I'm told, Gentle Reader, that Wolfgang Puck is a chef of some renown in the United States. But so, for that matter, is Colonel Sanders. There are excellent chefs in the USA. There are excellent restaurants as well. There are elements of Californian cuisine, and the passion of its foodies for quality ingredients, that thrill me. I have eaten well in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and many other places.
But in my limited dining experience in that fine country, outside the more famous dining venues, finesse and consistency often run a very sad second to imagination and innovation. Except in New York, which seems strangely blessed with a bevy of fine dining establishments. Perhaps it's some esoteric influence of the Statue of Liberty, holding up her hand lighting the way to epicurean enjoyment. Or perhaps not ...
For most of us, Puck is a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - the "shrewd and knavish sprite" and "merry wanderer of the night", officially Jester to the Fairy King Oberon. Which might explain the fact that most of Wolfgang's food is insubstantial, ephemeral to the point of being tasteless, and presented as if the magic is to be found in the mouth rather than the eyes. But I digress ...
Your Humble Correspondent has now braved four of Mr Puck's venues here in Japan, and two in the United States. All have been unmitigated culinary disasters. My first experience, in SoCal, was after a 22 hour flight from Sydney so I thought my taste buds were jet-lagged. My most recent sortie in Yokohama was only redeemed by a charming gentleman companion, sweet service from the dedicated staff, and a bottomless 7-Up on a warm day.
The salad was salad-y, the bread was doughy, and the olive oil was oily. But these were a tempting fairy illusion, Gentle Readers, compared with the noxious pap that presented as Herb Chicken. One fears Mr Puck is on an economy drive, as the pan was obviously not hot enough to give the chicken any body or toothiness. The skin may have been browned with a blowtorch, but it was not crisped unless one's definition of "crisp" is something south of the wrinkles on the late George Burns' face.
All of which is a great pity, because the location calls for something a little better. Forewarned is forearmed, Gentle Reader, so don't go looking for your Humble Correspondent in one of Mr Puck's establishments. And keep your friends and children away, for fear they'll come to think that this is American or Californian cuisine.
Wolfgang Puck: Various locations with maps on the website, should one be curious enough to want them
Rating: Food: 2/10; 7-Up: 7/10; Service: 6/10; Ambiance: 3/10; Price: 2/10 (it was free, and represented poor value for money). Total: 20/50