Sam Sifton has already begun work over at the national desk, but his very last restaurant piece just dropped, in which he reflects on the two years he spent as NYT critic. Before he jumps into the highs and lows, the Siftonator gets real for a moment:
All criticism is argument. Mine has been from the start that restaurants are culture, and that there is no better perch from which to examine our shared values and beliefs, behavior and attitudes, than a seat in a restaurant dining room, observing life’s pageant in the presence of food and drink.And about those best dishes: he loved the spinach garganelli at Del Posto; the kinmedai, orange clam, tuna sinew and lime at Masa; the veal chop at Ai Fiori; and the aged duck at Roberta's, which he says "tasted like godhead." But his all-time favorite meal on the job? He singles out an al fresco summer dinner at Frankies 457, which is a restaurant he never actually reviewed.
The worst, it seems, was a meal at Hotel Griffou, where he encountered a "chorizo-stuffed squid that tasted of rubber and sawdust, as if it had been fashioned at a sex-toy factory." Sifton also devotes some ink to the great sommeliers he met during his tenure, including Michael Madrigale (Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud), Emilie Garvey (Ai Fiori), and Josh Nadel (The Dutch). And, he gives special props to Ciano's John Slover, who exhibits "hustle and flow."
Sifton also has a good story about getting spotted by Julian Niccolini at The Four Seasons. The first interim critic will file a review next week.
· The Reviewing Life [NYT]