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The Bruni Thread


Guest Aaron T

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I thought your point (which I've come to share, in large part owing to your persuasive advocacy) has always been that "four-star" is as much a typology as an accolade of quality. It involves, among other things, a high level of service and luxury.

 

It does seem clear that that kind of dining is, if not dead, at least in a coma in New York. As you yourself have pointed out, no one's opened anyplace with those ambitions within the last year or so. And given the obvious leanings of the current NYC critical establishment (and who knows, maybe a significant part of the public), maybe no one will for a while.

 

That doesn't mean that nobody will open anyplace "extraordinary." Only that nobody will open anyplace of the particular kind of extraordinariness that deserves four stars.

As the Times has historically defined it, a four-star rating indeed implies both "type" and "quality". That's why there has never been a four-star taco stand, even if the tacos were extraordinary. My point about Bruni is that if he wants to claim that traditional luxury no longer defines excellence, then he needs to tell us what does.

 

I think it's a myth, or at least an exaggeration, that luxury dining is in any kind of coma. Although 2007 was a slow year, quite a few luxury restaurants have opened during Bruni's tenure, such as Alto, Country, Cru, Del Posto, Gilt, Gordon Ramsay, The Modern, and the renovated Le Cirque. Even allowing for closures, I think NYC has more tables at the luxury end than it had four years ago.

 

And these places aren't doing badly, either. Chefs were fired at Gilt, Gordon Ramsay and Le Cirque after Bruni panned them, but they recovered. The Modern didn't fire anybody, but has been a hit from day one. I think it's notable that Bruni granted Craftsteak a full re-review after only modest tweaks. But Gilt and GR were relegated to a few paragraphs in "Dining Briefs," and the change at Le Cirque wasn't noted by him at all. I submit that the changes at Gilt, GR and Le Cirque were of far more culinary importance than the fact that Tom Colliccio had finally figured out how to grill a steak.

 

Ramsay, by the way, isn't exclusively drawing its business from tourists. According to Adam Platt's year-end round-up, the chef's table is frequently booked by the investment banking set (and I know someone personally who confirmed this). In my view, the only reasonable argument about Ramsay is whether it deserves three stars, or four. It is the only Michelin two-star restaurant that doesn't have at least three from the Times—and for that type of restaurant, I think the Michelin folks have a better feel for the cuisine than Bruni.

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Perhaps the next stage in the evolution would be a d.r. in a private co-op. As part of your apartment price, you get a guaranteed seating for a certain number of nights a year. Only the filthy rich need apply.

 

There are already plenty of restaurants in coops in NYC.

 

And I think I remember hearing that there's one opening within the next quarter or so that's offering something like the "guaranteed seating for tenant-shareholders" that you propose.

 

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Yes, the top end is still doing well. Try to get a prime time table at Daniel. At the same time, I think we can step back and ask how good the top end places are. It's difficult, of course, unless one plans repeat visits to the same places - one can only raise a red flag when standards seem to be slipping.

 

I am still surprised Jean-Georges could send out a dish like this:

 

jeangeorges_sweetbreads.jpg

 

Moss over mud. Or sweetbread with black truffles.

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Although 2007 was a slow year, quite a few luxury restaurants have opened during Bruni's tenure, such as Alto, Country, Cru, Del Posto, Gilt, Gordon Ramsay, The Modern, and the renovated Le Cirque. Even allowing for closures, I think NYC has more tables at the luxury end than it had four years ago.

 

I think that what you're saying there, though, is that there's plenty of three-star dining left in the City.

 

Except for Gilt, Gordon Ramsey, and maybe Le Cirque -- and Del Posto as a sort of twisted parody -- none of the places you list is the kind of hyper-luxurious place that traditionally got four stars.* If Cru got four stars, for example, that would be a sort of change in the typology, to my mind.

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* I'm not suggesting that any of those places -- and certainly not Gordon Ramsey -- deserved four stars.

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Perhaps the next stage in the evolution would be a d.r. in a private co-op. As part of your apartment price, you get a guaranteed seating for a certain number of nights a year. Only the filthy rich need apply.

 

There are already plenty of restaurants in coops in NYC.

 

And I think I remember hearing that there's one opening within the next quarter or so that's offering something like the "guaranteed seating for tenant-shareholders" that you propose.

 

 

I believe there will be a private dining room in the new Zeckendorf/Stern building at 15 CPW.

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Vicious circle? Why would you spend the kind of money which was spent on Gilt, if there's a high risk the current Times critic won't get it? Maybe that sector won't move until we have a change at the Times. I suspect Bruni really is that important, as far as that market sector is concerned.

 

Del Posto was a self-conscious shot at four stars, wasn't it? Arguably Alto too. Bruni gave them three and two stars, respectively. And then, of course, there's the Gordon Ramsay debacle.

 

I don't think either Del Posto or Alto could have gotten 4 stars- nor do they seem to be conceived in the hopes of achieving 4. Gordon Ramsey was certainly a possibility. Has there ever been a restaurant (like Alto) that changed chefs and popped up into the 4 star category? Has there ever been a 4 star that seats even half as many people as Del Posto? I certainly don't have the long history with food that many people on this site have, but this seems unfathomable to me.

 

On the issue of Gilt, I don't know that I agree either. New York has yet to demonstrate that there is a real clientele for high end avant garde cooking. I do agree that Bruni's review crushed the restaurant, but there were ways in which it was also a significantly confused business venture. There's no question that Bruni is really important, however. I guess the interesting question is whether Alinea would have 4 Bruni stars, as I think he's spoken quite favorably about the restaurant.

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Although 2007 was a slow year, quite a few luxury restaurants have opened during Bruni's tenure, such as Alto, Country, Cru, Del Posto, Gilt, Gordon Ramsay, The Modern, and the renovated Le Cirque. Even allowing for closures, I think NYC has more tables at the luxury end than it had four years ago.

 

I think that what you're saying there, though, is that there's plenty of three-star dining left in the City.

 

Except for Gilt, Gordon Ramsey, and maybe Le Cirque -- and Del Posto as a sort of twisted parody -- none of the places you list is the kind of hyper-luxurious place that traditionally got four stars.* If Cru got four stars, for example, that would be a sort of change in the typology, to my mind.

I think Del Posto, Gilt, GR, Le Cirque, The Modern, and possibly Country, offer luxury at more-or-less four-star levels. At least a few of them (if not all) sincerely considered themselves four-star candidates, and were self-consciously designed with that in mind. If 5 or 6 such places have opened in a four-year span, that's a pretty significant number. I'm not suggesting they all deserved four stars, but most of them didn't even get three.

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