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.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best of Bruni 2005

As the Count's first calendar year as New York Times Restaurant Critic comes to a close, let's look back over our shoulders at the tantalizing trail of panties that has led up to this point: the Best of Bruni 2005.

"But," you protest, "how can you choose? It's like picking among your own children!" Well, I don't have children, but when I do, I'll clearly pick for favorites the prettiest and least gin-damaged ones.

Jules: Well, doc, is it a boy or a girl??
Doctor: I don't know how to say this,'ve birthed several ounces of Juniper berries.
Jules: Perrrrrfect.

Most Pervy

Yumcha: “If you sense in those descriptions a blurring of boundaries - a sort of pan-Asian embrace coupled with a French kiss - you understand Yumcha's wiles. It christens its come-on ‘modern haute Chinese.’” I mean.

Taboon: "The restaurant Taboon was built from the ground up in a peculiar and particular sense. Its back story is a tale of love and parquet." It gets randier from there.

Sushi of Gari: "I am ashamed of my past. Horrified by it, really. I need to glance back only a little more than a decade to catch a glimpse of my wantonness, to see myself treating something precious as if it were just so much flesh. When it came to sushi, I was a cad. I degraded it with excess wasabi paste, and my use of soy sauce was nothing short of promiscuous." That's a winner.

Most Carb-Celebratory

Barbes: "Few carbohydrates could have triumphed so handily over Atkins and South Beach. But pasta thrives, insistent and ineluctable, like Paris Hilton.”

Bistro du Vent: "Mr. Pasternack...has created his own private Idaho, a place where...diners heretofore victorious over starches are bound to meet their Waterloo.”

Most Irrelevant

Frederick's: "To be clear, Frederick's neither composes an interesting enough menu nor performs consistently enough to lure many diners with no other business in the East 60's.” Grrrrrreat.

Bette: OK, sure, a Diner's Journal entry was justified. But 30 days later, Bette round II? "In this daisy chain of dauntless gawking, necks craned violently and heads swiveled abruptly. Was Bette a restaurant, or a cunning plot by business-hungry chiropractors?” Genius.

Biggest Winners

Sripraphai: "By the time [my friend] sampled the restaurant's roasted duck salad, its curry rice noodles and its sautéed 'drunken' noodles, I had traveled in his estimation from cretin to genius, villain to hero, a culinary Columbus who had discovered an untrammeled new world." This one was November 2004, techincally outside of the calendar year. But it marks, according to many, the most scandalous thing in Frank's record to date: 2 stars for a dumpy takeout place in Queens.

Bistro du Vent: Two Stars? Just for Serving Potatoes?

Biggest Losers

Alain Ducasse at Essex House: Frank brought the restaurant down to 3 stars from 4; this was just pre-Digest, although a few months later I did have a comment on the resulting curb-kickage of Exec. Chef Christian Delouvrier.

Ninja: This was more like a huge-handed birthday clown spinning around open-palmed in a tight circle of children: non-stop hilarious smackdowns of poor assholes that didn’t see it coming.

Koi: “Like an aged pop star on the latest of several proclaimed farewell tours, Koi ultimately relies on pose more than performance.” Just say "Cher," ok? You don't have to protect her, she's made of Teflon.

Most Distinctive:

Keens: A trip to Colonial Restaurantsburg, complete with 200-year history of mutton in America.

Della Rovere: CHOCK FULL of cheezy jokes.

Prem-on Thai: Inexplicably, done entirely in prayer format: “Let us now praise the crispy fish, which has swum and sizzled its way onto the menus of so many Asian restaurants in our fair city, determined to prove that seafood can taste as ecstatically naughty as anything else.” (Tied for Most Pervy)

Jules' Favorites

THE RED CAT. "The Red Cat feels vaguely colonial and tavernlike, except when it feels downtown-gallery cool, and apart from those moments when it feels modestly and eclectically elegant.” Wha??

Periyali: Next on Montel--"Fried rings of calamari...made all those reckless pub versions seem like so many oily bread crumbs with specious claims to maritime paternity.”

La Esquina: '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."

Aburiya Kinnosuke: “You definitely won't find elaborately constructed, kaleidoscopic sushi rolls, the kind that look more like kites than supper, or whimsically shaped stemware filled with neon-colored potions, the kind that look more like chemistry experiments than drinks.” Well, I usually don't dine at Willy Wonka's Shagadelic Thrift Store From Hell, anyway.

There are amazing, pants-shattering Brunisms I'm forgetting; so please feel free to comment or email me and I'll add 'em to the list.

OH GOD! I almost forgot: The Shitsposee-- Frank's toilet review, although really more of a revue.


Blogger Pip Harper said...

You didn't get his "gayest" quotes. Like when he tells the waiters at Ninja to scream "Surrender, Dorothy!"

4:59 AM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous rebecca said...

The one about the chinese restaurant being a prom date...I don't think I'm making that up.

12:18 PM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous John Rambow said...

Sripraphai's far from a dumpy takeout--it's awesome, is what it is. Not sure if it's a two-star, but since when are Bruni ratings able to be calibrated? For me, the best part of that review is Bruni's wandering for hours in Queens, Mr. Magoo-like, unable to reach Woodside.

1:55 PM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the 'phai, I was just crudely paraphrasing the reasoning behind some people's outrage.

Also-- rebecca-- do you mean this?:

"At Yumcha, Chinese is relieved of its bicycle, put into a limo and squired to the prom, where it sashays onto the dance floor, giddy and resplendent, and cannot figure out precisely how to twirl.”


2:18 PM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous Marc Shepherd said...

I agree with Sripraphai as the most egregious review of Frank's tenure, but as it dates from 2004, I'd suggest two others as Biggest Winners: The Red Cat and Compass.

Frank also awarded two stars to what seemed (from the text of the review) to be a so-so Italian place in midtown--I've forgotten the name--where the hostess won Frank's heart by praising his companion's dress.

Perry Street is certainly a candidate in that category, having won a very tenuous third star from Frank.

Biggest Losers? No disagreement with the list, but an honorable mention goes to Alto and The Modern, both of which received the two-star kiss -- Frank's "default rating," as you put it.

6:50 PM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

The Best Of Jules!!!

11:34 PM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous Natalie said...

Nice recap Jules. My fave will always be the piece on Aburiya Kinnosuke. I have this thing about Pirates, so when Frank was rockin' the explorer boots, it was funny as hell. 2 parts “arrrrr” to 1 part “meow.”

12:37 PM, January 01, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

Marc-- I definitely agree with Alto-- the diss was mostly based on the layout of the place if I recall.

And as for the Italian place, I believe it was Spigolo, which I considered tossing into "Most Irrelevant":

"'That's such a pretty dress,' Ms. Fratangelo said. If she didn't really mean it, Cherry Jones better watch out. There's an even better actress in town."


3:51 PM, January 02, 2006  
Blogger arnheim Lieber said...

Oh My! Those are mighty fine-lookin juniper berries you got going on there! If you ever need a sitter, you can just let me know, ok?

4:48 PM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous katiebakes said...

Bruni really goes above and beyond the call of pervy today in his review of Centrico/Zarela:

"At Centrico, a generous $11 portion of guacamole came in a wood chalice of sorts, with an aureole of multicolored chips. It was near room temperature and vibrantly seasoned with onion, cilantro and lime."

4:22 PM, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous Maureeen AKA Scootr Grrrl said...

Your best of just proves how hard Frank is to read! too much, ah, blowhard-iness? Jeez, this guy is just full of himself. Or is it that he is just full of IT?

5:47 PM, January 05, 2006  

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