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.