Christoph Bob: Chef's Table is the best restaurant where I have ever dined

The German chef now living in Italy tells us about his memorable dinner at César Ramirez’s, a Mexican in Manhattan

23-04-2018

The counter at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in New York, with chef César Ramirez, 3 Michelin stars. 431 W 37th Street in Manhattan (photo www.brooklynfare.com)

I’m happy to accept Identità Golose’s invitation to tell about one of the best meals I have ever had. This winter, when Refettorio at Monastero di Santa Rosa was closed, I spent a few days in New York. I dined at Eleven Madison ParkMomofuku KoBlue Hill at Stone BarnsMasaPer Se. But I was charmed by another restaurant: Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, which recently moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

In order to dine at César Ramirez’s you must call one month and a half in advance, on a Monday morning, after 10.30. You choose the day and give your credit card details. Seven days before the meal, they charge you 385 dollars. It’s the cost of the tasting menu, the only available option. On the day of your dinner, you’re not allowed to be late: in America, dining in some restaurants is like going to the theatre or to the cinema: it’s best to be on time.

Chef’s Table is inside a supermarket. It’s not the classic, gigantic American mall. It’s a minimarket. They sell speciality food, and have interesting products. Inside there’s a door without a sign. There’s a dress code imposing jacket and shirt, but it’s just so that the restaurant’s guests and the supermarket’s clients don’t get mixed up.

Sea urchin, pan brioche and truffle 

Sea urchin, pan brioche and truffle 

Beetroot and crab 

Beetroot and crab 

The kind girls at the counter welcome you. In the background, contrary to all the other 3-Michelin-star restaurants I’ve visited, there’s no classical music but David Bowie and Talking Heads. The atmosphere is sparkling and informal. I feel at home.

What strikes you of the restaurant, a few tables and a counter seating few people, is the decor: there’s no mise-en-place or imposing cutlery, no unnecessary frills. There are five people working behind the counter, not 25 as in the brigades of the same standards. These are the people who will make your dinner. You won’t notice any sign that they’ve lost their concentration: everyone knows, at every moment, exactly what they have to do. The chef, of Mexican origins, is among them. He uses a Molteni kitchen, a small Japanese-style grill and a Rational oven. Full stop.

In the kitchen, they use the best products from all around the world with very effective simplicity. Scampi, sea urchins, wagyu marble score 8, ducks… everything is cooked and dished out in front of the client, from start to finish (a format you’d never find in a noble French restaurant: they are more jealous of their work). Raw quails, deboned right there and then, grilled and served. The famous sea urchin with pan brioche and truffle, his signature dish. The incredible soufflé with chocolate ice cream. Everything is delicious, with three simple flavours, enclosed in a mouthful. It didn’t look like a 3-star restaurant but a place with the enthusiasm of a newbie.

César Ramirez and Christoph Bob

César Ramirez and Christoph Bob

Some say Ramirez isn’t the nicest of people. But is there a nice chef, when at work? I don’t think so. With me, instead, he was well mannered and intelligent. It must be hard for a Mexican to be working in the United States, these days. Yet Trump should know that this man prepared one of the most incredible dinners of my life.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Sections

Chefs' life stories

Men who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view