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The Bruni Thread


Guest Aaron T

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It strikes me that this plays into "the parodox of cheap" I was talking about last week.

 

These two places are essentially similar in price. But one is much "fancier" than the other. So one gets great reviews and is packed all the time, and the other gets middling reviews and is far from crowded.

 

Maybe it's because people want to feel like they're eating cheap -- even though they aren't.

Since most people don't do the math, restaurants have to rely on subtle cues. Earlier versions of Eighty One's menu stated that black truffles could be shaved on any dish for $42 extra. Maybe only 1% orders actually took advantage of that option, but it makes the restaurant feel expensive. Likewise the salmon appetizer with caviar for $39. I don't know if Ed Brown dropped the truffle option because the season is over, or because almost every critic in town lambasted him for it. Look for the "Tasting Collection" to be next to go (and good riddance).

 

I should note that Dovetail's top entrées have gone up by a few dollars, while Eighty One has dropped the black truffle option, which means the price difference is now narrower than it was formerly. But it does illustrate the folly of awarding stars based on fairly small price differences that can easily disappear once the rave reviews come out.

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Nathan, I wasn't necessarily saying that Hearth is considered to be an inexpensive restaurant. But while other places get smacked for high prices, Hearth never gets mentioned while its prices are very close to the restaurants getting smacked.

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Times Critic Calls For Plain Food

 

In an extraordinary outburst today, NYT food critic Frank Bruni demanded a 'dumbing down' of the food served at the city's high end restaurants.

 

'I am tired of chef's showing off their kitchen skills. Why do they have to slavishly copy foreigners like Pierre Gagnaire and serve ingredients every which way they can imagine?' cried Times restaurant writer Frank Bruni, 32.

 

Slashing the star ratings of chefs who dare to put more than two different kinds of food on the same plate, Bruni called for a 'return to plain eating.'

 

'I have to eat out six or seven times every week. All this fancy stuff is starting to turn my stomach. How I long for a plain, grilled chop or a piece of steamed fish. I intend to reward chef's who make food that's easy on the digestion.' The Times critic emphasized that his strictures did not apply to dessert.

 

Mr Bruni refused to comment on rumors that he eats only one thing on the plate at a time, leaving whatever is green to last.

 

Wow. Did he really spell chefs (plural) with an apostrophe??? That's outrageous!

 

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Nathan, I wasn't necessarily saying that Hearth is considered to be an inexpensive restaurant. But while other places get smacked for high prices, Hearth never gets mentioned while its prices are very close to the restaurants getting smacked.

 

Right. Exactly.

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Nathan, I wasn't necessarily saying that Hearth is considered to be an inexpensive restaurant. But while other places get smacked for high prices, Hearth never gets mentioned while its prices are very close to the restaurants getting smacked.

 

Moreover, if looked at differently, you might think restaurants like Hearth -- or Dovetail vis-a-vis Eighty One -- would get knocked for their value propositions. Why should I pay so much for this, when I can get something more luxurious for about the same amount of money? (That's actually what I myself thought about Hearth when it opened: that they were charging an awful lot for what they gave you.)

 

But instead, the response seems to be the opposite. The fancier restaurants get knocked for their pretentions, while the more casual ones are perhaps elevated beyond their worth.

 

(Cafe Gray is an exception to this -- but maybe it's because that THAT price point, people really do expect some luxury.)

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It strikes me that this plays into "the parodox of cheap" I was talking about last week.

 

These two places are essentially similar in price. But one is much "fancier" than the other. So one gets great reviews and is packed all the time, and the other gets middling reviews and is far from crowded.

 

Maybe it's because people want to feel like they're eating cheap -- even though they aren't.

 

This exact same thing happens at Hearth. Don't get me wrong, I like Hearth a lot but people are always surprised when you compare their prices with some presumed expensive place in midtown.

 

I've never seen Hearth described as not expensive anywhere other than Mouthfuls.

 

seriously.

 

Because more of us have disposable income.

 

Seriously.

 

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It strikes me that this plays into "the parodox of cheap" I was talking about last week.

 

These two places are essentially similar in price. But one is much "fancier" than the other. So one gets great reviews and is packed all the time, and the other gets middling reviews and is far from crowded.

 

Maybe it's because people want to feel like they're eating cheap -- even though they aren't.

 

This exact same thing happens at Hearth. Don't get me wrong, I like Hearth a lot but people are always surprised when you compare their prices with some presumed expensive place in midtown.

 

I've never seen Hearth described as not expensive anywhere other than Mouthfuls.

 

seriously.

 

Because more of us have disposable income.

 

Seriously.

Well, you're right about that. My income has been disposed.

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(T)he high-end New York dining scene is awash in troikas of pork, trilogies of tuna and the like. A meat that does a wholly satisfying turn as a chop, or a fish showcased adequately in a fillet, appears in many guises, as if it’s an actor doing one of those multi-part tours de force.

And this is a bad thing? What an extraordinary personal prejudice to foist on the reader. The issue for the critic is surely whether it's done well.

I think what Frank was saying is that when you have Protein 3 Ways, invariably at least one of those ways is noticeably weaker than the other two.

 

I gotta say that I agree with both Frank and Oakapple (to the extent that is Oakapple's opinion and not just his interpretation of Frank's opinion) on this one. Whenever the chefs on Top Chef do a presentation of something two ways I wince and Tom Coliccio invariably criticizes at least half of the dish. Honestly, the technique seems very dated to me- not of the moment. Making one thing really well is difficult and scary, but that's the job. I don't get to draft two contracts that each have some flaws and some strong points and then let my client sign both of them. If all of the uses of an ingredient are thought provoking and delicious- bring it on, but this technique strikes me as the literary equivalent of chapters told by different characters or some other such crutch.

 

Also, I have noticed this much less in NY, but the "throwing in the kitchen sink" approach to cooking doesn't really work for me. I recently had a meal at North Pond in Chicago where at least half of the things on each plate were adding nothing to the dish and should have been removed. I'm certainly not looking for a plain pork chop or a piece of salmon with olive oil, but I do sometimes wish that chefs would stop throwing things on the plate that don't belong. For example, at LEAST half the dishes at Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern last night had ramps. It's possible that ramps are the right thing for each of those dishes and the kitchen waits all year to serve them for 6 weeks. It's also possible that ramps are WAY overused during this season. I have a feeling this isn't the argument that Frank was making (I think he genuinely wants spaghetti bolognese or a hamburger for dinner most nights), but it seems related.

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