". . . there’s frequent evidence of sustained pride and caring."
"It’s an overly familiar, somewhat tired production. More to the point, it’s an inconsistent one."
". . . some meals at Mesa Grill devolve into a redundant, vague haze of smokiness and syrupiness, the heat-with-sweet effects delivered in a blunt fashion."
Even the title of the review, "Southwestern Sun, Late in the Day", carries a suggestion that Mesa Grill's moment has passed, its relevance as the standard-bearer for a fresh new style of cooking diminished by time.
In the end, Frank lays it all on the line when he says, "I wonder if Mr. Flay has taken his eye off Mesa Grill, and not just because I never spotted him there." The reader is left to wonder whether celebrity chefs can still be counted on to the job that made them celebrities in the first place - cook.
The folks at eater.com described the review as follows:
Frank Bruni issues a summons to Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay's long-neglected Flatiron flagship, in the form of a one star smack down.
New York Magazine was even more harsh:
This is one of the worst one-star reviews you'll ever read, even going so far as to compare [Mesa Grill's food] to gulag gourmet.
A comment on eG Forums put the demotion into perspective:
I guess most chefs would take a [New York Times] demotion seriously to the extent that it might hurt their business. Also, Mesa Grill NYC is supposedly Bobby's flagship restaurant. Then again, Bobby, as a brand, is more of the flagship than any of his restaurants, if that makes sense.
I'm curious to learn what steps Mr. Flay will take to return Mesa Grill to its former glory. Perhaps he should start with service:
I asked her what the spices were in the restaurant’s so-called 16-spice-crusted chicken.
“Salt, pepper and 14 other spices!” she buoyantly reported, as if the details didn’t really matter. It was a Bobby Flay recipe, after all. Wasn’t that enough?