paul discoe – zen architecture / la mar

we went to paul discoe’s book signing last night at greens.   “zen architecture: the building process as practice” illuminates paul’s considerable understanding of traditional japanese architecture as well as documenting about 10 of his beautiful projects.   paul is a buddhist monk, a japanese-trained specialist in temple construction and a lovely man.    the book is beautifully done and though the photographs do not do paul’s projects justice, anyone interested in traditional japanese architecture or buddhism will want to read it.

then we ate at the new peruvian restaurant in san francisco, la mar.   gaston acurio is the most famous chef in peru, with restaurants in lima, costa rica, santiago de chile and mexico city.    la mar is his much-hyped first u.s. venture.   a friend had eaten there at a couple of the pre-opening events and liked it quite a lot and patty recently gave it a good (though not glowing) review.    we were disappointed.

it’s an enormous restaurant on the redevloped pier 1 1/2.   the first two of the three rooms (seemingly both bars) are the most most pleasant — clean, nicely scaled, urban.   the main dining room is noisy, over-lit and feels corporate.   i ate there with three architects and the only positive comment was “i really like the pendant lamps in the bar.”    i’d compare it to the newly-opened cavallo point hotel at fort baker…   cavallo point is constructed in refurbished residences and offices constructed by the army at the turn of the last century.   both la mar and cavallo point take fairly interesting old construction in gorgeous san francisco bay settings and rehab them in the most pedestrian way.    restoration hardware anyone?    the architects did too little to make the project really interesting and too much to retain the romance of the old materials and construction.    hasn’t anyone seen david ireland’s capp street house?  or leonard hunter and mark cavagnero’s beautiful headlands center for the arts?

the food was good, not great.   5 of the 6 dishes we tried were too salty.  the menu is extensive and daunting and no effort was made on the part of the server to guide us.   we left saying we’d done it and didn’t need to again…