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Everything posted by oakapple

  1. I suspect Pad Thai is one of those dishes they feel the MUST have, in the same way that most Western restaurants feel they MUST have a steak.
  2. There have been other Sifton reviews where I wished he had done that. FG, your memory may be better than mine, but has there ever been a four-star review with so little corroborating evidence? Most of the time, when the NYT awards four stars (and to a lesser extent, even three), there is already a considerable body of criticism to support that judgment. With Sifton, I have come to wonder whether his palate is simply unsophisticated. Read his two-star review of Torrisi Italian Specialties. He describes the food as "comestible short stories," "towering in ambition". He refers to "a burst of creative excellence," cooking that's "aggressively technical," a "combination of kinetic energy and art". All of that, for a $50 menu, where the only choice is "meat or fish". "Towering in ambition," it seems to me, is the phrase you save for a four-star review. He also awarded two stars to Novitá, a totally off-the-radar neighborhood Italian place as good as about three dozen others you could name. It seems to me eminently likely that Sifton just doesn't know what he's talking about, most of the time.
  3. oakapple


    Yes, we are definitely in an "Italian" moment right now (and you didn't even mention Osteria Morini or Ciano). I would skip Il Matto unless you're really DYING to try it. Given that you had wanted to try Cru, you might want to add Ciano, his new place, to the list.
  4. I agree: with the exception of the Voltaggio brothers, most Top Chef participants are not at the level of those on Next Iron Chef. The various Iron Chefs have an additional advantage, which is that they've done this over & over again, and have the experience of working within the show's artificial constraints.
  5. I wondered that too. I am guessing that $5,000 (which Zac took) was not the last, best offer. I certainly wouldn't have given up immunity for the first offer of $1,000, and I am not sure I would even have done it for $5,000, but it turned out well for him. At this point, Morgan, Yigit and Zac are looking like the three best chefs there. Incidentally, I think that both the wedding cake and the "pastry dress" were reasonable challenges. Even Johnny Iuzzini said he had done a pastry dress, and wedding cakes are CLEARLY "desserts" by any rational definition. Now, the quickfire was dumb, in that they had to prepare a savory dessert using one pot, and most of the usual tools were off limits. That was Top Chef at its worst, where there were artificial limitations that no chef would face in real life.
  6. Weren't all those negative reviews before it had four stars? Among pro critics, I think the hierarchy is Sifton, Big Gap, Platt, then everyone else. But Sutton's smackdown got plenty of airtime (several major blogs linked to it prominently), and thanks to google, it will hang around for a long, long time. Not that I am defending it, but most critics employ a similar writing style in smackdown reviews. For instance, here is Sifton on Xiao Ye (a concededly less important restaurant):
  7. You are entirely correct, of course, that the Times review is "the one that counts". (It works the other way, too. At around the time Bruni gave Del Posto three stars, Bob Lape of Crain's gave it four. Hardly anyone remembers the latter.) STILL, it is a remarkable disparity. I don't recall any professional review THAT scathing, of ANY of the current four-star restaurants. Some may have questioned whether Daniel or EMP was truly a four-star place, but no professional reviewer has suggested that any of them are as bad as Sutton just wrote about Del Posto.
  8. Today, Ryan Sutton of Bloomberg gives Del Posto two stars, in a review that couldn't be more opposite of Sifton's.
  9. Just to echo @sickchangeup, $45 is the going rate for ribeye or short loin, but not (at any place I can think of) for sirloin. I have a reservation in the middle of November.
  10. That sounds like exactly the proffer at Craftbar. How do you think they compare in terms of value proposition? I haven't eaten at Craftbar in quite a while, so I can only compare menus. The price points are similar. Unlike Riverpark, the Craftbar menu clearly has the Craft DNA, with its in-your-face emphasis on local farms. Riverpark has: the view. Therein lies my skepticism. It's tough to support a place like that with a neighborhood crowd. And I am not sure whether they can attract destination diners for the view alone, when there are other ways to get the Colicchio experience (assuming you want that) without traveling across town. That reminds me of the decision to put the Cafe Gray kitchen between the dining room and the windows overlooking Columbus Circle. It is a very similar error. The only difference is that, at Café Gray, it was literally impossible to sit next to the window, whereas at Riverpark you can.
  11. oakapple


    I put up a blog post on Eataly last night. I do not view it as favorably as Teddy Devico. As he noted, the crowds have been insane. At times, they've actually had to close the place to new customers, because those inside had reached the legal limit. Once you get in, the overcrowding has all the charm of an airport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Wayfinding and signage are poor. Eataly has a "thrown together" look. There are about 8 different places to eat, although only one (the restaurant Manzo; blog post here) takes reservations. At the others, waits of 45 minutes or more are routine at any reasonable eating time. The food, by most accounts, is good once you finally get some. What I haven't heard is that Eataly is doing something unique-- with say, Pizza--that would justify the hassle of getting it. Most of the market is so ridiculously over-priced that it seems like a sick joke. Pat LaFreida whole chickens for $23?
  12. Nor are they doing anyone any favors by raising the already high prices on half the apps, almost all of the pastas, and a few mains! Aside from the steak, only one reduction has been made and lots have been increased. The veal (my favorite main) is now another 15+% higher at $42, and most of the others took at least a $2 hike. I wonder if the move is a food cost thing, a marketing thing or something else entirely. Seems quite soon to be doing it. I think it's menu engineering. The tell is that the Fagioli Romani Brasati went from $12 to $14. I doubt there was a sudden 14 percent jump in the cost of the ingredients; they just decided, "we can get another two bucks for that." Although the steak went down from $120 to $90, the description changed from t-bone to less-expensive sirloin; possibly not the best move. Absent an extremely trustworthy recommendation, you won't catch me paying $90 for sirloin.
  13. If the star-counting doesn't interest you, and if you ignore those posts, what remains is the very clear sense that the food at Lincoln is very good. I do not recall any post (here or in other fora) suggesting it was anything less than that. To those who follow the industry, it is impossible to separate Chef Benno from the place whence he came, namely Per Se. If there is a debate about Lincoln, it is whether he is still turning out food on that level, or if he is currently operating at a lower (but still very good) level.
  14. I have to ask, in all sincerity, are you by any chance known to the house? No other reviewer I am aware of has mentioned three extra courses being sent out, and two sommeliers in attendance at the table. That usually means you are (or they THINK you are) a VIP. Nothing wrong with that I am delighted on the rare occasions it happens to me but one must recognize that it is atypical. L'Atelier isn't a bistro; it also isn't a four-star restaurant. By the way, "bistro" isn't a negative term (at least in my book). It just describes a certain kind of place, which I think is exactly what they intended Lincoln to be. Some glitches (staff not yet familiar with the food) will likely improve over time.
  15. The term "bistro," like the term "café," is fairly broad (think of Café Boulud — a three-star restaurant in practically everyone’s estimation). Neither term is necessarily pejorative; it is just a description. Because there isn’t a precise definition, you have to look at a range of attributes, rather than one in isolation. You can check off a number of attributes that, taken in combination, make Lincoln seem bistro-ish. That’s a very different story than a one-off exception like Le Bernardin (where the bar is much smaller and not as loud). The chef at Noma, rated the best restaurant in the world according to one survey, acknowledges that he never had such high ambitions when he started. This is the reason why I think you can say, without fear of contradiction, that Lincoln was not intended to be a four-star restaurant. No sane person would defy so many of the well known “rules,” if that was their intention. Now, if it GETS those stars, naturally the chef and owners will be very pleased (who wouldn’t be?) but it is patently obvious they weren’t aiming for that.
  16. Bear in mind that all of the postings to date are based on a very small sample size. Lincoln only just opened, and nobody here has been there more than once or twice. Even for widely acclaimed restaurants that have been open many years, occasionally someone has an experience that is just completely at odds with the "received wisdom" about the place. So for a brand new restaurant, this is not at all surprising.
  17. Ironically too low a price was one of several quoted reasons that Lincoln wasn't to be a 4 star place. Now it's the only criteria that meets a 4 star rating. Quite the price point they set! :-) I wasn't one of those that cited its price point being too low for four stars, since I don't agree. The price is very comparable to Del Posto, only with less value delivered, and is pretty close to Jean Georges's entry level prix fixe if you compare apples to apples (meaning doing a four course option including a pasta at Lincoln). It's also within a few percentage points of the costs involved with Le Bernardin's entry level menu and with EMP's lowest cost option. If you take the typical cost for each of the four courses at Lincoln and add it up, it comes to $100 even. As I was the one who said Lincoln does not charge four-star prices, I probably ought to elaborate on what I meant. It is true that if you order four courses at Lincoln, the price is pretty close to what you would pay at all of the current four-stars except Per Se and Masa. But because Lincoln allows the option of ordering à la carte (indeed, that is its only option, at present), its revenue per check will be quite a bit lower. This has significant impact for the restaurant, because customer revenues must (naturally) cover many other costs besides just the food. Remember, Benno told the Times that the cost per person would be around $110 including beverage. That is clearly not the case at any other four-star place. They might not even hit $110 as an average, because a lot of people go into a place like that and don't order four courses. Lincoln also lacks the upper end of the wine list, which many of these restaurants depend on for a big chunk of their revenue. This lower check size at Lincoln has a direct impact on the restaurant's ability to offer the luxuries that the other four-star places have. Del Posto's $95 menu certainly does look good, though I suspect it won't last, and the price of the wine list (which is not available online) may very well bump up the average check size considerably beyond what appears, at first glance, to be a very good bargain.
  18. What does it take to get a reservation there these days? Is it one of those places where you have to call at 10:00 for 30 days in advance, and by 10:01 they're gone?
  19. I can't speak for LPShanet, but when I make the comparison to A Voce I'm referring mainly to the "vibe," since I haven't yet had the food. Alto, I think, presents a much more luxurious, more unhurried environment. Again, that's just the vibe. I think the issue is not just whether the sommelier can give good guidance when you have his attention, but also whether there is enough of "him" to go around. Restaurants like Per Se and Le Bernardin have teams of sommeliers, not just one--and their dining rooms are smaller. At even a three-star restaurant, much less a four-star place, the experience LPShanet described simply should not happen.
  20. Minetta serves at the bar without reservations, while Luger (last I checked) does not.
  21. That strikes me as a very good analogy. It's worth noting that if the critics follow their normal pattern, their visits have already begun. Lincoln may well improve over time, but initial impressions will be formed starting right about now. Incidentally, Brooklyn Fare never got a New York Times review at all.
  22. Sure, but on all of the various incarnations of Top Chef, which I assume Seth is at least somewhat familiar with, almost every challenge imposes a constraint that the chefs would not face in "real life". It is the whole premise of the show. Having one or more ingredients foisted upon them, that they would not ordinarily use, is a fairly commonly occurring constraint. The week before, they not only had to decorate a wedding cake in an absurdly short time, but the raw material (the cake itself) had been pre-baked. One could go on and on. "Cook with Ingredient X," where X is supplied by the producers, is probably the most common kind of challenge. Nobody could go on the show and be surprised by this. In the wedding cake challenge, Seth just ignored the rules totally, and made something not even remotely resembling a wedding cake. In the sundae challenge (it's a frickin' sundae, mind you), he just completely lost it, and went off on a tangent about confiscated paper cups. What THEY had to do with it is utterly beyond me. Every other chef, not only this season, but in every season since the show began, sucked up the challenge and tried to make something that was at least somewhat compliant with the rules. It's especially notable that these were both quickfires, meaning that one had nothing to lose by at least TRYING to do what they asked for.
  23. You may well be right about Malika: and regardless of why she left, you're completely right about the producers. It's their job to get a field of contestants who will actually compete. Their desire for drama bit them in the ass here, their casting decisions definitely strayed too far from competency as a pastry chef. At this point, I am chalking it up to bad luck. It's clear that the producers want chefs with personality. But I cannot imagine that Seth's meltdown was something that they, in their remotest imaginations, either anticipated or wanted. Indeed, Seth said in his "exit interview" that he was prepared to continue, but the producers disqualified him. Had "drama" been the only consideration, they didn't have to kick him off the show. Malika was not particularly "dramatic"; she just gave up, a very rare occurrence in reality TV of any kind, and a first on Top Chef. That it would occur twice in one season, and indeed twice in one episode, is such a freakish event that I am reluctant to read anything into it.
  24. We cannot comment on material we weren't shown. But you aren't denying that the events they DID show, happened. And you aren't making any kind of argument that you exhibited good professional behavior. Whether you have done so in other venues, which I don't doubt, you didn't in this one.
  25. Sure . . . but when people discuss greatest teams of all time, I am positive that the 16-0 Patriots will be in the conversation for as long as people talk about football. Kevin, of course, won Top Chef fair and square. When he is compared to others that have likewise won, you cannot ignore the fact that his results during the rest of the season were poor to mediocre -- indeed, the worst of any Top Chef winner to date. And as I mentioned upthread, there is no credible argument that this was the result of an actual strategy on his part. But aside from merely SAYING that, what do you base it on? Let me repeat: in the three episodes preceding the finale, there were six challenges including quickfires, and Kevin won none of them. Please explain how that equates to "did the best over that span"? The producers certainly agree with you, but there is no reason to suppose that cumulative score-keeping couldn't work. The Yankees got to the playoffs based on a record built up over the course of the season, and no one has ever suggested that baseball was "too nerdy for the masses." I agree with you on that. Appearing on this show requires a tremendous time sacrifice (about a month), for which they are not paid. The chefs that lose along the way remain sequestered, so you could lose in an early episode and you're still stuck there. From all I have read, the pressure is tremendous, the living conditions far from pleasant. There are a lot of good chefs that wouldn't want to do this. It is not so much the lights (though that is undoubtedly part of it). The contrived and time-bound nature of the challenges force these chefs out of their comfort zone. It's a system designed to be entertaining, but not necessarily to bring out the best in people. And of course, the "one-is-done" elimination system means that you could cook a very poor dish, but survive because (fortuitously) someone else makes an even worse one. The next week, you could be eliminated because you cook a pretty good dish, but everyone else makes a better one.
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