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Posts posted by oakapple

  1. LOL at Colicchio's comment "Fabio didn't contribute" - he did all the scut work

    Actually, I think Colicchio's comment was that he "didn't see much of Fabio's personality" in the dish. It was basically Blais/Marcel's concept, to which Fabio contributed mostly prep work. I can't fault that assessment. At the same time, I knew there was no way he would get sent home for that, when there were much more specific faults with other chefs' work.

  2. I just hate challenges that force the chefs into a front-of-house role. It's Top Chef, not Top Waiter.

    On his blog, Colicchio says that the chicken feet were so bad that he doubts Casey could have rescued them, even if she'd prepared them herself. But she should, at least, have had that chance.

    Anyhow, it was a very peculiar decision on her part, knowing at the time they went shopping that she would be putting her dish in another chef's hands. At this stage of the competition, it is practically never a good idea to take a big risk like that.

    I agree that it's galling to see Jamie still there, but her food was at least edible; Casey's was not.

  3. Outing a critic, fair play and a step towards debunking the need for anonymity.

    Anonymity is a misnomer, and all professional critics know it. Clearly THIS restaurateur knew exactly who she was, and it would be naive to suppose that he was the only one. What they're really doing is "unannounced dining," which is a practice I would continue to support.

    I am sure that, like most pro critics, her experiences range from those that fail to recognize her at all, those who miss her initially but catch on later, and those that recognize her every time.

    But that practice is still better than, "Hi. I'm Fred Bloggs of the L. A. Times, here to review your restaurant. Please just treat me like you'd treat anyone else." Yeah, right.

  4. Bottom line is Spike couldn't even cook shrimp properly. And those were a redo.

    As someone who has had the unfortunate pleasure of dining at one of his fast-food joints, that doesn't surprise me one bit.

    And, he comes off as a bit of a d-bag, dontcha think? Trying to make it look like everyone else on his team "made him do it that way."

    At least he's good at making money.

    If you go by performance when they were on the show originally, Spike is probably the least impressive "all-star". He made it to the final five in Season 4. But of the 12 episodes in which he appeared, he won just one elimination challenge, while being in the bottom three an astonishing six times. No other chef who has made it that deep into a season, had such a poor ratio of wins to near-losses.

    The one thing Spike has done, to his credit, is to make the most of his Top Chef resume. I can't think of any other non-winning chef who has gotten more mileage out of having been on that show.

  5. Well, Jamie is "in it to win it"—when she saw that her dish was a failure, and realized that she could potentially escape the situation by continuously claiming she "just needed more time," she went for it. I think the set-up of the challenge was stupid for allowing that sort of behavior, but I find it hard to fault Jamie for not throwing herself in front of the bus (to use the conventional Top Chef metaphor). She sure didn't make any friends that day, though.

    You're omitting one crucial fact. Since the team wins or loses as a whole, it was in everyone's interest to hold back Jamie's dish, if other chefs' dishes had a better chance of winning. If the rest of the team had cooked better food (or the opponents had cooked worse food), that could have been the right strategy.

    Besides that, I don't think Jamie's "claim" was a strategic move to reduce her chances of elimination. I didn't get any sense that she had figured that out. If so, she put on an amazingly good act. I do agree that the challenge design was poor, but I'd say that Jamie lucked into her situation, not that she planned it.

  6. If they create an environment where one is penalized for getting medical care, that's huge can of worms, liability-wise.

    That's why I am very comfortable that the judges made the correct decision.

    We've seen other competitors cut themselves and glove up to keep going, haven't we?

    From the limited edit that we get to see (5 percent or less of the footage that was shot, to say nothing fo what was not shot), I am not prepared to say that Jamie faked or exaggerated the seriousness of her injury. We simply don't know how it compares to that of other chefs who've been cut, but stayed in the game.

    I certainly don't see any evidence that Jamie feigned an excuse to get out of the challenge. If she legitimately thought she needed medical attention and/or was advised to do so by the show's own medical staff, I don't feel like we have enough information to second-guess that decision.

  7. It really was a bad call, the person who cooked nothing stayed over the person who cooked something poorly. Right, get a cut and pass? Lets see, that 2 stichs per elimination challange if you don't like what you are presented with, and you are allowed to cut yourself.

    I saw going to the hospital for a little cut as basically saying 'I give up completly on this challange'. I mean, what other way could you interpret it?

    The judges made the correct decision. The show has an on-site medic, who has a role (not seen on camera) in deciding whether a cheftestant is fit to compete. The producers have liability issues to worry about. Although it turned out that she required only two stitches, it may at first have appeared to be more serious. Injuries are like that sometimes. I did not get the sense that she deliberately bailed out on the challenge.

    If, as I suspect, the show's own medical staff determined that she needed to go to the E.R., it would have been perverse to send her home for that. It could also set a bad precedent — e.g., someone who really does need to go to the hospital, but insists on staying, because they don't want to lose that way.

    So they sent home the chef who actually made bad food, rather than sending home Jamie, who (for reasons not within her control) wasn't able to make anything.

  8. It's generally the chef who makes something bad but doesn't know it -- can't tell -- insists it is good when it isn't -- who goes home when there is more than one bad dish. It's not so much the arguing with the judges as it is the underlying question: "Can you really not taste that this is crap?"

    On the Bravo blogs, Colicchio & Simmons both said that Jen's dish was the worst by a considerable margin, and therefore the interaction (and Jen's attitude) at Judges' Table basically didn't matter.

    I do agree that in a close case, insisting there was nothing wrong with your dish is a great way to get sent home.

  9. Richard and Jen are my top picks too. My top picks to lose were in the bottom three. But I wish Stephen had gone first. Glad Fabio didn't. He's fun to listen to!

    Although I like Jen, when she was on the show the first time, she really started to crumble towards the end of the season. This time, the competition is tougher. She's really going to need to demonstrate that she can keep a level head as the season goes on.

    I didn't realize quite how prophetic this would be when I wrote it a few days ago.

  10. Very nice review in today's Dining Section by Sam Sifton (two stars).

    It was nice, but I feel he could have really spent less time talking about how difficult the place was to get to and spent more time talking about the food. Almost the full first page of the internet version of the review was spent on coming up with witty ways to describe how difficult it was to get there (eg. "If you haven’t been in the area since your child had ear surgery or after your aunt had that episode on the bus, Riverpark is a fine adventure to take."). It just seems like he's trying too hard.

    I had the same reaction. It is a legitimate point, but he hit it over the head with a sledgehammer, then hit it again and again for good measure. I think restaurants bore Sifton, and when he can waste space talking about something else...he does.

  11. Richard and Jen are my top picks too. My top picks to lose were in the bottom three. But I wish Stephen had gone first. Glad Fabio didn't. He's fun to listen to!

    Although I like Jen, when she was on the show the first time, she really started to crumble towards the end of the season. This time, the competition is tougher. She's really going to need to demonstrate that she can keep a level head as the season goes on.

  12. Big egos, big talent, big names, ....I think I just became interested in the franchise again.

    Well . . . one big difference is that there's no cannon fodder: everyone there is good.

    Once I saw that Richard was off the hook, it seemed to me like Stephen was the one to go. However, part of me wanted Elia to go because she was making me nervous for her.

    I was pretty sure it would be Elia, because she made the most specific error (getting the protein wrong). The criticisms of Fabio and Stephen's dishes were too vague to get them sent home in the first round.

    Incidentally, was this the first time that a chef has ever been disqualified for going past the time limit?

    Oh, and after all the Season-7-Isn't-Up-To-Snuff angst, Angelo pulls off the first win.

    To the extent Season 7 was criticized, it was for the average level of the people in it—the ones who aren’t around any more. Every season of Top Chef has had good chefs.

  13. Now that would be a funny argument to make. That "extra stars for Italian" Bruni would have given them more stars then "extra stars for everyone" Sifton!

    I do not think Sifton has been particularly generous with stars. Just two new restaurants have received three stars, and I think he has goose-egged places more often than Bruni did.

    Bruni's ratings tracked Platt's pretty closely, so there's a good chance his review of Lincoln would have been worse.

  14. I think Torrisi is overrated — not that it isn’t good, but anything so ridiculously hyped is bound to be less than it’s cracked up to be.

    Well that's a downer.

    Why is it a downer to say that a place, although good, is not quite as mind-blowingly good as the stratospheric hype?

    It sorta reminds me of another forum (not food related), where one person said "A is better than B," and someone replied, "Why all the hate for B?" It's not "hate" to point out that B is good, but with drawbacks that allow A to be better.

  15. However, I can't figure out for the life of me what TC had in mind when he created the place. Certainly, as a New Yorker, he knew that the location was a potential non-starter. And with the amount of space they have and the money obviously put into creating the room, I just don't see how they can make any profit. Tonight was a Sunday, and the room was barely a third full. And there will be essentially no foot traffic ever. Even with a full room (which holds 100+ diners) and two turns, it would seem that they'd have to be packed all the time to break even. So in addition to packing them in on Thursday through Saturday, I'd think they'd need to get a lot of business on other nights, too. And it's not the kind of neighborhood that's rife with diners who consume high-ish end food every night. Is there something I'm missing here? A mysterious benefactor or subsidy? Either way, I hope they make it, as it's a really fine restaurant.

    I think TC is there as an _operator_, and is not assuming the full (or perhaps, not any) financial risk. I also guessing that the landlord subsidized the build-out or funded it outright; and that the restaurant is charged below-market rent.

    What probably happened, is that the landlord wanted to use the restaurant as a magnet to attract tenants. Besides this building, which is probably not yet fully occupied, they are supposed to be constructing two or three more, all of which would feed business into the restaurant.

    Still, it could be a long time before this hypothesis can be fully tested. How long are they willing to absorb losses? I think there are reasons why notable restaurants do not exist in this neighborhood. To attract diners who wouldn’t otherwise have reasons to be here, they’ll need an extremely strong tailwind from positive reviews, and customers willing to go out of their way for repeat business.

    With the dining room half-empty tonight, I didn't even realize one part was meant to be the "main room" and the other "the pub". I think they may not be making that distinction specifically any more, at least in the cold months. All of the diners were seated on the window side, and the other side was actually completely devoid of customers. Things aren't as bad/wasteful as the Cafe Gray debacle, but it certainly is odd (and not advantageous, that the bar interrupts the (otherwise quite handsome) room as it does.

    Perhaps they are realizing that the distinction was a blunder. The seats closer to the window seem to me the more desirable ones. And yes, it is not as bad as the Café Gray debacle, because here you can at least GET a window seat.

  16. I think Torrisi is overrated — not that it isn’t good, but anything so ridiculously hyped is bound to be less than it’s cracked up to be.

    The $50 prix fixe is certainly a fair deal, on a value-per-dollar-spent basis. But against that are two pretty big drawbacks. The first is that dinner is an all-or-nothing program. You get the full, multi-course meal, or you get nothing at all. The second is that you can’t just drop in whenever you want to. They don’t take reservations, and at prime times the wait can be significant.

    I think there are other restaurants in the rustic Italian genre, where the food is as good or better, and that don’t have these limitations.

  17. LPShanet’s meal sounds like one for the ages.

    I think there quite a few NYC restaurants, beyond those that have four stars already, that are capable of serving a four-star meal, if you catch them at their best. To be worthy of four-stars, a restaurant needs to: A) Be capable of serving that kind of meal; B) Actually DO IT fairly reliably, even when the diner isn't a VIP.

    The knock on the Batali–Bastianich restaurants is that if you aren't a VIP, the drop-off tends to be both steep and noticeable. I do look forward to trying Del Posto again. The question is whether I’ll get the four-star treatment, or the “Who the f___ are you?” treatment I’ve sometimes seen at their other places.

  18. How many meals do you think Platt had at Lincoln before his review. I get the sense that he eats at a restaurant once and then writes his review.

    Platt gave Momofuku Ko four stars after dining there once, and he claimed it was the only time he'd done so, with three visits being the norm. Somewhere else, he mentioned that he reviewed Masa after two visits: given that the diner has no choice over what is served, he felt that there was no point in asking the magazine to pay for a third visit.

    Based on the sheer number of dishes mentioned in the review, he couldn't possibly have paid just ONE visit, unless he over-ordered ridiculously. He mentions eight separate entrées, and that includes one that actually counts as a double-entrée, namely the ribeye.

    How fair is it to publish a review so soon after opening. I mentioned that Sifton has been to Lincoln frequently to a Restaurant Manager at a nearby ny times 4 star restaurant who said that it is unfair to review a restaurant so quickly after opening: that a restaurant needs at least a couple of months to get up to speed and work out any kinks.

    Review cycles have been contracting for a long time now. Platt didn't review Lincoln any sooner than he reviews most places. A number of Sifton's reviews have come out after six or seven weeks. Bruni practically always waited at least two months. But a review published on the two-month anniversary will necessarily have been based on meals a good deal earlier than that.

    Bruni said that he normally started scheduling visits at around the two-week mark, and spaced them over at least a 4-5 week period. His feeling was that if a restaurant was gradually improving over that time, he would be able to see it, and take that into account.

    The NYT system at least has a mechanism, albeit exercised too infrequently, to give restaurants a second chance, via re-reviews. New York Magazine hardly ever does that, so Platt's assessment at the six-week mark is going to be on its website for many years to come. I agree that it isn't fair, but the problem goes far beyond one review.

    I mean, Platt gave Manzo three stars after the identical (very brief) wait, and I am not sure how fair that is either. I'm sure Batali isn't complaining, though!

  19. We dined at Lincoln on Saturday (blog post here). I gave it two stars, rather than Platt's one. I had four dishes, two of which I consider excellent (the foie gras terrine; the lasagne), and two of which I considered duds (gnocchi, which were comped; and the ribeye for two).

    Since Lincoln clearly has the capacity to turn out excellent food, it is entirely possible that with a different order I would have considered it a three-star place. Remember, I am reviewing the visit, and unlike both Platt and sethd, don't yet have the benefit of multiple meals upon which to base an opinion. But as I visit Lincoln Center fairly often, I am sure I'll be back.

    Of course, a good deal of my opinion rests on that ribeye, which I think is almost an insult to the customer for the $130 they are charging. But my girlfriend was keen to order it, and I gave in. As a general rule, I don't think steak is a very good bet outside of restaurants that specialize in it, as this dish certainly showed.

    I think Platt's review is ridiculous. I have had 6 wonderful meals there including one last night where I ordered many of the dishes Platt didn't like. In fact, I have had most of the dishes on the menu at this point. I think if a scallop dish is perfectly prepared, (as mine was), then it is well worth $24.

    Platt is a buffoon, by some margin the least qualified of the city's major professional reviewers. I disagree with him about the lasagne and the foie gras terrine, but his critiques of those dishes ("unremarkable" and "less than the sum of its parts") are somewhat indistinct. On the other hand, he absolutely nails the ribeye: "devoid of flavor, texture, and any kind of crunchy char."

    Many of this other comments strike me as believable, particularly his complaints about the service. Although we didn't experience those things, he is unlikely to have made them up. Most service glitches are accidents, meaning they can happen at one table, and not at another.

    He is clearly showing some disdain for the price point. If you're going to charge $24 for one scallop, you need to be giving it more than just an "unspectacular almond purée". Since I haven't had the dish, I don't know whether I'd share his assessment of the purée, but the gnocchi I had were in an unspectacular veal jus, and the amuse-bouche (a deep-fried chickpea cake) came with an unspectacular eggplant purée, so I know it is certainly possible.

  20. I would agree with your choice of LIncoln. . WHy did you choose to return to EMP. There are much better meals to be had in the city

    Presuming he liked EMP the first time (as he apparently did), a return makes a lot of sense given the rather dramatic (and, in general, favorably reviewed) changes to the menu.

  21. Story in Crain's: How to Close a Restaurant.

    “It's not something I necessarily want to become an expert in,” Mr. Meyer says, laughing. “But the measure of our company should not just be about how we open restaurants. We need to distinguish ourselves by how we close a place.”

    Part of this is "Danny being Danny." The other part is: he has levers at his disposal that other restauranteurs necessarily wouldn't. He has a fairly large, profitable restaurant empire that can absorb many of the employees, can keep Floyd Cardoz on payroll without a kitchen, and can subsidize a money-losing operation. And Tabla built up a large reserve of fans over its 10-year run who will make a point of going back one last time.

  22. I don't agree that Sifton doesn't know what he's talking about. I just think that, in the position of reviewer, he has not really brought his talent to bear on the subject matter. When they first appointed him, I remember thinking that he was a great choice. The work he had done on food had been very good, and he had edited the section. Now I wonder if even those who made the choice still think it was a wise one.

    I never read much of Sifton before he got this job, so I don't have a basis for comparison. I am just bowled over by the mediocrity of his work. Quite apart from whether you agree with the ratings, his reviews are filled with lazy food-writing clichés (e.g., "terrific," "delicious," "very good," used repetitiously), obscure references to irrelevant novelists you never heard of, etc.

    Bruni at least wrote well. Despite his limitations, he had a critical sensibility you could relate to, and took the job quite seriously in a way that Sifton doesn't.

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