If you dine out often in Seattle, you can be no stranger to foodo-modo-mania: Some of our most admired restaurants teeter continually on the brink

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Side Dish

Tru confessions

If you dine out often in Seattle, you can be no stranger to foodo-modo-mania: Some of our most admired restaurants teeter continually on the brink of insufferable pretension, in cuisine, presentation, service—or permutations of all three. But if a recent visit to Chicago is any evidence, I am here to tell you that you ain't seen nothin' yet. Chicago restaurateurs are pioneers in a style of American cuisine comparable to the architectural style of the casinos and hotels of Las Vegas—displaying a vulgarity so heavily gilded that it transcends the very idea of good taste. Charlie Trotter's eponymous Windy City eatery has long set the standard. But Trotter's seems fussy—and dowdy to boot—beside Tru. Tru is the brainchild of a man named Rich Melman, whose 30-odd restaurant empire, Lettuce Entertain You (I'm not making this up), leans in the main to cutesy pop dineries with names like R.J. Grunts and Caf頂a-Ba-Reeba. Tru is essentially the same kind of place, excruciatingly upscale. Imagine a big-white-box interior designed by a pomo Mies van der Rohe, a waitstaff costumed and trained by Zombie king Robert Wilson, and presentation melding the worst aspects of nouvelle cuisine minimalism and shelter-magazine chic. Tru does offer a short list of conventional ᠬa carte items, but its glory is a trio of prix fixe tasting menus priced from $75 to $125. There's nothing special about ingredients or cooking: Courses are dominated by typical high-end delicacies like caviar, lobster, and foie gras. It's the service that sets Tru apart. No dish is served by one attendant if the job can somehow be split among three. Let a mere fork need changing, and a phalanx of black-clad automatons converges on the table. Each mingy little platter of ploops and tweaks and twizzles is introduced with explanatory exordia so elaborate that you feel you've had enough of the dish before the waiter stops talking about it. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Tru, though, is that no matter how overwrought the masquerade becomes, nobody laughs. And that is very bad news for lovers of fine dining. Eating out is companionate sensuous experience in public. When we allow it to degenerate into participatory performance art, when we become mere passive witnesses to the process of our own entertainment, sensuality evaporates. Tru chefs Rick Tramonato and Gale Gand are artists, no question, but at Tru it's only part of the show—a show with more in common with Siegfried & Roy than Escoffier. (For more about Lettuce Entertain You and Tru, check out www.lettuceentertainyou.com/welcome.html.) Victimized by food fashion? Confess to us at food@seattleweekly.com.

 
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