It’s the Pete Wells Show at the New York Times dining section this week. We’ve been primed by the Times and the New Yorker to care about the menu redo at Eleven Madison Park. Did it work? Reading Wells’ review, it sounds like the food is good, but the “concept” is “gimmicky.” The “quintessential New York experience” would work if it weren’t speaking to the tourists, according to Wells, or, at least, funny. Imagine spending hundreds, probably a thousand, bucks to hear the words, “Even today, people on Long Island gather on the beaches for clambakes to celebrate with family and friends.” Gag. “Stilted and earnest,” writes Wells. Maybe after this critique the restaurant will strive to be a bit more New York–as in get “wised up.”
But wait! That’s not the weekly review. Wells also weighs in on Le Cirque, taking away two of its three stars–so you know it’s worth a read. There’s too much funny to reproduce here, so a few key words perhaps: “frigid”; “flavorless”; “dispiriting”; “dry.” Or a few phrases: “chilly maroon flesh”; “scattershot application”; “muddy, shapeless swamp”; “draped like old newspaper”; “tasted of refrigeration and surrender.” Oh, here it is: “The kitchen gave the impression that it had stopped reaching for excellence and possibly no longer remembered what that might mean.” Ouch.