His goal now is to provide a guide to dining well anywhere, while minimizing risk of the Cowen nightmare, a meal that is an expensive bore. His commandments fall into two categories. The first is variations on a general mantra derived from the law of supply and demand. Eat, he urges, where “the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed.” An ideal restaurant would be a sushi bar near Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, where fresh fish and discerning diners make selling bad sushi unviable as a business. The height of folly, perhaps, would be my own gastroenterologically fateful decision to visit what was then the only sushi restaurant in Villahermosa, Mexico (an unforced error, I must admit).
If one’s goal is to eat well, Mr. Cowen’s rules are golden. Whether they produce a pleasant meal overall is another matter. It helps if you’re Tyler Cowen, or at least share his monomaniacal view that “constructing a better eating experience” means maximizing flavor at the expense of all else. A good atmosphere is not just secondary: It’s a sign that the restaurant cares about something other than what’s on the plate. Mr. Cowen says to beware of scenic views, bevies of beautiful women, and well-stocked bars. “You want to see that the people eating there mean business,” Mr. Cowen writes. Food is a business he knows intimately, although his preference for delicious meals in windowless rooms with ugly women, pictures of the Kaaba, and active blood-feuds will not be a taste shared by all.
“Invisible Hand to Mouth,” by Graeme Wood, The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2012