except for the banquettes. I hate banquettes because of how much kerfuffle there is if somebody in the middle has to pee.) The kitchen is a marvel; I'd love to work there.

But if you're charging those prices, there is simply no excuse for being more than one or two points away from perfection.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:47 AM on January 7, 2015


we're so over the mythical anthropomorphic amphibian fad

sez the anthropomorphized molusc.

Qui bono from the denial, whelky?

There is no c(l)a(m)bal!
posted by lalochezia at 11:56 AM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


That second article makes sense and I have no problem believing the conclusions -- but I wonder a little about their methods. They're defining "luxury shoppers" not by the amount spent per year, but by the type of places they shop: Barney's, Bergdorf Goodman, etc. Could it be just that the people going to more adventurous fine-dining restaurants are equally wealthy but are missed because they're going to more "downtown/BK" boutiques like Atelier or Oak instead? (substitute the 2015 version as needed if this is out of date)

I also don't understand why with data from a credit card company, they wouldn't just put people into brackets based on how much they're actually spending in total; maybe an artifact of the anonymization means you don't get that info?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2015


Anti-anti-gastrointellectualism (spits tabbacy) seems a little unfair though since most Fine Dining haters can't afford the prices anyway so its more of a HAH FUCK THEM ANYWAY I BET IT TASTE LIKE SHIT.

Like yeah, I hate Ivy League schools, and no, there wasn't a chance in hell I could have got into one. Just let me hate in peace. (swallows tabbacy)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:24 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dang. I was all ready to arm myself with pitchforks and torches once I found out that Subway subs aren't really one foot long.

Do the rich have the same problem? Like do they get all mad when they realize that their truffle oil is a blend of numerous common oils, the least being truffle.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:29 PM on January 7, 2015


I wonder about the lack of consistency. Did they hire cooks of different abilities? Are they chaotic because they got too big too fast? What?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2015


Most people don't know that about truffle oil. It's slowly permeating the general consciousness, though. And at a guess, the actually rich-and-also-actually-into-food (as opposed to into-dropping-wads-of-cash-as-a-prestige-marker) always go for actual truffles.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gastro anti-intellectualism rears its head as always

Ah yes, the "stop being a hater" defense. Very popular in the comments on Youtube music videos. I've done fine dining to my satisfaction, and I decided that I don't actually enjoy it very much. One of the things I love about the modern world is that we are no longer obliged to pretend that "high culture" appeals to us. We can admit that things like opera or the ballet bore us to tears, and that no, it's not a question of failing to understand it but rather one of simply not enjoying the experience.

I am reminded of my former classmates who went into corporate law and believe, with unshakeable conviction, that the only reason anyone did anything else with their law degrees is because they weren't good enough to scale those walls. Or the Harvard kids who think that the only reason anyone dislikes their institution and what it stands for is jealousy. Or even, I dare say, adherents to religious movements who claim that the only reason one could fail to accept their doctrines is because one hasn't studied their holy texts carefully enough. No, sorry, the world doesn't revolve around one cultural clique and its standards. Other people enjoy (or dislike) things for their own reasons that are quite disconnected from trying to spite you.

But if you like we can an argument over lapel and collar styles suitable for men's evening wear. You know, important stuff.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:36 PM on January 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


The most expensive meal I've ever paid for was at Susur Lee's place on King West in Toronto ten years ago; two 12-course vegetarian tasting menus for a total after tax and tip of $250 Canadian (with only tap water to drink, which I was pleasantly surprised was an option). The food was spectacular, the service was pleasant but not overbearing and I'm glad we went (I was worried the food wouldn't justify the price, that we'd walk out still hungry and that the servers would look down their noses at us commoners, none of which happened).

A couple of years ago I paid almost that much for a profoundly mediocre full meal (drinks, appetizers, etc.) with indifferent service at Glas, also in Toronto, on Queen St. East.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If he's doing a review for a paper, why doesn't he pick a couple of the more ridiculously priced items?
posted by Splunge at 12:39 PM on January 7, 2015



But if you like we can an argument over lapel and collar styles suitable for men's evening wear. You know, important stuff.


Yes. Yes I would like to do that.
posted by The Whelk at 12:45 PM on January 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


1adam12, I think what we're reacting to is how much of the anti-gastro attitude stems from not knowing anything about it; it's more or less the same thing you see over on clientsfromhell all the time:
After explaining to a client that it would take time to make his requested changes.

CLIENT: You do your work on a computer, right?

ME: Yes, sir.

CLIENT: So you just push a button.
A lot of people don't understand what actually goes into creating high end food. It's totally okay if it's not your bag, or opera isn't or monster trucks aren't or whatever.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:52 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


CLIENT: So you just push a button.

Pff, ridiculous. Everyone knows restaurant microwaves have dials on them.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:57 PM on January 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


NYTimes ratings - zero stars means poor to satisfactory.

I like that they don't waste time or rating scale space on how bad a place they don't recommend is.
posted by aubilenon at 1:14 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah my rule is if I'm paying a lot for it, it can't be something I can reasonably make at home, so I always end up eating the oddest thing on the menu.

This, and my other rule is if I'm paying a lot for it, the chef had better make me grudgingly like my least favourite foods. Like celery and the chrysanthemum garland (DIE).
posted by peripathetic at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If he's doing a review for a paper, why doesn't he pick a couple of the more ridiculously priced items?

The NYTimes is still a business, at the end of the day.
posted by smackfu at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pete Wells is doing the lord's work. I still treasure his 2012 Q&A:

Q. Do you think we in America have taken the food culture too far where we care and think too much about eating and making really great and unique food? I have read some critiques making this point and was wondering your thoughts.

— Dan, Washington, D.C.


A. I’ve read a few of those criticisms, too, and I have found them as puzzling as their authors seem to find food culture. They tend to start well, because they’re mocking the excesses of people who take food too seriously. It’s easy to mock people who take anything too seriously. That’s why mockery was invented.

But when the mockery ends, the pieces I’ve read eventually grow indignant at the very idea that people care about something as insignificant as pleasure. Pleasure is only insignificant if you’re not having any, and I have started to suspect that the people who write these critiques are just upset because everybody else is having too much fun. And then I start to feel sorry for them, and want to send them a dozen cookies from Beurre & Sel in the Essex Street Market. But then I decide that cookies would be wasted on people who don’t know how to have a good time.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2015 [23 favorites]


I like a well-written snarky restaurant review, so, thanks.

Then may I suggest for your next course, some delectable British dishes from Jay Rayner?

Perhaps you'll enjoy Beast: "If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine. "

Or maybe you're more in the mood for Quatrro Passi: " I’ve paid more than £282 of my own dosh for lunch. It just needs to be utterly memorable, the stuff of recollections whispered breathily late at night. It can’t be a pallid fart of mediocrity..."

And for a palate cleanser, perhaps something from Jay Nuttall-Smith. May I suggest: America at the Trump hotel: The food is amazing – but you shouldn’t eat here, ever
posted by donovan at 1:49 PM on January 7, 2015 [17 favorites]


> I've done fine dining to my satisfaction, and I decided that I don't actually enjoy it very much.

I've done it too, and I do enjoy it (when it's worth it, obviously); I can't afford it any more, any more than I can afford good Burgundy, but I cherish my memories.

On topic: All Hail the Dark Lord of the Twin Moons!
posted by languagehat at 1:49 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, that review of Beast from Jay Rayner was really awesome.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hadn't realized that Rayner was the author of that spectacular takedown of America. No wonder I loved it! (The review; I wouldn't set foot in there.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2015


From the review of Beast:

There are dry-stone walls and glass-fronted wine cabinets bulging with Montrachet and Pomerol, priced in four figures for men with teeny-weeny penises. I order one of the very cheapest options, a Bordeaux by the glass.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:57 PM on January 7, 2015


I am reminded of research that suggests that expensive wine doesn't necessarily taste better or different than inexpensive wine, but that believing it is expensive can enhance the pleasure.
posted by neutralmojo at 2:17 PM on January 7, 2015


Feckless - that review of America is by Jay Nuttall-Smith
posted by thecjm at 2:20 PM on January 7, 2015


Suggested tip: 1%
posted by chavenet at 2:25 PM on January 7, 2015


derrrrrrrrrrrrp
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:25 PM on January 7, 2015


smackfu: "If he's doing a review for a paper, why doesn't he pick a couple of the more ridiculously priced items?

The NYTimes is still a business, at the end of the day.
"

Wow are they doing that badly?
posted by Splunge at 2:59 PM on January 7, 2015


Heh, that America review is great. I particularly appreciate a restaurant being criticized for having terrible service while still appreciating that the food is good.

Front-of-house never gets the respect it should in fine dining. To stick with my Eleven Madison obsession, it's interesting to me that they've been careful to give Will Guidara equal coverage for the success of the restaurant as the chef, Daniel Humm. Guidara manages front-of-house. He's also co-owner, he's not just some manager in a suit. Still it surprises and pleases me to see his name credited in news articles, as the second author on the cookbook, etc. I assume he has had a lot to do with creating the experience there. The service I've had there has indeed been fantastic. I love the observation that dining staff must walk clockwise around the room. It sounds goofy but it keeps the flow smooth.
posted by Nelson at 3:13 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Kappa Masa is where you eat hiyashi soba out of the hollow in the top of the head of a mythical anthropomorphic amphibian ($350.)

Maybe this is the problem. The kappa got the reviewer's shirokodama and he's a bit sore about it.
posted by Hoopo at 3:42 PM on January 7, 2015


It is not anti-intellectual to criticize people who spend more on an entree than many humans earn in a year.

It's food, something all humans need and many don't get enough of. It's not art or philosophy.

Conspicuous consumption is not intellectual. It's selfish.
posted by spitbull at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2015


It's not necessarily conspicuous consumption, is my point. Sometimes it is, for sure. But not always.

Thing is, that goes for so many things. Betcha your computer/tv/car/vacation/whatever cost more than many people make in a year.

That's leaving aside the notion of food as art. It's not just fuel, and it takes a lot of hands to make intricate food. That's a lot of paycheques.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:50 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Said the guy who was opining on Loire wines the other day (I kid)

Indulging in fine dining a few times a year isn't a huge expenditure.

The real insanity is folks who use Nello as their canteen.
posted by JPD at 4:51 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's food ... it's not art

You're doing it wrong.
posted by Nelson at 4:56 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]




NYT reviews Ninja
posted by lalochezia at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2015


While all dining is consumption, fine dining is only conspicuous consumption if you share photos. Here's me with Paul Bocuse. It was an excellent dinner. Definitely an intellectual experience, although appropriately hedonistic and indulgent and, sure, a little selfish. I'm a monster.
posted by Nelson at 5:43 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]




Ninja is still open. It's been nine years!
posted by borges at 11:24 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also don't understand why with data from a credit card company, they wouldn't just put people into brackets based on how much they're actually spending in total

Might be the credit card companies can't produce that data. They don't share well with each other, so they can't easily say how much a particular person spends in total (because, presumably, they have more than one credit card). But they can look at the subset of people who spent money at Bergdorf's (using their card) and then see where else they spent money (using their card).
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:05 AM on January 8, 2015


It's such a shame, Batman. A restaurant with such terriffic chow turning out to be a mere front for some criminal scheme!

Oh shit, now you've done it. My standards have been ratcheted upward permanently. In the future I shall insist that all MeFi threads be perfectly summed up by Batman clips.

I recognize that this will not be easy, but now I've been taught to expect, nay, demand it!
posted by Naberius at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2015


What's this! What diabolical goings on are to be found at the small bistro in the basement of stately Wayne Manor?
posted by maxsparber at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2015


For me, the true knockout was the comment on the service:

The staff makes all the motions of excellent service without actually providing it.
posted by jrochest at 11:26 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


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