Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mr. Crankypants Reviews a Restaurant

I love reading the $25 and under section in the New York Times. Sometimes, but not always, it features some obscure out-of-the-way place that offers up good food really cheap -- and sometimes you end up spending a lot less than $25 for a good meal. I am not sure how other people feel, but $25 for one person is still pretty expensive in my eyes. I think a good deal is if you spend a max of $15 on yourself, and even though New York is expensive, it is still entirely possible to achieve this.

Anyway, a few years ago, following a tip from the NY Times, Rafa and I went to a Spanish restaurant near Union Square for dinner. It promised to be old-school Spanish style, with great food to boot. It turned out we spent a lot of money on very very bad food. So, since then, I've been very dubious about Spanish cuisine in New York. I don't expect it to be as good as Spain, and my discerning critic of a husband almost expects it to totally suck. I find that like Indian food, Spanish food is very very good when very very expensive, like Casa Mono. I've never eaten at Casa Mono, but $8 for a plate of Patatas Bravas probably means it tastes pretty damn good, at least I hope so.

Today's review in the $25 and under was for another Spanish restaurant. And I think when the owners named their restaurant, they must have done it in some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. The name of the place is 'Ostia', and in Seville, Spain, where hubs is from, and probably in other parts of Spain, ostia means 'Oh Fuck!'. But of course, since people from Andalusia don't pronounce about half of their consonants, it's said "Aw-tia". Well, the 'Oh Fuck' Restaurant did not get good reviews.. they weren't necessarily bad reviews either. Just weird reviews. It seems like the writer, Peter Meehan, is having a bad day, or just realized he has high cholesterol, or just has his pantalones in a twist. (I don't know how to say 'knickers' in Spanish). Here are some excerpts:

I found the patatas bravas at Ostia unlovable, like pimentón-spiked steak fries squirted with too much aioli. My advice: if the combination of hot potatoes and garlicky mayo sounds good to you, order away, regardless of what the dish is called. I’ll save the calories for some of the ham proudly displayed in its full-haunch glory on a small side table in the restaurant.

And then, he proceeds to criticque the ham, or rather the ham-cutter, as well:

(At) Ostia, the jamón is cut with infinitely less finesse, and it comes in thick, stubby bits. Both pig and diner would be better served by a meat slicer.

And then again about the fattiness of a dish:

But pig and diner should both be pleased by the helping of ham croquettes with molten, jamón-flecked creamy cores perfectly framed in a crisp crust. The dish is a must order for anyone not afraid of a portion of what is, more or less, a plate of deep-fried fat.

I can't say I'm very impressed with this restaurant from the review. I guess my search for an inexpensive fabulous Spanish restaurant continues...

** More thoughts **

I now realize why Peter Meehan is such a crankypants. He wishes he had Frank Bruni's job. Frank Bruni is probably THE top food critic for the NY Times, and of course, part of his job is to go to fancy schmancy restaurants. $25 would probably buy you garlic bread at these places. Plus, Bruni just did a piece, also in today's paper, about how great room service has gotten at hotels. But I have to say that is the stupidest article I have ever read. Bruni said that the menus have gotten so much better than the turkey clubs of yore. But, hello, Bruni! You went to 5 star hotels and you were catered by top chefs like Gordon Ramsay. Why are you comparing a Carlton to a Marriott, in which you will undoubtedly still get a ridiculouly marked-up turkey club.

And then another stupid article about Irish soda bread and how this writer said she has been making what she thought was soda bread for ages and how everyone likes it. Turns out, she was told, that the soda bread she made wasn't authentic Irish soda bread, and then she proceeded to stick her nosey beak and get a real recipe. She then learns that the soda bread is indeed very good, but it doesn't keep. So, then, she posts her own recipe. Um, WHAT WAS THE POINT of that? After reading that article, I seriously wanted those last 5 minutes of my life back.. And that's probably what you're thinking after reading this post. Ha!

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