No matter which topic I explore in my "Reviewing the Review" post, the column always ends with the same exhortation: Go check out Joshua Huston's photographs accompanying the review.
But, this week, there isn't a Food Porn slideshow to which I can direct you. That's because Bisato's chef, Scott Carsberg, refused to allow Huston to take any food pictures during his prearranged visit to the restaurant, saying Huston had violated their agreement by failing to provide an advance list of dishes he wanted to photograph.
As a newcomer to Seattle, I don't know much about Carsberg, but got the sense during my meals that his personality loomed over the dining room. And when Huston showed up at the restaurant last Sunday, he ran smack into the vortex of it.
Huston tells me he was looking forward to the shoot, which he'd scheduled without incident the previous Wednesday. Carsberg was inquisitive about the review, but no more so than most concerned restaurant owners, Huston reports. Although his co-workers had warned him to brace for a mercurial temperament, Huston was pleased with the initial phone chat.
"He even told me on the phone that I could eat the food afterward, and I thanked him ahead of time for the thought," Huston writes. "I was very excited to photograph him because of all of the stuff he's accomplished."
Before hanging up, Huston promised to send Carsberg a list of the dishes he wanted to photograph. Huston concedes he forgot to do so, rationalizing the kitchen would be equipped to prepare anything on the menu.
"I required an e-mail from him," Carsberg says, adding that national media outlets typically give him at least two weeks forewarning before a photo session.
The shoot was set for 3 p.m., but Huston arrived seven minutes late. "I forgot my insulin, and felt I (might) need it for the pasta I was to endure," he explains. For Carsberg, the tardiness was a deal-breaker.
"If he would have just been kind enough to e-mail me the information," Carsberg says, he could have accommodated Huston. But with just over an hour left until service started, he didn't have the resources available to make the dishes Huston requested.
According to Huston, Carsberg dug in after being presented with the list of dishes mentioned in the review. "What'd she do, just look at stuff on the website and write about it?," he asked Huston. Carsberg maintained it was "pointless" to manufacture new images of dishes featured on his website, and suggested Huston contact his photographer for archived shots. (When I spoke to Carsberg yesterday, he continued to express surprise that the Weekly wouldn't run photographs provided by the restaurant under review.)
Since Huston didn't press the issue, the two fell into a "good conversation" that helped clarify Carsberg's perspective.
"I found that he was worried about me photographing his food because he had never seen my work and didn't want his food to look bad," Huston says. "Scott has a very up-front attitude in a very passive aggressive city. Deep down, I really think Scott is probably a very nice person who's very intense in every aspect of his craft."
So, no pictures for you. But you'll find my review of Carsberg's craft - and the restaurant he's developed to showcase it - here.