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The Bruni Thread


Guest Aaron T

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Pop quiz: did Mama Leone's ever get reviewed? Carmine's? Fraunces Tavern? We already know about Grand Central Oyster Bar.

 

There are certain NYC institutions that have been reviewed, and perhaps this is what Bruni was aiming for. Places that are fairly well-known to most New Yorkers but could use a wider audience. Most of us wouldn't consider them "reviewable" however.

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With all this talk of delis as "fast food," I want to make the point that the best delis cure and smoke their own meats. They don't just throw stuff they bought elsewhere on the table.

 

In that sense, they're like BBQ places.* Putting aside 2nd Ave. Deli, Katz's was surely entitled to a review just as much as Hill Country was. (And I'll note that Hill Country is another place that had no shot whatsoever at four stars.)

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* No, I'm not going as far as Fat Guy and claiming that pastrami is barbecue.

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I must admit, I don't understand Yvonne's point either. She said it was pointless to review the 2nd Avenue Deli, since it could never attain four stars. But lots of places get reviewed that have no chance at four stars.

Did I really say that?

 

Yes

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I must admit, I don't understand Yvonne's point either. She said it was pointless to review the 2nd Avenue Deli, since it could never attain four stars. But lots of places get reviewed that have no chance at four stars.

Did I really say that?

 

Yes

Not quite. I did not say that restaurants that don't strive for 4 stars not be reviewed. My point remains: A deli, which, in my opinion, is not a restaurant cannot be fairly judged as one.

 

Sneakeater: I've never been to Little Owl, but I'll take it on your authority that it is a restaurant. Therefore, up for a review.

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Two points.

 

Traditionally (and with exceptions) the starred reviews have been reserved for a certain type of restaurant -- those with relatively formal service, a longish wine list and somewhere you'd spend a couple of hours over a full meal. With those restrictions a star system makes sense as it gives a quick indication of relative merit. However, it's a relative rather than absolute scale and should only be applied to places operating within the same basic parameters. It makes sense to compare Hearth and Craft, say. It makes no sense to compare Hearth and 2nd Avenue Deli.

 

This is not to say that 2nd Avenue Deli is not worthy of review, only that the starred review is not the appropriate mechanism.

 

Second, with delis and steakhouses, everyone knows what sort of food they're going to get. All that's left to say is how the restaurant compares with its rivals. Which is why, IMO, it would be better to have a longer group review of prominent delis and steakhouses rather than individual reviews.

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Traditionally (and with exceptions) the starred reviews have been reserved for a certain type of restaurant -- those with relatively formal service, a longish wine list and somewhere you'd spend a couple of hours over a full meal.

The "tradition" is somewhat over-stated. Formal sit-down restaurants with wine lists have always been the heartland of the NYT critic's territory, but every one of them has strayed outside of that territory. There never were enough of the formal wine-list restaurants to occupy the critic 52 weeks a year, especially before Ruth Reichl, when the norm was to review multiple restaurants per week.

 

With those restrictions a star system makes sense as it gives a quick indication of relative merit. However, it's a relative rather than absolute scale and should only be applied to places operating within the same basic parameters. It makes sense to compare Hearth and Craft, say. It makes no sense to compare Hearth and 2nd Avenue Deli.

That's true, but it makes no sense to compare Gordon Ramsay and Blue Ribbon Sushi, either (both reviewed by Bruni in the last year or so). It's not as if 2nd Avenue Deli just suddenly broke the system. The stars are never comparable, except when looking at similar restaurants.

 

This is not to say that 2nd Avenue Deli is not worthy of review, only that the starred review is not the appropriate mechanism.

 

Second, with delis and steakhouses, everyone knows what sort of food they're going to get. All that's left to say is how the restaurant compares with its rivals. Which is why, IMO, it would be better to have a longer group review of prominent delis and steakhouses rather than individual reviews.

Since delis are at the fringe of Frank's territory, he's never going to do a full roundup, just as he's never going to do a full roundup of trattorias or sushi joints.

 

I'm a contrarian on the steakhouse issue: There are actually considerable differences between them, and they deserve to be separately reviewed, just like any other type of restaurant.

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once again, is Craftsteak a steakhouse or a restaurant?

 

is Ssam Bar a restaurant?

 

 

this is ridiculous....of course if you redefine terms beyond all meaning you can end up being able to say that you never said something because you've buggered the terms beyond recognition.

 

and btw, Sneakeater thinks that 2nd Avenue Deli is a restaurant (which it is by any coherent, sustainable definition) so I wouldn't be so sure that Little Owl is a restaurant.

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Two points.

 

Traditionally (and with exceptions) the starred reviews have been reserved for a certain type of restaurant -- those with relatively formal service, a longish wine list and somewhere you'd spend a couple of hours over a full meal.

 

 

This simply isn't true. Not unless by "exceptions" you mean "a large minority of every critic's ouvre"

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that one star for the two best delis in NY is certainly appropriate.

 

I am arguing from the simple premise I stated before the review came out, which is that nothing I experienced at the old 2nd Ave Deli made me think it was worth any stars (that doesn't make it a bad deli - I often eat at Viand (deli? diner?) and enjoy it, and wouldn't give it a star either).

 

The consensus is that the new incarnation has just slightly poorer food.

 

Again, go back and look at the fairly detailed and entirely convincing report by Rose on page one of this thread.

 

Of course, since Bruni said nothing in the review about the food, except the size of the latke, we can't tell how he came to the one star conclusion (of course, as we all truly know, he just gave it a star because it seemed the right thing to do).

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I don't think the food at the 2nd Ave Deli is poorer than at the old location - I don't remember anybody saying that...?

 

Oh, I see....Rose. Well I don't know. I don't find it so. I think the nostalgia for the old place probably has an influence. I never thought the food was all that good in the old place, and it's the same now - some good things, and certainly a category I love - and some mediocre things.

 

Anyway I don't think you can say there's a consensus. Hardly anyone around here has been there yet.

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1 star means "good".

 

2 stars mean "very good".

 

3 stars mean "excellent".

 

4 stars mean "extraordinary".

 

Seems easy enough.

Right.

 

But this is where your argument that just any commercial business selling ready-to-eat food is a restaurant breaks down. Sure, you can define "restaurant" that way, but here we have a context: the Times four star rating system. What Yvonne has been saying - correctly, I believe - is not that only restaurants shooting for four stars should be reviewed, but only restaurants which it makes sense to rate under the four star system.

 

Here's your problem. Take a good sandwich bar. An ordinary sandwich bar - the kind you go to for a quick lunch because it's convenient. But it's good too. Or take any of the perfectly good taco joints strung along Roosevelt Avenue.

 

You are going to give any such places one star because they are technically "restaurants"? It's just not what the system is designed for.

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