At Sixteen in Trump Tower, the meals are inventive and delicious (two qualities that do not always go together at avant-garde restaurants), the wine pairings are superb, and the menus always make me smile.
But all of that makes some people grumpy.
Recently at Sixteen, before a bite was served, we were presented with a menu designed like a jenga puzzle. Diners were asked to separate parts of the puzzle to make their selections for first course, second course, etc
I posted a picture of this wooden-block menu on Facebook and got some perturbed responses. My daughter Abigail Grimes, now a resident of San Francisco, wrote:
This seems unnecessarily complicated. If you want to innovate the menu – put it on an iPad with photos of the plates. Jenga with menus is silly.
And Chuck Cowdery (perhaps the world’s greatest bourbon authority) wrote:
This has a ‘jumped the shark’ quality to it. Amuse me, but don’t make me work.
Both these esteemed commentators have a point: the menu was pushing the envelope…but all of us at the table had a lot of fun taking the menu apart and making our selections. I understand how overly “ingenious” restaurant practices can aggravate people, but this was fun…though it was tough to imagine a business dinner, with a bunch of guys in suits, fiddling with a jenga-like menu. But for me, and for those of us at that table, it was entertaining…and that, in the First World, is a big part of any dinner.
And I guess even that observation is going to make some people angry because, yes, people are starving in many parts of the world – including our own country – and here we are, being “amused” by our food.
That’s undeniably true and understandably aggravating to some.
No doubt dining is entertainment, as Rich Melman, owner of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (Shaw’s, Maggiano’s, Wildfire, etc., etc., etc.) understood years ago. People have always gone to restaurants for more than just food: they want to be engaged, amused, and entertained. None of us eat out of burning hunger, or many times even of necessity. We eat for fun. It’s a First World thing.
Is that so wrong? You tell me.