The Bruni Digest

In which I sit on a dirt mound somewhere in Brooklyn with my ears pricked, waiting for New York Times head restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who I imagine to be a Venetian count in a huge ruffled collar, to dole out stars from the inside breast pocket of his brocaded chamber robe. This blog is predicated on the suggestion that every Wednesday, in the Times Dining Out section, Frank lays a huge faberge egg of hilarity.

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Location: New York, New York, U.S. Outlying Islands

I am fiscally irresponsible, which means I have weak bones and a dorsal fin. And a penchant for dining out, even though I am, in the words of many rich people, a "poor people". I make a different face when speaking each of the foreign languages in which I am shittily proficient.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

La Esquina: Spanish for "Epcot Nightmare"

Usually, Frank smacks friends who arrive tardy to a meal with a ruler on the knuckles, makes them get up in front of the table, and recite passages of Boccaccio's Decameron in the original Tuscan dialect.

This time, however, he responded with clemency, since her lateness was due to a gauntlet of menacing staff that pretended she did not exist ("DO YOU SEE A CUSTOMER, I DON'T SEE A CUSTOMER, DO YOU??") and refused to seat her, even though Frank Bruni was sitting downstairs waiting for her.


"I asked her if she was miffed," says Frank. "She gave me the derisive, pitying look that a sane person gives a lunatic."

Akin to the accusatory, haunting look that a normal person gives a crippled child.

"'The harder it is to get in, the more fun it is to be in,' she said, articulating a maxim of Manhattan night life and a guiding principle of La Esquina, which is sort of like Studio 54 with chipotle instead of cocaine."


Another Juvenile addict proves that chipotle is a messy substance to take nasally. I remember the first time I blew a rail of guac and nearly went blind. Ha! College!

But one thing that you know if you are a frequent reader of the Digest is that while Frank and I both love big hunks of meat and well made martinis, our tastes diverge where he loves to bask in scenestery places, and I prefer to “keep it real” in a hairshirt, playing a wooden piccolo and eating canned beans in my Brooklyn hovel.

“Jules, you ready to go to dinner?”
“Yeah, totes! Let me just grab my purse/snapping turtle and we’re out the door/bog.”

In any event, this place is (surprise!) not about the food so much as it is about marketing: “ the significant pleasures it delivers boil down to its air of cunningly manufactured mystery, its speakeasy-channeling pantomime of illicit, exclusive pleasure.”


Illicit & exclusive? Kinda. Stuck in a box of her own contrivance? Possibly. Veiling a lifetime of unspeakable sorrows? For sures.

Says the bafflingly impressed Frank, “The unveiling of La Esquina belongs in a textbook for public relations and marketing executives.”


I mean, there’s a lot of evidence that there’s a gerbil living where my brain should be, and deductive reasoning has lead me to believe that the gerbil may also be dying of alcohol poisoning. But when the Count discusses La Esquina’s business principles, I think they sound, well, Heidelberg-style terrible. Let’s?

* You enter a “chutes-and-ladders passage down a harshly lighted staircase, along a corridor with kitchen supplies, through the kitchen itself, and into the contrived darkness of the vault” Are you entering a restaurant? Or did you just lose a round of the popular schoolyard game S.P.U.D. ? At the end, do you sit down in a comfy chair and eat tacos? Or do you get bound and gagged and asked a lot of questions about "Johnny Two-Toes" and "waste management"?

* "The subterranean chamber opened in mid-July without a listed phone number or a clearly marked entrance." Genius.

* “The aforementioned portal is inside a taqueria that says ‘Corner Deli’ - La Esquina means ‘the corner’ - and bears, in addition to the words ‘No Admittance,’ the words ‘Employees Only.’” Just down from there, they’ve placed sandwich boards that say “There’s no food here! Seriously!” and “You’re looking really fat these days, Potential Client. Ha Ha! Go chew on your arm, Fatty Boom Batty!!”

* “Within weathered brick walls are wrought-iron gates that recall the bars of an ancient prison cell.” Awesome! It’s also very redolent of prison imagery when you get sodomized by the guard as you pick up your soap. It’s just so kooky and thematic, y’know?! HAHAHAHA [quiet sobs].

* “If the Phantom of the Opera hired Zorro as an interior designer and asked him for something in contemporary Torquemada, this might be the result.”
See-- again-- Torquemada? Isn't he the leader of the Spanish inquisition who burned and tortured Jews, Moors, and witches? I mean, not. sounding. fun to me. But then, I'm a quarter Jew, part Moor, and 18% devil-worshipping alchemist, so maybe that accounts for my negative reaction.

Re the food (the wha?—oh yeah!): “It uses discernibly fresher herbs, vegetables and other ingredients than many other Mexican restaurants”
In other words, the food was noticeably not disgusting.

“It doesn't resort to easy cheats: oceans of salsa, tides of sour cream, eddies of guacamole.” No word yet on corn dolphins or bean-bra mermaids.

There are some clues that La Esquina’s cheeky seduction of the Count is cracking by the end—“The underworld has more attitude and courts more chaos, to the point of being off-putting at times.” Really? The UNDERWORLD isn’t all feather-ticklers and pillow fights? Then why have I been robbing nursing homes this whole time?? Think I'm doing it for my health?

You think I need this crap?...OK, I do. Desperately.


“After a shot or two, the smartly chosen music - Nina Simone, Soul II Soul, Nouvelle Vague - seems to swell louder.” After several more shots, the restaurant makes the floor wobble, and a few after that, they put a stranger’s tongue in your mouth.

“My tardy friend overheard several young women ask a waiter if the vault could be breached without a reservation. He told them that they were probably attractive enough to manage it, but that there were no guarantees.”

His Tard friend also overheard this scenario:

Woman: Help! I’m having a heart attack!
Waiter: OK, miss, you’re going to have to wait a minute.
Woman: Call 911! I’m dying!
Waiter: Yyyyeah, that’s not going to be possible.
Woman: Why not? Use my cell! Quick, I can’t feel my brain!
Waiter: Mmmmm OK we checked? And there’s no availability right now.
Woman: At the hospital? How do YOU know?
Waiter: Mmmyyyeeeah I’m going to be real with you. There’s a small chance, if we apply some coverup over here and some bronzer, that they’ll save you, but I just can’t promise anything.
Woman: [dead]
Waiter: MmmOK?

But moreover: Frank, you already HAVE a tardy friend? But I wanted to be your tardy friend!!

I promise I qualify!

Just look at the SHIT I post!!!

8 Comments:

Blogger :: said...

Best. Ever.

6:02 PM, August 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eye wunt to feck u lyke n animull.

10:47 PM, August 31, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

Yikes! Now thenk yew.

9:55 AM, September 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how could you fail to address the replusively sexual "Move on to a main course of baby back ribs rubbed with chili pepper, star anise and cinnamon, among other ingredients [nice writing asshole?!], then cooked in a vacuum pouch [again, wtf?] BEFORE RECEIVING A CHIPOTLE AND GUAVA GLAZE DURING A CLIMACTIC GRILLING."

makes me think he's writing just for you.

1:52 PM, September 02, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

I know what you mean, Anonymous. Sometimes I feel like he is doing a gleeful, oiled-up Hustler Club lap dance all up in my face, and sometimes I feel like he's standing accross a long ballroom with a Victorian collar buttoned up to his lower lip, coyly trilling a paper fan in front of his face. And this time, my anonymous friend, let's just say I reek of coconut oil, my wallet's empty and I feel a little aroused.

10:41 AM, September 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously wow. Best one ever. I am also particularly glad that you decided to heap on extra helpings of your delicious brand of vitriol on this particular review. OHHHHH YEAHHHHHHHH.

8:04 AM, September 13, 2005  
Anonymous Kenny T said...

This is pure genius!

12:11 PM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous ari said...

wow, you are a genius. I think i may have to read your blogposts every week from now on.

11:39 AM, November 12, 2005  

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