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Posts posted by oakapple

  1. I can't claim to have eaten "half of the menu" (not sure how you managed that in one visit), but I agree that Riverpark just might be Colicchio's best NYC restaurant, on a value basis (my blog post is here). Craft might be better in the absolute sense, but you pay a lot more for it. Our meal at Colicchio & Sons was extremely disappointing; he may well have improved the place since then, but at those prices we aren't inclined to try again any time soon. Riverpark is Colicchio-style food, without the price premium that his name usually attracts.

    It's not that Colicchio has suddenly become generous. He must know that attracting diners to this remote location will be difficult. The nearest subway station is half-a-mile away, and the neighborhood has no history of supporting fine dining. The Alexandria Center isn't going to fill the place all by itself, and the two other new buildings planned for that area are still a long way off.

    The riskiest restaurants are those that buck the prevailing ambiance of the neighborhood. When there are no notable destination restaurants in a 5-10 block radius, there is usually a reason for it. I do agree that the view from the outdoor terrace is the one "it" factor that distinguishes Riverpark, beyond its very good food. But the outdoor dining season is now over, and it will be a long winter before the terrace can be used again.

    In one of the more peculiar design decisions I've seen, the indoor area the staff consider to be the "main dining room" has its view blocked by a bar. Even in winter, the view would be spectacular, but many tables cannot see it due to this very odd layout.

    Kind of strange that the restrooms are outside of the restaurant in the lobby of the office building though.

    It's very much like a hotel restaurant in that regard.

  2. I would advise against Capital Grille, as it is a large national chain. If you are coming all the way to New York, you might as well try something that originated here.

    I second the endorsement for Wolfgang's, which is a small chain NOW (with around 4-5 restaurants), but started here. Mark Joseph is also very good, and very much in the Luger style.

  3. I am more or less at this point and I have not finished tonight's episode yet. I could not care less about any of these people, the desserts so far have been boring to say the least and way too much drama. I might just drop their Sundae-making party and watch 30Rock again...

    I'm not a dessert eater in general, and there have been plenty of desserts I would have loved to try. I am not fond of the drama, but Drama Magnet Numero Uno left the show mid-episode, and I think the season is about to get better.

    Also, we are still in the first half of the season, and weeding out chefs who probably just didn't belong there. It usually gets better in the second half, as the challenges get more serious, and more time is allotted for completing them.

  4. I'm in the group too that is dumbfounded that Ed didn't have a desert planned. Not to mention it doesn't seem that in any season that many chefs have at least one, if not a few, deserts planned on. Is it arrogance, fear, or just ignorance sticking their head in the sand hoping it won't come down to a desert.

    Colicchio made a similar comment on his blog. While the final challenge rules have varied from year to year, practically every season requires them to make a dessert at some point. How could he not have anticipated that?

    Lastly, as to considering the overall for the winner I think is wrong. Nobody is going to do well in all of the challenges for the most part. It is just about surviving up until the finals. That survival gets harder at each turn but it is do enough to get by, hopefully taking as few risks as possible. Rick Mears was the greatest Indy driver of all time, his strategy the first half to 3/4 of the race was merely survival and decent position. This is no different. In the end, when it came down to the final few episodes, Kevin put the pedal to the metal and came out on top. He won, he deserved to win, and he is a worth winner. Good for him!

    That would be well & good, if there were any evidence that Kevin had actually adopted that as a strategy. Sorry...no. Find me the quote where Kevin says, "My goal is to finish near the bottom almost half the time, winning earlier episodes as rarely as possible, and then prevail in the finale." That is obviously ridiculous.

    What you say isn't even true. He didn't "put the pedal to the metal" in the final episodes. In the three episodes prior to the finale, there were six challenges (counting quickfires), and Kevin won none of them. Actually, he didn't win a quickfire the whole year, except for one team quickfire shared with three other people; and he won just one elimination challenge, other than the finale. You would have a tough time convincing me that that was his strategy, the way "merely survival" is Rick Mears's strategy in the first 3/4ths of an Indy race.

  5. Going to the theater next week and made a reservation here. Then I read a review and now I have doubts as to how good it is. Has anyone been here?

    I haven't, but nothing I've read is positive. The nominal chef, Todd English, opens a new restaurant about every 10 minutes, so his connection with the food probably ends with the sign on the door.

  6. As I understand it, the debate from oakapple's perspective isn't whether it is, or will be a 4 star place. It's whether Patina Group set out to make a 4-star place. This distinction is the only thing that matters cause he argues that a) They clearly didn't b) IF they didn't, then it's (historically anyways) impossible that they'll get it. It's a very sound argument. . . .

    What I've disagreed with all along, and still do, is part B of oakapple's argument above. If a kick ass high end tasting menu blows the doors off, I think a 4 is in play still. I'll forever point to EMP's lunch service as the central pillar of my argument - a NYT critic was so enamored by the rest of the place that he willfully discounted their 2 star lunch program, and gave them a 4 despite it (which - lunch program now scrapped - they very likely proved they deserved some months later). The tasting menu at Collichio and Sons presumably bumped their star rating up a notch or two as well. "Impossible" and "Unlikely" are two different things in my book.

    "Impossible" may have been slight hyperbole. I would have thought that Momofuku Ssäm Bar's three-star rating was impossible, until it happened. But by the time Colicchio & Sons got three stars, there was ample precedent. There is no precedent for a place like Lincoln, as currently configured and operated, receiving four stars. Sooner or later, a critic will decide to change the rules, and then anything will be possible.

    (Incidentally, I don't think the critic "willfully discounted [EMP's] 2 star lunch program." I believe none of the current NYT four-star reviews so much as mentions lunch, which is a strong indication that it is simply not part of the equation.)

    As I've said elsewhere, I think the 10:30 closing time simply reflects Lincoln Center's inability to see beyond the large suburban component of its audience (which is, of course, why it finds it hard to attract a younger more urban crowd).

    Have any of the Lincoln Center-area restaurants had much luck with post-10:30 menus?

  7. Wouldn't it be nice to have a four-star restaurant that doesn't cost and arm and a leg yet holds itself to the highest standards?

    Yes, of course it would. The trouble is, the highest standards are generally expensive to produce. If Chef Benno has figured out a way to produce four-star food at three-star prices, then good for him, and even better for us. But I doubt that he has: there is a reason things cost what they do.

    Of course, it would also invite the question about the city's other "high threes" that are doing very similar things.

  8. Benno talks in

    that he wants people to come back on a "regular" basis.

    That comment needs a little parsing. Clearly, no chef ever says, "I would rather that people don't come back on a regular basis." What chef doesn't want regulars? So when Benno says the fricking obvious, what does he really mean?

    Simply that it's not an "occasion" place. It's both inexpensive enough and informal enough to be the go-to restaurant for the upper middle-class, without requiring them to spend half a paycheck. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it's another signal that Lincoln isn't built for four stars.

  9. It can be difficult to have a shot at showing people what you can do and keep the self-discipline and constraint to give them what they probably want instead. . . . Trying to push cool factor in where it's not looked for has at best a 50 - 50 shot at being well received unless you can accomplish it without straying too far outside of the boundaries of what the customer expects. It took a few kicks in the ego for me to accept that... and I'm not working at the level he's working at. He'll figure it out.

    My guess is that in his real-life job, he's working somewhere that his style of cooking is a good match for the customer. On Top Chef, they throw out all of these hokey challenges deliberately intended to take them out of their comfort zone. Sometimes, the challenges are just plain ridiculous (cooking with a hand tied behind your back). Other times they're perfectly reasonable, but just not what a particular chef is accustomed to.

    Of course, it was immature of Seth to completely ignore the quickfire challenge, although it came with no particular risk, as the quickfire has no consequence for anyone but the winner. Plenty of folks have won quickfires that were outside of their comfort zone, so one might as well TRY.

    With the bake sale, I am not sure if he was genuinely ignoring it, or if he is so out of touch that he doesn't know what kind of desserts actually work in that setting. But in my recollection, nobody ever gets sent home for making good food that nevertheless fell outside of the challenge requirements. Johnny Z said that his financier was perfect, and despite that being a poor choice for a bake sale, I knew right there that Seth would be safe for another week.

  10. Wow, thats sad. I just ate there on Tuesday after Eataly was full. The restaurant was probably at 80% capacity and the food was spot on.

    If it was 80 percent full on a Tuesday, and if that was at all typical, then I would guess that check size was the problem, not popularity. It used to have an expensive (by Indian food standards) prix fixe upstairs. They replaced that with what amounts to the old Bread Bar menu, where it's possible to order MUCH less expensively.

  11. FWIW, the tasting menu will likely land somewhere in the price range of Del Posto's, if not exactly on it (until DP increases it's prices post-4 stars). It's also worth remembering that prices go up over time, sometimes quickly. So I don't consider the initial price to be of any consequence to the discussion of stars personally.

    Oh, I certainly expect prices to go up if it's successful; that's practically always done. But at Per Se, the last non-Japanese restaurant to open at four stars, the lowest introductory price was $125 P.F., and that was six or seven years ago.

    Jean Georges has an open kitchen as well, though not seen from the main dining room. The a la carte pricing at Lincoln is very close to the prix-fix menus at Jean Georges, Daniel, and Le-Bernardin.

    The open kitchen at JG is both unseen and unheard from within the main dining room. As for prices, to give but one example, Daniel is $105 prix fixe for three courses. At Lincoln, if you order two savories and a dessert as expensively as you can, other than the anomolous $120 steak for two, you land at $80, a pretty substantial difference. Obviously, the average will be lower.

    Even the Michelin Guide which used to be extremely rigid in its expectations of what differentiated a 3 star from a 2 star restaurant, has over the years, lessened those criteria. Noma, the newly crowned best in the world, to my recollection has no white linens.

    That is true, but if you were designing the place for four stars, and had even the barest notion of what it has historicaly taken to get four stars, you would probably not make that choice. Momofuku Ssäm Bar got three NYT stars, but David Chang has admitted that he never intended to do so.

    As I said: dinner is on me if it gets four stars.

  12. I find it difficult to imagine that the Patina Group hires the chef at argubly the best restaurant not only in New York but in the entire country to head a restaurant in an extremely visable location, spend millions on design, have the chef and general manager travel the length of Italy looking for the best Italian produce, and not have the aspirations of receiving a 4 star review.

    I can give you many indications this is not so. The most obvious is the cost of dining there. No one would call Lincoln a cheap date, but it is quite a bit less expensive than every other four-star restaurant except Del Posto, whose fourth star they couldn't have anticipated when they designed the place.

    It doesn't have a four-star wine list either. It's not a bad list at all, but it isn't as broad or as deep as the other four-stars have.

    Another is the open kitchen. As I sat there sipping my cocktail last night, the sound track was punctuated every few minutes with the sound of Chef Benno barking out orders to the line cooks.

    Finally: no tablecloths. Now, I'm not one of those snobs for whom the lack of tablecloths spoils the experience. But if you wanted four stars from the get-go, you would surely notice that every non-Japanese four-star restaurant in NYT history has had tablecloths.

    I'll add that the menu, even if prepared perfectly, has an "introductory" quality to it (e.g., no tasting menu, and fewer dishes overall than most four-star restaurants have). That, of course, could change over time, but remember that the critics these days start visiting almost immediately.

    If it gets four stars, I'll buy dinner for both you and sickchangeup.

  13. Bear in mind, there is a big gulf between "infringement" and "remedies".

    Let's say you think your copyright has been infringed. What exactly can you do about it?The frank reality, in many cases, is: Not Much.

    Most blog posts are commercially worthless: you couldn't sell them for very much, even if you wanted to. So if someone copies your blog post without permission, what are your provable damages? Probably less than what the first meeting with a lawyer will cost you.

    Of course, many honorable people will take down the offending content, if asked. Some might agree voluntarily to pay. If not, there is not much you can realistically do about it.

  14. I can't help but notice that you didn't answer my question.

    I thought I'd made myself clear. I am saying it's impossible, based on attributes that can be seen at sight, and that have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the food, which I have not yet tried. (Lest anyone doubt that I'm a fan: I both want and expect the place to succeed.)

    I think it impossible that Lincoln doesn't receive at very least 3 stars. Impossible. (queue the review of The Modern, I know...)

    And Gilt, Café Gray, Alto (originally), Gordon Ramsay that's just within the past five years. Mind you, I think this place is the surest 3-star to have opened since Marea, but it's never a lock.

    I will add this. If I had to stake my life on it, after 4 days of service and a limited opening menu, I'd go with 3 NYT stars. I just take issue with someone saying "impossible" when they haven't even been there, let alone eaten there. Seems silly.

    I am only writing from the perspective of what the NYT critics have done for the last 30+ years. One of these days, the rules could change. But they haven't yet. Momofuku Ssäm Bar was an impossible 3-star until it happened.

  15. I think that lincoln has the potential of being a four star restaurant, whether that was the intention of the patina group or not.

    I will say: A) That's utterly impossible

    Because this is the internet, I have to ask:

    Had you actually eaten there before saying that? Had you been there?

    (I did see from your twitter that you were there tonight for a cocktail)

    In the modern reviewing era (i.e., at least since 1980, and probably earlier than that), the four-star places have all been within a recognizable genre — what Sam Sifton described on the Times blog as "the intersection of luxury and abandon." Sifton and Bruni have been far more willing than past critics to give two and three stars to restaurants that lack the traditional amenities. But at the four-star level, they have followed the path of their predecessors.

    You can take one look at Lincoln, and tell that, even if the food is perfect, it is simply not a four-star restaurant, and cannot be. Obviously, it's always at least theoretically possible that this will be the place where Sifton throws out all the old rules, the way Bruni did when he awarded three stars to Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Given that it took the Times 36 years to award four stars to another Italian restaurant, you can gauge for yourself the probability of there being a second one within a matter of months.

  16. What criteria merit the re-review of a restaurant by the new york times restaurant critic. Is it possible that Bruni made a mistake with his review of the Modern or recently sifton's with his review of sho.

    The paper has never explicitly stated its criteria for a re-review, and I suspect it never will. The vast majority of reviews are of new (or new-ish) restaurants, which leaves only a limited amount of time for taking second looks at places already reviewed.

    It is safe to assume that certain high-profile restaurants and I think The Modern is one of these are guaranteed to be re-visited periodically. The critic then has to decide whether: A) The original verdict has changed; and B) The change is substantial enough to be newsworthy.

    I certainly think Bruni's review of The Modern was a huge mistake probably the biggest of his tenure.(*) But Sifton's review of SHO demonstrates that he suffers occasionally from similar blind spots. It is entirely possible that he has been to The Modern, and has the same view of it as Bruni did.

    Since Sifton reviewed SHO himself, the probability of a re-review anytime soon is extremely low, especially as most of the reasons given for its two-star rating are unlikely to change.

    (*) IMO, the only comparable error of Bruni's tenure was the two-star rating given to Gilt when Liebrandt was there. In any case, that error is no longer correctable, since Liebrandt is long gone.

    I don't think the there should be a quota on the number of 4 star restaurants in the city. Remember, Paris has 10 michelin 3 star restaurants; they were 8 in 2006.

    Oh, I wasn't suggesting there ought to be a quota. I was merely making the empirical observation that I don't remember a time when there were more than six of them.

  17. I thought Sifton's comment about intent was interesting, if only because I'm not sure any critic has said it so forthrightly: "The distance between three and four stars is at once huge and infinitesimal. It goes to both intent and execution." (From the Diner's Journal piece.)

    Much as I dislike Sifton, I think he absolutely nailed it in that quote -- at least in terms of the de facto standards for getting four stars.

    I think that lincoln has the potential of being a four star restaurant, whether that was the intention of the patina group or not.

    I will say: A) That's utterly impossible; and B) Name me one restaurant in the last 30 years (probably even 40) that got four stars without explicitly gunning for it, and putting in all the trappings of conventional luxury.

    I do agree that The Main Dining Room at the Modern needs to be re-reviewed.

    The Modern has a different problem, in that it opened with only two stars. It therefore wasn't a question of whether it was a high three or low four; in Bruni's opinion, it had missed the mark totally. It wasn't a just-missed four-star; it was a failed three-star. Sifton's review of SHO Shaun Hergatt had the same problem.

    There was somewhere, which I can't find right now, that Sifton said something which suggested he is not about to re-consider The Modern. That's sad, but likely the reality for the near future.

  18. Whether one agrees with Sifton's review of Del Posto, at least, he was very clear why he thought the restaurant merited promotion. I have eaten at Del Posto about 8 times, though not since the remodeling of the restaurant: My experiences at Del Posto were much much better than the 2 meals I have had at EMP.

    I do agree that the review at least sounds like four stars. (This is in contrast, say, to Bruni's Daniel review, which sounded more like a high three.)

    I was wondering what this review means for Chef Benno's new restaurant Lincoln.

    Lincoln wasn't built for four stars.

    In the last 20-30 years, no one has gotten four stars without explicitly gunning for it. The critics play fast & loose sometimes with three stars (e.g., Momofuku Ssäm Bar), but every four-star place since at least the 1980s has gotten it in more-or-less the traditional way.

    Just take one look at the menu and décor of Lincoln, and it is apparent they are not trying for four. That doesn’t mean Lincoln couldn’t be excellent, only that it’s not intending to be a four-star place.

    Michael White and his supporters are the ones fuming now. They were the ones who actually thought they had a four-star Italian restaurant.

  19. I am awfully skeptical of this 4-star review, especially as Sifton has not covered himself in glory over the past year. Del Posto was pretty far off the radar lately -- the review practically acknowledges as much. I don't recall any critic, amateur or professional, suggesting it was on the level of the other 4-stars. That kind of excellence is usually noticed by multiple people.

    Incidentally, there are now seven 4-star restaurants, which could be the highest total ever. At least, I am not aware of any time in the past when there were so many.

  20. From my experience in casting for non-food reality television, participants are screened - medically, psychologically and socially.

    The production team knew what they wrought. They wanted drama, tension and tears. Gives the participants "dimension."

    That screening process is surely not infallible. As others have noted, Seth has worked in places where he would not have survived if this kind of behavior were typical of him. I think it's entirely possible that the issues we're seeing now did not come out when he was screened.

    This is the same team that produces Top Chef, and they have no history of casting chefs who have a screw loose. Yes, of course, they do want people with personality, but not whack-nuts who threaten to collapse in a pile of blubber and tip over other chefs' food trays.

    Similarly there are many ways the production team can influence results without overtly telling the judges whom to eliminate.

    I don't see any need to invent a conspiratorial explanation, when a simple one will do: Tim was eliminated, because he had the worst dessert that day -- not that the producers cunningly manipulated the proceedings to ensure somehow that Seth would remain on the show for another week.

    Remember, much of the "offstage drama" is usually unseen by the judges until they watch it for themselves on TV. It so happens they DID see Seth's meltdown, but if they followed the rule of judging what's on the plate, his non-elimination makes total sense.

  21. I had not heard about the camera policy, I plan to bring a small one to get some shots but I guess we'll see. I'd think they would welcome the attention, at least at first.

    Chefs have a wide divergence of views about food photographers, ranging from welcoming them to outright hostility. I know of only four NYC restaurants that have banned photography outright: Momofuku Ko, Corton, Masa, and Joe Doe. (That list could easily be one of those SAT questions, "Which of the following is unlike the others?")

    I would assume that Benno is not fond of shutterbugs, and with Lincoln making just about everyone's list of "most eagerly anticipated openings," he probably figured he didn't need any more attention than he is already getting -- which is plenty.

  22. I'd say "casual elegance" means that anything you can wear to a concert at Lincoln Center, you can wear to Lincoln. I am positive that any restaurant with a $125 tasting menu will pair wines if you ask them to.

    Incidentally, Eater.com Ben Leventhal had a tweet today that there will be no photography permitted during the opening period. I cannot remember an opening where they were so eager to avoid information getting out -- exactly the opposite of what a restaurant normally seeks to do.

    I am not criticizing the strategy, just making the observation.

  23. Those are interesting stats but I think they are of limited value considering the variations in the competition and challenges.

    I do think they put in perspective the practically universal perception that this was a weaker season than usual, and that Kevin was a weaker winner than usual. Prior to the finale, he was the outright winner of just one episode, tied for the lowest ever; and he was in the bottom three more often than he was in the top. Until Kevin, no one ever won Top Chef while ranking in the bottom half of challenges more often than he ranked near the top.

    This is not to say that Kevin is not a good chef. Practically anyone who gets on the show -- even those eliminated early -- are at least that.

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