Shazz was a weird one to review. While I was both flummoxed and annoyed by the goofy, jazzy, half-Zen philosophy espoused by the restaurant's website, some servers and owner Benny Kaplan, I absolutely loved the food. Which got me thinking... what other restaurants have what should have been a crippling concept or gestalt, but manage to survive simply because the food was so good? Here's my list:
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1. Beatrice & Woodsley, 38 South Broadway. B&W is the king of the weird concept/fantabulous food gang. Handsome lumberjacks? Winemaker's daughters? French/Californian/Coloradan cuisine of the early 1900s? This place has it all--including a design to match. And the amazing thing, it all works.
2. Root Down, 1600 West 33rd Avenue. With connections running from sustainable farming and the contradictions of modern culinary sophistication to the influences of 1960s jazz musicians and improvisational music, Root Down lays it on thick. But then, someone must be digging the juxtaposition because it seems like the place is almost always full.
3. The Kitchen, 1039 Pearl Street. We're so cool about our wind power and all-natural produce and local sourcing that we don't have to make a big deal out of it. Except on our menu, of course... And our website... And on the chalkboards in the dining room... And every time we open our mouths... Look, I love the planet just as much as the next guy, but I don't need to hear it preached about over breakfast. And if not for the fact that the breakfasts at The Kitchen are so good, I'd never have to hear it from them again.
4. Izakaya Den, 1518 South Pearl Street. I know! Let's start a Japanese restaurant that serves Italian food. I can't imagine the pitch for Izakaya Den having gone much differently than that, but what kills me is that Japanese and Italian (and French and Spanish and American) actually work together pretty well, making for a menu that is both indescribable to people who haven't been there for themselves, and almost indescribably delicious.