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.

My Photo
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 28, 2006

Mr Chow Tribeca: What kind of sarcastically goes up must come cruelly down

Sometimes, in elementary school, a new kid shows up. The new kid is always going to be the subject of scrutiny, but if he/she is stupid or annoying, the others can be merciless. And if additionally that kid is pretentious and snotty…

"No, we've never heard of New Canaan."

…there’s no question: the other children want to beat the shit out of the stupid, uppity new kid, ‘cause that’s just how kids are, all kids.

I’d like to beat the shit out of that bastard!

And as you’ve guessed, Mr. Chow is the stinky new kid, entering a ferocious arena with little to no merit and audacious, bald-faced pretension. The critical lions have already ripped him to shreds.

And enter Frank.
There’s always one girl, slightly older or maybe just tall, a notebook-clutching rule-abider who steps in, shaking a finger and reminding everyone that "Mrs. Fussbottom wouldn't want us doing this." This is really just a show, of course, and secretly she’s a huge bitch just exerting her temporary height advantage over everyone, which she’ll lose just in time to become a big old slut.


My point is, Frank sticks up for Mr. Chow—throws himself in front of the dirty new kid and says we should expand our point of view, try to understand him! He’s just different!

Defensively, then, Frank begins:

“IT'S easy to see the bad in things and harder to see the good.”

Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Is Pa dragging the laundry through lard out back, or is he with Ma stuffing blankets with corn?

“Take Mr. Chow Tribeca. There are sane, prudent, well-intentioned people who will tell you why you should avoid this new outpost of a nutty empire, and they'll be indisputably correct.”

“But with a slight adjustment of perspective, a certain generosity of spirit and a bit of willed enthusiasm, many reasons for embracing it can be found.”

But he can't be serious: i.e. lower your standards and expectations, and you might just come around! It’s like a “spoonful of sugar” chant for the undiscerning!

You thought you were above nudie photos-- but with “a slight adjustment of perspective, a certain generosity of spirit and a bit of willed enthusiasm,” anything’s possible! That’s right! Out come those hooters, you courageous pioneer!

And just as the schoolyard protectress will, minutes after she’s defended the wastrel, take him out behind the latrines, put him in a Nelson and sucker punch his tender bits, so Frank’s generous façade fades and his 4 “reasons” for visiting Mr. Chow emerge as bitchy jokes. Yay!

“Reason No. 1: You can participate in a strand of social history and mull over the eccentric genius of Michael Chow.”

This might be sarcastic, but it seems like Frank appreciates the entrepreneurial genius behind Chow’s proto-PR knack--

“Regulars included Andy Warhol who, Mr. Chow has said, didn't so much eat his food as play with it. An understandable decision.”

Not as understandable a decision, Mr. Warhol?

Peeing all over a canvas.

“Reason No. 2: Once you've visited Mr. Chow Tribeca, you will appreciate your favorite neighborhood Chinese takeout place like never before.”

Don’t bet on it, Frank:

The pantry at my local Chinese joint.

At Mr. Chow, the pricing reaches into the $30’s for entrees that don’t come close to earning it:

“If I learned that [a lamb shank entrée] had been plucked from a freezer after the better part of a decade and then nuked in a microwave for the better part of a day, I'd be shocked. It didn't taste nearly that tender or flavorful.”

Well now it's clear-- the bitchy sunshine has emerged from behind the dour clouds of kindness, and Frank is cleaning the floor with Chow. The best part:

“Reason No. 3: You will encounter a kind of service so aggressive at certain times and incoherent at others that it becomes a divine comedy.”

To borrow the language of internet chat, Frank had me “totes LOLing” in this part:

“At the start of each meal, servers push expensive Champagne. (‘For a toast! How about a toast? Don't you want to make a toast?’)"

"Make a toast! Celebrate something before I stick this Korbel in your eye, fucker!"

"Reason No. 4: You can get excited about spotting a celebrity, though you may not actually lay eyes on one."

It's kind of adorable that the Count still wriggles giddily in his high-powered boots when he--an admitted US Weekly fan!--gets allGawker Stalker. It's a sport to him! He was a whole strategy!

"I like to hide behind the bread cart, and when they come into view, BAM! 300 CC's of barbituates right to the jugular with one arrow!"

"You know that the possibility [of seeing celebs] exists, because Mr. Chow is the kind of restaurant whose opening is noted in Us magazine, not Saveur."

"US WEEKLY" will do just fine. Nice try. Nobody reads "Playboy News and World Report" either.

"But celebrities are like the best animals at the zoo: theoretically present in the designated exhibit but always obscured by a bush or boulder just when you're looking."


"I arrived at Mr. Chow late one Friday night to be told by a waiting companion that I had just missed Tobey Maguire. Had my companion seen him? Well, he said, sort of, but..."

Alright, enough. Toby Maguire couldn't save this place. The celebs couldn't even come through. Kiss of death. No stars.

But at least now we know what the Count's billiard room looks like!


Post a Comment

<< Home