I look forward to the NY Times restaurant review every Thursday. It’s one of the few days I go to a coffee shop and really take time to relax, drink my coffee, read the newspaper and enjoy the vibe. This morning, however, was different. The restaurant review was so unexpectedly scathing I sprayed my coffee across the patio. Sorry, Barista.
Here are some highlights from Diner’s journal from Sam Sifton’s review of Imperial No. Nine –
- stacked high in the middle of a vast moor of culinary mediocrity
- But on this night the tuna was old. It was not rancid. It was not totally inedible. But it had that spongy funk. It was enough to raise eyebrows.
- Clammy in temperature, with a nasty aftertaste, it overpowered the frozen coconut layered on top of it. Octopus legs in a mixture of soy and sofrito danced one evening at the divide between soft and mealy. On another they were decidedly on the far side of the line. They were pillowy in the sense of the word that describes the taste of a pillow.
- And lobes of dismal-flavored sea urchin served over thick lardo and heavy toast were just dreadful: the eighth band after Nirvana to write loud-soft-loud music and call it new.
You get the idea.
I’ve always said it is easy to write a really good review or a really bad review. It’s the average ones that can be the biggest struggle. I had a feeling Mr. Sifton blew this one right out the door. Here is a link to the entire review. Fun to read.
I wish the Oregonian or WW employed more food writers like this. It is a rare occurrence to read a food review so scathing, you start laughing. There are several highly regarded restaurants in the Portland area, I think could use similar wordplay in a review. “stacked high in the middle of a vast moor of culinary mediocrity”…I love it.
Read the one FD just posted…it’s even better.
I too wish we had someone paid to write reviews in PDX publications that had the cojones to write anything near as amusing as these reviews (when warranted, of course).
Folks are very polite here, especially where the media is concerned, even to a point bordering on dishonesty sometimes, IMO. YMMV…
The only recent exception that comes to mind is Zusman’s October 2010 review of Giorgio’s: http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/index.ssf/2010/10/restaurant_review_giorgios.html
And, IMO, he could have been snarkier, but that is not the Portland way. It’s a small town and everyone knows who he is, how snarky can you be – even if you do it in a funny way? For sure it is NEVER funny to the restaurant. He pushed the envelope quite a bit on that one, though, good for you MCZ.
Food Dude says
I’ve done a few scathing ones, but I think they are gone now (closed). Remember Roger’s review of Pinocchio?
Took some digging to find that one!
Even “an aioli whose taste manages somehow to be both industrial and redolent of mouthwash” is no “gray, suppurating renal brick.” (and I agree about the med school comment, btw)
No offense to Roger (love ya RP!), but he’s still in a small pond of fish with long memories…and really nice, in a very Portland kind of way (that I almost aspire to be as well ;o). And he pretty much nailed the mediocrity that was Pinocchio without being that nasty about it all, which I think most Portlanders prefer.
Jocelyn Grayson says
Just wanted to (gently) point out that the NY Times food section is actually on Wednesdays. Unless, of course, you wait a day to read it so the suspense builds up :-).
I enjoyed reading the L’Ami Louis review, but I can’t like Sam Sifton. It’s not about giving a savage review; it’s that he’s a terrible writer whether he’s happy or sad about a restaurant.
Oh my goodness, really? Yeah, Stilton serves up a hefty plate of snark, but at least it’s presented well. He actually has a decent grasp of the language, in contrast with the L’Ami Louis “reviewer,” whose use of simile and adverb + adjective pairs is…unnecessarily excessive. I mean, really…”curling like dinosaur boogers”? Who are his target readers, 5-year-olds with remarkably refined palates?
“It can be awful there, the kind of restaurant where groups of women who might be Real Housewives gather in blowouts and big rings to talk and use their mobile phones, as that guy from “Heroes” who used to be on “Felicity” makes his way out to the lobby and everyone orders a second sweet cocktail before the salad comes out.”
That, right there, sums up well the kind of restaurant I would avoid no matter how good the food. Rearrange this as a question and I could use it to inquire about just this sort of thing at newly opened restaurants in Portland. Although the idea of people watching some potential Real Housewives of Portland does give me a good chuckle.
Hmmm, substitute wonderful for awful, reception for restaurant,
and you have the sidemeat summer tour…
It’s a living…