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I want to buy my own food critic, mommy
February 23, 2007 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Restaurant crybaby lashes out at NYT's Frank Bruni (pdf). Jeffrey Chodorow's new restaurant (where each diner is constantly threatened with impalement by samurai sword, apparently) got a (funny and) decidedly lukewarm review in the Times. So he took out a full-page ad to complain about it (pdf linked above), price tag: at least $30k. He also whines about it on his new blog. The word "critic" is deployed in scare quotes.
[via this Slate piece by a former NYT food critic; interesting in itself]
posted by grobstein (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Jeffrey Chodorow, previously seen on "The Restaurant", with Rocco DiSpirito.
posted by smackfu at 4:23 PM on February 23, 2007


From the letter to the editor:

I and my staff worked extremely hard on this project and the response has been, frankly (no pun intended), overwhelmingly positive.

Pun? Because, what, franks are made of beef? He should be skewered (pun intended) for that one alone.
posted by gurple at 4:24 PM on February 23, 2007


Oh, Frank Bruni. Never mind.
posted by gurple at 4:25 PM on February 23, 2007


Not to be a spoiler or nuthin', but this was on Gawker, and others...way earlier.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:27 PM on February 23, 2007


From the 2nd link: "If Akira Kurosawa hired the Marquis de Sade as an interior decorator, he might end up with a gloomy rec room like this."

Hilarious.
posted by basicchannel at 4:35 PM on February 23, 2007


Paul Fussell's excellent essay A Power of Facing Unpleasant Facts has much to say about the merits of responding to your critics versus keeping your mouth shut.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:35 PM on February 23, 2007 [8 favorites]


jsavimbi: Not everybody reads the same blogs you do.
posted by empath at 4:38 PM on February 23, 2007


empath: I know, but I've always thought of Metafilter as a non-aggregation site. More like creative thought backed up by fact.

Understanding the nature of posting, I didn't scream "newsfilter", either.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2007


The critic lost me with the phrase "eerie query".... went into a seizure while saying that over and over.......I was scared to read much further.
posted by HuronBob at 4:50 PM on February 23, 2007


Funny and interesting. Thanks grobstein!
posted by vacapinta at 4:51 PM on February 23, 2007


Hanging upside down from the ceiling in the nearly pitch-black dining room are sharp, gleaming samurai swords, about 2,000 of them.

Jesus. I don't think I could eat there.
posted by delmoi at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2007


Oh, it's not so bad compared to the ill-fated Bistro Vladimir, which by way of comparison featured enormous spikes projecting upward from the middle of the seats.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I know, but I've always thought of Metafilter as a non-aggregation site. More like creative thought backed up by fact.

Think about it, jsavimbi. Meta. Filter. We filter the filters. We blog the blogs. That's what it's all about. And now the web is so completely full of boring, mundane blogs, our job is so much more important.
posted by Jimbob at 5:19 PM on February 23, 2007


" I've always thought of Metafilter as a non-aggregation site"

Uh-huh. Tell me more about this world of yours.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:38 PM on February 23, 2007


delmoi quoted: Hanging upside down from the ceiling in the nearly pitch-black dining room are sharp, gleaming samurai swords, about 2,000 of them.

Without IMG tags, this thread is pointless.
posted by cenoxo at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2007


If I recall correctly, this was published the same day JetBlue purchased a full page ad to apologize for their recent shortcomings in operations. I think this managed to underscore the word 'petty', which was not present in either.
posted by exit at 5:58 PM on February 23, 2007


Hanging upside down from the ceiling in the nearly pitch-black dining room are sharp, gleaming samurai swords, about 2,000 of them. The server volunteered that number, appended with an assurance that the blades, firmly anchored, shouldn’t cause any concern.

Uh-huh.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:12 PM on February 23, 2007


This kind of pettiness delights me.
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2007


And fleetmouse: I just finished your article. Thank you!
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:24 PM on February 23, 2007


Forgot this part: SOUND LEVEL Very loud, thanks in part to a blaring multigenerational soundtrack with Don Henley, Steely Dan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Garbage.

Which Garbage song? "Only happy when it rains?" "Girl Don't Come?" "Dog New Tricks?""When I Grow Up?" "Bleed Like Me?" "It’s All Over But The Crying?" "Silence Is Golden?" "Nobody Loves You?" "Drive You Home?" "Dumb?" "The Trick is to Keep Breathing?" "Not My Idea?" "Fix Me Now?"
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:33 PM on February 23, 2007


I love that Chodorow's letter said that "Three of New York’s and the country’s most important and respected critics loved it [including] Gael Greene of New York Magazine..."

Gael Greene's review was titled "Butchered: The namesake specialty at Jeffrey Chodorow’s new steakhouse is fine. Beyond that, run." Tough love, that.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:35 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Restaurant crybaby?" That's pretty unfair. The review was clearly badly done - you have to get to the last part of the 2nd page online before you get anything approaching a useful critique of the actual, you know, food.

Lame. And what recourse does a restaurant owner have, if not to spend his own money on an ad in a (sadly, still) highly influential paper? I appreciate Fussel's point in the piece fleetmouse linked, but ultimately disagree that responding is never called for. For instance, if you don't think the accusation that the NYT critic has no food experience is relevant to his current seat, well, you're nuts. The ad makes a bunch of interesting points that deserve an answer, not least of which is why Bruni gave *zero* stars to a place that served him at least some food he admits was luscious. And the Slate piece from a former NYT food critic doesn't make much sense, either; Sheraton writes, "Chodorow claims to have had some positive ratings but cites none specifically," but I'm seeing three specific citations in the ad.

Anyway, my general dislike of restaurant critics who seem gleeful as they trash someone's business is probably in play here, and for all I know Chodorow really is a dick who deserves to be treated badly, like Bruni did. But Bruni certainly didn't make his case in that review, which makes him a bad reviewer. End of story.
posted by mediareport at 6:55 PM on February 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sure, it's a clash of colossal egos. But why "crybaby"? The review seemed quite petty, using Chodorow's past failures for cheap laughs. Why shouldn't Chodorow call him out on it?
posted by treepour at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2007


The cost of the advertisement -- $30,000 -- is pocket change for Jeffrey Chodorow.
posted by ericb at 7:47 PM on February 23, 2007


the phrase "eerie query"

Brings to mind Jamie Oliver's continual use of "easy peasy."
posted by ericb at 7:49 PM on February 23, 2007


Hanging upside down from the ceiling in the nearly pitch-black dining room are sharp, gleaming samurai swords, about 2,000 of them. Jesus. I don't think I could eat there.

Paging Mr. Damocles, table-for-one.
posted by ericb at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2007


The rapier wit in that NYT article just killed me. I mean, I really got the thrust of it. Such an eviscerating review. So poignant. It almost makes me want to take a stab at restaurant reviewing, not to mention the faces of everyone involved in this retarded, self-absorbed mess.
posted by cog_nate at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2007



posted by cog_nate at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2007


Wait, scratch that last part.
posted by cog_nate at 8:00 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, don't. Excise it. Chop it up into little bits and serve it to overpaying yuppies. Just do whatever... dammit, I hate dissecting things this way.
posted by cog_nate at 8:01 PM on February 23, 2007


OK, just forget it. I'm cutting out to take a nap. But hey, everyone else, please keep hacking away.
posted by cog_nate at 8:06 PM on February 23, 2007


...for all I know Chodorow really is a dick who deserves to be treated badly, like Bruni did

Hey, at least Bruni didn't mention that Chodorow is a convicted felon.

Also, most reviews of the restaurant were extremely negative. But Chodorow singled out Bruni because his vanity was under assault.
posted by vacapinta at 8:12 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Chodorow is playing everyone. He's getting more publicity from this entire episode than he could've gotten had the review been stunning. Now people are going to fall over themselves to see the restaurant with the funky swords owned by the guy that threw the hissy fit.

If the food had been great, would anyone outside of NYC foodies even *know* the name Chodorow?
posted by frogan at 8:16 PM on February 23, 2007


nowing people spend that kind of money on a meal makes me want to hurt them.
posted by nola at 8:19 PM on February 23, 2007


Chodorow should arm the waitstaff and change the restaurant's name to Ronin. Now, THAT would really make for an unforgettable meal ...
posted by webcruncher at 8:45 PM on February 23, 2007


I'm not sure if this fits the genre exactly but I became a fan of Buchner mainly from this paragraph in the introduction to his Werke Und Briefe, regarding the play Danton's Death:


The powerful theatricality which a modern audience may recognise is all the more suprising, since there is no evidence at all that Buchner was a theatre-goer or had any real conception of how a play was staged. Furthermore, he wrote the play not from any deep love of the theatre, but in a feverish rush, in five weeks and under constant threat of arrest, because he was desperately short of cash. Possibly it was this very naivety and haste that lent such freshness to his approach.

posted by vacapinta at 9:43 PM on February 23, 2007


Heh. Please ignore. Wrong thread.

*shame-faced*
posted by vacapinta at 9:44 PM on February 23, 2007


First, and foremost, you need to understand that, as often happens, the intended target (in this case, me) does not get injured — innocent bystanders do. I have been too successful and battle-hardened to be affected by this...

Um, yeah...
posted by gottabefunky at 10:04 PM on February 23, 2007


not least of which is why Bruni gave *zero* stars to a place that served him at least some food he admits was luscious.

Zero stars doesn;t mean that much in the restaurant world of NYC -- unless the Times does it different than most. It's pretty rare to read a starred review -- the reviews are aimed at the rich folk.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:07 PM on February 23, 2007


Chodorow is ... getting more publicity from this entire episode than he could've gotten had the review been stunning. Now people are going to fall over themselves to see the restaurant with the funky swords owned by the guy that threw the hissy fit.

I don't care what you say about me, just spell my name right.
posted by cenoxo at 10:33 PM on February 23, 2007


If the food had been great, would anyone outside of NYC foodies even *know* the name Chodorow?

Yes. He's pretty famous in the restaurant world. He's also enormously successful — as ericb says, $30,000 is pocket change to Chodorow.

This FPP sucks. The content is good, but "crybaby whines" is asinine and, as mediareport says, ignores several valid and substantive points raised by Chodorow's ad. (And I give Chodorow credit for writing the copy himself.)

He's absolutely right about unqualified critics. Just because you can write doesn't mean you can critique. And while I can't speak to restaurant reviews specifically, I know that in the world of music criticism editors actively encourage two types of reviews: praise for an album whose label will buy ad space, or sarcastic and insulting hatchet jobs that might increase sales. As a reader, I'm tired of seeing the latter.
posted by cribcage at 11:50 PM on February 23, 2007


The Earth between two chopsticks CGM logo seems a little creepy and possibly indicative of the ego involved.
posted by tetsuo at 12:15 AM on February 24, 2007


mediareport: ""The review was clearly badly done - you have to get to the last part of the 2nd page online before you get anything approaching a useful critique of the actual, you know, food.

For instance, if you don't think the accusation that the NYT critic has no food experience is relevant to his current seat, well, you're nuts.
"

I disagree with both of these points.

Presumably, every restaurant critic has as much experience as the rest of us does -- ie, he eats three squares a day, and eats out from time to time. What other qualifications does one need to tell a general reader about their experiences of eating at a restaurant? A more demanding audience will no doubt seek their reviews in a more specialist gourmet periodical, but the lay audience is much more likely to want to know precisely what somebody like them would think of the restaurant.

As for the comment about the food -- well, that's only a part of the restaurant experience. The decor, the ambiance, the service -- these are all factors that are just as important in creating an accurate portrayal of the event and by the sound of it, these are the distinctive factors in this restaurant, so it's hardly surprising that the writer chose to deal with these issues in his lead, and to deal with them at greater length.

The review might not have been remarkable, but IMO, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, and it told me everything that I'd want to know if I was contemplating eating at Kobe Club.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:55 AM on February 24, 2007


Presumably, every restaurant critic has as much experience as the rest of us does -- ie, he eats three squares a day, and eats out from time to time. What other qualifications does one need to tell a general reader about their experiences of eating at a restaurant?

I wonder, Peter, do you feel the same way about NYT theater criticism? Or art criticism? Would you prefer that the person reviewing plays for the paper not have any specialized education in the history of drama? Should the only qualification for a NYT film critic be that the film critic watches movies from time to time?

If so, fine, good for you. But it's hardly unreasonable for readers of a paper like the NYT to expect that its critics have at least some training/experience beyond the layperson.
posted by mediareport at 5:34 AM on February 24, 2007


dude wants reviews to be "objective"
clue at 11
posted by mr.marx at 6:33 AM on February 24, 2007


I think perhaps the use of the term "scare quotes" is more snarky and revealing of an author's purpose than the actual use of the quotes, as in "you probably don't know what the person is saying by using those quotes, so let me spell it out: they are E-V-I-L."
posted by avriette at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2007


I think perhaps the use of the term "scare quotes" is more snarky and revealing of an author's purpose than the actual use of the quotes, as in "you probably don't know what the person is saying by using those quotes, so let me spell it out: they are E-V-I-L."

My purpose was to make the contents of the links more enticing, because a response where a writer describes his critics as "critics" in quotes is likely to be entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way. I didn't mean to belittle any readers here. I didn't and don't think "scare quotes" is an especially condescending phrase.
posted by grobstein at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2007


the lay audience is much more likely to want to know precisely what somebody like them would think of the restaurant.

The point is, a qualified critic ought to be able to critique and to write — which is to say, he ought to be an expert on his subject matter and he ought to be able to convey his conclusions to people who are not. You're drawing a false dichotomy, assuming that one precludes the other. Critics ought to be able to do both.

Bob Brookmeyer made this point in March 2001:
I will refer all like-minded people to Andrew Porter, the music critic for New Yorker magazine in the 1980s, who was usually seen at a new music concert near the back of the hall, head buried in the score with small penlight for illumination. A SCORE!!! He actually could read music -- Carter, Babbit, Boulez -- no problem. He was also a librettist and since leaving is hopefully doing an opera. The current critic, Paul Griffiths, is a seminal figure in 20th century music "explanation," having written 2 very valuable books on 20th century composers. Now this Cadence-reading irate dude was very upset that I did not know who Howard Mandel was/is/will be. Johhny Mandel, of course. Hy Mandel, a baritone player and contractor years ago in NYC, but Howard? How would I know? The fact that there is no common trade paper that is worth reading might have something to do with it, but I suggest that the level of communication between "them and us" has fallen to dangerously low levels -- nonexistent is more like it.
You have to be able to judge and appreciate the craft on its own level, and then to convey your analysis to a lay audience without making them feel like they're reading a trade publication. If that sounds difficult, well, you're talking about publishing a critical column in the newspaper of record. The bar ought to be high.
posted by cribcage at 10:02 AM on February 24, 2007


My purpose was to make the contents of the links more enticing, because a response where a writer describes his critics as "critics" in quotes is likely to be entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way.

Hm, I would suggest something akin to "... an ad in which he responds to his critics." Or maybe, you know, actually sum up what he says in the ad instead of "I want to buy my own food critic, mommy." I think most of us are capable of making the value judgement without hints. There are also quite a few foodies about, who are likely to read it based on the notion of a restaurant that threatens to impale diners.

In a minor bit of irony, I've become sort of snarky in response, but it wasn't my intent. It just seems to me that this evolved sort of internet discussion vernacular, terms such as scare quotes included, has become so tired and transparent as to not add value to the discussion. I find it tedious to read and I don't think it's necessary here (where "here" is "metafilter," not necessarily the entirety of port 80). There's just no need to add snark where there's sufficient extant snark.
posted by avriette at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2007


I didn't mean to belittle any readers here.

Then you might want to consider leaving out the blatant editorializing and insults like "crybaby" and trust us to come to our own conclusions about the links.
posted by mediareport at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2007


Anytime Fussell comes up, I feel obligated to pimp for his outstanding and very funny 1983 book Class, which is about the myth of the classless American society.

As for the rest, though I enjoyed links very much, I agree with the mediareport interpretation.
posted by Kwine at 3:51 PM on February 24, 2007


Then you might want to consider leaving out the blatant editorializing and insults like "crybaby" and trust us to come to our own conclusions about the links.

While I generally agree, I find it vaguely amusing that we're criticizing the critique of a post about someone criticizing the critique of a restaurant.
posted by FormlessOne at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Not necessarily the entirety of port 80.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:39 PM on February 25, 2007


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