Wednesday, February 21, 2007

boo: chodorow v. bruni/platt

(for updates, scroll down)

The Wednesday New York Times features the Dining In/Dining Out section, another great reason to love Wednesdays.

But today's weekly reading destination featured something more than I bargained for: a full-page "letter" from none other than Jeffrey Chodorow. Or as New York Times food critic Frank Bruni described him two weeks ago in his review of Kobe Club, "restaurateur and gimmick maestro Jeffrey Chodorow".

Why the letter? Let's take a look at Bruni's review of Kobe Club, which he described as follows:

Although Kobe Club does right by the fabled flesh for which it’s named, it presents too many insipid or insulting dishes at prices that draw blood from anyone without a trust fund or an expense account.

Ding, no stars for you. No stars! In NYT food review parlance, this translates as "poor to satisfactory".

It's not as if Bruni is the only "serious food critic" to wake up to the hideous excesses of Kobe Club. Adam Platt over at New York Magazine described Kobe Club as follows in his own no-stars review:

The sheer novelty of a steakhouse devoted solely to Kobe beef compelled your faithful critic to name the restaurant one of the city’s top new steakhouses in the magazine’s annual roundup of the best new places to eat in 2007. This was an error. On further inspection, Mr. Chodorow’s restaurant seems to me less like a steakhouse than a bizarre agglomeration of restaurant fashions and trends, most of them bad.

I'll spare you any of embarrassing details of Chodorow's rant. Instead, I'll reference comments offered by The Gobbler (Adam Platt's nom du forchette) over at New York Restaurants (an offshoot of New York Magazine):

. . .Knowledgeable restaurant critics don’t have to be former cooks any more than good movie critics have to be former actors. They write from the perspective of the paying customer, and like Mr. Bruni, the Gobbler has eaten more meals in the last few years than Mr. Chodorow would probably care to contemplate. It was the Gobbler’s measured opinion (and Bruni’s) that if you want a good steak, you might want to spend your money somewhere other than Kobe Club. If Mr. Chodorow really wants to dispute this view in an informed way, then he should do exactly what he threatens to do. He should strap on the old feed bag and start pigging out.

To his great credit, The Gobbler got Chodorow on the phone and managed to capture another outburst of petulant sour grapes, including this absolutely stunning comment:

[Food] reviewers aren’t held to nearly the same level of fact-checking standards as the newspaper reporters.

Translated: A food critic's editor needs to not only go back in time but find a way to invade the sensorium of the food critic to confirm that the tuna "porterhouse" the reviewer ate really was as big as a car battery and really was devoid of taste. Ridiculous.

To my thinking, Chodorow doth protest too much. Or maybe restaurant guys feel the same need to fire off "open letters" that DRM CEOs do.

At least Chodorow has embraced the quis custodiet ipsos custodes ethic with his new blog. Stay tuned.

For the Pro-Chodorow POV, see also Gawker, Opionated about Dining and eGullet
For the neutral POV, see also Chip Griffin: Pardon the Interruption
For the anti-Chodorow POV, see also The Eater


Update 1:

Frank Bruni responds kindly to Chodorow - well done, Frank! Take the high road. It's got a better view.

Best headline: "Hell has no fury like a restaurant scored"

Grub Street gives The Spat a Name - Chodogate - and even goes so far as to flag two of Chorodow's "good reviewers" as "on the take". Wow!

Gothamist digs deeper, highlights comments left on the Chodoblog. My favorite:

"You want vindication? Have Ruth Reichl review Kobe Club. Just be careful what you wish for."

Update 2:

Seems that the Chodoblog is censoring comments to "accentuate the positive". If Chodorow's argument against Bruni and Platt had even a shred of credibility left, it's gone now.

No comments: