Friday, January 25, 2008

Heist, Hype, Hoary, and Lame

“Late night finds me in the parking lot of Take One strip club on Northeast 79th Street (could this be the new restaurant row?).....
Pamela Robin Brandt-New Times 1/24/08
“No longer just a toll-free way to zip from Miami to Miami Beach, the 79th Street Causeway is becoming a surprisingly hip restaurant row...”
As Stewie Griffin might say, THANK YOU!
New Times' Lee Klein hypes Domo Japones, and here's what I like to call the Klassic Klein Beverage Sentence (r) -”An upstairs lounge in the rear of the space provides a romantic nook to partake of sake, cocktails, or wine; a listing of the last encompasses two dozen bottles, with many in the $30 to $40 range.”
37 offhand words about the beverages here, including 18 about the wine. I think that might be another record. But the real laziness comes in the annoying omission of anything to do with sake, which many people, I've heard, enjoy drinking with sushi.
I also love the fact that he says that DJ, Michael's and Grass, all located on NE 40th Street, are on the same 'corridor'. I predict that NE 40th Street will become the Surprisingly Hip New Restaurant Corridor. You heard it here first.
Over at the Herald, Enrique Fernandez, in his continuing million-part series, 'Cuban Food Retreads Nobody Gave a Shit About the First Time', your favorite elderly uncle discourses on 'Cuban Pizza'. Turns out the best Cuban Pizza is in Cuba. (I can't keep using the phrase, 'No Shit' every week, can I?). Well, it turns out, according to my sources, that the best Italian Pizza is in Italy. The best Paella, Spain. The best tacos, Mexico. You may be on to something my friend. And also, according to Tío Enrique, the best Cuban pizza he's had was at a private-home restaurant for Cubans only in Havana. The pie 'rocked'. Eloquent. I can't wait for the next part, 'Other Stuff Nobody Can Get But Cubans', by Anonymous Bearded Old Guy.
Victoria P. Elliot-VPE-First let me say that I'm not a big fan of the star system, but I understand people like to see them. But maybe there could be an explanation of what the stars mean, so that when you pan a place, like Alta Cocina, and give it 2 ½ stars, maybe we would actually know what that means. Can a place get no stars? Ten stars? Just a minor suggestion.
She whines that on her two visits, neither of the owners come by to make sure everything is okay at her table. What, does she need somebody to tuck in her bib? Isn't everyone these days complaining about overwrought, over-attentive service? I praise God when the people leave me alone so I can have a damn conversation. I don't like to plunk down $100 or more for dinner with my constant companion and then have to talk to some guy I've never met all night, just because he brought me my prawns.
About the wine list? “Markup on the 50 or so mainly New World wines, from a $32 Chateau St. Michelle reisling to a $120 brunello from Pogio Antico, seems to be the usual two to three times retail, but it's hard to judge with vintages absent.” Like from ALL OF YOUR REVIEWS? Sorry, didn't mean to yell. Maybe you could ASK TO SEE THE BOTTLE? Sorry. That's why they (don't) call them journalists, folks. And what is “the usual two to three times retail...” Does that mean the St. Michelle is $16 retail, or $11 retail? Not that big a deal, but when you look at the Brunello, the difference between 2 and three times retail is $20 on the retail side. (In other words, Zippy, is the bottle being marked up from $40 retail, or $60 retail. That's a big question when it comes to how much of a rip-off the wine is, or isn't.) And if reviewers keep talking about such exorbitant markups as though they are normal, we will never see ridiculously high wine prices in restaurants come down. Someone needs to fight for the consumer, and stop giving restaurants a free pass on their wine gouging.
I see four very disturbing trends here. 1)Klein reviews a restaurant open barely two months. 2)VPE only tries a restaurant twice before reviewing, and 3)Enrique reviews a restaurant that closed thirty years ago (it's possible-he never mentions when he ate that great homemade pizza). I think a fine-dining restaurant needs three months and three visits before reviewing, to get all the kinks worked out. Then you can fairly judge. And your review is more helpful to the dining public. It's not just an ill-informed, hastily written, meal recap you might see on Chowhound. At least that's how it's done in the bigger cities. Time to step up, folks. Oh, and the fourth thing? I don't call it stealing anymore. It's an homage. So, thank you.


Paula said...

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That's twice already!

LAX2MIA said...

I love this!

Unknown said...

MD - "Frod" here - love your witty writing, as always. It's all good fun, of course, until we start picking at your ouevre - saw the Miami Herald's beta with a certain Mr. Brody in the byline, any idea when that goes live? Looks great and enjoyed your preview piece on streetside eats.

Anyway,I couldn't resist sharing my 2 pence.

Did you like the reference in the "Domo Japones" review to "sushi and nigiri/sashimi selections"? They have sushi AND nigiri AND sashimi? AND half-naked pictures of Naomi Campbell? I have to get to this place. Given the similarity to the Wine 69 review's reference to "everything from Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to French reds and premium Old World wines," maybe the redundant, doubly-inclusive list is just the New Times "style."

As for LK's half-hearted moral qualms about Chilean sea bass ("I'm not going to order it, but it's OK if my dining companion does so on the company dime, and I'll still happily comment on its succulence, and far be it from me to question a restaurant's decision to serve it") -- this nascent environmental consciousness is apparently of very recent vintage.

Only a month earlier, LK was ordering and commenting on a Chilean sea bass dish without any moral compunction:

Alta Comes Up Short

(also "succulent," it should be noted, and probably even more so without being burdened with any worries about depleting the species)

So is it possible that sometime between December and January the Chilean sea bass population went from thriving to "nearly extinct"? Umm, actually, none other than New Times wrote a piece on the issue about four years ago:

Long Live Chilean Sea Bass!

In fact, LK himself did a piece a year ago on chefs' use of foie gras (prompted by the big to-do in Chicago) in which he noted multiple chefs who had pulled Chilean sea bass from the menu:

Foie Wars

But here's the real kicker: his statement that Chilean sea bass is "nearly extinct" is, ummm -- wrong. While there's plenty of concern about overfishing of this slow-growing species and about "pirated," illegally poached fish, thus putting it on the "avoid" list for those concerned with preserving fish stocks, that's not nearly the same thing as saying the fish is "nearly extinct."

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

Is Chilean Sea Bass Endangered?

Me, I'm dubious about that whole "my companion ordered it" thing in the first place.

As for your comments on the Alta Cocina review, here our paths diverge - to me it's Hospitality 101 that at some point during or after your meal, someone should come by and ask how things are/were. Maybe you'd rather be ignored, but most folks plunking down $100 on a meal would like to have some sense that the recipient gives a crap whether or not the diners enjoyed themselves. Both the New Times and Herald commented on this repeated failure and front of house is clearly something the place needs to address. Wine lists without vintages are also a pet peeve of mine - if the bottle costs more than $10, you shouldn't have to ask what year it is.

BTW, the Herald has a 4-star system, and usually (but not always, for some reason) the review says beside the stars what they mean (I've seen ** = satisfactory, **1/2 = good,*** = very good, ***1/2 = excellent).

Enrique Fernandez? - he turned me on to the burgers at Kingdom, for that he gets a free pass from me for a while.

And as for that "hip" "new" restaurant row?

"79th Street area, both mainland and beachside, is really becoming an international food mecca. We've got Schnitzel Haus for German, Taj Majal (formerly Renaisa) for Indian, Sushi Deli and Katana for Japanese, Siam Bayshore, Tamarind, and a new place, Sawwadee, for Thai, Ouzo for Greek, a couple decent Italian places (Oggi, Prima Pasta), Vacas Gordas for Argentine, El Rey de Chivito for Uruguayan sandwiches, decent Mexican at El Rancho Grande ..."

- Frodnesor, 7/26/07

No worries - homage, not stealing!