I want a restaurant to devastate me

Mimetic Chestnuts, el Bulli, via the Ulterior Epicure

I'm totally bored with restaurants. By the time you get to the place, forget about foreplay, you've already seen it naked – in reviews, on Yelp, from your 3pm-slump talk with your co-workers. Restaurant spoilers are everywhere.

But judging from two articles in New York and the New York Times last week, the food world's avant-garde is forging a future in which food is just the starting point of a unique and -- dare I say -- transformational experience.

Supper clubs like Studio Feast, Apt 4, and a razor, a shiny knife are really social experiments disguised as dinner parties. When I attended the Studio Feast and Noble Rot Valentine's Day feast, I left full with food, yes, but more so the satisfying heft of pushing myself to go to a new, perhaps even uncomfortable adventure. Supper clubs, despite their "underground" allure, are actually quite elemental -- food, wine, situation turn into intimacy, friendship, a next-day email scheduling a new adventure. Organic, unprocessed. 

Or take Grant Achatz's new project, NEXT, which will revolve around hazy ideas like "Kyoto in springtime; Palermo in 1949." What about deja vu, or your first kiss, or an embarassing mistake you just can't shake -- can you make a dinner out of that?

Today's restaurants seduce by product (farm-to-table, dry-aged beef), or perhaps process (molecular, pop-up). Even writing those words sounds robotic. Restaurants put knives on their ceilings and simulate times and attitudes, dioramas of novelty. But what do they ask of our minds?

I've read that el Bulli's 42-course (42!) menu is an insane web of experience, a grueling, transformative hike towards an incredible summit. Outstanding in the Field asks you to confront what you're eating by literally inviting all the winemakers, pig-raisers, beekeepers and other producers to the table. Perhaps you remember a dinner of insufferably hot Szechuan peppercorns. Or a drunken stranger who barrels through the door. Or going into a restaurant and leaving engaged, newly single, somehow emotionally different.

So, internet removes mystery. But hopefully tomorrow's restaurants will deliver it back. Today's restaurants coddle. Tomorrow's restaurants will push. Today's restaurants are mere illustrations of foods, technique and themes. Tomorrow, perhaps they will be art.