Back in the old hometown, the New York Times’ Pete Wells fires off what may be the best bad review of a restaurant the Prick has seen in a long time. In Wells’ sights, American celebrity TV presenter/restaurateur Guy Fieri – I’d never heard of him either, having read this profile I’m now kinda sorry I did – and his execrable-sounding Times Square establishment. It takes a special combination of righteous anger leavened with skill to pull a piece like this off: in less-capable hands, his questioning conceit might have wound up reading like something off the McSweeney’s reject pile. But Wells does it, and does it well. There are a number of reasons for it, including the ever-present threat of litigation, but with the possible exception of Jonathan Lethlean at the Weekend Australian, Australian critics are too timid about calling crap crap, and we diners suffer for it.
While we’re on the subject of local food writers, Sydney Morning Herald critic – and as an aside, if triskaidekaphobia is the preferred term for thirteen-o-phobes, what does one call someone who’s afraid of the number fourteen? – Terry Durack is trawling the inner-west again, giving a ludicrously precise 13.5 to the latest Newtown hipster dive, The Animal. Unlike Wells, instead of asking questions, this week Durack answers them. Readers can decide whose is the better, more entertaining review. Glancing at the Herald’s 20-point scale, one must marvel at Durack’s fine-grained palate and aesthetic sensibilities which allowed him to come to a landing precisely equidistant between 13’s “Good but not great” and the “Solid and enjoyable” that adheres to a 14.
Tessareskaidekaphobia is the irrational dread of 14.
I’d never heard of Fieri either, until that NYT review went viral, but I thought this was an interesting take on the reaction to it: Why Guy Fieri’s best ally may end up being that scathing New York Times review
The culture wars appear to have struck even food reviews.
Sadly, I think this piece may be right!
Another interesting take on it over at Salon:
“What made the piece so arresting, so widely shared, was not that it contributed in any meaningful way to a conversation about food – does anyone read the Times looking for guidance on whether to eat fried ice cream in Times Square? It was that it was in the Times, an institution whose identity is so deeply entrenched in politeness it can’t even bring itself to print the name of the STFU, Parents blog or Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. It was that the Times had served up bullet-riddled fish in a barrel, an impassioned cri de coeur directed at the most mediocre of targets. In other words, it was behaving like just another random troll on Yelp.”
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Next the NYT reviewer will go to the Medieval Manor in Boston (http://www.medievalmanor.com/) and complain that the comely wenches were not very comely for him. Plus his pizza was totally overcooked.
Oops, sorry, didn’t realize it was a years-old thread!