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Posts posted by oakapple

  1. I'll be in Paris for three nights, August 9, 10, and 11. It may seem odd to be asking about this in May, but I know that some places take reservations months in advance. I also know that many restaurants take their annual vacations in August, so the choices could be limited. For instance, Le Meurice is a place I might have chosen, but they're on holiday from July 14 to August 27.

    I don't want 3 dinners of that type, but I'd certainly do one, along with a couple of other options at (say) the one- or two-star level, a mix of traditional and modern French cuisine. What would you recommend?

  2. oakapple - funny you should say that, I've just come back because I'm reconsidering Per Se.

    Am I right in thinking it's roughly $300 for the food, but that includes a default service? I'm just thinking, by the time you add wine and service to places like eleven madison park and Brooklyn Fare, it's going to be a close run thing.

    I'm guessing with Per Se you'd probably leave a bit more than the standard tip, but even with that and a reasonable amount of wine I should be OK for around ~$500 no? :wacko:

    Per Se is $295 per person, and that includes an implicit 20 percent service charge. Some people leave an additional tip on top of that, but there is no need to; 20 percent is standard in New York.

    Per Se's $295 is roughly comparable to a place that charges $245 without service. That's within hailing distance of the $225 price at Brooklyn Fare -- close enough that price is not likely to be the reason for choosing one over the other.

    Eleven Madison Park has a $125 dinner menu that includes four courses (plus amuses), so you can eat there for a lot less than Per Se. Even EMP's tasting menu, at $195, is a good deal less.

  3. I like the look of the chef's table at Brooklyn Fare - although writeups seem a little thin on the ground?

    Well, the chef's table at Brooklyn Fare is now $225 per person, which is not quite as high as Per Se, but it's getting there.

    I'm also wondering about visiting one of the top Japanese places, possibly Sushi Yasuda - I didn't try any Sushi last time in NYC, is this still the place to go (bar Masa!)? Soto also looks interesting

    Sushi Yasuda just got 3 stars (again) in The Times. I am a big fan of Soto, but it's quite different. You won't do badly at either one.

  4. Any thoughts on places to get a drink before dinner at Marea? Looking for a place that does serious cocktails, and has a good atmosphere without being too touristy. Was hoping to do better than Stone Rose at Time Warner, and anyplace too touristy. (For reference, my downtown preferences are in the PDT/Pegu/Milk & Honey/Mayahuel vein.) Thanks!

    If you find one, let me know. I spend a fair amount of time in that area and have never found anything comparable.

  5. Overall it was a solid year to dine out; the best since 2004 according to Ryan Sutton. I'd love to hear your favorites.

    I have to respectfully disagree with Sutton. It's telling that a lot of your list opened before 2011, and 2 of your 18 choices are now closed. Of those that DID open in 2011, the list is propped up by a sandwich place (Parm) and a pizzeria (Forcella). To pick the best item on your list (whichever you say it is) and compare it to 2004 is to show how far the industry has fallen since then.

  6. Odd, one thing I rarely sensed from Sifton's writing was boredom.

    There may well be a better way of describing it. In many of his reviews, the food seemed secondary. If he didn't seem bored, it was because he had found something irrelevant that distracted him. What frequently bored him, in my opinion, was writing about the things he was paid to write about: restaurants and food.

  7. And as I typed this, I thought: Why the heck do I care about restaurant reviews in NYC? I mean, I'm not eating there soon, and heaven knows Chicago has an important restaurant scene! I think that it's because the critic's chair at "The Times" has required decent writing. I really liked Bruni and Sifton. The only other reviewer with the reliable writing chops of Ruth, Frank, Sam or Pete is Jonathan Gold in LA.

    It is true, as noted upthread, that the majority of people who read the reviews will never visit the restaurants; and therefore, the reviews have a broader function than just giving dinner reservations advice. They certainly need to be well written; but that is true of everything The Times publishes. I mean, most people who read Ben Brantley's theater reviews or Anthony Tommasini's music reviews will never visit those shows/concerts. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to restaurants.

    But Brantley and Tommasini have been in their positions for over a decade and have years of experience in their respective fields. Frank Bruni had literally never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant in his life, outside of Italy, before being appointed restaurant critic. He is an excellent writer, but had no expertise in the subject. In no other discipline would The Times appoint a critic who had so little background in the field he was expected to pass judgment upon.

    Bruni was smart. Given five years and a six-figure annual dining budget, he eventually filled in the gaps in his knowledge, and he developed a reliable voice. To the end, he had some serious, even severe limitations, but at least you knew what they were, and could compensate for them when trying to decide whether to take his recommendations seriously.

    While it is true that many who read the reviews will never visit the restaurants, certainly some will. It is not sufficient to be a great writer if you do not understand the food, or cannot, or will not, describe the restaurant accurately. A restaurant review needs to be about the restaurant, not merely a sham for whatever unrelated bee the writer has in his bonnet that day.

    It is here that Sam Sifton went astray. When he was announced in the position, The Times said that he had been "drafted," and it also made clear that he would probably be moving back into management before long. From many of his reviews, you got the sense he wasn't interested in restaurants at all. It was here that he differed from Bruni, who, for all his faults, truly loves dining out. What came out of Sifton's reviews was no particular passion, but rather, mostly boredom. The man wanted to be somewhere else, and it showed. He jettisoned the job at the first opportunity.

  8. I told everyone that in post #6! But would anyone listen? Nooooo... :laugh:

    It's a bit like a sporting event: every possible outcome will have been forecasted by someone, who can then claim he knew it all along. What surprises me is not that it's Wells, but that it took them so long to pick him.

    When the hot rumor was the guy from New Orleans, you could understand the delay. He would have needed to wrap up his affairs down there, move to New York, and get acclimated to the new beat. But how long does it take to pick the guy right down the hall?

  9. From what I understand, Azimov has made clear he wants to keep the wine beat, and has turned down the permanent restaurant reviewer post at least once in the past and maybe twice.

    Right; Asimov is probably the most qualified guy on the staff. He could have had the job, in a heartbeat, if he'd wanted it.

  10. The way I see it, (obviously Michelin feels differently), if Robuchon is two, then WD deserves to be. At least the food is original, not near identical menus from city to city. Not to say L'Atelier is not great, it most certainly is.

    The way I see it, if WD~50 is two stars, then so are about 10 or 20 others. That's not a knock against WD~50, which I love; just a reflection of where it stands vs. other excellent restaurants.

  11. Incidentally, the Eater piece forgot to mention that SHO Shaun Hergatt also earned a promotion to two stars.

    As much as I like WD~50, if it's two stars then a lot of other places are, as well.

    I've always considered the 1-star list reasonable, which is not the same as "correct". If you asked just about anyone to make up a list of similar length, there'd inevitably be a few you disagreed with. In aggregate, I consider it a pretty good list.

  12. Hi NY Board, I’m looking to fill up 1 or 2 empty lunch and/or dinner slots for a mid-October trip to NYC. Restaurants I’m considering are Le Bernardin, Corton, SHO, Tocqueville, L’Adour, Craft (none of which I've been to previously), or any others that people might recommend. Currently leaning towards Corton for one slot. I have a weak preference for lunch, but I know a lot of these restaurants are only open for dinner.

    If money is no object, and assuming you can get reservations, Le Bernardin would be my #1; either Adour or Corton as #2; SHO as #3. None of them are bad choices, though. Bear in mind that Adour, Corton, and Craft don't serve lunch. The others do.

    I would love to eat at Per Se if getting reservations wasn’t such an issue, but I’d probably rather have my plans settled than try to go on a wait list or call for last minute cancellations.

    You should give Per Se a try; it isn't invariably booked solid, the way it used to be.

  13. Though history doesn't suggest it's likely, it would be nice to have a Times restaurant reviewer with a history that suggests a real passion for (or at least a real interest in and understanding of) food and dining. Writing skill is certainly important, but I'd feel better served if his replacement was consistent, had a real food background, and wrote based on palate more than ego.

    One can only hope, but I agree it is not likely.

    After Ruth Reichl left in January 1999, the paper changed its approach considerably. Up to and including Reichl, most NYT restaurant critics (aside from a few with short tenures) were career-long food-writing professionals, of one kind or other.

    Starting with Grimes, the position was used as a kind of mid-career sabbatical, with the apparent intention that the position was temporary, and that the incumbent would eventually be doing something else altogether.

    When Reichl left the post, she went to Gourmet. When Grimes left, he started doing book reviews and obituaries.

  14. Sifton wasn't exactly blessed with a wondrous moment in NY restaurant openings. A recession sucks for food, and so that sucked for Sifton.

    This is entirely true, but there are a few things Sifton could have done in spite of that.

    First, he could have called a spade a spade. A recession is no reason to write in praise of mediocrity, even if mediocrity is the best we have at the moment.

    Second, he could at least have distinguished excellence where it was available: Colicchio & Sons is better than SHO Shaun Hergatt?? I don't think so.

    And finally, he could have used his discretionary reviews (i.e., the reviews not compelled by external events) much more judiciously. I mean, did we really need to be told that Chin Chin is a one-star restaurant? Novita?? Palm and Palm Too???

  15. I would be surprised if it were Pete Wells. As editor of the whole dining section, he has a much broader impact than just writing one column a week. He is a frequent dinner guest of the restaurant critic (whoever he or she may be), so he gets many of the benefits without being tethered to a weekly review.

    I also think he is close enough to realize that it's a grind, which is why no one has ever lasted in that job for a really long time. Mimi Sheraton did it for eight years, but most have not lasted even that long. Reichl was 6 years, Grimes about 5, Bruni about 5, and now Sifton 2.

    Compare that with Anthony Tommasini, chief classic music critic since 2000 (and a staff reviewer since 1993); or Ben Brantley, chief theater critic since 1996; or A. O. Scott, chief film critic since 2004 (and a staff reviewer since 2000).

    These other disciplines don't wear people out the way the restaurant beat does.

  16. That was quick.

    It was widely reported that he had his eye on other jobs. Personally, I thought he wrote like someone who was extremely bored and wishing it would be over. He got his wish.

    There was much about Frank Bruni that I disagreed with, but at least he worked hard and had real passion for dining out. Both of those (hard work and real passion) were lacking in Sifton.

  17. Say if you were extremely disappointed about a product after you paid a high price for it, you will make a statement like “it’s probably overpriced or the company probably makes a higher profit” rather than thinking “well, maybe I couldn't see most of the expenses being use, e.g. rent, salaries, legal, HR, insurance, marketing, etc. so I understand why it is such a high price.” Keep in mind that say you then got a much satisfying product across the street and at a significantly lower price.

    I perfectly understand that this is one's likely emotional reaction. But analytically it makes no sense. Ko probably serves around 9,000 dinners a year. One diner's disappointment doesn't inform the question of how much profit Ko is making.

    So Oakapple, back BKYLN's question to why you think EMP is just about break-even? It sounds like you have more info to justify your statement.

    KD1191 answered it well upthread. I don't have any better information than that, but I have heard similar statements before. I said that I "suspect . . . EMP may just be break-even." The article KD1191 quoted is certainly enough to justify my suspicion.

  18. Well, I am not sure what Oakapple's thought was, but if customers felt they didn’t get what they paid for, it makes sense for them to believe the company (e.g. restaurant in this case) is making good profit right? Or when they felt the price is about right or even slightly better value, then the company is slight profitable or just break-even. Wouldn’t you feel the same?

    No. It's sloppy, uninformed thinking. Today, you may read a review praising Ko to the skies; tomorrow, you may read a very negative review. Yet, both diners paid the same price. Ko doesn't adjust its tariff depending upon how much the customer liked it. You may think that, because the restaurant "felt like" a bad deal to you, it must be making a huge profit. But one has nothing necessarily to do with the other.

    Most of a restaurant's expenses go to things that you cannot observe: rent, salaries, legal, HR, insurance, marketing, etc. Even for the food, it is the rare diner who has enough experience and knowledge to know what the ingredients cost, and what it took to prepare them. In any event, good ingredients prepared badly cost the same as good ingredients prepared well, even though the customer experience could be radically different.

  19. Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old, it was also an intentionally poor comparison, presumably constructed to prove a point. By cherry-picking meals (and prices) that served to make Ko look as expensive as possible and its competition much cheaper, the OP was trying to prove that Ko was a bad deal.

    Oh, I don't think it was an intentionally poor comparison based on "cherry-picked" meals. He was an out-of-town visitor, and those just happened to be the meals he had. I don't think it was such a bad comparison, either, as all three meals were long tasting menus. One could, of course, cherry-pick to make Ko seem better or worse, but that is precisely what he didn't do.

    I don't pretend to know Chang's rate of return on Ko, but it lacks many amenities that comparably priced restaurants have, and no one yet has suggested that Chang is using markedly better ingredients than his competitors. But it's worth noting that Michelin multi-star restaurants are often loss leaders, or they have sweetheart deals with attached hotels, and so forth. And many benefit from private dining, which Ko can't accommodate.

    Rather than beeing "deeply profitable" for Chang, Ko may be merely adequately profitable. Of the others mentioned, I suspect SHO Shaun Hergatt is a money-loser, and EMP may just be break-even.

  20. I don't know why anyone would say Tien Ho is one of the best chefs in nyc. My impression from seeing him work and in conversations with him was that's he's very old school product of the french system. . . .

    And why would that be a liability?

    Chang build his empire on imaginative cuisine that borrows from many different cultures.

    Ssäm Bar regulars say that Tien Ho was the very man who produced the imaginitive cuisine there, when it was at its height.

  21. Le Bernadin is a good restaurant. However, a bit like Tom Hanks. Showed some early promise, got famous, commands a high price and overall isn't that interesting to me anymore.

    "To me" are the most telling words in this post. LeB continues to serve wonderful meals to people who, I feel reasonably sure, aren't merely impressed because they read in a tattered old review that it is purported to be good. It remains, by the standards of this town, extraordinary.

  22. So, to recap, people interested in eating great dry-aged prime steak should disregard Minetta, even though it has the second- or third-best steak in the City, because:

    1. The decor is interesting.

    2. Service is friendly and attentive; and

    3. If your dining companions don't want steak, they have interesting choices and aren't stuck with second-rate salmon.

    Makes sense to me.

    NYC steakhouses fall into two categories: the classics (steaks, along with predictable appetizers and sides) and modern (where the steaks can be great, but the rest of the menu doesn't follow a forumula). He's reviewing the first kind.

    Minetta may very well be the best of the second group, and maybe the best overall (if you believe Bruni), but to be fair you would also need to include Strip House, Porter House, Quality Meats, BLT Steak, and BLT Prime among that clan.

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