What I'm buying from a restaurant is an experience I can't, or won't, have at home, whether out of sheer inertia, lack of time, or economies of scale. I don't want fancy ingredients — those are easy enough to buy. What I want is expertise and patience. Perfect example: the amazing "house salad" at International Market.
Lauded by Carrington in a review last autumn, this salad was previously on the menu at International House, the mid-1990s Myint-owned restaurant where PM is now. Then, it was a more modest array of ingredients — maybe 12 — in a multi-compartment tray like a big bento box. Pile your choice of ingredients into a lettuce leaf and crunch away for an intense flavor experience that must be experienced to be believed.
Now it's grown to an array of 30 bowls containing labor-intensive items like shredded spiced chicken, limes cut into teensy bits, supremes of grapefruit and fried peanuts, slivered lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf, which must be sliced superfine because it's too leathery to chew.
The price tag, $30 per person, is a little sticker-shocky, but this salad is one dish where you can actually see and taste what you're paying for, and that's a bill I'm willing to foot.