After last week's diatribe, we finally did go to Fuel (1944 West 4th, between Cypress and Maple) tonight: the drama had provided us with a good kick-in-the-pants to finally make good on our long made plans to visit.
As I've explained, I'm on Fuel's side of the debate, and thus I went in with hopes of being vindicated: I wanted the food to be dazzling, success being the ultimate victory. It probably didn't help things much, then, to have such high expectations, because I was a bit disappointed.
That's not to say the food wasn't good. On the contrary, it was extremely competent, the product of a team that obviously cares about what they're serving and have taken time to seriously think about their menu.
What we ordered showed an emphasis on technique: I had the chicken, wherein white meat was stuff with the dark, sous vide, and then crisped up at the end, accompanied by braised artichokes, and crispy cornmeal. While it was exquisitely prepared, the concept likely got in the way of results: in the end, it wasn't overly different enough for me from a type of crispy chicken you'd see in a Chinese restaurant, and the crispy cornmeal was a bit too similar to hashbrowns. If the overall idea was to bring a comfort food quality to the plate, it definitely succeeded, but that really wasn't what I was in the mood for.
Dessert was much the same: a rice pudding using arborio grains (common in risottos), with a raspberry 'meringue.' The arborio rice definitely made it a much creamier and silkier rice pudding, but the raspberry 'meringue' really didn't seem like much more than raspberries with a fluffier whipped cream (not quite as light and airy as a meringue), slightly torched. While it was definitely comforting and good, it wasn't mind-blowingly so (the plating seemed a bit off as well: the raspberry meringue was piled on the side of the bowl, like an avalanche about to crush the rice pudding terrain below).
While I might not rush to go back to Fuel, I never - not for a moment - felt that the food was deserving of anything quite as self-involved as Gill's shoddy review. Fuel definitely merits more effort than a few inconsequential anecdotes dribbled off without much thought, and I'd certainly recommend the place to anyone that's in the area (I'd recommend Gastropod a bit more, though, which seemed just a touch more innovative). It just didn't instill as much fervent passion or praise, though, that would have had the crowds cheering loud enough to drown Gill out completely.