Criticism du Jour

For as long as there have been demanding palates, restaurants have turned as much attention to the presentation of the plate as to the flavors of its food. But recently chefs around the country have gone to new lengths, mixing scientific preparation methods with old-fashioned artistry. Robert Rosenblum, professor of fine arts at New York University and author of numerous books, including On Modern American Art and The Painting of August Strindberg, reviews two particularly ambitious efforts.

FRUIT WITH SPUN SUGAR
Prepared by chef David Myers at Sona in Los Angeles

"Kandinsky himself, liberator of fluid rainbow hues and flying cosmic shapes, might have been jealous of Sona's explosion of fruit salad, a reinvention of a dreary American staple as a flood of molten colors. Trickles of strawberry purée, like impulsive brushstrokes of painting, stream across a downstream rush that strews flowers and herbs in the path of a sumptuous citric storm. Suddenly, color-field abstraction is good enough to eat."

PHEASANT IN TEMPURA
Prepared by chef Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago

"Alinea mixes painting, sculpture, and architecture into an autumnal fantasy of crisp air and game birds hiding in the bushes—a dreamlike Surrealist variation on nature's cycles. Metal towers sprout delicate prongs that impale a morsel of pheasant disguised under tempura batter. This severe geometry is then crowned by windswept bouquets of oak leaves, brushed with the gorgeous and ephemeral hues of summer's death."