Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mimi on Bruni v. Chodorow

Legendary Times critic Mimi Sheraton weighs in on the Bruni/Chodorow controversy over on An excerpt:
Frank Bruni will have the last word, of course, as we in the press always do. But I don't envy his dilemma when he has to review Chodorow's next creation, Wild Salmon, promised to spawn shortly. Bending over backward not to hate it and thus suggest revenge, he might love it too much, proving that he is fair. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Chodorow Strikes Back

Oh, the drama!

For those of you who read Gawker or follow the New York forum over on eGullet, this post will hardly come as a surprise.

Come to think of it, for anyone who follows New York dining in any way whatsoever, you'll probably think what follows was the inevitable product of the Times' recent decline into Style Section Central and the accompanying ire for Frank Bruni's flowery, two-star heavy reviewing style.

Today's Dining section featured a full-page ad from Jeffrey Chodorow aimed squarely at Mr. Bruni's judgment of Chodorow's latest venture. Chodorow is the restaurateur behind, among other spots, Rocco's on 22nd - documented in soapy detail on that reality show The Restaurant, and he dates the critic's ire to that venture's implosion.

The problem is, the letter come across like something written by a petulant child. He veers between legitimate complaints about Bruni's food cred (something that's been chatted about for years) and oddly hysterical defenses about Kobe Club, his new restaurant, which received a 0-star rating from Bruni in last week's review.

That said, it's certainly spawned some fun times in New York blogosphere, with coverage on eGullet, Eater, name it. Even better - Chodorow vows, at the letter's close, that he will be tailing Bruni and his NY Magazine counterpart, Adam Platt, as they move from restaurant to restaurant - he will, in effect, be reviewing their reviews. His new blog to that effect can be found at and is titled "Chod-o-blog."

Let the games begin?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Trading Pumas for Uggs

About a year ago, I did my first eGullet foodblog - they're quite fun, a bit more interactive than your average blog, with people interjecting into the flow of your own writing.

I just started my second one this morning, so my posts here will be a little sparse over the next week or so...but I hope you'll follow along over here!

I'll try to post any highlights here, and will definitely be farming that blog for ideas for this one.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Where everybody knows your na-a-ame.

Ouest is one of those lucky Manhattan restaurants that has managed to become an institution by virtue both of location (in that there's practically nothing else like it in the area - not a huge feat in the West '80's) and the quality of its food. I've eaten there upwards of 30 times over the last three years, and the meals have never been less than very good, and have sometimes verged on excellent.

Over the last year or so, my favorite spot in this "restaurant and tavern" has been the latter: eating dinner at the bar (either alone or with friends) is great fun, particularly if you manage to linger late over a glass of wine. Around 11:00, the bartenders turn just a bit raunchy, the television is turned to AMC, and talk turns to old movies and slightly dirty jokes. (Do try and avoid the slightly skeezy older gentlemen customers who linger on weeknights, however - they managed to waylay a friend of mine for almost two hours back in December, when her faculties had been compromised by too much wine at dinner.) Settle back into your red leather bar stool and relax.

My meal last Saturday ended just that way. It started with an aborted attempt to eat pasta up at Celeste on Amsterdam and 83rd. The half hour-long wait (and no bar at which to pass the time) drove me and my friends Cristin and Paul down to Broadway to grab a drink at Ouest's bar. When we all ordered glasses of the Ex Libris Cabernet, the bartender suggested a bottle. An hour's drinking later, we had finally snagged three seats at the bar and opened our menus.

Ouest serves what may well be the best green salad in the city. Large lettuces mix with small in a generous pile (portions at Ouest are never less than big), lightly tossed in a red wine vinegar dressing, its tang softened by the salty, umami flavor of the Parmesan. The cheese is emulsified into the dressing, so it coats each green, making their surfaces just slightly rough on the tongue. I'm a sucker for a salad, and this is one of the best, hands-down.

In December, I started with the smoked duck and crispy egg, another strong choice. The egg arrives atop paper-thin slices of smoked duck, coated in a crispy batter. A poke releases the yoke, which oozes out slowly, moistening the dish. The egg's crunchy exterior contrasts with the duck's meaty texture, but the flavors, all rich, eggy smoke, meld together.

On both visits, I had the squab for my main plate. It's pan-roasted and served with a duck liver risotto. The squab itself is lovely - more delicate than gamy - and the risotto is rich and earthy, topped with crispy chanterelles that offset the creamy texture.

Ouest's menu is particularly heavy on the game (venison, squab, rabbit) and organ meat (liver, braised tripe), and is not at all vegetarian-friendly (though it boasts some very nice seafood plates). Overall, the food is rich and heavy - comfort food. This is not the place to come for a light meal - even the simple grills are imposing in size. The prices reflect the generous portions; dinner with wine has rarely run me less than $80 per person, though I find it's typically worthwhile.

And, toward the end of the evening, if you're an entertaining guest, my guess is that Sid or Dan will top your glass off a few times for your trouble.

2315 Broadway
Between 83rd and 84th Streets
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