The unspoken truth about review-caliber restaurants in New York, those that will get at least one visit from the Times top dog when they open, is that they tend to dress-up and price-down their menus until the critic has been through and filed his review. If the review goes well, even if the restaurant just gets an enthusiastic one star, $11 salads become $15 salads and $28 entrees become $34 entrees, and the accountants start to care deeply about ingredient costs. Fiamma, for example, was awarded a huge three stars by Frank Bruni, which is exactly the review for which it was looking. And per the playbook of a top notch restaurateur, Steve "The Full" Hanson then raised prices and began taking a closer look at costs. But, today—here's the twist—the Bruni went back.
Making good use of the second half of the Times "Restaurants" page, The Frank Revisited Fiamma:
The meal that three companions and I recently ate — including a novel carpaccio using Australian wagyu beef; a sensationally rich lasagna packed with porcini mushrooms; and a thick duck breast with a glistening slab of foie gras beside it — was excellent, its quality not necessarily out of line with its cost.Certainly, if these filings continue, they're a small but not insignificant victory for high-end restaurant enthusiasts. But for the restaurateurs, behold: a whole new reason to fear and loathe the Bruni.
But it didn’t erase my concern that during the period when critics and diners were taking the measure of a new menu and chef, Fiamma perhaps set its prices at a level lower than it intended to keep them.
And it didn’t eliminate the need to let readers know that Fiamma is a decidedly more expensive restaurant than I and others had reported.
· Revisiting Fiamma [NYT]