Published in:city guide,Rants y Raves,restaurants
There is something to be said about a truly disastrous meal, a meal forever etched in your memory because it is so bad it can only be considered aconquest. The kind of meal where everyone involved was definitelydifficultDo something; it is not entirely clear what.
I don't mean undercooked food or a waiter who might be plotting your murder: that kind of thing happens in the fat mass of the evil bell curve. Rather, I'm talking about the long tail stuff, the kind of food that makes you feel like the fabric of reality is unraveling. The ones that make you reevaluate the fundamentals of capitalism and whether or not you're living in a simulation where someone failed to program this particular restaurant correctly. The ones where you know someone will lift a metal dome off a tray and reveal a single blue or red pill.
I'm talking aboutThosefoods.
At some point, the only way to consider this kind of experience - without being scared - is as a kind of community improv theater. You sit in the audience, yelling suggestions like "A restaurant!" and “Eating something that looks like food” and “The exchange of money for goods, in which case the goods area damn meal!”All these suggestions are completely ignored.
This is how I have come to regard our dinner at Bros, Lecce's only Michelin-starred restaurant, as a means of preserving what remains of my sanity. It wasn't dinner. It was just a theatrical dinner.
No, scratch. Because dinner was not involved. I mean, the dinner played a part, in the same way that Godot played a part in Beckett's play of the same name. The whole night was about that, and guess what? NEVER SHOW.
Rand holding one of the plates, a paper-thin fish cracker, in its entirety.
So no, we can't call it a dinner theater. Instead, we'll say it was just theater.
Theater very, very expensive.
I realize that not everyone is willing or able to afford a ticket towaiting for the cakeand that is why this post exists, to save you our torment. We have had many beautiful meals in Lecce that this was not, and if you want a delicious meal I will compile a list shortly.
But for now, let's review what the heck that was.
We headed to the restaurant with high hopes: eight of us in all, herded into a one-room cement cell, Drake pumping through invisible speakers. It was sweltering hot and there were no other customers present. The decor had the refinement of an underground bunker where one would expect to be questioned in the disappearance of an ambassador's son.
Earlier that day, we saw a statue of a bear, carved out of marble centuries ago by someone who had never seen a bear before. This is the result:
And this is a perfect allegory for our night. It's like someone has read about food and restaurants but never tried any of them, and this is an attempt to recreate them.
What followed was a 27-course meal (note that "course" and "food" and "27" are used loosely here) that lasted 4.5 hours and left me feeling like a character in a Dickensian romance. . Because, I can't stress this enough, nothing even close to real food was served. Some "courses" were edible paper chips. Some drinks were glasses of vinegar. Everything tasted like fish, even the non-fish dishes. And almost everything, including this pasta, which was by far the most substantial dish we had, was served cold.
I added the bread plate for scale. This was the largest dish of the 27 (we got six noodles and a piece of bread each).
Putting together two dozen of them equals one meal, just as putting together two dozen babies equals one middle-aged adult.
A course for *two* people at Bros.
I checked Trip Advisor. Others who have dined at Brosfood was served. Some of them had meat, ravioli and more than one slice of bread. Some were served things that had to be eaten with forks and spoons.
We have a spoonful of crab.
This was a main dish. It is about a tablespoon of food.
I tried to make a hypothesis of what happened. Maybe the team ran out of food that night. Maybe they mistook our table for the ex-lover's. Maybe they were drunk. But we got twelve kinds of foam, something I can only describe as "an oyster bun that tastes like the Newark airport," and a scoop of savory olive-flavored ice cream.
A portion of oyster bread with foam. David's face here says more than I could possibly say.
Teaspoon of olive ice cream.
I'm still not over it, to be honest. I thought it was going to be pistachio.
There's no menu at Bros. Just a blank newspaper with a QR code linked to a video of one of the chefs, presumably against a black background, talking directly into the camera about things that have nothing to do with food. He would occasionally use the proper name of the restaurant as an adverb, much like a Smurf would. That means you can't order anything beyond the tasting menu, but also that you're at the mercy of the waiters to explain what the hell is going on.
The servers won't explain to you what the heck is going on.
Rand tries to figure out how much of this dish is edible.
He can not.
They won't do it in Italian. They won't do it in English. They're not going to play Pictionary with you on a blank piece of paper as a means of communicating what you're eating. On the rare occasions that they offered an explanation of a dish, it was to no avail.
“These are made with rancid ricotta,” the waiter said, a small ball of fried cheese in front of each of us.
“I… sorry, did you say stale? You mean... fermented? aged?
"Okay," I said in Italian. “But I think something may be lost in translation. Because it can not be-"
“Stale,” he clarified.
Another dish, a citrus foam, was served in a plaster cast of the chef's mouth. Missing utensils, we were told to lick the chef's mouth in a scene I'm sure was stolen from an Eastern European horror movie.
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Now, at this point, he may have started to quietly scare me. A pecking order was being established, and when it's you desperately sucking sustenance from the plaster cast of someone else's mouth, it's safe to say you're at the bottom of that pyramid. We were beaten into some kind of weird psychological submission. As theStanford Prison Experimentbut with less prison and more jelly. This is the only reason I have for not going out during any of these incidents:
- When a member of our party got up during the long break between courses to have a cigarette outside and was scolded for sitting down.
- When a member of our party was served nothing for three consecutive courses because they didn't know how to accommodate their food allergies.
- When they gave Rand food, he was allergic, repeatedly, because they didn't care enough to accommodate his.
- When a server scolded me foreating. These reconstituted orange slices (one per person) were one dish. I asked if I could have the real orange that had been served along with it (we all had one and I was very hungry at this point). "Yes," the server said, irritated. "But you really shouldn't." He gave me two segments and then took the fruit from me.
No, we just sat there while the food was doled out a teaspoon at a time, a kind of lingering, continuous agony, like slowly pulling off a Band-Aid. That's the problem with a tasting menu. With so many courses, you just assume that things are going to change. Each dish is an opportunity for redemption. Maybe this meal was like Nic Cage's run - you have to wait a long time for the good stuff, but there isEsgood thing.
BUT NOT. We kept waiting for someone to bring us something, anything! – which felt like dinner. Until the exact moment we realized: it would never come. That's when our friend Lisa tried to order another bottle of wine.
“Do you want red or white?” the server asked.
"What are we going to have for main?" she asked.
His face paled.
“The… main one, ma'am? Um... we're about to move on to dessert.
We sat for a moment, letting the truth sink in. Because hours have passed and at no time have we been served anything that could be considered dinner. (There was a moment when I thought this might happen: the staff set the plates in front of us and then waved the sauces on the plates, and I clapped my hands, eagerly waiting for them to put something on top of those beautiful sauces. Someone came over instead.with a dropper andjelly drops on our plates).
The beef drop course.
“We infuse these droplets with meat molecules,” the waiter explained and left.
I don't know if our experience was the norm. I looked at the TripAdvisor photo for Bros, and other people who went there looked like they were fed real food. Like, even this person, who was served the same plate of strange meat, at leastI got it with a foamy bread triangle. Do you know what it's like to envy someone a piece of foamy bread? NOT GOOD.
"Isn't there... older?" Lisa told us in disbelief after the server backed off.
"Hey," I said, my hand resting on his arm. She was shaking slightly due to her low blood sugar. "All good."
"They didn't feed us," he said, his eyes wide.
“I know, I know,” I said, “but look. We are in this wonderful country. And I don't know about you, but nothing will stop me from enjoying tonight.
"Because I'm surrounded by my favorite people," I said, shaking Lisa's hand for emphasis, "and I'm at my favorite restaurant."
Lisa started to laugh. No more food was coming, but there was something liberating about it. Because this meal was never about us to begin with. It certainly wasn't about the food. And there's something glorious about finally letting go.
We sat down to eat a few more dishes, including a cuttlefish flavored marshmallow and a dish called "frosted air" that would literally melt before you could eat it, which seemed like a damn metaphor for the night.
And then someone walked in and demanded that we get up and leave the restaurant. Thinking they were kicking us out, we happily followed. Instead, we were led across the street, through a darkened door, and into the Bros' lab. A video of shirtless kitchen staff engaging in extreme sports played on a large-screen TV as a chef cut slices. comically small pieces of fake cheese.
Rand was, of course, allergic to it.
The bill arrived. The food cost more than anything else we ate during our trip by a magnitude of three. They gave us balloons with the name of the restaurant and the chef came out and insisted on posing with us for a Polaroid that we had not ordered. We were finally released in the evening after all the other restaurants closed, making sure no food was consumed that night.
“That was abominable,” we all agreed as we tossed the balloons into a bin (I had everyone grab one, with the bewildering logic that they would somehow help offset the cost of the food). We howled at how ridiculous it was and how Rand was poisoned. Like maybe we were supposed to know that a restaurant called "Bros" would be a disaster.
It was like some horrible concert that we had front row tickets to. But wasn't there something glorious about sharing that together, the way an ordeal brings you all closer together?
“No,” someone said, and we laughed even harder.
PS The next day one of the staff tried to contact the only single woman in our group via Instagram messages. "Hey, I served you last night!" he wrote. He immediately blocked it.
siblings, Via degli Acaya, 2, 73100 Lecce LE, Italy
Cost: an unbearable 130-200 euros per person
Note: Tripadvisor reviews show many elaborate dishes, and all of them were much, much more food than anything we ate. I cannot tell you how little we were fed and I am not a big eater. Allergies and dietary restrictions were largely ignored.
Recommendation: Do not eat here. I cannot express this enough. This was hands down one of the worst wastes of money in my entire career as a food and travel writer bwah ha ha ha ha ha oh my gosh
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