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, May 26, 2005

Koi: If I Could Turn Back Toro

“THE gates of the ancient Greek underworld were patrolled by a pooch with multiple snouts and a mean streak. The gates of Koi are patrolled by a man with a single clipboard and an aloof mien... He wants the diners who breach this sanctum to believe that they have made a heroically privileged passage.”

Or, since a picture is worth a thousand elaborately trellised metaphors:

There’s Cerberus


And then there’s power-starved, scenestery maitre d' Cerberus.


And never the twain shall meet, unless a certain two-headed pitbull has a hankering for a clipboard bismark and a Mont Blanc in its rectum.

But through the Count’s smokescreen of erudition and antiquity, it cannot escape you that this review opens with a blatant comparison of Koi to Hell, and basically goes south from there.

Is that a surprise? Personally, being the kind of person that likes to sit in my pioneer-era hovel, wearing a hemp poncho and playing paddy-cake with dust bunnies, the mere idea of this restaurant scares the flaming shit out of me.

My "Going Out Outfit"

But in terms of the food, was there any question that it wouldn’t suck? Like Confucius said, “You don’t fucking go to Sephora for the chicken paillard, do you”? All you ever hear about in relation to this restaurant, more so than other flashy Asian fusion places like En Japanese Brasserie et al, is the celebrity conga line that seems to shimmy non-stop through the New York Koi, and through its equally hookery twin in L.A.

“They're gonna comp us, right?"
"I think I just pooped on your paw."

So, (stop the press!) Frank concludes that at Koi, “attitude reigns”: “Like an aged pop star on the latest of several proclaimed farewell tours, Koi ultimately relies on pose more than performance.”

Like Cher. Just say “like Cher.” You did it to Faye Dunaway, let’s not get coy.

"If you belieeeeve in life after retiring after retiring after retiring"

And, Frank may enjoy the analogy of the bloated grande dame, but there's no one menu item that more reliably sends him into verbal fireworks than Kobe beef:

"An entrée of what the menu advertised as Kobe-style beef had the dusky color, dreary texture and quotidian flavor of reheated pot roast. …if its provenance was indeed some preserve of specially pampered cattle, I predict a bovine class action suit in the offing. Those cows should be growing much fatter, happier and more flavorful than this.”

Cows are FURIOUS at not being tender and flavorful. Just outraged.
This, however, is fine with them:


Koi

Satisfactory, in the sense that it is a terrible, terrible nightmare.

40 West 40th Street, in the Bryant Park Hotel; (212) 921-3330.

ATMOSPHERE: Excellent. “Koi made me feel like an insect, and I say that with gratitude...”

A.k.a, Koi relieves you of this burden:


SOUND LEVEL: Like having a Boeing inside your cochlea.

RECOMMENDED DISHES: Kobe carrion. Stanky seafood. There were “a couple of instances of seafood that tasted like it had been carelessly stored” and “Slices of chu-toro sashimi were gray around the edges and shockingly fishy.”

Hey didja hear the one about the blind gynocologist who walks by Koi? “EVENIN’ LADIES!!!” I’m sorry. I’ll delete that in about 10 minutes.

WINE LIST : Wine? I would probably need at least 30 CC’s of liquid Judy straight in the jugular to make it through this place.

PRICE RANGE : Irrelevant. You will wish that instead of having to have food put in front of you, that you were billy-clubbed by a ne’er do well and your money lifted off your cold dead body:

“An entrée of ginger-glazed Alaskan king crab legs consisted of stringy flesh under a cloying varnish. It tasted like a canned seafood candy bar, so odd and unappealing that the friend who ordered it justifiably said she wouldn't have felt any more dispirited if a server had mugged her for the $27 that the dish cost.”

Canned seafood candy bar? I just threw up a little. You owe me some Tagamet, Frank.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I'll Give You a Trophy to Look at My Wiener

This Thursday, May 26, see the Wiener Philharmonic perform a partial sneak preview of our upcoming sketch/video show, "Wish You Were Here," which will run every Thursday in June at 9:30 at Juvie Hall on Bond Street.

Bonus: we're splitting the bill with our long-time sketch crush Trophy Dad.

The Kraine Theater (above KGB Bar), 85 East 4th Street off 2nd Ave., 10:30 p.m., $7

  • "Delightfully sophomoric!" -- Choire Sicha, New York Times Arts Guide
  • "I [love the Wiener Philharmonic] -- Norman Mailer
  • "Waaah!" -- babies

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Periyali: Pretty classy...FOR A GREEK PLACE mwahaha

Toot toot! The S.S. Bruni is docking at Port Passive Aggressive this week, praising Periyali, the Flatiron Greek stalwart, for being a delicious “yawn,” and giving it 2 stars even though, in his words, “Nothing at Periyali proves hugely intriguing. Nothing wows.” I’m salivating.

He begins:

“‘I HAVEN'T been here in three years,’ one gentlemen said to another as they passed my table at Periyali the other night.

‘Do you remember what the food was like?’ his companion asked him. I didn't hear the answer.”

This gossip item, about as juicy as a balsa plank on the surface of the sun, and by far the best opening dialogue since Curious George first removed his culottes in front of the children, is Frank’s gumshoe way of saying: Periyali has been around a long time.

During that time, it has remained basically unchanged, wearing a culinary L.L. Bean fleece for 18 years while all the trendoid skanks clamored for J.Lo brand unitards.


At many Manhattan restaurants, “the passage of three years would guarantee a tweaking of the concept, a reshuffle in the kitchen or at least the arrival of a slate of new dishes and an expansion of the spice cabinet to include coriander and cardamom.”

In other words, everything’s gettin’ all GLOBAL n’ stuff.

“Welcome to Le Cirque, may I take your order?”

Periyali, however, has no such pretensions: it is (get ready) “as calm and calming as the Aegean on a windless day.”

Hmm, do you mean, “as unharried as the GDP of Greece itself?” or “as peaceful as a peasant tooth undisturbed by dental care for a lifetime?” Frank’s praise of Periyali starts to remind me of the “Happy Girthday, Fatass” card my brother sent me one year: so thoughtful, yet somehow insulting.

I’m actually going to rephrase the following excerpts as the Count addressing Greece directly.

“When it opened 18 years ago, upscale Greek was an oxymoron, a gyro-defying leap of imagination and faith.”

Dear Greece,

in the recent past, the idea of anything classy being associated with your people would have literally been a hilarity. Maybe it was because all you made was gyros…


“Greek became something more than leaden spanakopita”

…and spanikopita.

“Greek didn't exactly become the new French, the new Italian, the new anything. It's a cuisine with less variety and ambition than those, rooted in a poorer and less populous country with less vanity about its culinary traditions.”

No but seriously guys. It’s impressive you can even tie your clogs in the morning.


Amazing Brunisms of the Week:

“New Yorkers are currently enjoying an octopus renaissance, an octopus apotheosis, with restaurants as different as BLT Fish and Ama having cinched preparations that render this flesh unusually pliant.”

OCTOPUS APOTHEOSIS?

worship away, kids.

And a Brunism FOR THE AGES:

“Fried rings of calamari...made all those reckless pub versions seem like so many oily bread crumbs with specious claims to maritime paternity.”

Cut to: 10,000 baby squids waving paternity suits around one tiny sailor on Montel.

Too late, guy. Shoulda kept your periscope in the hull, sailor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

English is Italian: Is the Olive Garden

For being such a man-about-town, the count OBVIOUSLY hasn't heard about Batali’s newest in the pipeline, a Gaelic venture called “Foamyshanks is Pukey” slated to open next month. Frank pre-emptively gives the "award for most peculiar restaurant name of 2005" to Todd English's "English is Italian."


Foamyshanks consulting team member.

But as Todd English crosses the stage in his Vera Wang gown to accept the award, he notices that Bruni is in fact proffering him a flaming paper bag of poo: English is Italian, Frank booms into the mic, is “a loser.”

English is Italian “cries out for explanation - the name, that is...-and one can readily be found in the chef's family tree.”

You see, the name, like the child of a circus performer and a legal proofreader, is awkwardly trying to bridge two different traditions.


Additionally, Todd’s great grandfather named his daughter “Baby is a Girl,” whose own two sons, What Time Is It English and the irascible Hey Man Your Car Got Towed English, carried on the tradition. His Yahoo password is actually a paragraph, and instead of naming his Dachshund, English just stapled a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses to its face.

"City is a Town," Todd's birthplace. None of this is true obviously.

Well that explains that. And what explains the dark, dark night which is this zero-star review? English is Italian is a glorified Olive Garden, a “perfunctory bit of brand extension.”

Yow. Brand extension is right. Frank makes this place sound like a crass corral for indiscriminate face-stuffing.

“English Is Italian promises to relieve diners of the burden of ordering by simply presenting them with platter upon platter of antipasti, pasta dishes and main courses, all to be passed around and shared.” It’s sort of like a Villanova frat boy-turned-banker’s bachelor party, but with mediocre starches instead of conspicuously Asian Swedish masseusses culled from the Village Voice.

This is…Ingrid. She’s…nevermind.

But the result? A little TOO much fun:

“Soon into each of my meals at English Is Italian, the table turned into a chaotic buffet, a cramped cornucopia of too much commotion, too many competing flavors and too few serving utensils. On the increasingly muddied plates in front of me and my friends, rightfully estranged sauces would mingle...”

Hm, so THAT’s why they never mix raspberry coulis with hollandaise: the two estranged sauces had an affair in 1983, hollandaise gave raspberry the hep, raspberry siphoned hollandaise’s equity holdings into Swiss lockboxes for 8 years and shot his shitzu with a crossbow when he threatened divorce.

Adios, Luis.

“Service at English Is Italian was too often sloppy and occasionally inexplicable. On one of my visits, a bartender held an empty wineglass up to the light, frowned at the profusion of visible fingerprints and other smudges on it, then filled it with Chianti anyway and handed it to me.”

OBVIOUSLY the server was wise to Frank's identity, and to his repeated confessions of a love for booze, and was offering him the "Blueblood special," whereby fingerprints are subtly left on the glass in order to justify an ample douse of Windex into the cocktail. (Trust, it's like Diesel, you can barely taste it.)

"This Chianti is delicious. I can't feel my face."

Well, heck, get into the spirit! After all, the Count concedes that the place is “something of a bargain,” at all-you-can-eat for $39!

And by “eat” I mean “suffer” and by “concede” I mean “use weirdly religious language, as usual, to talk about sinning flesh and redemption”:



To quote from Frank's illuminated manuscript, one saintly ravioli “could not redeem a dish of pasta shells, … an outrageous exercise in senselessly gooey overkill. The ravioli could not wipe clean the watery sins of a mushroom risotto or the bland shortfall of dry tagliatelle with a wimpy meat sauce…”

Let's hope Todd English isn't as wimpy as his meat sauce, 'cause this is getting personal:

“Mr. English is going to use the name of this restaurant to describe himself accurately, he should stretch out the sentence to include a few more adjectives.”

OH DAMN! OH SNAP!

“He could add inconsistent and inattentive and keep his assonance intact.”

From where I'm standing, looks like Todd's assonance anything but intact.

Goodnight and godspeed.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Brunami Relief Fund

Now accepting donations for Christian Delouvrier.

ZING!

Gat DANG these newfangled TERLETS!

"This is an article in which euphemisms will be crucial," the Count admits, rubbing his baby-soft hands together hungrily: by "euphemisms," he means "lots of absurd Brunisms MWA hahahaha."

In fact, I can’t help but feel like Frank’s shitsposèe this Wednesday (“Forget the Specials, Explain the Restroom”) was very British. I felt Frank’s glee bristling through every dainty circumlocution and side-winking euphemism.

Times etiquette binds the Count to tasteful hinting: pee-pee is “catharsis,” a flush of the toilet is a “cleansing aftermath to your departure,” or better still, an “adequate denoument.” And the search for a stall, or, to adopt Frank’s term, a “commode,” is a dubiously entertaining sport:

“I indeed understood … that doors with arrows on them were for men while doors with crosses were for women and the door with both signs was up for grabs: a lavatory jump ball.” It’s a little like tetherball only the ball is made of doodie and you’re standing in a toilet.

But as a sculpture of Star Jones made of fine crystal is still, at the end of the day, just a wall-eyed truffle pig, so the gilded linguistic filigrees that Frank drapes on this article like so many strewn thongs on a Hunt’s Point curb cannot entirely shield the fact that we are talking about Frank’s time in the crapper. Take this intimate moment, per esempio:

“… whenever I was using [a toilet at the Modern], someone in the communal area would rattle the door, not to mention my composure.”

See, call it a “commode,” call it a “farewell station,” call it a “relaxation ass-chalet,” for all I care; Frank can’t hide the fact that he’s painted a portrait of himself shivering in fear on a sleek Scandinavian crapper with his tights around his ankleboots.

“It's an exercise in stress, an invitation to exasperation. You tread tortuous paths to befuddling destinations. You encounter too little space or too much whimsy, the funhouse flourishes sowing enough confusion to warrant operating instructions, which a few restrooms actually have. You wish - oh, how you wish - that you never had to go.”

Maybe the trauma of the sleek Swedish stainless steel cheese-grater toilet paper at the MoMA was the last straw?


Well, here’s where the strident pink of my jackasserie fades into the benevolent lilac of good will: I’ve actually had this Moto-Pooper shipped to Frank’s house. Problem solved!


Now no more scary things like spiral staircases: “I foolishly attempted this ascent with a Côtes du Rhône in my left hand, leaving only my right to grip the metal rail. Upon reaching the top, I encountered a visibly bemused server.” I wonder what he was so bemused about, Drunky McToilet-Wino.

And no more newfangled “'LECTRIC” terlets, neither:

“’Like every electronic device, it has good days and bad days,’ said Adam Tihany, whose design firm installed it in the bathrooms at Per Se in the Time Warner Center, where I recall performing a kind of desperate calisthenics in front of one of these sensors in a futile effort to impress it.” Well now you can put your leggings away, Frank.

So did the calisthenics work? I hear jellicles can and jellicles do.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Modern: Paris Hilton's Allegorical Hoho Scan

Well first of all let me apologize for the delay in posting this. You have correctly surmised that Jules went hollering off into the high hills Fraulein Maria-style with unbridled, whooping joy following Frank’s potty article, which we’ll get to soon.

You may recall on Feb 23, Frank reviewed another Danny Meyers joint, Eleven Madison, which to me, was sort of like giving Nicky Hilton an STD screening: who cares about the boring, stable one with the solid rep?! We all want the dirt on the new, flashy sister.

Boring-Nooners Nicky

Note that I would love link to the Eleven Madison review in my February Archives right about now, but my home computer is actually a 1953 jukebox with corn cob keyboard, and it doesn’t allow me to create links. But don’t shed a tear just yet! I'm saving up for a new one!

This will be great for my back. Can’t wait.

But—unlike Frank this week (for the most part)—I digress.

The Count seems to have realigned his trusty magnifying glass atop his placemat, giving a nice sketch of what they're actually COOKING at the Modern. This was particularly gratifying for me. When I stopped by the Modern I didn’t exactly get a feel for the breadth of their offerings, as our exchange was limited to my flashing the hostess a shit-smeared smile and her giving me a tuppence, a warm roll, and the address to an orphanage, but it smelled GREAT in there.

Jules, back out in the big world

And Frank’s experience?

“Picasso's ‘She-Goat’ kept entering and exiting my peripheral vision, as if grazing in an adjacent field. When I pivoted my head more purposefully, I could take in a Calder or a Miró, each one bathed in moody lighting.” The moody lighting, she-goats, and bathing sound great. I hope Frank's neck is ok.

"Beep boop bop! I will now pivot my head purposefully!"

“Backdrops for fine dining don't come any more mesmerizing than this.” Huh. You haven’t been to the the Magic Eye Kaleidoscope Acid Trip Inn, Frank? Put it on your list. It’s delicious until you hurl.

But anyway, the Modern has, aesthetically at least, successfully seduced the Count, even moved him to alliterative poetics, praising the sleek “furniture and flatware, water pitchers and water glasses, bud vases and butter pedestals...” What a perfect compliment to Gabriel Kreuther’s “overthought and overwrought” cuisine. Once Tweedledee brings the check we can hop on our tandem bike and get outta here.

But first, some erratic service: “A server struggled at the cheese cart, cutting strangely oversize and undersize portions. A hostess, connecting coats to their owners, looked at the label of one and asked-shouted, "Made in Honduras?!"

Wow. That is pretty phenomenal. The cheese guy I forgive—you can’t discriminate against the blind, even in knife-wielding professions, it’s just illegal, look it up. But reminding people how shitty their clothes are is a little awkward. I wonder if it was followed by a blithe “OMG Honduras? My family went to club med in Honduras we had the best diving coach his name was Paco do you KNOW HIMMMM?” Or whether it was more of a “OMG do you even know how much they even pay the toddlers to MAKE THE CLOTHES there, you monster???” type of thing.

“thanks a lot, Coat-Check Girl, you’ve really got our back.”

But more importantly, I’d like to personally thank Frank for the neological verb “to ask-shout” which I have giddily tucked in the folds of my gray matter for later use (right between “Latin declension of 'vagina'” and “ability to weave lanyard bracelets.”)
But that's not all he left us with: two little kissy marks on Danny Meyers' face.