Jungle Bird, NYC

Jungle Bird, NYC, web site, 174 8th Avenue, New York, NY, 646-868-8422 [Google | Ylp]

That is my brother’s new restaurant in Chelsea, southeast Asian food, it has made the Approval Matrix and after three weeks is already a big hit. Billed as a cocktail bar, but the food is truly excellent, and this is not just familial favoritism. Get the dumplings, the turmeric chicken salad (actually a perfectly musty, stinky Malaysian dish — a highlight), and the betel leaves when they have them. Jungle Bird serves some of the best southeast Asian food in Manhattan, and yet the chef grew up in New Jersey, fancy that.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot

Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot, web site, 2972 Gallows Road, Merrifield, VA, 703-560-6868 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | TripAdvisor | Tyson’s Reporter | Ylp]

This is not your Uncle’s Uncle Liu’s! New ownership, mostly a new menu, invigorated once again. They still do have hot pot, but the charms here are the mixed dishes from the Uighurs and central coastal China, the menu is a real hodge podge. The Sichuan stuff is pretty good, but not the magic here. Get the Chinese menu and look for the lead page listing the four special dishes, many with noodles, the Xinjiang lamb with thick noodle dish being my favorite. This is a hard restaurant to summarize, it is somewhat uneven and I suspect the menu has hidden treasures I have yet to discover. At the very least, it is real Chinese food and definitely worth the visit.

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What is the optimal tax rate on restaurants?

bhauth asks me:

What do you think the optimal tax rate on restaurants would be? The current rates seem high to me:

1) The marginal substitution rate between restaurants and cooking at home is high.

2) Cooking at home uses untaxed labor. Cooking in restaurants uses taxed labor, and then customers pay sales taxes on that taxed labor. Those sales taxes are often *higher* than normal sales taxes, because food from restaurants is a “luxury good”.

Putting aside general fiscal considerations (e.g., to which other taxes are we comparing it?), I see a few main questions here:

a. Yes, eating in restaurants contributes to weight gain, but how much is that a self-control problem vs. an internalized decision of cost vs. benefit?

b. How much do cheap restaurants encourage families to have more children, a social positive in my view?

c. How much do cheap restaurants take away the bonding that arises from the family dinner table experience? And how often is that bonding a net negative with lots of fights and screaming?

d. Will taxing restaurant meals — as opposed to specific taxes on meat — on net lower beef-eating and carbon/methane problems?

e. Do restaurant food suppliers treat farm animals better or worse than do suppliers of home-cooked meals?

I say a-e are mostly hard to measure, so this gives us a common problem in economics: you have one clear, and significant, effect, and a bunch of hard to measure effects which are hard to assign a net value to. Should you be willing to recommend policy on the basis of the one effect you can clearly see, and then widen the confidence bands? Or should you just keep your mouth shut altogether?

What if your audience finds a blog post like this one too complicated or too annoying?

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Inegalitarian restaurants


Or maybe you’re a senior staffer for Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican in the House. The aide usually pings his usual server for one of his usual perches: table 10 in the main dining room. It’s the corner booth with a privacy curtain—the “rock-star table,” ever since Bono sat there. Only tonight he’d prefer a booth in the bar area. Trouble is it’s packed.

Not to worry. “A maître d’ always has a table in his back pocket,” [Michael] Arnaud says. He adds the Hill staffer to the reservation system, and a bar booth with a reserved placard is his.

For these diners and the other VIPs on the books this evening—a congressman from Kentucky, a former media exec, a concierge from the W Hotel, a smattering of cherished regulars—the restaurant is extra-accommodating. Its maître d’s spot their special customers instantly, greet them by name, and immediately whisk them to their tables. Good cop, good cop…

First, the hierarchy. Because this is Washington, many restaurants naturally have a pecking order for their top clientele. All VIPs of Le Diplomate, the French brasserie in Logan Circle, are dubbed “PPX”—personnes particulièrement extraordinaires—and tracked in real time on a kitchen whiteboard as they dine. But some, such as a neighborhood regular, are classified as “TTA,” for Try to Accommodate. Others are “MA,” for Must Accommodate, including Jill Biden; Gérard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador; and Jim Abdo, the developer who basically rebuilt 14th Street. An MA commands a table, stat.

At Rare Steakhouse in downtown DC, former managing director Justin Abad categorized semiregular VIPs as “soigné,” French for “handled with care,” and those who came in three to five times a week or held multiple functions at the restaurant throughout the year as “super soigné.” The lower tier would often be treated to a complimentary Prosecco, while those handled with extra care—select media figures and lawyers, for instance—might be given a free shellfish platter on occasion.

Here is much more by Jessica Sidman. Have you ever wondered why at some places, and no I do not mean the old El Bulli, it is so hard to get a table at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night no matter when you try asking? Those tables are being rationed by status, or if you are a very regular (and lucrative) customer of some kind.

And yet almost everyone still seems to think that restaurants are super-cool, correctly or not.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Do minimum wage hikes get rid of bad restaurants?

We study the impact of the minimum wage on firm exit in the restaurant industry, exploiting recent changes in the minimum wage at the city level. We find that the impact of the minimum wage depends on whether a restaurant was already close to the margin of exit. Restaurants with lower ratings are closer to the margin of exit on average, and are disproportionately driven out of business by increases to the minimum wage. Our point estimates suggest that a one dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is the median rating on Yelp), but has no discernible impact for a 5-star restaurant (on a 1 to 5 star scale). We expand the analysis to look at prices using data from delivery orders, and find that lower rated restaurants also increase prices in response to minimum wage increases. Our analysis also highlights how digital data can be used to shed new light on labor policy and the economy.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Dara Lee Luca and Michael Luca. Obviously this will not be good for jobs, yet part of me believes that creative destruction in the restaurant sector is undersupplied…

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

 


A Price Is a Signal Wrapped Up in an Incentive

 

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Don Pollo

Don Pollo, web site, 146 Maple Ave., Vienna, VA, 571-529-6537, branches also in Potomac, Germantown, Rockville, and other locales. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

One of the very best Peruvian restaurants around, though it masquerades as mainly a chicken place. The rice dishes here are the real winner, for instance the chaufa is the best in the region. One of the two or three best lomo saltados around. The ceviche is good, but avoid the “spicy sauce,” it is much better plain. Great location, never too crowded, so definitely recommended and while it feels a bit corporate it still has a casual vibe.

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Choong Man Chicken

Choong Man Chicken, web site, 9528 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA, 703-772-0072 – also in Centreville and Annandale (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

An order of magnitude better than all the other Korean fried chicken places around. This is actually artisanal food and an order takes a full twenty minutes, as it should. The sauce is unique, rather than corporate, and it even has smoky tinges. Reminds me of the little, family-run places in Seoul. Definitely recommended, and don’t go too late because at some point the parking lot becomes dysfunctional (because of the laundromat, not because of the restaurant).

 


Choong Man (Korean Fried) Chicken

 

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Timber Pizza Co.

Timber Pizza Co., web site, 809 Upshur St. NW, Washington, DC, closed weekday lunch, opens at 5, but open 8-1 for breakfast on weekends, no reservations. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | WaPo | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | Michelin | City Paper | Ylp]

Mostly Neapolitan in approach, they also serve empanadas. I’ve had luck being served there during peak hours, though usually there is a modest wait to get your order in and crowded communal tables await you. Nonetheless one of the best pizzas around and a visit will not be regretted.

 

Timber Pizza // Washington, D.C.

 

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Mama Chang

Mama Chang, web site, 3251 Old Lee Hwy, Fairfax, VA, 703-268-5556. So far they are open for lunch only Friday through Sunday, and reservations for large parties only. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | TripAdvisor | Ylp]

Henan food, with some Sichuan touches, might this be the best Peter Chang restaurant ever? So far I’ve tried only about ten of the dishes. I recommend the fried chicken with red peppers, dried fried cauliflower, tofu with bean sprouts small dish, and the beef jerky with cilantro. I’m not saying those are the best, simply the best I’ve had so far, and at some point I may do a longer review. But those four dishes, taken alone, are right now the best meal in this whole area, at any price. Go!

 


Peacock carved from pumpkin by Peter Chang

 

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Ghent travel notes

Ghent is one of the loveliest small- to mid-sized cities in Europe, perhaps lucky to have never received UNESCO World Heritage status, unlike Bruges. Ghent was one of the earliest seats of the continental Industrial Revolution, through textiles, and the city core has splendid architecture from late medieval times up through the early 20th century. It is what Amsterdam should be, but no longer is.

The center is full of interesting, quirky small shops, along the lines of the cliche you do not expect to actually find. Only rarely are restaurant menus offered in English. Most of the tourists in the hotel seemed to be Chinese.

Walk around, don’t miss Graffiti Street, and the Ensors and the Roualt in the Fine Arts museum complement the more famous items there. The Industrie Museum has numerous textile machines from the 18th century onwards; I found it striking how different the 1770 machine was from the 1730 vintage, but how little by 1950 the machines had advanced .

For dining I recommend the Surinamese restaurant Faja Lobi and the Syrian Layali Habab, the mainstream Belgian places seem to be good but no better than good unless you pay a lot of money.

Most of all, you should walk around and ponder why we seem unable (or is it unwilling?) to build such compelling cities these days.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

 


Going Back To Medieval Times in Ghent, Belgium

 

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