Cooking Channel Shows: Unique Eats

I’m still working my way through these shows still with an overloaded DVR. A slight diversion this week to write about LOGO’s unconscionable Buffy List. My other problem is my very strict policy of giving a show a second episode if I didn’t like it.

Unique Eats, so far, is a miss. The Info text from RCN suggests the show will be about the Minetta Tavern. OK, so it’s going to be a half-hour on the “unequaled butter burger” that the restaurant’s chefs have “created.” What the show turned out to be was a slightly jazzed up version of Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Actually, the show was divided in to three segments, each examining a different New York City restaurant that feature a “unique” type of eating. The first segment featured Plataforma Churrascaria. This is a Brazilian Grille in Midtown which, I believe, has been featured on the Travel Channel once or twice. Plataforma’s gimmick is a $50, all-you-can-eat meat restaurant. They place a disk on the table. When the green side is up, the servers bring a parade of sword-mounted meat. When the red side is up, the servers pass the table. Of the three places featured, Plataforma is, in fact, all it’s cracked up to be. The food is delicious and the value of the meal is really what the customer makes it.

The second two restaurants… not so much. DBGB is an expensive French restaurant hidden inside a sausage and beer eatery. According to the chef, he wanted to create “affordable, approachable sausage dishes for everyone.” This is one of a million gimmicky Manhattan restaurants promising to “take old favorites and convert them to something new.” Most of these, though, fail for the specific reason that a $25 version of an old, approachable favorite usually isn’t that much better than the old favorite itself and the $12 bottle of Innis & Gunn beer is exactly the same if it costs $4. I’ve never sampled the sausages at DBGB’s, but I’d be willing to bet that the homemade sausage made by your favorite German or Italian restaurant probably rivals the fancied up varieties. Personally, I’m looking at Heidlberg. I imagine that DBGB’s are versions of these same dishes with more butter.

Before getting to the Minetta Tavern, DBGB has a chance to sell us on their expensive burgers. Then, the chefs and commentators try to sell us on Minetta’s $26 burger. The secret to their burger? A proprietary mix of meat, salt, pepper, and constant basting in butter. This helps prove, once again, that 95% of chef’s proprietary secrets are fat, butter, and salt. Minetta’s burger isn’t really that unique. It’s a steak-burger, drown in butter, topped with caramelized onions on a toasted bun. Not to say it isn’t delicious, but the business model of these restaurants is to have an obscenely overpriced dish so it becomes an event to eat it and talk about it. I’m sure Minetta’s burger is really tasty. I’m also sure it’s not $21 more tasty than a Shake Shack burger. If it is, it can probably also cure cancer.

This show is just a slight take on Best Thing I Ever Ate with, basically, a panel of Iron Chef America judges like Karine Bakouhm and Amanda Freitag commenting on the same place I Love The 80s style. If Best Thing is a vehicle by which the stars can plug their favorite/friend’s places, this is a vehicle by which Cooking Channel can do the same. Not impressed, really.