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Leonard Kim

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  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.
  16. Well, in her memoirs, Reichl wrote the difference between her two Le Cirque meals was between four stars and one star. The whole "failure rate" metric is intentionally vague -- it's really just some arbitrary measure of quality, or lack thereof. If you went with my alternative measure, you would certainly have an asymmetric distribution where a restaurant was, say, two stars 60% of the time, one star 30% of the time, and zero stars 10% of the time. This is still a "two star restaurant" but even on its best night, it's never a 3/4 star restaurant for the reasons you've all given. I think you have go back to the question of how much can a restaurant do if it recognizes the critic? If the difference is a "failure rate" of 1 in 10 improving to, say, 1 in 25, I'd say you couldn't meaningfully tell the difference in four visits, and that's what FG is implying when he says the difference between three and four stars, at least, is small, so you can't base a rating on that. It's similar to what Stephen Jay Gould (I think) once wrote about baseball players. There's a huge difference in perceived quality between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter. Yet the difference between them is 1 hit per 20 at-bats. There's no way you can tell the difference between them even after watching a week's worth of games, let alone one. On the other hand, large differences in quality, such as those given by Nathan (which were 10x different), and implied by FG when he wrote you can basically tell immediately whether a restaurant is in the neighborhood of four versus one stars, is measurable in a few visits, and Nathan's analysis was qualitatively on the mark. So the question is how big is the spread? I think anecdotally people are accepting, if grudgingly, of a one star difference of opinion because of an innate understanding of the sampling issues involved. I think that a two star difference of opinion is considered more serious, partly because most people feel they can readily distinguish the difference, even with a small sample. So the question is, can a restaurant effect a two star swing in quality of service (or food) for VIPs and recognized critics (whether through improvement or avoiding the bad)? My guess is very few can, and those that can are, at this point, well-known or publicized. So from that standpoint, there's not much point in anonymity particularly if, as FG points out, it limits the quality of critics one can employ. On the other hand, all other things being equal, there doesn't seem to me a compelling reason to actively toss it out the window.
  17. If we take FG's service failure rates at face value for the moment, then I think even isolated incidents of bad service are more than meaningless. I've written before that one characteristic of Bruni's three star reviews is that he has no (or trivial) complaints about the food. I haven't checked to see whether the same is true for service, but it makes sense that's approximately true. Given a failure rate of 1% for a 3/4 star restaurant (FG's 50 out of 5000 tables), if Bruni or you or me take four of those tables (assuming that's typically what goes into a NY Times review), we would not expect *any* service failures. The probability of having even one is about 4%, and there is basically no chance of having two bad tables. (I'm just using a binomial distribution here.) Given a failure rate of 10% for a 1 star restaurant (500 out of 5000) on the other hand, sure, in four visits you still don't expect any service failures, but nor is it unexpected if you do have a bad night -- there's a 34% chance, better than one in three, if you go four times, at least one will be bad. So if I'm reviewing a restaurant, and I go four times, and one of them is bad, sure there's a chance I'm at a three/four star place and am one of the unlucky 4%, which means, if I've reviewed thirty or so of these places, I've probably underrated one unfairly because of the bad service. But it's far more likely that the bad incident is meaningful in helping peg the service level. Obviously, the numbers depend on FG's estimates being in the ballpark. Actually, I think the best way to do this is for you guys to make up a hypothetical restaurant with an established service level and "consistency." For example, take a three-star restaurant -- on a given night what's the probability of getting four-star service? two-star service? one star service? With those numbers, it should be fairly easy to calculate the probability of guessing the wrong rating on the basis of four visits.
  18. Perhaps I'm being cynical, but I always viewed Reichl 's followup review of Le Cirque as an example where she was probably "gamed." When Grimes reviewed it himself less than four years later, he noted, "I was spotted on my first visit (once again, the restaurant upheld its noble tradition of immediately recognizing critics)." Reichl's Tavern on the Green review would, I'd guess, be a reasonable example of why she, at least, thought anonymity can be useful, though I guess this would be another case where a counter-argument might run, "everybody knows that about that place anyway." If one is only looking at relative rankings, then I understand where anonymity can be dispensed with, and the playing field should be as level as possible. But we all insist a review's value shouldn't lie just in the rating, but in the text. So far as the function of a review is for a critic to do advance work so that the reader can decide whether a place is worth an investment of time and money, I'd think most readers have an expectation that what's described in a review is, to some extent, representative of what they can expect to experience. With that goal in mind, the pretense of anonymity and occasional true anonymity is probably pointless and irrelevant in most cases but may be useful occasionally enough to be worth it, as long as neither critic (as in the first review) nor restaurant (as in the second review, where recognizing the critic ultimately lead to a worse, more damning review) are being naive about it. If there's a disconnect between what's written and what's experienced, then readers complain, and the newspaper's or critic's credibility may suffer (or not.) Past NY Times critics would occasionally mention dissenting readers (as in the Miller Four Seasons review, which I was actually going to cite, but FG beat me to it. I have to admit I was going with Marc's interpretation.) Admittedly I can't think of an example of a critic admitting he/she might have been gamed. Sheraton's explanation was often along the lines of, service gets worse because restaurants can't cope with the upsurge of business following a positive review.
  19. I've got probably a dozen or more media citations, including those quoting participants, that say this isn't true -- that it's invitation only. Can you provide evidence for this claim? (I'm not trying to knock you, I'm sure people would be thrilled if tapings were open.)
  20. It's in Troy, Michigan, on Maple Rd. near Stephenson Highway. No it's not a chain. It gets lots of critical plaudits in the metro Detroit area as one of our top Asian restaurants, so I wasn't surprised to see it nab Hour Detroit Restaurant of the Year honors. I haven't been myself, but I've been under the impression that its strong point is Asian fusion, and that the "takeout Chinese" elements of its menu were there to accommodate patrons who go there expecting takeout Chinese food. It's like the experience I had at Hong Hua, which is also an Hour Restaurant of the Year winner, and is widely considered one of the top Chinese restaurants in Metro Detroit. I had a laughably bad experience there, but I'm wondering whether it was how I ordered. For example, one entree I ordered can be found on any bad Chinese takeout menu. The reason I ordered it was that I wanted to see how this presumably much higher level restaurant would execute such a tired old standby -- and what I got was as bad as cheap takeout. You get what you order, I suppose, but I wonder whether even more ambitious ethnic restaurants in the area feel compelled to carry such items (indifferently executed) because so many of us yokel Michiganders expect such items at Chinese/Thai/Indian/Mexican/etc. places.
  21. Despite Bruni's amused ambivalence, this quote suggests that it is not the food but the haute hoot-iness that is the primary component of the ***, meaning that in this case it's a definite positive as far as Bruni's rating is concerned. I think this is Bruni's first self-revision that wasn't in the context of a double review.
  22. I would say that it doesn't ultimately come down to taste, because the scoring system is well-defined, it is what it is, and under such a system, there are multiple roads to victory. Anyone can propose changing the scoring system to better agree with his/her feeling about who should win, but there's no satisfying everybody. I've read arguments on other websites that it's not right that Bobby Flay wins by out-pointing his opponents on taste, even though he has the worst average plating and originality scores of the Iron Chefs (worse even than the average challenger) and has even repeated a dish in two different battles. In a sense, this is the mirror image to the problems with Cat Cora being aired here.
  23. As you undoubtedly know, we can't calculate variance for individual judges as we don't have those scores. I can say that panels on which Steingarten has appeared do not have larger variances than usual. Among panels with at least one regular judge, the highest standard deviations are actually those with actress Cady Huffman or Mo Rocca. I don't think any general conclusions can be drawn from this though. Nor do I think this says anything for or against your hypothesis.
  24. Cora's standard deviation on total score is 4.2, which is lower than Morimoto's (5.4) and slightly higher than Flay and Batali (3.9). Her high/low scores were 55/39. (To compare, Batali 56/41, Flay 56/41, Morimoto 59/39). Steingarten has judged 1/2 of Cora's battles (8 of 16.) She has gone 5-3 in those battles, which is a little worse than the .719 Iron Chef winning percentage in all battles Steingarten has judged.
  25. There is an element of truth here. Cora and Flay have had more "non-foodie" judges. About 35%. (Flay has actually had a larger percentage of non-foodies.) In contrast Morimoto's and Batali's non-foodie judges make up a little shy of 20% of their panels. The effect this would have on scoring is not clear though. Though it may be tempting to suppose that foodie judges would tend to score lower, I'm not sure how you could demonstrate this. And it's easy enough to offer counterexamples. Art Smith (Oprah's personal chef) has judged five battles, and the average score of these battles is considerably higher (by over five points) than the average battle -- and no, it's not like he's the only foodie on these panels. I don't think this is true. The only regular publicist judge is Karine Bakhoum, and I see no evidence that Cora is her client. She's certainly not listed as such on Bakhoum's website. Flay was, and for the first three seasons, Bakhoum did not judge any Flay battles. There was a minor stink when she finally did starting Flay battles, and maybe that's what you're thinking of. Dude, with the information available, it's never going to be rigorous. The point is that there is no obvious evidence in the scoring for some of the claims being made here (Cora is weaker or is drawing weaker opponents or less knowledgeable judges.) However, it seems to me that any bias in the composition of judging panels shouldn't affect Cora. I can think of two: the aforementioned Bakhoum not judging any Flay battles for 3 seasons and Katayama (+ Riccardi) judging most of the Morimoto battles. If you look at the regular judges, Steingarten, Allen, Huffman, Rocca, etc., they are more or less evenly distributed across the Iron Chefs. Anyway, one of the point of computing averages is to take out individual variability. I guess what I'm saying is it's not clear how an individual judge's scoring method could skew the numbers posted. If anybody has any methodological suggestions, I'm happy to follow them.
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