I have a love/hate response to Anthony Bourdain. While I appreciate his desire to look past the tourist traps of the towns he visits in “No Reservations,” I hate the general opinion he seems to have that nothing anywhere is nearly as cool as he perceives himself to be. Which is why this moment from his visit to Australia is one of my favorites.
Not that I wish harm on the guy, of course.
Bourdain’s blog post about his San Francisco visit didn’t exactly change my opinion of him, but I went into last night’s episode of “No Reservations” with as much of an open mind as a politically correct, part-time vegan, child of hippies could muster.
The episode begins with Bourdain pretending to race through the streets Bullitt-style, in a new black Mustang. He rants a bit about San Francisco’s supposed insistence on eating local and organic, and includes shots of Chez Panisse to illustrate the point. Except that Chez Panisse is in Berkeley, and Berkeley is not San Francisco. He reminds us he is averse to vegans, and makes his first stop Pirate Cat Radio, a cafe with both vegan fare, and a maple bacon latte, which Bourdain deems “delightful…evil and good.”
His next stop is the Tadich Grill, where he meets Oscar Villalon for martinis and some hangtown fry: eggs, bacon and oysters. But let’s be honest here. The Tadich Grill is a really cool, old-school place, but the food is just not very good. Which is probably why they ate eggs and not a fish dish.
After a commercial break, it’s off to Haight Street, and frankly, all the jokes that can be made about Haight Street have already been made. Bourdain meets August Kleinzahler at Aub Zam Zam, where they lament the loss of Bruno. Then they walk down Haight Street and talk about how cool they both are. Eventually they end up at the House of Prime Rib, and I know that place isn’t the fanciest joint in town, but it deserves more than torn jeans and a sweatshirt, ANTHONY. On the menu: prime rib. Duh.
The next segment is a visit to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. And you can see some of that here:
After the farmer’s market, he drives his rented Mustang to Oakland, so he can sample some taco truck fare. Huh? The taco trucks in Oakland are no better than the trucks in S.F., so it seems like a wasted trip to me. There’s got to be a better reason to go to Oakland during a show that’s supposed to be about San Francisco.
Back in the City, he meets Chris Cosentino at Sebo where they eat fish head, sperm sacs, and…sushi. And it all looks very good. Even the sperm sacs. The next day, Oscar is his dining partner again, and they head to That’s It Market, a liquor store in the Mission that also serves huge sandwiches. Bourdain gets a torta that includes…everything. If there was ever a sure fire cure for a hangover, that sandwich looks like it would fit the bill.
A police officer on his night off gives Bourdain a tour of Chinatown in a quest for dungeness crab. They end up at the R & G Lounge for their salt and pepper crab, which appears to be deep fried. That is to say, the crab, shell and all, is deep fried. Which….OK. I’m sure it’s delicious. Just seems like a waste of some good frying batter.
Next up is Noe Valley, and a visit to Chris Cosentino’s Incanto for an offal feast. Oscar is back, along with his wife Mary Ladd, and a few other guests. Once again, Bourdain refers to San Francisco as “two-fisted drinking town,” and with that out of they way, they get down to devouring every part of the animal I have never eaten.
Finally, he ends up at Red’s Java House, and relishes the fact that the beef at Red’s is anything but organic or grassfed; he deems his burger the “antidote to Alice Waters.” *sigh*
His final thoughts on San Francisco are positive. He calls it a great food town, and a great chef town. He appreciates the senses of humor of the locals he poked fun at. And he admits that he “always, always, has a very good time here.” Of course he does. I mean, has he ever ended an episode of this show saying “the place sucked and I never want to go there again as long as a live”?
So, I’ll say of this episode that he didn’t piss me off as much as I feared he might, but he still managed to annoy in his usual too-cool-for-school way. And at least he stayed out of Fisherman’s Wharf. That’s a rant I don’t need to hear from anyone ever again.