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, September 06, 2006

Japonais: I Can't Tell Asians Apart Anymore

As throaty teens make their Fantasy Football draft picks and college freshman assemble the rickety Ikea beds that will shatter under their first Pabst-breathed peccadilloes, we restaurant folk prepare for our season. The Times Restaurant Preview today laid out quite a daunting itinerary of new restaurants for Frank this fall-- I secretly prayed to God that the Count's laureled head get stuck between someone’s motor-oiled boobs at Hawaiian Tropic Zone.

The odds of this happening are slim to EXCELLENT.

But in reading the paper today, I couldn't shake the feeling that Frank was sad, in the doldrums. I wanted to take ol' Frank aside, the way Danny Tanner might pull DJ or Steph under his huge, pervy wing and say, “Hey, what’s wrong? Do we need to have a talk?”

“Girls, Kimmie has rabies and Uncle Joey has to shoot her."

In his write-up of New York outposts of wider empires (“Making It There Before They Make It Here”), the Count bemoans the specific conditions in New York that discourage creative and mid-size financial risk, and encourage the safe expansion of sturdy, oversize chains. Of Alan Yau, Thomas Keller, and Gordon Ramsay he says: “Their restaurants, too, are brands— more rarified and less ubiquitous versions of the Olive Garden and the Outback Steak House…” YOWCH!

Gordon Ramsay's associates en route to kick Frank's ass

And of New York, he says the unbearable: “At times it’s hard not to feel as if our bragging rights are endangered.”

No no, Frank. Listen hard. When New York’s restaurants can all be found in other American cities, when “unique New York” is nothing but an empty phrase repeated aloud by little minigays in theater camp to warm up their tongues, we will STILL be able to brag that at least…

we’re not…

the rest…




Ahem. Sorry everyone. It had to be said.

So when Frank takes on East Side newbie Japonais today, he’s really throwing it under the bus to underscore the points he’s made in his trend piece-- that the scene is getting boring and redundant. Japonais fits his profile of a slick, oversize pseudoasian transfer (it started out in Chicago.) Frank does Japonais one worse than panning it-- he makes it seem trivial.

He begins:

“’Haven’t I been here before?’ a companion asked me one night as we entered Japonais…”

Get it? Because it's so BORING. Although someone had a good time:

The main dining room’s “many-limbed sculpture looks like the offspring of a supersize bonsai tree and a French poodle.”


You will experience a similar déjà vu if you’ve “managed over the last few years to drop into Megu or Morimoto, Ono or Nobu 57. The list goes on…” which explains the title of this review: “An Asian Fantasy, Reproduced,” which I wrongly assumed was a side-reference to the Suri Cruise photos.

When Frank calls Japonais “invariably theatrical, obliquely Asian and ostentatiously huge” is he really talking about a restaurant? Or a huge fake alien baby? You tell me. I’m putting it out there.

These restaurants “provide food with visual appeal and a (quickly diminishing) touch of exoticism. They…stroke many senses at once.” In other words, much like at Seaworld, the inclusion of a well-timed HJ still doesn't make the experience worth it.

"Oh jeez...the orca's reciprocating! Honey, get the kids out of here, this is disgusting."

The food is hit or miss-- "Unevenness was the norm." The staff was braindead-- "I don't even know what panna cotta is" said a server. As we all know, it's Italian for the "cooked underpants."

Traditional open-air panna cotta.

In the end, Frank says his friends actually liked the place. But to be fair, they were a group of neolithic pelt-shitting cave-dwellers who "hadn't been to many restaurants like this one. For them it had an intrigue that eclipsed its shortcomings."

"You know, I thought the duck was excellent. I thought the decor was kind of neato. I'd come back."


Hey Frank, buck up. There's still plenty of good food around. And if you don't think NY is special any more, you can come hang out on my old stoop in Brooklyn and have a drunk homeless guy sic stray cats on you. Can't get THAT in Vegas! HA!

Or can you...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. Now what did Siegfried & Roy ever do to you to deserve such harshness? Oh, wait...

And I'm sure we can agree that for that jab, Gordon Ramsay would be glad to come deliver a beatdown to Frank personally - and who wouldn't give an arm and a leg to see that?

Anywho...thanks for yet another nugget of humor, Jules - I dare say I'm not the only reader having withdrawal symptoms lately!

Hope all is well and that your newfound fishing skills can be put to good use with the oh-so-pristine specimens in the East River...or is it Lake Michigan by now?

11:18 PM, September 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've missed you, though I support your staying away the past few weeks . . . Frank has been awfully boring.

7:34 PM, September 07, 2006  
Anonymous Patti said...

AHHHH! Thanks Jules I was seriously Jonesing for some jabs at Frank's lack of wit. I would pay to see Ramsey take a little of his extra hide off! Anyway great as ususal.

8:43 PM, September 07, 2006  

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