Restaurant critic Alan Richman's latest column for GQ focuses on renegade and soon to close haute diner M. Wells in Long Island City, and boy is it a strange one. Those rolling their eyes at the thought of further fond farewells for the outer borough hotspot may want to know it's a bizarre takedown, full of weirdness, embarrassment, indignation, and confusion.
To sum it up: Alan Richman dines M. Wells. He is not blown away but is charmed by the restaurant and asks owner Sarah Obraitis for an interview with her husband and chef Hugue Dufour. Before they have their interview, he eats there again. He and his friends get a bad table, they sit with dirty plates for 45 minutes, their waitress could care less. His dinnermates complain loudly and he gets snappy with the staff. The next morning, he receives the following email from Obraitis:
I am a bit distressed by the feedback I received after your visit last night. Either you had despicable service or you guys were in an awful mood. It seems we couldn’t make you happy, several servers heard you complain and ask for more attention. One of those servers, a female, received a hardy pat on the ass from you. Totally unacceptable in our world. I don’t know what to think or how to proceed. But I must relay my worry.Yep, a server, and then the owner, of M. Wells accused Alan Richman of sexual harassment. He tells her she's wrong, she cancels the interview, he ceases communication.
But apparently there is a moral to the story here, and that is, according to Richman, that his treatment is indicative of the deterioration of good service on the whole and he blames himself and other critics for not calling it out sooner, adding "I wish I had never been so forgiving in my reviews of New York restaurants. I should long ago have paid attention to this disastrous decline in service." He concludes, "I will tell you what else is extraordinarily self-defeating: We empower popular restaurants, and M. Wells is very much one of them...Such restaurants are rarely held accountable, no matter how uncaring they might be."
As it so happens, blogger ulterior epicure was there on one of Richman's visits and mentions he noticed the critic looking unhappy. He calls the service "sloppy and slapdash, though upbeat and energetic."
· Diner for Schmucks [GQ]
· All Coverage of M. Wells [~ENY~]