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Orik,

 

Perhaps only slightly related, but if you look at Grant's newest restaurant project--not the cocktail project--I think it perfectly illustrates the breadth of his skill. In a nutshell, they are going to pick the most obscure of culinary time periods and open a restaurant that cooks that food for something like 6 weeks or 90 days and then totally re-invent the place to do another time period, etc., etc.. I think the opening theme (oh how I hate that word in food context) is Paris 1910 or something.

 

You have to have some serious culinary "onions," as basketball announcer Bill Rafferty likes to say, to pull that off.

 

ETA: quick google...it's called Next and is opening with Escoffier...tix auctioning for over $3k...

 

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It's the Fall Preview issue of New York magazine, and there's a profile of Batali's new Meatpacking District place, Del Posto.     More Fall Preview food stuff

Actually hiring their CdC did

Wow. I don't disbelieve you in any way but those rates are pretty unbelievable.

No hating, just amused by the gap between reality and perception.

 

This is like, how very cool that my favorite sushi master flies fish individually from Tokyo every morning, and it is worth every penny. At all other times I am a locavore.

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I'm not surprised that he's opening with that. I guess one thing you can say with great certainty about his cuisine is that it's not Italian.

 

Sneak -- that pop didn't stop. The culinary equivalent to what was being promoted there was to say "I had dinner at Alinea, the kitchen and waitstaff were all in their 20s and 30s, and they served me tornado rossini"

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I have always disagreed with the exclusions. I am convinced that any cuisine which rises above mere subsistence can be transformed into cuisine which fits the four star profile. However, the strategy for doing so does involve accepting and aspiring to criteria for excellence which derive historically from the French tradition. The result may indeed be that you sacrifice criteria which are valued by the community which created the cuisine.

This comes closest to my own views. But I would add that if a chef comes from Italy, he can serve whatever the hell he wants and call it "Italian," and unless it's just a lie, it need not be anything you'd recognize as tradition. I mean, at the Momofuku restaurants David Chang claims to be serving American food, and that's a considerable stretch.

 

I think the award of four stars to Del Posto represented a change from the practice of the last 20 years (as well as a divergence from the food community consensus).

Do you think that if you read that review, and had never been to Del Posto, and had no other knowledge of it, it would strike you that the four-star bar had been lowered? Do you think Sifton himself has any consciousness of having done so?

 

I disagree - to me EMP represented the real change in the 4-star water mark, Del Posto just met the new lower bar. Yes, EMP is 4 stars now, but wasn't when it was awarded. To me, Bruni's review and subsequent immediate post-departure talking points practically read like apologies that asked people to have faith. Turns out he was right, but it left the door open that Del Posto merely crossed through.

I don't find any sense of "apology" in Bruni's review. Even on its own terms (that is, without reference to anything else you know about the restaurant), it makes a more compelling case than Sifton's does. Actually, the Bruni 4* review that contains an apology is Daniel: he explicitly says it's not as exciting as the other four-stars.

 

Bruni had a problem with the four-star category that he never acknowledged. He spent most of his tenure shitting on luxury restaurants, while recognizing that if the rating exists, sooner or later he'd have to give it to somebody. Yet, he had enough integrity to recognize that Momofuku Ko did not deserve four stars. That was probably his best opportunity to break the mold, as he'd already done at the three-star level (with Bar Room and Ssäm Bar), and he couldn't bring himself to do it.

 

By the time he reviewed EMP for the third time, Bruni had already set the record for the longest gap between NEW four-star restaurants. In fact, after he broke that record (ironically with the Ko review) it took him another fifteen months to get around to it. At that point, his tenure was in its final days. It was now or never.

 

The question is, who opens such places today, knowing that: A) They really NEED good reviews to survive; and B) Most of the city's critics aren't fond of luxury dining. I don't think SHO Shaun Hergatt is a four-star restaurant, but anyone thinking of opening such a place would read the SHO review, and be awfully afraid.

 

If we agree that Del Posto is not a four-star restaurant, except in Sam Sifton's wet dreams, the last restaurant to open with four stars, that was NOT a clone of a restaurant from somewhere else, was Jean Georges in the 1990s!!

 

And it wouldn't surprise me to see The Modern rollick on in either at this stage.

I believe Sifton made oblique comments somewhere that suggested he is not especially fond of The Modern. I think The Modern, Gilt, Bouley, and Ko are the only current NYC restaurants that I could imagine being considered for four stars. If nothing new comes along before the end of his tenure, I suspect Sifton will get the itch, just as Frank Bruni did.

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Good Chinese food in China is nothing like what we have in NYC. It's on a completely different level, and even unrecognizable in many cases.

 

Talking about the fancy banquet stuff of course. I recall that Adam Balic thought the old Sultan-level banquetting of the Ottoman empire made the grade too. For those who don't know, Balic was a former eGullet poster and cult hero with a profound knowledge of international food history, chicken slaughtering and record-breaking duck penises.

 

ETA: If anyone still has that photo... well just don't, that's all. :ph43r:

c'mon, don't deprive us uninitiated

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Do you think that if you read that review, and had never been to Del Posto, and had no other knowledge of it, it would strike you that the four-star bar had been lowered? Do you think Sifton himself has any consciousness of having done so?

 

Yes, reading the review without ever having been to Del Posto, I think I'd have thought, this doesn't sound like an urbane rethinking of Italian food, as at Babbo. It sounds like traditional, fairly rustic, food prepared at an extremely high level. That hasn't cut it for four NYT stars since the days of Lutece.

 

I can't comment on Sifton's conciousness.

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Do you think Sifton himself has any consciousness of having done so?

I can't comment on Sifton's conciousness.

Rhetorical question, obviously. I think Sifton absolutely believes that Del Posto is comparable to the other four-stars, without any excuse or apology. Given that he's also the guy who gave three stars to Collichio & Sons, you can imagine how far I trust him on that.

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I think Sifton absolutely believes that Del Posto is comparable to the other four-stars, without any excuse or apology. Given that he's also the guy who gave three stars to Collichio & Sons, you can imagine how far I trust him on that.

 

The thing is that, unlike Changeup (and possibly you), I don't view this as Sifton's "lowering the criteria" for four-star restaurants. I look at it as his changing them. By which I mean, even if Del Posto were as good as he says, I still don't think it would have been eligible for four stars under the established criteria of the last 20 years or so. Whereas, if EMP were as good as Bruni said -- and I do happen to agree with him -- it would certainly be a valid four-star candidate.

 

Whether Sifton realizes this, I can't say.

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The thing is that, unlike Changeup (and possibly you), I don't view this as Sifton's "lowering the criteria" for four-star restaurants. I look at it as his changing them. By which I mean, even if Del Posto were as good as he says, I still don't think it would have been eligible for four stars under the established criteria of the last 20 years or so. Whereas, if EMP were as good as Bruni said -- and I do happen to agree with him -- it would certainly be a valid four-star candidate.

Just to be clear, if Bruni and/or Sifton lowered the bar, I don't think they are aware of it. Bruni made a fair number of meta-critical comments during his tenure, which at least provided a window into his thinking. Sifton does not, so you really have no idea what he believes.

 

The number of four-star restaurants has always been about six (though it's seven right now). The current critic is always going to bestow that honor on what he thinks are the city's half-dozen best restaurants, regardless of how those restaurants would have been rated in another era.

 

The problem, as I noted above, is that hardly anyone is opening the Jean Georges-type restaurant right now, and if they do, they're probably going to get one of Sifton's or Platt's patented "no one eats like this any more" reviews. At some point, when the current four stars close or go into decline, something will have to replace them.

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I know that was mainly rhetorical, but I wouldn't say Spasso is in anything approaching the same ball park as Del Posto. Not in terms of the interest of the menu, nor the quality and expense of ingredients, nor the technical level of the cooking. Whole other universe up there at Del Posto.

 

And obviously, notwithstanding that, yes, I'm going to keep going to Spasso a lot more than Del Posto, too.

 

I think a more pertinent question would be whether Del Posto is worth whatever the marginal price difference is over Manzo.

That's a very helpful point. It reawakens the possibility I might actually want to try DP for a special occasion. Solely from my readings, I sometimes get the idea that places like Spasso can approach the same level of cooking, if nothing else. Maybe that's naive. Wouldn't be the first time.

 

 

The question that interests me is, is the food at Del Posto worth three (or whatever) times the going rate at Spasso?

Well, for starters, it's not three times. The current menu price at Del Posto is $115, but that buys five courses (two antipasti, pasta, entree, dessert). That would run you about $70-75 at Spasso. Of course, you might not choose to order five courses if you had a choice, but that's a different matter.

 

Certainly, the premium at Del Posto is reasonable if it's doing an excellent job, and obviously you're paying something for the service and atmosphere.

 

At any rate, it's remarkable to see the price increase that Sifton's four-star review allowed them to get away with. That $115 menu was $95 six months ago, and the à la carte option has been dropped, all thanks to Sifton.

Thanks for the clarification. I was going from the $145 at DP mentioned earlier, which I now see is for the 7-course dinner, and looking at what I'd be likely to order at Spasso. Yes, I'm being overly personal in my calculations, but that's what matters to me these days. Part of the question is whether I'd be paying a premium at DP just for service & atmosphere, or for quality of ingredients & execution as well. Both Sneak & you suggest that the answer is, all of the above. I trust you guys much more than I trust Sifton.

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