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Leonard Kim

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  1. My wife and I stopped in at Bel Cibo today. It is a combination grocery/cafe on Main St. between 13 and 14 in Clawson, in the building next to Frittata. Like Frittata, it's small and has some charm. I counted only three people working there (including the grocery, waitstaff, and kitchen). For this reason, even though my wife and I were basically the only people there, and we only ordered soups, service was almost annoyingly slow. As any of the news pieces on this place will emphasize, Bel Cibo occupies a unique niche in being devoted to wheat- and gluten-free food. One could almost say that the chef/proprieter, Andrew Doyle, formerly of Woodruff's, opened the place so that his dad, who nearly died of celiac disease, could have a pizza. Indeed, my wife and I checked it out because we are considering such a diet for one of our sons. But the fact is, the food is serious and good. We sampled four soups (one can get a soup "trio" for $6, which I got): minestrone, corn chowder (both "soups of the day"), borscht, and potato/chorizo. We found no fault with any of them -- they were all very good, without need for any qualification (i.e., "good for being gluten-free"). The dinner menu looks interesting and ambitious enough that we might consider coming back to try it. It fits this thread well for being off-the-beaten-path, having good food, as well as its personal quality and backstory, and trying to serve a role worth supporting. They also deliver and offer classes. Website: http://www.belcibo.com Metro Times review, written before the introduction of the lunch and dinner service, but worth reading: http://www.metrotimes.com/metropolis/resta...iew.asp?id=9786
  2. Couple of other observations: Thus far, new episodes have been taped about every 8 months. The last set was taped in October. I don't know when they put together the list of whom to call, but it seems challengers are called 1-2 months ahead of taping. This season, at least, they had all their challengers slated by at least a month ahead. So my guess is you'd want to make yourself heard ASAP, or else you'll have to wait quite a while for the next available round of tapings. Assuming you're asking for yourself, it's worth noting they've never had a challenger from Pennsylvania (not even from Philadelphia). It's a gap you could fill.
  3. The usual method does seem to be getting a surprise phone call: Walter Royal has said in several news pieces that he thought his invitation was a prank at first. In another news article, Mary Dumont referred to her invitation as a "shock". There have been a couple of FN-sponsored competitions, the winner of which appears on the show. Linton Hopkins and Ouattara Morou got on through this method. But you still have to be invited to these competitions, so this route is of little use for most. I can't find the reference now, but I'm pretty sure I read of an upcoming challenger that knew Bobby Flay, and Bobby Flay basically said one day something to the effect of, "you know, you should come on the show." Helps to know people, I guess. But all is not lost. People have apparently successfully "applied" to be on the show. David Bull sent, "his résumé, video, menus and accolades." I don't have the references now but I remember reading about other challengers who seem to have done something similar. Actually, I think it's the publicists of these chefs who actually got the job done in these cases. I don't know if that helps. You were probably hoping for a response from an actual competitor (this website counts a couple such as members).
  4. My wife and I tried Crush tonight. It's on the southwest corner of Thirteen Mile Rd. and Southfield. It's fairly new and been getting quite a lot of press. Here are the reviews: Metro Times http://www.metrotimes.com/guide/restaurant...ew.asp?id=10079 Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article...ENT08/701050407 I don't have much to add to the reviews. I had the chicken entree described in the Metro Times while my wife had the salmon mentioned in the Free Press. Both were pretty much as described. As mentioned in the reviews, bread must be paid for -- we opted for bruschetta which was a little oily for my taste, though the tomatoes were tasty. We also ordered what we thought would be an appetizer ("brown bag asparagus"), as it was in the menu column which our server (who went through a fairly detailed menu explanation) indicated was for appetizers, but arrived simultaneously with the entrees (leaving a slightly large gap between bread and everything else.) I should note that they, as of last month or so, now accept reservations (formerly allowed only for parties of 6 or more, which might have contributed to the crowd of would-be diners described in the Free Press.) However, we were able to walk in for an early Thursday night dinner with no problem. Wine by the glass comes in two sizes, "taste" and "glass" the former being about a 1/3 glass which is right for me (I like to taste wine with my food, but am kind of a lightweight and sometimes have trouble getting through a whole glass in the course of a meal.) Somehow we got out under $70 though I would have expected, based on initial impression of the menu, to pay far more. I guess it's largely because of the "price structure" described in the Metro Times, where the entrees are actually rather moderately priced ($12.50 to, max, $24), even though you're paying quite a bit for bread, appetizer, wine, etc. Overall, it was fine. It's not going to become a new favorite or regular destination for us, though it's worth trying for those who like to frequent restaurants like this. It's interesting that there are now three somewhat comparable restaurants within a 1/2 mile or so of the 13 and Southfield intersection (Fiddleheads, Beverly Hills Grill, and now Crush.) Crush has the most striking room of the three. I haven't eaten enough at all three to get a real sense, but I guess I still like the food at Fiddleheads the best. Oh, finally, Crush as an apparently no-strings-attached free rewards program. Once you've spent $250 at the restaurant, you get a $25 gift certificate. You apparently also get gift certificates for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  5. It seems like we basically agree. I mentioned Zumba, Anita's Kitchen, and Grand Azteca because they were on the Detroit News' "Outstanding Bargains" list and I was familiar with them (along with Christine's, which was a genuine recommendation, but then again, you knew about it.) Personally, I have to admit we eat at Qdoba more often than Zumba and that, other than a few "authentic" touches, Grand Azteca hardly seemed more distinguished than your typical area Tex-Mex place. And I'm sympathetic to your description of Anita's as "functional." But, you might give Albano's a try. It's on Main St. in downtown Royal Oak. Frittata is a breakfast/lunch place on Main St. between 13 and 14. A frittata is like an egg pie, the Italian version of the omelet, I understand, and it's their "specialty". Given your earlier comment on breakfast, perhaps it's not for you, but in general I recommend it. Service is just a shade slow, perhaps. Cafe Muse is the same kind of place in that I guess both try to be a little more sophisticated than your basic American breakfast or lunch. Both places are very small. And I find both places good for the price. I guess my basic problem with Middle Eastern and/or Thai recs (and I guess that goes for other ethnic: Indian, Mexican, Chinese . . .) is that I myself don't find enough variation in quality as to make it worth seeking out anything beyond the closest place in your vicinity that's "good enough." (I don't like the La Shish branches in my area either, though.) For example, the closest generic Chinese restaurant to my house is King Wok which is in a strip mall on Campbell and 12 Mile. The thing is (and I'm about to lose all my food cred), I think it's quite good -- better than most generic, takeout Chinese places. So if I want generic, cheap Chinese, that's where I go. I know there are better places out there, but this place is more than good enough for me, so I have little motivation to venture further for food of this kind.
  6. Not having the means or time to systematically try out different sushi places, we've always fallen back on Noble Fish, so I'd be interested in reading about better alternatives as well. I work at Beaumont, and we regularly get takeout from Mr. Kabob. It's good, but again I don't know that I'd make a point of trying it if you had closer Middle Eastern alternatives, which is, I guess, a potential problem with a lot of these places.
  7. Ayse's is in a plaza on Plymouth Rd. (at Murfin, I think) immediately north of North Campus. I only ate there once while living in Ann Arbor, though I knew people who went regularly. Since you live in Ferndale, you probably know about these places, which I've mentioned on other threads. I've got two very young kids so nowadays when we eat out it has to be close, cheap, and kid-friendly. We sometimes end up at Christine's Cuisine in Ferndale, Frittata in Clawson, or Cafe Muse in downtown Royal Oak. The latter two are breakfast and lunch-only. None are that "off-the-beaten path" in that the newspapers have reviewed them, and Christine's even makes the Detroit News' "Outstanding Bargains" list. (Looking at that list, I see several other places that I take the kids to every now and then: Albano's Cafe and also Zumba in downtown Royal Oak, Anita's Kitchen in Troy, and Grand Azteca in Madison Heights. I'd probably rank them in that order, and I wouldn't say any are worth a long drive, though from Ferndale, why not.)
  8. Today's followup article in the Chicago Tribune brings up this very issue. The feeling on the producer's part was that the interval of time that's elapsed since Flay was a Bakhoum client was sufficient that she would be an impartial judge.
  9. There is an extensive article about ICA and Graham Elliott Bowles in today's (2/11/07) Chicago Tribune Magazine (also available online -- though perhaps only briefly -- with free registration). It's quite a substantial article -- a great deal of behind-the-scenes stuff which, though all known before, might be interesting to those who know the show only casually. I do want to point out something that is possibly a new legitimate cause for complaint about the show. I think there's been enough behind-the-scenes-type articles and judge's testimonies to conclude that the show is not, as some have charged, "fixed." On the other hand, though it's just a TV show, winning or losing does have at least a little impact on participants' exposure, publicity, business, etc., so there should be as much avoidance of impropriety, specifically conflict-of-interest, as possible. The article quotes Bowles' team grumbling about Karine Bakhoum, one of the "regular" judges, who is portrayed as, among the judges, the least enthusiastic about Bowles' cuisine and the most enthusiastic about Flay's. The problem is, of course, that Flay is a past and current client of Karine Bakhoum's. It seemed to me before that Food Network was sensitive to this: Bakhoum had, in 11 previous battles judged, never judged a Flay battle. (Related to this, Chris Cognac once wrote that he was not allowed to judge an LA chef's battle because of the conflict-of-interest thing.) However, in this 4th season's tapings, Bakhoum is known to judge at least two Flay battles. Trivia: No challenger shown thus far has won a battle that Bakhoum has judged.
  10. I don't know anything about this news source, but anyway, from http://calorielab.com/news/2007/01/25/food...ssage-a-glitch/
  11. The question about whether LB is French or not is OT and semantic, but since it originated from the question of Bruni's preferences (and a purported penalizing of "French" restaurants) and the **** scene in NY in general, it's worth noting that Bruni discusses this specifically and at length in his blog. I think the disagreement here might come down to Bruni's observation that the term "French" can refer either specifically to food or to a more general "meal structure" and service model. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=143#more-143
  12. There is a Ray interview in yesterday's (1/17/07) Detroit Free Press. Couple of things I thought worth quoting: The first quote reveals, unsurprisingly, that TV is not reality and, surprisingly, the TV version is less flattering On the Nabisco endorsement
  13. There's a reason I post on eG. ← The author of that voice of reason post is "Nathan." Same Nathan? Show of hands -- how many of us have posted comments on Diner's Journal? I'm sure I've seen some of eGullet's members on there. "If the Palace dinner had cost $15 a person, it would be worth three stars. At $65 , one star is about all we can muster." Mimi Sheraton, 4/22/77
  14. For those with a Times Select subscription, it might be worth checking out reviews from, say, 9/7/79, 6/23/78. and 2/4/77. These are "genre" reviews (in this case, Brazilian, vegetarian, and Thai respectively) which encompass 7-13 restaurants each. They are "official" reviews, as opposed to the dining directories (which were also presented thematically), assigning fresh ratings to each restaurant under consideration.
  15. Mimi Sheraton seems to have construed the stars differently, given your earlier analysis: That's what I would have thought, but rich's post seems to indicate that QG, at least, really did go from 0 to 4 stars in about 5 years, and it wasn't just a quirk of Sheraton's rating interpretation.
  16. Honestly, I'm not trying to be perverse. I re-read the Wolfgang's review and initially could see where you were coming from. It seemed kind of stupid, unbalanced, with very little actual writing about steaks. So then I thought, great, now I'll look at other reviewers' takes on Peter Luger and finally get a handle on what Bruni is lacking. I also re-read Steingarten's article, "High Steaks" to get a handle on what points a credible reviewer would hit when writing about steaks: steak quality, aging method and time, size, texture, juiciness, an ideal of a charred exterior with a rare interior, and flavors which Steingarten describes as "meaty tastes of minerals, iron, and blood. . . beefy tastes of butter, nuts, and broth." Here is essentially everything Bruni says about steaks in that review: Doesn't seem like much, does it? But . . . Reichl's *** review mentions dry-aging and the importance of buying good quality steak. Here's everything else she has to say about the steak: The style is quite different, but is this really any more substantive? Miller reviewed Luger twice (one star both times.) Both reviews combined, this is everything he says about the steak: Finally here's Sheraton (1 star): I came away from this exercise impressed with how hard it must be to write much of anything about steaks (Steingarten says as much about reviewers in his article.) But I think Bruni actually hit all the points he's supposed to (except, perhaps, steak quality, but it's not like anybody wrote "USDA Prime" in their reviews), using the "correct" descriptors. I don't think his steak cred is proved lacking when compared with his predecessors. I agree the general tone of the review is kind of silly, but that's a writing thing, and I find the lavish sensuousness of Reichl no less silly. Sheraton is arguably at odds with what some of what Steingarten and the others look for in an ideal steak. And now I'll give my contrariness a rest from the discussion.
  17. Based on what's said here, the implication is that a restaurant may well go through a three star swing in just a couple of years. (Do we really believe that? This seems an important issue in a discussion of reviewing practices.) I've said before the Times' classical music criticism is bad. Now, I consider myself an expert in that field, so when I say that, I'm actually saying I think the criticism is of little value to the non-expert. I'd hope that lack of value would be evident to the non-expert, but I'm probably wrong. I certainly don't expect the non-expert to be able to discern whether a critic is or is not particularly expert. I am assuredly not a food expert, and so I have to admit I can't, by myself, tell that it's obvious from the reviews that, say, Sheraton is more expert than Bruni. I don't doubt it's true since more knowledgeable people assure me of that. But to a non-expert like myself, something like Sheraton's first QG review and something like Bruni's Gilt review read awfully parallel (BTW, the odd combinations and penchant for sweetness is attributed by Sheraton to nouvelle cuisine's French practitioners; she doesn't say it's an American thing): from general strategies like praising the chef's talent and sincerity while questioning the concept to minor things like Bruni's bemused characterization of the waitstaff recitations and Sheraton writing, "if you forget that fact [nouvelle cuisine], don't worry about it; the captain is sure to remind you. On our first visit, he said: "nouvelle cuisine" seven times and a few weeks later, a plat du jour was described as, "not nouvelle, but fun anyway." Now maybe specific statements Sheraton makes are those of an expert and ones Bruni makes are not. But I can't tell. As English, both are basically equally comprehensible and informative to me the non-expert to the extent that one isn't clearly less valuable than the other. So what level of expertise is at stake here? At what point is one's expertise such that Bruni is no longer valuable but Sheraton still is, and is that bar too high for most of us? There would be a danger if Bruni made statements that were outright wrong about things that varying degrees of non-experts would not catch. Has that happened, and how often, and at what level? You know, my local classical music radio announcers once identified a composition as "Selections from Handel," identified a single movement of a virtuosic, late-19th century violin concerto as a couple movements of a Telemann suite, apparently thought a quintet was performed by a quartet and a conductor, and identified a clearly duple piece as a waltz. I don't think I'm so non-expert that I wouldn't catch comparable gaffes in a food review. And I don't think Bruni would make, let alone be allowed to make, such errors as well.
  18. Now I'm just being obnoxious, because I agree that there are more and better restaurants. (Though I disagree that this makes frequent re-reviewing impossible and that today's restaurants require more words to do justice. Just my opinion.) But the Quilted Giraffe. . . Mimi Sheraton's review isn't any longer or explanatory than any other review. It's perhaps unsympathetic in a way that certain people might interpret as her not "getting it," but this is Mimi Sheraton, not Bruni we're talking about. It simply opens, "the Quilted Giraffe. . . is the city's newest bastion of nouvelle cuisine." She then takes a couple paragraphs to make swipes at nouvelle cuisine, both in general ("Improbable combinations of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats as well as unexpected and inappropriate strains of sweetness -- almost standard flaws in the repertory of of the young nouvelle cuisine chefs of France -- are evident here also.") and in specific dishes. Verdict? 1 star. Is this not the kind of review, relative expertise notwithstanding, that FG and others are deploring from Bruni? We're getting close to the stance that there has never been (or grudgingly 1 or 2) worthwhile or "with it" critics in the history of the paper, which is setting the bar too high, I think. P.S. 2 years later, Sheraton bumped it to two stars. Only in '84, after 4.5 years, and a different critic (Burros), did Quilted Giraffe become a 4 star restaurant.
  19. Right, Bruni did take over 2.5 years before re-reviewing a restaurant he'd already reviewed. That is longer than any of his predecessors, but not egregiously so. Reichl was on the job 2 years before doing this (re-reviewing Nobu, which she'd already reviewed earlier) and Grimes was on for almost two years (Daniel). However, I do think you're basically right, and that Grimes had the same problem. Speaking very roughly, Reichl and Grimes had the job for ~5 years. Reichl re-reviewed restaurants she'd previously reviewed about 10% of the time. Grimes? He re-reviewed himself only 4 times (Atelier, Ducasse, Daniel, and Papillon). Bruni is on a similar pace. I don't know the figure now, but I once looked at how often Bryan Miller re-reviewed himself (i.e., not counting his predecessors) and it was some ridiculous high number. One point -- Reichl and previous seemed have no problem doing a self re-review and giving the same rating as before. Grimes and Bruni's few examples have all involved changes in ratings. (Of course, their re-reviewing a predecessor's work often carried no ratings change.)
  20. Sorry, I wasn't clear. I think that aspect of Bruni's rating strategy is dumb luck, but I also think it's the right thing to do. A tricky aspect here is that Bruni can and has been criticized for somewhat different things. 1) Getting ratings wrong. Here's where I think the Sheraton comparison (wrt Claudio's and Tre Scalini) may be relevant. Wouldn't changing ratings that much with that frequency at least make one suspect that she's getting things wrong at least some of the time? I am not particularly convinced that Bruni is worse off here than his predecessors, and in that respect agree with Nathan. 2) Lack of expertise. This is perfectly fair, and will bother different people to different extents. Since I think SE can be a classical music critic, obviously I personally don't care too much about this. It's bad if it leads to vague or non-explanatory writing. Complete lack of expertise would make it difficult to judge context and originality. I think Bruni has done this long enough (and prepared enough before starting the job) that this isn't a huge issue. A lack of technical expertise might make it hard to assess whether something was difficult or easy to achieve, or whether it meets certain fixed, but arguably irrelevant criteria. Is that really important in this kind of review? A pianist who can make difficult passages look easy might be held in awe by his/her colleagues, but really, what interest does that hold for the average listener? It may even detract from the experience. Countless, sensitive listeners has deplored the negative effect of the "no wrong notes" technical standard today's classical musicians are held to. Up to a point, it makes no difference. Many wrong notes are undetectable to the non-expert. And it selects the wrong group of people practicing classical music today.
  21. Honestly, my opinion is that Sheraton took her visits completely at face value. She in fact (I think more than once) wrote that her "system" is simply to take the average of each of the visits she made to the restaurant in question. For example, in her 1978 review of La Caravelle (a restaurant that has had anywhere from 1-4 stars over the years), she gave two stars. She opens her review saying that since it opened in 1960, this was always considered one of the 3-4 best restaurants in the city, with justifiable 4 star ratings. A couple of paragraphs later, she writes, "in six visits spread over the last four months. . . we experienced two meals that were excellent, two that were very good, and two that ranged from good to mediocre. Since every rating is an averaging out of experiences, a two-star rating is what now seems in order for La Caravelle. What must also be noted in that averaging is how low the lows sink, compared with how high are the peak performances, and again we come out with a two-star rating."
  22. The problem with long posts is that new posts pop in while you're writing them. Sorry if some of this is now irrelevant. It addresses issues around the discussion of GT and USC. (And Marc, a new post about Sheraton is coming very soon.) Quick, general points, somewhat repeating older posts of mine -- 1) the nature of the beast is such that as time goes by, the bar for ambitious new restaurants, completely independent of ratings, goes up. 2) because of this, the options facing the restaurant critic are three -- adding a new rating (five stars) as the best restaurants get better (this was actually, perhaps jokingly, raised as a possibility in an old review I can dig up if anyone's interested), increasing the proportion of restaurants with the high 3-4 star ratings, or simply raising the standards (such that it's harder to get three stars now, than in the past) trusting that re-reviews and closings will keep ratings from getting too far out of whack. 3) the reality is that Bruni, at least, is going with the third strategy 4) If stars consider price, then they are a consumer service, if not, they are simply an indicator of product quality. These are not the same things. The star system was introduced in the dining out directory/guide section of the Times, not the restaurant reviews (to which they eventually migrated), suggesting their intended function was the former, though that point has probably gotten lost in the mists of times and results in some confusion today. That's why comparison with music performance reviews are tricky. If the Times did periodic reviews (and I for one would prefer this to the drivel that currently passes for music criticism in the Times) of music institutions, not performances, then that would be different. (I.e., the Met would have a single rating as a whole, City Opera would have a rating, etc.) 5) It's with the understanding that stars should be taking as consumer evaluations that the critics from Miller back would do frequent re-reviews. It's harder to view ratings as consumer evaluations if most have to be relevant for >10 years. From that standpoint, they might as well be arguably converted to consumer-independent, "aesthetics" ratings with price as no consideration. 6) I also submit that part of a **** and to a lesser extent *** rating is uniqueness and excitement, and that therefore, as new or similar restaurants appear, that may justifiably force a reduction in rating, even if the restaurant is basically unchanged.
  23. The kind of internet writing you refer to may mean that one's displeasure is more directly accessible by the community-at-large (while the critic in question may choose to ignore or be unaware of its existence.) However, you have to think that the old-fashioned letter-to-the-editor allowed most anyone to express the same displeasure and be read by somebody who matters, though (unless published) hidden from the rest of us. Reichl's memoir has multiple references to such things. I bring this up because Mimi Sheraton, at least, sometimes would write about what her readers would say after a review appeared. For example, in February of 1979, she gave the three-month-old Italian restaurant, Claudio's, three stars. Just a few weeks later, she appended an "a la carte" note to a review of Dodin-Bouffant reading, "A few weeks ago, Claudio's. . . was reviewed and given three stars. Apparently the ensuing crowds have been badly handled, because many complaints about the service, excessive waiting, and inexcusable rudeness have been sent in by readers. In view of this, perhaps it would be wise to give Claudio's a few months to settle down again before trying its interesting and original cuisine." Five months later, in July '79, a new review of Claudio's appeared, reading, "Back in February, we were pleased to give a three-star rating to Claudio's. . . Almost as soon as the review was out, complaints began pouring in about the service and later about food as well. Several recent return visits provided evidence that the complaints concerning food were very well-founded." [sheraton reported no service problems and she "had no reason to suspect we were recognized." New rating? Fair. What reaction would the restaurant critic get today if a comparable sequence of events unfolded? This isn't the only example like this -- Sheraton gave three stars, then zero stars, before finally settling on two stars for Tre Scalini in the space of 1.2 years. Times have changed, huh?
  24. Logged on. You're wrong. Seriously, there've only been 20 reviews since Freemans, which may not constitute a big enough sample. Starting with the Freemans review, Bruni's average rating has been 1.5 stars. Pre-Freemans? 1.6 stars. Statistically, there's no difference. Probably not surprising, really. Bruni's stars have been, as numbers, unremarkable. As ratings, the ones that provoked questioning have been both high and low.
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