21. December 2013 06:30
Dear Tru, writing you this letter is a little like telling your female friend that she’s gained some weight. She knows. You know. Everyone knows. It usually makes no difference. But occasionally, the friend wakes up one morning and decides she looks like dough. And begins the gym FOR REAL – not just working out the jaw East Bank style. And when we see her in a month she looks amazing because she didn’t have that far to go. You are that friend and I can only hope that your (rock) bottom is higher than that of most.
You and I started dating in 2000. A mere several months after you emerged out of the Lettuce womb. You are my longest-term relationship. My dinner partners have come and gone but you have still remained. My 4-star go-to. My standby. Like a Minnesota Fats, you had no need to hustle others. You made your living by being consistently excellent, no matter what. Against you, others formed their measures. Sadly, your meter-stick has lost some length throughout the years.
I have always thought your dinners to be like gold and diamonds: they owe their value to their scarcity. Some accused you of theatrics but I believed the theater to be important. The “service” part of food. I enjoyed the synchronized pours and the artistry. Both on the walls and off. Gone is the Warhol Marilyn because it (probably) belonged to Mr. Tramonto (Unlimited). But the art of the dining room most certainly did not. Why are we seeing its extinction? Did he take the service with him in the divorce?
My favorite part of dinner was always the wait staff. Unlike other 4-stars, Tru had the novel insight that its diners did not necessarily wish to sit for hours at a foodie funeral. And the waiters would engage the patrons at precisely the level of volume and activity that the patrons wanted. No longer. Yesterday, service was distant, unforgiving and slow to join the punch-line. It made me miss the Tru of old.
Ironically, even though the food is the easiest part for 4-stars to get to perfect, you didn’t even do that. Borrowing from Trotter, you underwhelm the appetizers and main courses and then overdo desserts as if it were a zero-sum investment. Like the balding guy who starts to grow a beard thinking the hair below compensates for the lack above. It doesn’t. I hated this behavior about Trotter’s and I was very disappointed with yesterday’s emulation of the same. But I must admit that what I had was excellent. It always is. Especially the cheese. Can we trade a few desserts for a higher cheese allowance? My household spends more on fermented milk than on gasoline. Our car gets 9 miles per gallon so you can imagine the value of this statement. And yet, we had not a single one of the cheeses on the menu. This is an accomplishment we admire. Unfortunately, I bet the menu is not available to mortals.
Anyway, our years are spent chasing Lettuce Entertain You gold status. Once we reach enough to maintain, we look for places to blow the accumulated rewards. I hate to tell you that next year we will look elsewhere. You probably won’t miss us because our spending is a rounding error on your books. It is said that critics are legless men who teach running. But what I would hate to see is a small group of dedicated nomads do to you what groups did to the Holy Roman Empire. I am not ready to move you out of memory and into history. I don’t want to write the first chapter in the Decline and Fall of the Tru-man empire just yet.