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Ten Restaurants Sifton Should Reassess Over His Tenure

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The New York Times Food For Tomorrow Conference 2016 - Day 1 Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times

Re-reviews, a restaurant's greatest wish or worst nightmare. Depending on the reevaluation, they can fast-forward a restaurant into obscurity (see Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurants Vong, Mercer Kitchen, and Spice Market), or elevate its status indefinitely (see Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park). So today Eater introduces a different kind of prognostication for 2010. These are, in no particular order, among the most important re-reviews new critic Sam Sifton should file. We came up with ten, but please put your candidates in the comments. To the arguments:

10) Soto: Two years ago, when uni genius Sotohiro Kosugi quietly moved his Atlanta operation to a West Village stretch filled with more sex shops than restaurants, the sushi snobs came running. Frank Bruni wrote a glowing two-spot in which he raved about the composed sushi bar dishes and the kitchen offerings, but he pointed to serious flaws in the actual sushi and the service. Despite the positive review, a surprisingly high rank on Zagat and other sites, and a new crop of Soto devotees, the place continues to be a relative sleeper. An upgrade from Sifton could change that.

9) Masa: One of the newest four star restaurants in the NYC dining scene, had its coronation back at the beginning of Boom Boom Bruni's tenure. It should be reassessed because it's a four star restaurant in very elite company that hasn't been put to the test in five years. And given the recession—Masa is the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan— not too many people are dining here anymore. A spot check on Friday night revealed a 12-0 server to diner ratio.

8) Del Posto: By the time Sifton has left his post as restaurant critic, chances are he'll be able to do what his predecessors couldn't: award an Italian restaurant four stars. With Marea out of the picture for the time being, that leaves the Batali/Bastianich juggernaut Del Posto. The place where Tony Bourdain goes to feel fancy, it's so grand it basically screams out its desire to be among the fours. Molto Mario has been vocal about his aspirations, and people have paid attention to the tweaking he's done to that effect. Even if Sifton finds that the restaurant doesn't deserve the extra star (Bruni gave it three), the current buzz alone makes the case for an assessment.

7) Craft: One of the most important restaurants of the decade, already included in a number of aughts lists and sure to find its place in several more, Craft hasn’t been reviewed by The Times since William Grimes three-starred it in 2001. At the time Tommy C. was actually in the kitchen (with Marco Canora as chef de cuisine), the restaurant was still in buzz phase, and 9/11 wasn’t a part of our vocabulary. Not to mention these were the days before Colicchio expansion, that show with Padma Lakshmi, and perhaps most importantly, the crazy talented Damon Wise. It’s about time.

6) Balthazar: In the years since it opened in 1997, Balthazar has gone from ultra-hip brasserie to rube favorite, and it's fair to say Minetta Tavern has now replaced it as the crown jewel of the Keith McNally empire. It remains a beautiful, bustling scene and continues to have its fair share of celebs and knowledgeable regulars, but the question remains: is the kitchen turning out the two star food interim restaurant critic Amanda Hesser described in 2004? Whether it's better, worse, or the same, it stands to reason that the Soho money minter deserves a reassessment.

5) La Grenouille: "I don't want to be the one who kills the last of its kind," said one Frank The Tank about La Grenouille in his Eater exit interview. In that conversation Bruni explained that he wanted to find a way to write about the "joy of still encountering this idiom of dining," but that his experiences proved too uneven to do that ("really, really good" at the beginning, "off a cliff" towards the end). With Chanterelle, Montrachet, LCB, Lutèce, and La Caravelle now things of the past, this really is the last of the old guard, and our man Sifty might have to do some dirty work. Or maybe not, if his positive reviews of L'Entrecote and DBGB are any indication. If he decides to take it on, it'll be one of the more important reviews he files.

4) Nobu Tribeca: Nobu Matsuhisa oversees a restaurant empire so vast it'll soon be considered a chain and have to post calorie counts. This nearly constant expansion can obscure the fact that The Times hasn't weighed in on the NY flagship since the heady days of Ruth Reichl, when she gave the restaurant the three stars it's been sitting on for nearly fifteen years. The dark dining room continues to attract an insane number of eaters, so it's definitely popular enough to merit giving it another look. Is the kitchen still pulling it off (FB's 2007 review of Nobu 57 might indicate "yes")?

3) Cafe Boulud: This is classic critic-bait. The place has been remodeled (with Bar Pleiades and a tiny menu tweak the new additions), and Bruni didn't get a chance to comment on the state of things under executive chef Gavin Kaysen. Hard to think this one won't be anything less than a three.

2) Lupa: It's hard to believe Lupa has no stars. Since the day it opened in 1999, it's been a consistent, well-priced winner, fit for dates, family dinners, or just a regular old meal. If Scott Conant can get three stars at Scarpetta and the disappointing SD26 can earn one, Lupa deserves a little bit of gold. Considering it's the second Batali/Bastianich restaurant included on our list, the Sifton era could turn out to be damn good for Mario and Joe.

1) Momofuku Ko: It may not come immediately, given Ko received a threespot from Frankie Baby in '08, but this is the kind of restaurant the new critic will want to check in on. A downgrade would be a crusher for the Chang Empire, and an upgrade could be among the ballsiest moves Sam Sifton makes. It would signal that it's okay for your resy system to be akin to what people go through to land tickets for a Phish show. Atmosphere? No need for Mies chairs or Tihany chandeliers. Just wooden bar stools. In the end, the experience becomes, rather beautifully if you're into that sort of deal, about one thing and one thing only: the food. But like Frankie says, they have to be firing on all cylinders.
—Gabe Ulla

Cafe Boulud

301 Australian Avenue, , FL 33480 (561) 655-6060 Visit Website

Del Posto

85 10th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10011 (212) 497-8090 Visit Website

Momofuku Ko

8 Extra Place, Manhattan, NY 10003 (212) 203-8095 Visit Website

La Grenouille

3 East 52nd Street, Manhattan, NY 10022 (212) 752-1495 Visit Website


80 Spring Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (212) 965-1414 Visit Website


43 East 19th Street, Manhattan, NY 10003 (212) 780-0880 Visit Website

Lupa Osteria Romana

170 Thompson Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (212) 982-5089 Visit Website