Best Big Plates - 2005
L'Atelier chef/owner Radek Cerny is known for a lot of things. He was one of our biggest celebrity chefs in the days before the phrase "celebrity chef" became more of an insult than a tribute. His personal style of cuisine -- the layered sauces, the potato tuilles, the strange juxtapositions of worldly ingredients in predominantly French preparations -- was immediately recognizable to anyone who came within a hundred yards of one of his menus. And when things started going badly for him a couple of years ago, he burned out so brightly that the comet's tail he trailed behind him was unmistakable. But then the man came back last year with L'Atelier and blew everyone out of the water with a board that was like Radek times ten. Every dish, every presentation, is a work of culinary art, and every one arrives on what has now become one of the chef's new trademarks: the huge plate. Single dessert plates can take up half a table; entrees are served in the center of huge white porcelain canvases smeared with infused oils; tartare comes on what looks like a sheet of ice, feet long and inches wide. And while a lot of this is style for style's sake, the food on the plates is as good as it gets.