January 17, 2008....I'm going to start with the New Times this week, just because it's so easy. (As for Enrique Fernandez in the Herald, he and his bad Julia Child references and abuelito folksiness will have to wait for next week.)
New Times reviewer Lee Klein has another bad burp day, and I don't mean the food. The followup to his bland menu-recitation/sermon (I hesitate to call it a review) of the mega-chain Chipotle outlet, seemingly all done with 'research' off the Internet (including “quotes” from Chipotle's founder), is a review of the Miami outlet of Bonefish Grill. First let me say that I learned something from this review. According to Lee, after writing that his crab cakes were composed almost exclusively of pure lump backfin, comes this piece of edification, “...it takes 30 pounds of crab to produce one pound of backfin.” But isn't that like saying it takes 30 pounds of cow to produce one pound of sirloin? No shit! And, although I don't blame Lee for the general misunderstanding of crab meat, 'lump backfin' and 'backfin' are not the same. There is other meat in the backfin that is not lump, dude. I suppose his major 'point', which is that Bonefish has no freezer, therefore it serves never-frozen fish, leaves one to wonder about the journalist in Klein. How does he know that the fish is not delivered frozen (or frozen at sea, etc.), and simply defrosted in the refrigerators? And I'm pretty sure that those shrimp he ate were frozen, too, as most medium-grade shrimp are frozen, often at sea. In fact, if he never saw anything but fillets, does he assume that they're filleting fresh fish at each and every Bonefish Grill? And of course the do-gooder Lee, who won't order Chilean Sea Bass “...because it's nearly extinct..”, has no problem allowing his dining companion to order it, and to then review it! If you have a problem with the fish, either tell people not to order it and move on, or order it (I'm sorry, isn't the New Times paying for Klein and his companion's meal?), and review it. You can't do both.
Also, according to Klein, the wine list exists. Why won't reviewers at least mention a couple of bottles? One, even? One would be nice. Don't most people order wine with their dinner? But restaurant writers here seem to know or care little about wine.
And the review starts out with 'insipid', but ends on 'great meal'. Shill, anyone?
Bill Citara reviews Wine 69, which is across the street from Uva 69, no relation, but I see a trend forming (Michy's 69?). His premise is that Wine 69's owner was bold to open in this neighborhood, but the wine bar is two doors down from Michy's, one of Miami's most sought-after reservations. Within a block or two are also the popular Uva, Dogma, Karma, and the actual pioneer of the neighborhood, Casa Toscana. Did I mention Subway is a block south? And some coffee place is about a hundred feet away, what's it called? Oh, right. Starbucks. Smart move, but not really bold. So let's stop pretending this stretch of Biscayne is desolate anymore, okay? There's a Starbucks for gods sake!
I'm not sure of Bill's wine knowledge, and he doesn't convince with this one. I could go on all night, really, but with stuff like “...everything from Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to French reds and premium Old World wines,” it is obvious that he doesn't know that, obviously, many French reds and premium Old World wines ARE Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. In fact, even the simplest beginner knows that reds produced in Burgundy are almost exclusively Pinot Noirs, just as the whites are exclusively Chardonnays. That's about as Old World as one can get.
But here in the New World, we like to know about the prices of the wines by the glass, by the bottle, and maybe a few words on the size of the pours, so we can decide if there is any value here. Are the flights two ounces, three ounces, or what? How big are the by-the-glass pours? Perhaps a run-down of some of the best buys, or splurges, or unusual bottles? I have to report that Bill failed to give any of that information. That's right. In a review of a wine bar, there is not one mention of any of that. Not one mention of the prices of bottles, or which wines are served by the glass, or the vintage years of the wines he drank. My suspicions are that Mr. Citara knows bupkis about wine. But for someone writing about a wine bar, at least (as Bill says about Wine 69's owner) you have to applaud his Chutzpah.