In Michael Bauer’s surprisingly engaging blog, he confirms what I’ve said for years, practically verbatim:
Our cuisine is ingredient-driven. Bay Area chefs shop and then cook. It’s all about what’s freshest.
New York is technique-driven. After all, when the products don’t sing, the chefs still have to build the chorus.
That’s the crux: New York, more fundamentally rooted in old-world techniques, has exceptionally well-executed food but historically has had to cope with subpar ingredients due to the massive sub/urban shield between the city core and the farms where food actually comes from. The Bay Area has had the bounty of California at its fingertips, and has always exulted its ingredients first, applying technique only as needed.
It’s not to say one is better than the other. It’s just a difference in approach. But I know which I prefer, personally.