It´s true. Some restaurants just become unpalatable. Then they close. They lose there luster. The Capellini Pomadoro is served once too often tasting like a bowl of mush dowsed with canned pasta sauce. Resembling Franco-American is a very bad pit to fall in at fourteen bucks a pop.
With every closing there is a rebirth. The reincarnation of the culinary ritual dressed in different banquettes, boasting different place wares, traveling down paths more pleasing than the ones previously publicizing polenta, is part of the cycle of restaurant life. It is the foundation of the industry. If everyone excelled at the business, the excitement would be over. For the coming and goings of restaurants has become a national past time for those who deliberately dine out to watch the line up change. And, as more people use their kitchens for either culinary career launch pads or little more than toasting designer breads, good restaurants will become great and bad ones will close. The choice on whether a restaurant will succeed or fail, although eventually made by the public, is up to the owner and how the operation is run.
Cindy Pawlcyn, whose mark was planted in Napa Valley with the creation of Mustard´s Grill in 1983, has added another hot spot to her culinary collection. Last Friday, Pawlcyn opened the doors of Go Fish. The space which played host to Pinot Blanc has been refashioned into an authentic West Coat fish house. From reports, and a glance at Open Table, the eatery has sustained rocket ship opening successes.
Tonight I excitedly venture north to Go Fish. To view Pawlcyn and partners Sean Knight and Ken Tominaga of Hana Japanese fame in Rohnert Park, California work their magic with less than a week under their knives is almost better than seeing Sinatra, Martin and Davis at Radio City. That gig was easy for the trio- a few pops before hand- a bit of banter- and a dab of Nelson Riddle and Viola. Next thing I know I am "21" enjoying Stoli Martins next to Sinatra and a very seductive blonde.
But tonight, the act is fresh and unobstructed. Although for the Go Fish crew, the obstacles are unknown. Nothing is more enjoyable, and educational, than going to a new restaurant when they first open. The trend was once to stay away until the bugs were worked out. Now, the in-crowd and the first-to-be-there set must be there before all others. Discussed by some as a depressing moment-not being tableside at the newest restaurant before the owner arrives on that first night- today the crowd is an integral element of the opening process. While everyone is a critic and food expert there is little time for mistakes when opening. Plus, because of Pawlcyn´s reputation, and the buzz the space has attracted, a soft opening as we sometimes know it is frequently an impossibility placing added stress on staff. On top of this, Go Fish sits on Highway 29 in clear view of every person who eats in the north valley.
Now don´t think that my enthusiasm for viewing the show is masochistic. It isn´t. I turn tableside to watch how it all comes together. How do they correct their missteps if they occur? What do they do when they are slammed? In this business you learn from those who have ventured before.
It´s educational. Watching artists at work- whether the painter in the studio, the rockstar on stage, or the manager of a bistro directing staff as though Fidler at the Pops, observing other restaurateurs and extracting tips on perfection is pleasurable.
The experience helps in working the bugs out. If opening a restaurant is tough, figuring out when to fine tune it, when to reanalyze the concept, and when to tweak or completely change the menu is often more difficult. That´s why it pays to go to a restaurant that is recently opened and in the process of closing in on perfection. It clears your vision, refreshes your memory, and transports you to places that you may not have visited in a while. It is certainly worth the trip.