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, June 14, 2006

Dona: I Dona Understand a Damn Word.

Is it just me or is Frank’s review of Dona just plain weird? I usually feel like Frank’s reviews are written by an effete yet avuncular she-clown/Bible scholar, but I feel like this one was written by a foreign exchange student. Like, an Asian one.

Frank opens with praise for chef Michael Psilakis’s strip steak, which Psilakis serves with a bowl of fat and a bowl of gremolata—

“he completes the Sparks-meets-Sparta composition with creamed spinach, tucked in a chalice of crunchy phyllo. You see it, you taste it and — holy Zorba! — you get it. It's an unbound classic, spanakopita with a skylight…”

Sparks meets Sparta? Holy Zorba? Spanikopita with a SKYLIGHT? I really don’t get it.

Moussaka with a porch extension. I don't know, people.

The name Dona refers to Donatella Arpaia, the sassy blond restaurateuse whose name seems to be everywhere these days (see Ama for more on that…) Frank sets the two up as a sort of cross-cultural “Who’s the Boss?” situation:

“She's Italian. He's Greek. Dona is a little of both and a lot of neither…”

In the trite sit-com opener, this would be where she hops out of a three-foot-long aluminum Fiat holding a bowl full of pasta while her ass doubles in front of our eyes, and then the camera pans over to Psilakis who’s sitting on a rock, counting one Drachma over and over while his teeth fall out.

She's wearing Gucci! He's wearing old diapers! It's the Italian and the Greek!

Except that’s not what happens at all. Instead (I think), they’ve decided to pair up, shun their oily Aegean trappings and go for fancy,

“vaulting past ethnic tags into the frillier realm of haute hodgepodge, where a foam anoints this dish, a broth is poured tableside over that one and abundant truffling occurs.”

No, someone did not put your brain in a blender, and yes, the above quote is from the NY Times. Ahem.

Although Greek and Italian cuisines are “best loved for their simplicity, he and Ms. Arpaia have more elaborate, affected designs."

And here we go: "It seems the mâche is always greener on the other side of the fence.” I can only picture the faggiest lamb ever saying that.

Could I have my dressing on the side? Nonfat Raspberry, natch.

Like a passive-aggressive teacher to a learning-disabled second grader, Frank both applauds Psilakis for his effort and also considers him an annoying spazz.

“Entrees like that [cumin-crusted tuna]— and like a fillet of marlin that was hijacked by an intrusively sweet orange vinaigrette and a too-salty twofer of caper berries and olives — make you wish Mr. Psilakis wouldn't try so hard.”
What’s the matter, Frank? You didn’t like Psilakis’ Sherbet-poached halibut in overalls with a spare tire and ten dancing gnomes?

Seafood antipasto at Dona.

Acutally, the chef’s strongpoint does seem to be seafood. In this city, you tempt Frank’s wrath by serving raw fish, if it isn’t inventive in some way. He hates to see restaurants shamelessly catering to South Beachers, but Psilakis seems to have passed the test. Among the crudo:

“He dressed botan shrimp with feta, blood orange and red onion, and in this mash, unlike several fish entrees, the coordination of accessories was impeccable.”

And so teacher gives the spazz not one but two little gold stars. No surprise there. A solid dessert roster later, it’s time to do the usual— drop some celebrity names, and get a little pervy.

“One night [Arpaia] spoke Italian to a table of dapper businessmen. Another night she breezily chatted up the actor John Leguizamo. Tapping into the alchemy that innately talented restaurateurs possess, she has filled Dona with a vibrant energy and a pampering air. If you took 40 years off Sirio Maccioni and gave him curves and a cocktail dress, you'd wind up with someone like her.”

Artist's rendering of Sirio Maccioni in a dress/DVD cover for Halloween IV: The Nightmare Continues.

“She undoubtedly has more restaurants to come, and so does Mr. Psilakis. Dona is good enough to see to that. But it's probably not the best that a guy who teases a strip so cleverly can do.”

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS. But it begs for a strip-tease image. So here you go. Have a nice day, everyone.

I don’t know who hates me more right now, Gloria Steinem or M.C. Escher.

Gloria Steinem. Clearly.


Anonymous Offalbloke said...

Bruni and The New York Times trying too hard at verbal gymnastics when they write about food and dining out?? Stop the presses, I want to get off.

That's what you get when you assume the Rome bureau chief knows enough about dining and food to review restaurants in New York City for the most important paper in town.

The truth is that Psilakis is a very important chef becoming more important with each passing month. His treatment of raw fish is always, always that is, sublime.
And he is second only to Battali in this town when it comes to the original and thoughtful treatment of offal.

11:50 PM, August 13, 2006  

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