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In Praise of Banquets: Why I'd Rather Eat at Tavern Than at Babbo, or Mommy, My Ears Are Bleeding

The other day I had lunch at Tavern, Suzanne Goin and Carolyn Styne's snappy newish eatery in Brentwood . I ate the New Yorker -- brisket, pickled onions and horseradish on a roll. The sandwich was good, but what made me even happier was the banquet on which I was sitting. Because it was a banquet. Made of sound-absorbing leather, to go with sound-absorbing carpet, upholstered chairs, curtains, and high ceilings. I can't remember the last time I was in a new restaurant that took any care for the acoustical comfort of its guests. I blame Mario Batali.

Tavern: the art of noise
Tavern: the art of noise
Photo credit: Tavern

More than any other person, the pony-tailed, croc-wearing, Falstaffian chef said it was OK to blare Guns N' Roses in a room that was all hard surfaces while people spent a C note or more on dinner. There were nay-sayers. In his debut review as the New York Times food critic, Frank Bruni famously docked Batali's Babbo one star, specifically for loudness. But the food was so good and the scene so lively that people kept coming. It wasn't long before other restaurateurs noticed they did not have to spend the sometime significant investment on sound absorption. In fact, if they did, their establishments might come off as stodgy and old fashioned.

And there was even greater financial incentive for the long era of hellishly loud dining: as everyone knows, booming rooms cause customers to drink more and leave sooner. If restaurateurs could broadcast the sound of babies crying, some might: research has shown that nothing makes humans imbibe more than the sound of a wailing infant.

So, hats and earplugs off to Goin and Styne and their designer Jeffrey Alan Marks, and may this be the start of the next restaurant craze - a return to quietness.

Tavern: 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 806-6464.


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