Yes, yes, that Frank Bruni review. We admit to being flummoxed. We're like deer in the headlights, frozen with fear, unable to avert our gaze. Let's be honest, a piece that starts off with the lines "It may be laughable when someone says he gets Penthouse magazine for the articles. It's no joke when I say I went to the Penthouse Executive Club for the steaks," defies parody even as it begs for it. Bruni butches it up throughout the entire review, giving as much attention to the strippers as he does to the strips, although he winds up paying more mind to the meat (bone-in, rib-eye for two, porterhouse for two) than the, uh, fish.
And when one of her sorority sisters sidled up to us to pose a question not commonly uttered in fine-dining establishments—"Is there anyone I can get naked for?"—the response was silence. On this visit to Robert's and on subsequent ones, I was derelict in my duty, failing to sample much of what the restaurant had to offer.Is the review good? Is he serious? How funny is it that the Penthouse steak shack has more stars than Jeffrey Chodorow's Kobe Club? Are these questions even worth asking? There's actually been a bit of dissension around the office on this one, with some of us —well, let's just go to the IM transcript, shall we?
RHYMES WITH STORY: OMG this Bruni just keeps getting.... better? Yeah, I think better!
BALK BTW: It KILLS me
BALK BTW: I have to not look at it for a while and come back to it
BALK BTW: Indica?
RHYMES WITH STORY: He let a fucking lapdancer pour BAILEY'S DOWN HIS MOUTH.
BALK BTW: Are you fucking kidding me?
BALK BTW: Fuck you, you fucking fuck!
BALK BTW: It's like a Brueghel painting of fucking dining criticism!
BALK BTW: Even the corners are full of scary shit you don't want to look at.
RHYMES WITH STORY: Ha!
BALK BTW: I despise him
RHYMES WITH STORY: It's sort of the ultimate, like, shall we say, "democraticization" of cricitism?
BALK BTW: That's been his shtick since he took the job
RHYMES WITH STORY: But you have to ask yourself: what do you want the New York Times to be?
RHYMES WITH STORY: And we frequently criticize the Times when it steps outside of its staidness.
RHYMES WITH STORY: Now, sure, [in the cases that] it steps out to be SHITTY? Well yeah.
BALK BTW: Well, I don't know, is there no middle ground? If he reviews Hooters (which he has) do we applaud him for daring or recognize it as the stunt that it is? I'd settle for GOOD reviews of GOOD restaurants.
BALK BTW: This is sort of cutesy bullshit. He makes NY mag look highbrow.
RHYMES WITH STORY: Well this is entertainment, for the most part.
BALK BTW: This is like the anti-rockism stand for food critics. "Anything is great, don't be such a snob."
BALK BTW: There are, what, 8 million restaurants in NY, many of them serious and struggling, that would love the acreage of a Times review.
BALK BTW: You think the Penthouse place was hurting for business?
RHYMES WITH STORY: But is it the critic's job to be a do-gooder? Or to note changes in the culture?
BALK BTW: If he wanted to do something about this chef, he could have reviewed Daisy May's and done an aside about the steaks.
RHYMES WITH STORY: [Distracted from his point by thoughts of a half-pig.] Mmm, I sort of agree with that actually.
RHYMES WITH STORY: This is sort of the How We Live Now or whatever of dining criticism.
BALK BTW: There's a place for that. It's called THE MAGAZINE.
The fight is still going on. Obviously, an issue of this import is not going to be resolved in a single day. We may revisit. Really, we suggest you read the review and come to your own conclusions. Because, honestly? It sort of broke us.