The rice itself is quite expensive and like many of the other ingredients is not easily sourced. The amount of labor involved is obvious to me from the photos. I suspect her portion sizes are based on her notion of a healthy serving. $12-15 is moderate for that kind of cooking.
Creating Genuine, Unique Flavors with a Humble Canvas - The Delicious, Interesting Porridges and More at Porridge and Puffs [Thoughts + Pics]
Fair enough Robert!
I guess we will simply have to order two of everything.
It’s actually not as miniscule a portion as the pictures may suggest. The “toppings,” for lack of a better word, are pretty rich so I left feeling very satisfied even with just an order of porridge and a shared mochi. I’m not a dainty eater either. I ordered the chicken porridge so ymmv if you order a vegetable one without so much protein.
As to the value, I thought the price was very fair because it was obvious to me that this was high end cooking and plating in low-rent surroundings. There were so many components to the dishes–the protein, the pickles, the other pickled stuff, the garnish–that I totally understand why it would be $15. Heck, the arroz caldo at Sari Sari store is in that price range without the same level of OCD tweezer-ness.
*This is not to disparage OCD tweezer-ness or Sari Sari. Both are great. But you have to admit the tweezers require a lot more work.
It’s a fair question and I think @robert and @Haeldaur and others answered it pretty well. I would agree with them: That sure, while ostensibly just some “chives, celery, other veggies” might seem to be “cheap” ingredients and perhaps her base cost of ingredients might not be the ~$9 - $15 range, there’s labor involved.
What’s the cost and time for Chef Minh to ferment and pickle various ingredients? What’s the R&D cost for her to have experimented and tried out so many flavor combinations to be able to come up with a final product that we see before us? I don’t think anyone can just come up with and instantly nail a flavor combination of creating a Black Eyed Pea Miso, then grilling it (to deduce the flavors would be even better) and combine it with the right type of Nectarines and Ginger and various aromatics. And then match it with Fennel with Black Bean Sauce. And match it with Rose-Geranium Onions and Celery Pickles and have that all match with a Numbing Spice Braised Pork she developed a recipe for and it all pairs with a Negi version of her Rice Porridge (as opposed to the 3 - 4 other types of Porridge I’ve seen from her).
It’s mind-boggling how much time she must’ve spent coming up with these flavors that match (and aren’t just thrown on a plate together for the hell of it).
She’s also not doing a high volume type of establishment, so any notion of a “high volume, low profit” model goes out the door. Some people complain that Howlin’ Ray’s is too expensive (which is crazy considering you can get Half a Chicken (4 Pieces) of super high quality Fried Chicken for ~$16 - 17 IIRC. They point to the fact you can get 8 pieces of Fried Chicken from Ralph’s Supermarket for half that price. But your mileage may vary.
It’s like @hppzz brought up in the Ngu Binh thread. For some reason it’s NOT OK for great Vietnamese food to be priced more than bottom of the barrel prices. Their Bun Bo Hue is one of the greatest bites of food I’ve had in YEARS, but they charge only $8.75, because as @hppzz @Ns1 and others have pointed out, the Vietnamese old school population (and even young kids) would revolt if they “dared” to charge anything more.
How many bowls of Bun Bo Hue do they have to sell at $8.75 to make rent? To make a decent profit for comfortable living?
Yet, as a society, we’re perfectly OK to pay ~$115.00 for mediocre Hainan Chicken Rice when you slap the name of “Chef David Chang” / Majordomo on top of it?
Or pay nearly $35 for a sparse Pizza when it has “chef ingredients” on top of it (Clams)? Or $20+ for a bowl of Ramen when it has a big Japanese name attached to it?
This isn’t directed at you, just noting that I can see how in Porridge and Puffs’ case, it’s a “low volume, decent profit” business model. She’s not going to be turning hundreds of covers / orders for Porridge each day. If she was at the volume of say, a Sam Woo BBQ, or Ngu Binh, the price might be lowered due to volume. But that’s not the case.
I actually know people who think Golden State and Father’s Office are “way overpriced” for their Burgers at the ~$13 - $15 range, because they can go to In-n-Out and get a Burger there for $3.65. Is it overpriced?
I know people who freak out when I tell them that Shunji’s Omakase can run ~$150 - $175 depending on how much you eat. They eat at local Sushi places around them and are perfectly happy paying $40 - 60 and feel anything more is “overpriced.”
Ultimately, it’s up to each of us individually to see what the “value” and “worth” is for each dish we eat. Porridge & Puffs might not be worth it for you, and that’s OK. Thanks.
I couldn’t get a particularly strong sense of absolute size, but I didn’t get the impression that the porridge portion was super small from the pics.
Even if the quality of ingredients and such may not be expensive, I think porridge is inherently pretty filling, and I also think that a place like this might be really pleasing to someone like me who’d like to experience high-end plating (but is too cheap to pay the high-end price to go w/ it). I can’t begrudge her charging whatever, if she making delicious dishes (which it sounds like she is).
The place looks super fun (and how often do we say that about an eatey?). I just need to convince dining partner to head east one day!
No one is ok with this
Thanks for your take! My concern wasn’t so much the price but for the seemingly minuscule portions in the pictures as well as complaints from many Yelp reviews (even from many that gave them 4 or 5 stars). But @ChineseChou has cleared it up.
Ergo, bookmarked for this weekend!
it’s pretty filling, fwiw i was stuffed after having the kabocha squash, the chicken and mushroom, the yakimiso, and the brown butter mochis. and some puffs.
So 2 porridge + 3 sides? Or is that 3 porridge + 2 sides?
please note there is no liquor or beer and wine license at Porridge and Puffs. (if you’re a person who enjoys adult drinks with dinner)
But for Porridge and Puffs, it was hardly a deterrent. i love the food there.
Actually she does finish each porridge to order.
If this was an Italian restaurant and called risotto, I doubt we’ll even have this dissection of how little the ingredients costs, pricing, and portion size.
FWIW, i think the last risotto we ordered at an Italian restaurant was much more than 9-15 and the size was smaller and nowhere near as interesting.
I don’t think it’s a bad deal at all!
To be honest, I actually have that question in the back of my mind all the time. That’s why I typically don’t order them. And when I do, I try to justify by think about the extra 10 minutes the line cooks have to spend in order to whip em out.
Based on that article, sounds like she makes a big batch and rests it overnight in the fridge, then finishes to order, which is very different from how risotto is cooked to order.
We’re here complaining about this exquisitely plated porridge for $15 meanwhile APL can throw half an onion through a mandolin and charge $8.
Well, to be fair, that thread basically turned into an anti-APL restaurant thread, so it’s not like the issue went unnoticed…
hah, for shits and giggles I looked at the online menu and it’s not there.
There’s not even a recent menu on Yelp, so the deathwatch has probably started.
@Ns1 They lowered the price by $2?!?
On a side note, Chef Phan’s creations are way more fancified than any chao I had growing up. The only times I had chao were Mom’s every-other-month Chao Long (which I adore because of the offal and coagulated blood cubes), and regular chao when sick or suffering the side affects of a braces tightening. I’m not sure how or if her plates would jog any of my food memories. I think I would have to judge it on a stand-alone basis.
I think the concept is fascinating, and I’m game to try it when I find myself in the neighborhood. @Chowseeker1999’s photos and descriptions sold me alone.