Frank Bruni has an essay in today's dining section about what his more than five years as Times restaurant critic has been like. It's hard to believe it's been that long. I have admired his writing, seeking out those clever lines in his weekly reviews, and appreciated his criticisms. I delight in this piece's observations because many of them are familiar to me.
This, for example, could describe my father, who when served a steak in slices at a dinner at Insieme, railed on how they had ruined the meat:
"And while my friend M. had no complaint when duck, lamb or pork came to the table in slices, she fumed if her steak arrived as anything other than one solid slab of meat, feeling insulted and infantilized by the cutting of it before it reached her. People are as strange about eating as they are about love. They want what they want."
Whether as a job or just a passion, it seems eating out is eating out and dining companions similar.
For his last review, Bruni rates The Redhead, an East Village bar that has striven for acclaim as a restaurant. It succeeded by word of mouth - I'd heard about this place from various food boards and blogs and it took three tries before I was finally able to eat there back in late February. The first time, I arrived on a night when there was no Jekyll (restaurant), only Hyde (bar). The second, we tried going late one weekday evening and were greeted with a 45-minute or more wait. When we finally managed to get in, we arrived very early, not long after the restaurant had opened for the night. In some respects, word of mouth can be detrimental, creating hype and raising expectations. I can see that part of this place's allure is its novelty - interesting, good Southern cooking coming out of a bar. The food was decent - the fried chicken is good! - but the bacon peanut brittle was a letdown. Nonetheless, it was good enough that I would like to return at some point and Bruni has now reminded me that it might soon be time.