Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by oakapple

  1. It's not immoral to apply Bayes's theorem. Like, yeah, the situation isn't great, but it's probably a valid inference that restaurants that don't recognize Wells are more likely to be bad than restaurants that do recognize Wells.


    Yes, exactly. Although inelegantly phrased, that's what Gordinier is likely getting at. Keller himself has a similar comment in the T&C piece linked above:




    One red flag was that his staff hadn't recognized Wells, who, unlike some past Times critics, isn't known for wearing disguises. "I told them, 'How can you miss a diner who comes in multiple times, even if they're not a critic?' " Keller says. "Somebody should catch that, because it's our job to track what people like if they come in more than one time. You have to make a connection."


    A good restaurant staff should recognize any diner who makes repeat visits, regardless of who that diner is.

  2. Oh, come on. He's not trying to write a puff piece on Chang. He probably chose Chang because Chang is an extremely well-known chef, and because it adds to the story to portray the perspective of someone on the receiving side of an unfavorable review.


    I am sure that is the reason.


    Chang's reaction doesn't come across very well; but frankly, very few people do, when the subject is an unfavorable review of their restaurant. It's very rare that they are able to come out and say, "Let's face it, we sucked."


    ETA: After all that, Pete Wells gave it a star, which is the lowest number that Chang has ever received, but still allegedly means "good".

  3. To use an old expression, the man thinks his shit doesn't stink.


    If I'd been lauded the way he has been, it would be tough for it not to go to my head.


    I well remember the posts here and on eG, shortly after he broke on the scene, and for the next few years thereafter. For a while, people wrote as if he were the Messiah. Jesus Himself could only have dreamed of so many fawning admirers.

  4. It should be noted that almost every Mimi Sheraton review covered two restaurants. Only for "very important" restaurants (usually 4*) would the entire review cover just one restaurant.


    But one need not go back to Mimi Sheraton. When Frank Bruni started, he wrote a review every Wednesday; plus a "Diner's Journal" on Fridays; plus a "Critic's Notebook" every other month, or so. Those "Critic's Notebook" pieces did not take the place of starred reviews: the weeks they appeared, there generally was a starred review, too.


    Partway through Bruni's tenure, the DJ column transferred to a blog, but he still contributed to the blog regularly — at least once a week, and often more. After Sifton took over, he blogged a lot less often, and when he did, it was generally for meta-critical topics, like Q&A's, and so forth. At some point, The Times killed most of its blogs, and DJ was one of these. But that function never migrated back to the paper.


    Wells not only doesn't have to write the Friday pieces that Bruni did; but in weeks that he writes a "Critic's Notebook" (or the like), he is relieved of having to write a review. It really is a very cushy gig, compared to even the very recent past.

  5. The Times has made its strategy pretty clear: no guesswork is required. They want to be the national paper. A couple of months ago, they introduced a feature called California Today. It is probably not a coincidence that Pete's first starred review outside of NY Metro was in California.


    I expect that Pete's non-NY reviews will only appear occasionally, and he will only cover restaurants making a claim (even if it's a "failed" claim) to national attention. Westchester restaurants, in contrast, almost never state a claim to importance outside of the local people who visit them. Nothing prevents Pete from venturing outside of the five boroughs, if another Blue Hill at Stone Barns opens. But the really good tapas joint in Port Chester? Not happening.

  6. JoJo renovation and rethink.


    If this doesn't lead to Pete re-evaluating the fourteen year-old three stars awarded by Grimes, I will cancel my free subscription.


    When you are limited to one review a week, you have to decide what constitutes "news". The fact that JoJo is no longer a three-star restaurant is news to no one. It's important, only if you feel the NYT has a moral obligation to keep all of the stars consistent and correct, a duty it relinquished long ago.


    But ironically, the renovation will probably accomplish what Wilfrid's begging did not: he most likely will review it now.

  7. It's another thing to be "formal" and also have a high energy level and play alt rock and retro-pop/electronica music (and be the kind of room where a man could be absolutely comfortable in shorts). My position is that it's not only another thing, but impossible. But maybe I'm hanging onto an outdated definition of "formal".


    I don't think so.


    Whereas we are past the point where formal restaurants can compel their patrons to wear ties, we are not at the point yet where it will feel right to wear shorts.

  8. According to Zagat, the number requiring jackets is currently 10 but soon to be 9: Carlyle, Daniel, Four Seasons (closing this month), Jean-Georges, La Grenouille, Le Bernardin, Le Cirque, Per Se, River Cafe, and 21 Club. 21 Club was the last holdout requiring a tie. Finally gave it up several years ago.


    Per Se is the youngest of them, and it opened 12 years ago.


    But at some level this is just a question of taxonomy. Is it fine dining because of the amenities, or is it casual because of the "downtown energy"?


    But really it's both. And that's what's (IMO) cool and new.

    Isn't that what Sneak said was new about Chanterelle decades ago?


    I wonder about Montrachet and Bouley too. Not to mention WD-50.


    Restaurants change.


    WD~50 never became "formal" the way The Modern is formal, but it moved steadily in that direction, over the years I visited.


    Bouley today (the version that is about to close) is more formal than Bouley in its previous location, and just might be more formal than the original Bouley (in the space now occupied by Scalini Fedeli), which I never visited.


    Chanterelle at Harrison street was definitely formal by today's standards, or even those of 10 years ago, but I gather its original location was a lot less so.


    I only experienced Montrachet towards the end of its run. We would call it "formal" today, but I always got the sense that when it opened it was thought of as casual. I don't know if it changed, the market changed, or both.

  10. I personally don't think tablecloths are necessary to formality any more: and the number of restaurants which require a jacket--which will turn someone away if they're not wearing one, or offer to lend a jacket--must now be vanishingly small.


    Jacket-only is now so rare, that you have to say it's practically a thing of the past. But restaurants with tablecloths still open with some regularity.


    Is The Clocktower a formal restaurant?

    I don't agree with Wilfrid. No tablecloths and jackets are not required, so not formal.


    The "jacket required" list is down to about 5 places, and it's possible there'll never be another one. And most of those were "jacket and tie," at one time.

  12. But I thought Le Coucou wasn't formal.


    I am neutral, since I haven't been there. From the photos alone, I would agree that it seems to fall on the "formal" side of the divide, at least by the standards of restaurant openings in the last 10 years. But I fully understand that the vibe of a place cannot entirely be conveyed by a photo; and there is also a question whether the definition ought to be shape-shifted, just because the last decade has been so hostile (in general) to that type of place.

  13. Santiago Calavatra is a worse architect than Gene Kaufman – Kaufman might make hideous buildings, but at least they don't waste billions of dollars.


    Calatrava didn't waste billions of dollars. His client did.


    Bc a 26 year old 1st year associate at an amlaw 200 firm is making $160-180 base (w another $30k in bonus), living with roommates and will not have kids until early 30s. And she is mad that her friends in finance and tech make more.

    I think that demographic is few and far between, certainly not large enough to keep all the hot restaurants going.



    Which is precisely why the vast majority of "cool" restaurants don't stay cool for very long.

  15. Peter has never had to be cool. He's always had integrity. (And the smarts to not hire me after I massacred a bunch of rouget when I tried out at Savoy.)


    Is coolness really a factor in long-term success in NYC restaurants? If so, it's up to customers to decide what's cool (Tao?!?!?) and what has lost its coolth.


    Restaurants have to be cool for the audience they're meant to serve — even if it's an audience for whom "cool" isn't in their vocabulary. Peter was cool for SoHo in 1990, and his audience grew along with him. As I said, 21 years is a remarkable run.


    When you open a new place, the credibility of the old place doesn't automatically come along for the ride; it has to be recreated, and sometimes that's harder than it looks. This applies whether you're Charles Masson, going from La Grenouille to Chevalier; David Chang going from Momofuku to Ma Peche; or Peter Hoffman going from Savoy to Back Forty.

  16. Hoffman definitely deserves a break. It appears to be harder and harder for restaurants w/o a great "backstory," or a chef w/o a lot of tattoos, to stay in biz.


    Thing is - Savoy and Hoffman had a pretty good backstory.


    Savoy was open for more than 20 years, a longevity that puts it in the upper 0.1%, maybe even the upper 0.01%. He has nothing to be ashamed of. When it closed, Hoffman's explanation was that the neighborhood had changed, and it was no longer suitable for that sort of restaurant. (Of course, chefs' explanations for their own closures are always at least somewhat self-serving.)


    But Savoy had something unique. Once he turned it into Back Forty, it was just one of many restaurants of that particular type, and with none of the history or built-up goodwill with Savoy's customer base. And yeah, as good as he was at what he did, there was nothing cool about Peter Hoffman anymore.

    • Like 1

    Reflecting on this, I think it's more about feeling low-status than lower-class. My most uncomfortable meal in some time was actually at the NoMad Bar. I dropped in for a quick dinner by myself (with my work bag and all) after a long day at the office, and just felt extremely out of place next to all the cool people there.

    I think the NoMad bar would be uncomfortable for anyone dining alone.


    In what way was this the restaurant's fault? Unless I have missed it, no one has put the Nomad in the "stuffy/fussy/pretentious" category purportedly patented by Chevalier. Has the NoMad bar done something wrong, because cool folk eat there?

  18. My wife and I dined here last week, in honor of our 2nd anniversary. They offer a $135 sushi omakase or a $175 "sushi kaiseki", prices that are (surprisingly) unchanged, at least from the date of Pete Wells's three-star review almost a year and a half ago. The restaurant seems to be full steadily, suggesting A variety of optional extra dishes, none of which we ordered, can push up the price of either menu considerably.


    I do have some sympathy with the complaint that the chefs are taking the word "kaiseki" in vain. We ordered the lower-priced menu, and therefore steered clear of that heresy. I didn't write down the progression of pieces, but it was excellent product, handled and served impeccably. Not a bad deal at all, bearing in mind that dinner here is less than 1/3rd of Masa, of whom these two chefs are proteges.


    I share Robert Brown's dismay at a forced cancellation policy after 15 minutes, a practice far from unique to this restaurant. But once we actually got there (a bit early), we were treated to every courtesy.

  19. Two points here:


    1. Lots of old guard formal North American restaurants are very bad at making service feel effortless. Some are very good at it and some are good for some and not others.

    There...fixed it for you.


    It's important to be able to criticize this service model when it's done poorly, though I understand the reticence to do so.

    I agree. But equally so, I think it's important to distinguish service that is actually bad, from that which may simply be contrary to the diner's preference or experience.


    We had a lengthy discussion a few years ago, about real diners who apparently feel uncomfortable about a coat check — an amenity I do not consider especially formal. If people are put off by that, you can imagine all the other things they might dislike in an actual formal restaurant, where the staff has done nothing wrong whatsoever.

  20. 3) Now this part is weird. Starr's opened a few restaurants here before, but don't out-of-town places always fail? What's up with this one succeeding? It's not like most New Yorkers know about Daniel Rose or Spring, is it? And this is hardly Rose's flagship.


    The general rule, is that restaurants by out-of-town chefs tend to fail in New York, unless the chef moves here permanently. There have been exceptions — as there are to most rules — and Le Coucou could very well become one of them.


    I don't recall any such "rule" about restaurateurs. What's odd about Starr is that his first two NY restaurants, if I recall correctly, were Morimoto and Buddakan. Neither failed, but neither was considered a serious restaurant either. He has done much better with Upland, the Clocktower, and now this.

  21. The formality to the extent it's there is just so effortless that you don't notice it unless you look... and then you see it wherever you look.


    This is more of a statement about you than the restaurant. I mean, to regular patrons of Daniel, that seems "effortless," simply because it is what they know and have always been comfortable with.

  • Create New...