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Leonard Kim

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    Royal Oak, MI
  1. We went yesterday -- our second time (our first was in late spring), and it's already become a favorite. I know this place hasn't been lacking for positive press, but I think it's deserved. I'm real glad it's here. The only quibble we had yesterday was that it was quite warm in the restaurant. Granted it was the warmest day we've had so far in this unusually mild summer, and they claimed the air conditioner was cranked up full. No complaints about anything else: food, service, atmosphere, prices, even the Michigan-made house wines. I may be overlooking some flaws, but that's because even if some things aren't as good as one could possibly imagine, they seem to be making every effort and in a way that suggests personal and professional pride rather than some marketing-based rationale. That goes a long way in my book. It comes down to this -- my wife and I cleaned out every plate: appetizer, salad, entrees, dessert. We hardly ever do that. We had a five month old baby with us -- the next table had a 2-year old -- and somehow that did not detract from the comfortable, welcoming, intimate setting. Some patrons were dressed casually; others in "nice restaurant" clothes, and neither seemed out of place. I noticed there's talk on the boards about the 2010 Heartland gathering. If it does end up in Ann Arbor and extend to metro Detroit, I'd consider incorporating this place.
  2. Detroit just can't be number 3, unless the rest of the country is in worse shape than I could have ever imagined. I hope nobody decides to make a pizza pilgrimage here on the basis of this article. "No city has more consistently satisfying pies than Detroit," and "hard to go wrong wherever you eat" just doesn't describe where I live. My wife and I have yet to find a place we like that delivers, and she always makes a point of getting pizza when she goes back to her hometown (South Jersey / Philadelphia) because she feels so deprived here. Our representatives on the list include some relatively out-of-the-way places -- unless you lived there or went specifically to follow Richman's recommendation, I can't think of many reasons people go to Harrison Township. Buddy's has 9 locations in the area and unless the recommendation is specific to the Detroit location (which I haven't been to), I can't believe it belongs here, much less under the terms with which it's described. (I'm with the various locals here in agreeing Loui's in Hazel Park is probably the best and only convincing example of Detroit-style pizza around now.) Of the other two representatives on the list, I thought Tomatoes Apizza was good and haven't been to Niki's.
  3. http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?A...0414/1035/ENT03 I'd always planned to eat here as soon as the kids were old enough (we vacation up north every year.) Damn it.
  4. Surely this is the key line in the review? which recalls his occasionally discussed and derided "what stars means to me" blog post. Doesn't matter what he found objectively negative, he was elated! It's been noted that Bruni used to never grant three stars if he had any significant issues with the food, and there are the many examples cited of being overly generous on the sole justification of food. But I think Bruni's attitudes may have changed a little over time. The Le Cirque reviews are instructive. Going from 2 to 3 stars between 2006 and 2008, Bruni tries to make the claim that the food has improved enough to justify the promotion. Nevertheless he explicitly says, in lines that foreshadow the current Daniel review: Another example on the low end is the Chop Suey review, also from 2008, where he says basically nothing good about the food, but gives it a star, writing He ends that review describing a surrogate on the Bruni-excite-o-meter I guess I'm saying that his focus may have shifted, or at least blurred, leading to some inconsistencies between early and late. But the underlying, infuriating foundation of rating-as-excitement lives on.
  5. As you may know, Moira Hodgson reviewed restaurants for the New York Times for about 4 1/2 months in 1980, about 25-30 restaurants worth in those days. (I don't know what Mimi Sheraton was doing at that time -- it was in the middle of her tenure.) I think I may have written this before, but I always had the amused impression, only slightly borne out by fact, that Hodgson would re-review restaurants and change the rating Sheraton had assigned them, only to see Sheraton, when she returned, re-review them and change them back. I haven't looked at her other stuff for the New York Times of which there is a great deal (probably more than 2000 pieces). It seems like she wrote a food piece for the Times bi-weekly for about 20 years (1982-2002) as well as non-food topics such as dance.
  6. Yeah. According to this interview, Batali missed a season. Since the interview is dated last summer, when the current episodes were taped, that's probably it.
  7. My wife wanted to eat at Brasserie Zinc last night, forgetting that it's closed on Sundays. So we drove several miles north on Orchard Lake into Keego Harbor and ate at Modern Food and Spirits, which I think has been open for a little over a year now. http://www.modernfoodspirits.com/ http://metrotimes.com/food/review.asp?rid=24450 I'm not exactly sure what to make of this place. I think the media and other reports may have underplayed just how unpromising the storefront (adjacent to a liquor/party store and not all that distinct, appearance-wise, from it) and interior are (it looks like a family restaurant, like a place where you'd get bad scrambled eggs and coffee.) We didn't have the best experience -- service was slow and our food finger-tappingly slow in arriving. Two of the three soups I had in the sampler weren't warm enough for me, tasty as they were. The restaurant was not busy -- there were maybe 2 or 3 other parties there. Yet the food is, as the reviews point out, good. It's possible I may be overestimating it, because it's such a jarring contrast from everything else about the place. The first place that popped to mind in comparison foodwise was the now-closed Boocoo in Royal Oak. (I'm not saying that's the most apt parallel; it's just what came to mind first.) This isn't a place like Christine's Cuisine in Ferndale (another storefront place with unpromising ambience with a reputation for good food) which really is a family restaurant, well-executed as it may be. This place's menu, in contrast, is the real thing. I can't really think of an excuse to go back. The setting is such that I wouldn't consider it for a romantic night out. There's nothing apparently kid-friendly about the menu. I suppose if I were retired and living close by with time to wait for my meal, I'd eat there regularly, treating it like a neighborhood restaurant in terms of dining habits while enjoying superior food. Thing is, despite my less-than-perfect experience, I felt better spending my money here than any number of other places. For example, every time I have to eat at one of the restaurants along Big Beaver in Troy, I feel suckered -- places like Kona Grill (terrible each time I've been), the steakhouses, the stuff in Somerset Mall, even something like Ocean Prime (which I found mediocre despite the hype). It just shocks me how much they are charging for what seems to me poorly conceived, poorly executed, not-even-trying food. One reads about how chain restaurants are succeeding in the $20+ entree dining scene, but there seems to me a true loss here, whatever may be gained in liveliness and consistency (and it's questionable whether even that much is gained.) At Modern Food and Spirits, where no entree is even $20, I felt like I was paying for food, not a dining experience per se. From that standpoint, it's an outstanding bargain. Postscript: Poking around online, I've found, in addition to similar praise, some truly virulent, horrorshow comments about this place. Like I said, I don't know what to make of it.
  8. Right, I should have thought "coney island" when you mentioned hot dog. According to Wikipedia it was invented in Michigan. Coney island restaurants are all over. Many are chains. There's a Kerby's within a mile of you and a National Coney Island just over a mile. To me, our coney islands (the restaurants) are all pretty interchangeable, whether they're part of a chain or not. And honestly, coney islands (the food) are kind of disgusting, but sometimes one is strangely in a mood for one. (If you're coming from Philly, I wonder whether something like scrapple makes for a good comparison, psychologically speaking. Or cheese steak, though I'd rather have a cheese steak than a coney dog.) But if you're going to go the route of products that originated in Michigan, I suppose you should drink Vernors and Faygo. And have fudge at Sanders (there's a parlor within 2 miles in Birmingham). And have cherry pie at Grand Traverse Pie Company (branch just over a mile away in Troy). Heck, eat Dominos and Little Caesar's pizza. I weep for Southeast Michigan. But you can probably skip these, particularly the pizza, which is lousy, and which you can get anywhere in the country. Though to be really fair, I haven't been to Sanders since I was a kid, and haven't tried the GT pie, which branch is a pretty new addition to the area. Northern Michigan is a big cherry producer. For example, if you do opt for the somewhat fancier Sweet Lorraine's or Fiddleheads suggestions, they may well have something like chicken with cherry sauce on the menu. I've had pie up-north and it's tasty enough, but I don't know how it plays in a chain format.
  9. These are not necessarily the strongest recommendations, but, in the categories you list, near where you're staying, I might suggest: hot dog: Hippo's Hot Dogs, 1648 Rochester Rd, Troy, MI 48083 (about 4 miles SE of where you're staying). They specialize in Chicago-style, though they have other stuff too. pizza: hmm, I'd say Michigan leans towards deep dish. Some chains that you wouldn't have out there: Buddy's (http://www.buddyspizza.com/) and Cottage Inn (http://www.cottageinn.com/) have carryout locations in the vicinity. Green Lantern (http://www.greenlanternlounge.com/) gets some votes for good pizza (not deep dish) and they have a carryout outpost about 3 miles SE in Royal Oak, though the main restaurant is further. If you're looking for a "pizza restaurant," Shields (www.shieldspizza.com) has been around for a long time and is quite close to you. This whole category, though, has my weakest recommendations. breakfast: I like Frittata, in Clawson, about 3 miles SE of you. But it's not your traditional bacon and eggs place. I'm sort of stumped on sandwiches. It's not something I go out for much. I see Stage Deli (http://thestagedeli.com/) has an outpost in the mall, but I haven't been. There are lots of delis in the immediate vicinity. You didn't mention burgers, but Red Coat Tavern is a couple miles from you. The burgers are often cited as the area's best (and I do like them) and the setting is distinctive.
  10. Isn't the advantage of being a wealthy diner basically the same class of advantage Bruni enjoys: the means (i.e., money and time) to amass a volume of experience inaccessible to most? Like FG says, though this is of value, it is no guarantee of "insight." I think Bruni is just over-pointedly (and perhaps without self-reflection) trying to illustrate the same point. One can well imagine a chef finding the occasional enthusiastic patron of insight far more stimulating (if less lucrative) than the frequent patron without.
  11. I stuck it here because it started with Apple's comment about Tribute. Obviously it's a fuzzy statement, but on the east side, I'm personally taking it to mean, "not on the East Coast," which excludes Philadelphia. As I said in my original post, I think the exercise is probably most interesting if you take it to largely mean Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, etc. Or perhaps more to the point, given Michigan's woes, is there a place in, say, Cleveland, that takes the laurels, surpassing Michigan places like Tribute, the Lark, etc. (and not much of an etc. at that)?
  12. This is just one of those random, "people-state-your-opinion" questions. In 1997, R.W. Apple wrote in the New York Times that Tribute, near Detroit, "may be the best restaurant between New York and Chicago," an opinion that understandably still gets trotted out today (for example, it leads the "Accolades" section of their website.) My parents ate there recently, and my father, who admittedly said the meal was wonderful, came across that line and nevertheless thought it must be an overstatement. I explained to him that line was written over ten years ago and though it may have been true at the time, it may well be an overstatement now. But that raises the obvious question, what is the best restaurant between New York and Chicago? "Between New York and Chicago," is obviously ill-defined. By car, there actually isn't all that much in-between, and if that's what Apple had in mind, the statement becomes less impressive than it sounds -- really just Detroit and Cleveland. A less direct route might encompass Pittsburgh. I don't think he could've meant a pure east-west demarcation (that would include Philadelphia, D.C., Toronto, Atlanta, Miami, etc.), and that would make the exercise less interesting besides.
  13. While we're tossing out "general pieces Bruni's done," I thought it interesting that when he set out to investigate top restaurants outside New York, the fifteen he chose didn't seem to me at least to conform to his purported prejudices or leanings. (He notes he deliberately did not choose Cut or Osteria Mozza.) Nor did this series in general, at least to me. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/dining/27count.html
  14. It was the patrons that cost ADNY a star! Sorry. But isn't that how the above-mentioned Diner's Journal reads? (The part immediately following what slkinsey quotes.)
  15. Dave H and Nathan, I think the viewpoint you take about my baseball reference shows you to be actually sympathetic to FG's position. To take the analogy further, I think FG would say that even if Ducasse went 1 for 5 in the game Bruni watched, it should have been obvious through observation that Ducasse is a .350 hitter, and his scouting report should say as much. This is a scouting-versus-results approach. It doesn't matter what actually happens in the small sample; it's too small to make a judgment, based on results alone, about the caliber of player, but information is there to make a judgment nonetheless. I'm not so sure where I stand on that, whether in baseball or restaurant reviews.
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