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The Pete Wells Thread


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The key question is whether, from time to time, restaurant critics should review restaurants that are important cultural institutions in lieu of immediately reviewing the hottest, newest opening? The answer to me seems an obvious yes.

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According to Eater   Let the grumbling begin.

Even now when everybody has seen pictures of all the major reviewers, there's hope for anonymous restaurant reviewing.

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The database accurately shows JoJo as a restaurant holding three stars. You can't fix that. You can expire the stars (as they seem tacitly to have done with some restaurants).

 

I don't think they selectively expired the stars. They drew a solid line at the beginning of Ruth Reichl's tenure. Any restaurant reviewed since then that's still open still has its stars, no matter how much it may have changed.

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It matters as a cultural artifact - it's a place where tourists go for a special New York meal with a view (it's for more tripadvisor reviews than jean georges or emp or babbo); it's an institution of a certain kind of unironic romantic dining; more engagements have probably happened there than any other New York restaurant; it's a successful example of a different type of dining culture than at luksus or gato or del Posto; and, yes, it's reopened after a bad break.

 

I know we like new versions of old restaurant here, but Just because the old versions are not trendy, doesn't mean they don't matter.

You're on a roll today, By the way, it's not just tourists. As mentioned above, Steve R. has gone twice since it re-opened, and on the right occasion I'd go too.

 

 

The key question is whether, from time to time, restaurant critics should review restaurants that are important cultural institutions in lieu of immediately reviewing the hottest, newest opening? The answer to me seems an obvious yes.

Co-sign.

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AND it at one time was one of the most culinarily significant restaurants in New York.

 

That's about the worst reason I've seen here. See Le Veau D'Or. And how are things going at The Four Seasons?

 

 

The database accurately shows JoJo as a restaurant holding three stars. You can't fix that. You can expire the stars (as they seem tacitly to have done with some restaurants).

 

I don't think they selectively expired the stars. They drew a solid line at the beginning of Ruth Reichl's tenure. Any restaurant reviewed since then that's still open still has its stars, no matter how much it may have changed.

 

 

Right, that's consistent with what I said. I hadn't looked at how they made the cut.

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Bobby flay's food may be good, but it's irrelevant. The river cafés food is mostly irrelevant (it's not Le grenouille which is relevant both as a culinary and cultural institution). But I'm sure you're right - one of the last great romantic restaurants, with one of the great views in the world lacks the cultural importance of the latest noho opening.

The 21 Club has more "cultural importance" than Gato, but that's not the criterion. A critic reviewing Gato can tell his or her readers something they don't know.

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The question people should face is whether The River Cafe was worth reviewing, absent the Sandy closing.

 

If you say yes, fine: I don't happen to agree, because the review doesn't add or substract anything to what I knew about the place already. I certainly don't think the Times critic should periodically review restaurants which were once significant unless there's some enduring reason to do so.

 

If you say no, but it's a just response to the Sandy closing, I would argue that there are better ways to present a human interest story than in the context of a review. If the food had been terrible, for example, would Wells have slammed the place? Or just decided not to publish?

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The Four Seasons. A restaurant of great gastronomic and cultural significance in the city (and the interior "views" are notable to say the least).

 

Frank Bruni reviewed it in 2007. It was sitting on three stars. He removed one of them (and quite rightly, in my view). Great job.

 

Had chef Fabbio Trabocchi settled in at the place, it would have been very interesting to see a Times critic catch up with it at some point. As it is, it would just be a woeful waste of space to go ahead and review it and confirm its two stars, just because Christian Albin was rocking it in the 1990s.

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I don't think they selectively expired the stars. They drew a solid line at the beginning of Ruth Reichl's tenure. Any restaurant reviewed since then that's still open still has its stars, no matter how much it may have changed.

Right, that's consistent with what I said. I hadn't looked at how they made the cut.

 

Your original comment ("tacitly expired some of the stars") implies selectivity. I think Ruth Reichl's tenure coincided with when they started the online database, and they simply didn't want to be bothered with uploading all of the old reviews. It's not as if someone made a considered decision that the stars from Bryan Miller's tenure were suddenly no longer valid.

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Of course it implies selectivity, as your post confirms. I just didn't know what criterion was used.

 

ETA: Having said that, I don't believe you're right that it coincided with the launch of the online database. There are star ratings which used to be visible, but aren't there now.

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Bobby flay's food may be good, but it's irrelevant. The river cafés food is mostly irrelevant (it's not Le grenouille which is relevant both as a culinary and cultural institution). But I'm sure you're right - one of the last great romantic restaurants, with one of the great views in the world lacks the cultural importance of the latest noho opening.

The 21 Club has more "cultural importance" than Gato, but that's not the criterion. A critic reviewing Gato can tell his or her readers something they don't know.

 

I would argue that it's the exact opposite. Gato now has a good half-dozen recent professional reviews, to say nothing of the many reasonably literate amateur ones, yours and (ahem!) mine included. Wells is highly unlikely to say anything that adds much to what we already know. (Of course, Adrian is wrong about the irrelevance of Gato's cuisine, but let that pass.)

 

River Café hasn't been professionally reviewed in over a decade. If you'd googled "River Café review" yesterday, I think all you would've gotten was a bunch of mentions on crowd-sourced sites like Trip Advisor, and you know how reliable that is.

 

The question people should face is whether The River Cafe was worth reviewing, absent the Sandy closing.

I do think River Café is part of that group of culturally iconic restaurants that should be re-reviewed from time to time. When it would have happened, absent the Sandy closing, is impossible to say. I mean, there was no particular event that motivated Pete Wells's '21' re-review. Were you in such high dudgeon when that one hit the newsstands?

 

If you say yes, fine: I don't happen to agree, because the review doesn't add or substract anything to what I knew about the place already.

Can we stipulate that what you know about NYC restaurants is more than the typical NYT reader?

 

The Four Seasons. A restaurant of great gastronomic and cultural significance in the city (and the interior "views" are notable to say the least).

I'd be willing to bet that the Four Seasons will be re-reviewed eventually.

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I agree with Oak. There seems to be a big focus on the stars here. That's why don't love them. Wells took a legendary restaurant that's immensely popular with one set (more reviews than jg on trip advisor, 2x oibl, 5xs the four season!) and largely ignored by the serious diners, and made a compelling case for it, describing why it's still worth a visit. That's great.

 

If wells found a new reason or argument to say "go to the four seasons" or "don't go to the four seasons" that would be fine with me.

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There seems to be a big focus on the stars here. . . . If Wells found a new reason or argument to say "go to the four seasons" or "don't go to the four seasons" that would be fine with me.

Sifton re-reviewed Gotham B&G and found nothing new to say. It was one of those "yeah, it's still good" reviews. (Wells seemed to be parodying the format, when he wrote: "Jean-Georges is still a four-star restaurant. That is all. Thank you for your time.")

 

I don't think restaurants fall off a cliff, such that 3- and 4-star places demand re-reviews periodically, but there is no conceivable justification for confirming a 2-star rating with the same chef.

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