My Critical Condition

 

In the introduction to John Lahr’s 1996 book “Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre” he writes, “Criticism, of course, is a kind of performance, but with this difference: the artist puts his life on the line, the critic only his words. This is not to minimize the significance of the activity, but to place criticism in its proper context. Criticism is a life without risk; and, therefore, it behooves the critic to honor the craft.”

This quote, which I recently discovered, comes at the perfect moment for me. I’d been trying to think and re-think my position about reviewing restaurants on my blog, and Lahr’s quote fully articulates my conflict. There’s no question that restaurant reviews are a big part of what makes my blog popular: you can see a huge archive of them in the menu bar above you. But now that I’ve written a book, I’m suddenly in the position of having my own work out there in the public eye. And, as Lahr says, my whole life feels like it’s on the line: if a critic were to trash my book in a big public forum, calling me a first class idiot, I’d be ruined. On the other hand, if Michiko Kukutani calls me a genius in the Sunday Book section, my career will be made. It’s all so unnerving.

 

In the introduction to John Lahr’s 1996 book “Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre” he writes, “Criticism, of course, is a kind of performance, but with this difference: the artist puts his life on the line, the critic only his words. This is not to minimize the significance of the activity, but to place criticism in its proper context. Criticism is a life without risk; and, therefore, it behooves the critic to honor the craft.”

This quote, which I recently discovered, comes at the perfect moment for me. I’d been trying to think and re-think my position about reviewing restaurants on my blog, and Lahr’s quote fully articulates my conflict. There’s no question that restaurant reviews are a big part of what makes my blog popular: you can see a huge archive of them in the menu bar above you. But now that I’ve written a book, I’m suddenly in the position of having my own work out there in the public eye. And, as Lahr says, my whole life feels like it’s on the line: if a critic were to trash my book in a big public forum, calling me a first class idiot, I’d be ruined. On the other hand, if Michiko Kukutani calls me a genius in the Sunday Book section, my career will be made. It’s all so unnerving.

Continue Reading

Perry Street

IMG_1.JPG

If you leave a restaurant happy, does it matter if the meal itself was anything but perfect? Yesterday I had this very experience at Perry Street, Jean-George’s oft-ignored Greenwich Village outpost where savvy diners can enjoy a three-course lunch for $24. I’d been meaning to try Perry Street for a long time–ever since it opened–but an opportunity never arose. Then, yesterday, after a morning meeting, I was in the Village looking for lunch and soon I was face to face with Perry Street. The glass exterior was a bit daunting: what would it be like inside? Would I be dressed appropriately (in jeans and flip-flops)? Would it be crowded, empty, filled with nudist monks having an orgy? I took a deep breath and decided to try my luck. I’m glad I did.

Continue Reading

Soupy Sushi Salads and Ice That Costs $1

Comrades! The restaurant revolution is here. I, your fearless leader, Amateuriov Gourmetovich beg of you to consider the following two cases, both which threaten our peace and prosperity as well-meaning restaurant goers.

The first is the case of the soupy sushi salad:

IMG_1.JPG

Recent visits to two of my local sushi joints have produced salads like the one you see above. These salads were not unlike salads I’ve had at sushi joints all across the country: one part salad to two parts sticky, gloppy dressing. Let’s ignore the iceberg lettuce for this discussion and concentrate on the matter at hand: why are sushi restaurants drowning us in dressing?

Hypothesis 1: Sushi became popular in the last decade because Americans are more health-conscious than they were previously; as a corollary, Americans appreciate a salad along with their “healthy” sushi lunch; Americans like sweet, gloppy food (see: ice cream sodas, banana splits, Marie’s creamy Italian); sushi restaurant managers, in an effort to appease American health-consciousness while simultaneously stimulating the American palate, concoct a sweet carrot dressing that they dump over a pre-sliced, pre-washed mix of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Goal: minimal cost, maximum impact. Result: Americans drink sushi salads with a straw.

Hypothesis 2: This is an authentic pre-sushi salad, much like the pre-sushi salads you see in Japan. The excess dressing symbolizes American imperialism; the iceberg lettuce symbolizes karaoke. Don’t ask about the cucumber.

And now for the second case. Please study this bill from brunch at The Stone Park Cafe:

IMG_2.JPG

Some might be alarmed by the $12 grits, but those grits had shrimp and cheese and were pretty excellent. No, we’re here to discuss the first and second items on the bill: the price discrepancy between the iced coffee and the coffee.

As you can see, coffee costs $1.50 and iced coffee costs $2.50.

Why is that?

Diana, who ordered the iced coffee, said it was just coffee on ice. Perhaps they’d brewed coffee earlier and refrigerated it? Was that coffee more special than the hot coffee poured into my mug?

We decided to ask our waiter. “Dear waiter,” I said. “Why is it that my hot coffee costs $1.50 and my companion’s iced coffee costs $2.50?”

The waiter, Robert V, shrugged and said, “I honestly don’t know.” Then he walked away.

Comrades, these are troubling times in the world of dining. We must rise up and save our salads from sloshing, we must demand fair prices for iced coffee beverages. Who’s with me? Who’ll challenge the status quo? No one?

Ya, that’s what I figured.

Hungry in the Hamptons at The Stone Creek Inn

IMG_1.JPG

This is a quick post about a dinner I ate this weekend in the Hamptons. My parents were there with my brother and his girlfriend, Tali, for a party, and I came the day before to spend time with everyone. We had a really forgettable lunch in Westhampton at 75 Main–country club food, indifferent service–and I was expecting the same for dinner. But where we ended up, The Stone Creek Inn (located in East Quogue), offered up a memorable dinner, even if it wasn’t quite a success story.

Continue Reading