Jay Cheshes’s all-time 50 best restaurant review quotes

As the sun sets on this restaurant critic’s five-year run covering the NYC dining scene, we pay homage to the stint with his 50 most memorable restaurant review quotes, from no-star clunkers to five-star blockbusters.

0

Comments

Add +

Time Out New York critic Jay Cheshes kicked off his term in 2008 with his restaurant review of American spot Commerce. We take a look back on the last five years of the NYC dining scene, including game changers (Torrisi Italian Specialties), instaclassics (Minetta Tavern) and flat-out disasters (Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar). Here are 50 of Cheshes’s best plaudits, witticisms and zingers in his five years as TONY’s chief restaurant critic.

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Issue 653 (April 3–9, 2008)

    COMMERCE

    Rating: 4/6


    “[Harold] Moore’s high-end food taps into a nostalgia of a different sort, with a surfeit of luxury ingredients bringing a dose of F. Scott Fitzgerald into a room that, incongruously, still shouts Joseph Mitchell.”

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Issue 655 (April 17–23, 2008)

    ELETTARIA

    Rating: 3/6


    “Entrées, in which the Indian fusion is most at play, suffer from an identity crisis—with one awkward foot stuck in Nawab’s restaurant jobs past, and the other embarking on its own path.”

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Issue 657 (May 1–7, 2008)

    THE PALM COURT

    Rating: 1/6


    “Like a scene from The Shining, we shared the dining room with the ghosts of the grand hotel’s once-glitzy past—and virtually no one else. While the allure of the restaurant was never really the food, I’d like to think that back then it was at least edible. That’s more than I can say for the $28 foie gras starter, which kicked off a price-gouging meal that was the most noxious in memory…I chewed and chewed and chewed some more on $46 rubber bands masquerading as lobster. After a few minutes, I gave up.”

  • Photograph: Jeff Gurwin

    Issue 687 (November 27–December 3, 2008)

    CORTON

    Rating: 6/6


    “Although he’s developed a reputation for being in league with the international cabal of avant-garde adventurers, Liebrandt likes to insist his cooking isn’t complicated or fancy. Methinks he doth protest too much.”

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    Issue 689 (December 11–17, 2008)

    BRAEBURN

    Rating: 2/6


    “His brook-trout starter—smoked fish with a crisp relish of apple and pear—was so bland it literally tasted like nothing at all (I had to get a second and third opinion just to be sure my taste buds weren’t shot).”

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Issue 700 (February 26–March 4, 2009)

    SHANG

    Rating: 3/6


    “Despite sultry lighting from oversize lanterns, the place has all the charm of a conference room.”

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Issue 703 (March 19–25, 2009)

    LA FONDA DEL SOL

    Rating: 3/6


    “The chef, who has had a rough time of it lately—his last two restaurants barely survived the first round of reviews—is like an unfocused undergrad, dabbling in a dozen majors but settling on none.”

  • Photograph: Roxanna Marroquin

    Issue 704 (March 26–April 1, 2009)

    BOULEY

    Rating: 4/6


    “The eponymous Bouley—the newly relocated airy flagship of his growing empire—exists in its own fantastical bubble: a place where the Dow still surges and expense-account spending never dried up…You won’t find this much velvet outside of the Liberace Museum.”

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    Issue 707 (April 16–22, 2009)

    DANIEL

    Rating: 6/6


    “Sure, Daniel is still big-ticket commitment of time and money, but from the waiters who sweep up to the table like synchronized swimmers, to the whole fish filleted on an old-school cart, you won’t find such lavish attention to detail without springing for a ticket to Europe.”

  • Photograph: Roxanna Marroquin

    Issue 709 (April 30–May 6, 2009)

    ARMANI/RISTORANTE 5th Avenue

    Rating: 3/6


    “The waitstaff, clad neck-to-toe in black Armani, with identical close-cropped Ricky Martin ’dos, are as efficient (and charmless) as the sales assistants manning the fitting rooms down below.”

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    Issue 711 (May 14–20, 2009)

    MINETTA TAVERN

    Rating: 4/6


    “McNally, who has a sociologist’s gift for reading and responding to the cultural moment, has unveiled a power restaurant for the newly modest New York, a place where jeans and T-shirts are standard and entrées rarely exceed the low $20s.”

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    Issue 717 (June 25–July 1, 2009)

    DELMONICO’S

    Rating: 2/5


    “Unlike some landmark restaurants—21 Club and La Grenouille—Delmonico’s ceased to be relevant long ago. Without the institutional memory of loyal staff and devoted patrons, the place might as well be a museum. Even with a modern chef, history is all that it’s peddling.”

  • Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

    Issue 720 (July 16–22, 2009)

    MAREA

    Rating: 4/5


    “The most extravagant New York restaurant to open so far this year, Marea features an enormous menu, daunting prices and almost maniacal optimism (is there another new spot in town offering California caviar at $175 an ounce?).”

  • Photo: Noah Fecks + Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 722 (July 30–August 5, 2009)

    LOCANDA VERDE

    Rating: 4/5


    “Instead of Ago’s insipid spins on Italian standards, A Voce’s former top toque sends out dishes so gutsy, you’ll wipe your plate clean and wish for seconds.”

  • Photograph: Michael Alexander

    Issue 739 (November 26–December 2, 2009)

    ABE & ARTHUR’S

    Rating: 2/5


    “If you’re a spectator, Abe & Arthur’s can be as entertaining as a Dynasty rerun. There are more middle-aged men with baseball caps than at a Beastie Boys concert, and more plastic surgery than at an Anna Nicole Smith memorial.”

  • Issue 741 (December 10–16, 2009)

    CAFÉ BOULUD

    Rating: 4/5


    “Haute cuisine dominance has long been a grudge match between two French contenders, each recognizable—like Diddy or Prince—by a single name. Though Jean-Georges had the edge for a little while, 2009 has been the year of Daniel.”

  • Photograph: Marlene Rounds

    Issues 744/745 (December 31, 2009–January 13, 2010)

    LE CAPRICE

    Rating: 2/5


    “What could a British homage to New York possibly contribute to the dining landscape? The answer: not much…While the Deco setting—shimmering with silver, crystal and chrome—evokes the bygone glamour of a Nol Coward musical, the stiff, impersonal waitstaff (a far cry from the celebrated servers in London) and octogenarian patrons make the place about as sizzling as a Park Avenue potluck.”

  • Photograph: Michael Alexander

    Issue 747 (January 21–27, 2009)

    THE BRESLIN BAR & DINING ROOM

    Rating: 4/5


    “Even in a city smitten with large-format feasts—whole hogs, huge steaks, heaps of fried chicken—the Breslin breaks new gluttonous ground…The third project from restaurant savant Ken Friedman and Anglo chef April Bloomfield offers the most opulently fatty food in New York—served in medieval portions in a raucous rock & roll setting.”

  • Issue 751 (February 18–24, 2010)

    AL BUSTAN

    Rating: 3/5


    “The new decor reads like a bad face-lift, a disconnect from the self-consciously formal food. And the waitstaff—solicitous but clueless, neglectful verging on absent—seem to have already given up on the place.”

  • Photograph: Daniel Krieger

    Issue 755 (March 18–24, 2010)

    COLICCHIO & SONS

    Rating: 2/5


    “If there’d been cameras recording my first visit to Colicchio & Sons, the comedy of errors could have made for entertaining reality TV.”

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels

    Issue 757 (April 1–7, 2010)

    TORRISI ITALIAN SPECIALTIES

    Rating: 4/5


    “Young chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, veterans of Cafe Boulud and Del Posto, lionize the Little Italy pantry, celebrating domestic ingredients like Progresso bread crumbs and La Quercia prosciutto in a $63 nightly prix fixe that’s among the best deals in town. Tony Soprano wouldn’t know what to make of this food—grilled seafood salad in a zingy pepperoni vinaigrette; striped bass sauced in an upmarket clam chowder. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

  • Photograph: Noah Fecks

    Issue 761 (April 29–May 5, 2010)

    ABC KITCHEN

    Rating: 5/5


    “Though the restaurant’s sustainable ethos is outlined on the back of the menu like an Al Gore polemic, the cooking, based on the most gorgeous ingredients form up and down the East Coast, delivers one message above all: Food that’s good for the planet needn’t be any less opulent, flavorful or stunning to look at. It’s haute green cuisine.”

  • Photograph: Noah Fecks

    Issue 766 (June 3–9, 2010)

    THE KITCHEN AT BROOKLYN FARE

    Rating: 4/5


    “A convivial spirit ripples around the table. The actress asks everyone to share their astrological sign. Out comes the Bluefin toro tartare, a decadent velvet bite with a dollop of mustard and soy. A single sultry Kumamoto oyster reclines on crème fraîche and yuzu gelee. A collective sigh.”

  • Photograph: Noah Fecks

    Issue 767 (June 10–16, 2010)

    MÁ PÊCHE

    Rating: 3/5


    “Despite its swank midtown setting in the Chambers Hotel, the subterranean venue—utilitarian wood tables and chairs under ambly lit sheets of peach canvas—has virtually no personality. And it’s not just the decor that’s verging on bland.”

  • Photograph: Marlene Rounds

    Issue 784 (October 7–13, 2010)

    XIAO YE

    Rating: 2/5


    “Poontang Potstickers, Cheeto Fried Chicken, General Poke-Her-Face Prawns. That the menu at Xiao Ye reads like a juvenile prank makes perfect sense.”

  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    Issue 791 (November 25–December 1, 2010)

    THE HURRICANE CLUB

    Rating: 2/5


    “Pastry chef Richard Leach doubles as barkeep here, and his stick-sweet tropical cocktails—with limp fruit, wilted garnishes and no balance—have all the finesse of Hi-C…While both desserts are tasty enough, like everything else, they’re better enjoyed after checking your modern food mores at the door. Three or four mai tais wouldn’t hurt either.”

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Issue 801 (February 17–23, 2011)

    COMPOSE

    Rating: 2/5


    “The chef, who in his short career has cooked at Perry Street and Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar, is simply too green to pull off a spread this ambitious. Like Marcel on Top Chef, he trots out technique for its own sake, adding liquid nitrogen and foam to little effect…Shouldn’t there be a discount for these recycled techniques?”

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels

    Issue 803 (March 10–16, 2011)

    FEDORA

    Rating: 4/5


    “Brunet-Benkritly clearly has a soft spot for big, blustery flavors, and a real macabre sense of humor. His fried chicken, served like a salaryman lunch over sushi rice and bitter greens, arrives at the table with a sharp claw still attached, the bird’s confited leg and thigh covered in crisped rice and bread crumbs—a coating so flavorsome, you might be inclined to nibble those toes.”

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Issue 808 (April 14–20, 2011)

    M. WELLS

    Rating: 5/5


    “In the volatile world of New York restaurants, it’s a real luxury to be able do what you want—critics, Yelpers and real-estate prices be damned. Which might explain why chefs in less exorbitantly priced cities like Chicago and Montreal seem to be turning out riskier restaurants these days, more freely fiddling with outré ingredients and impulsive flavor combinations than their Gotham counterparts. Bucking the trend is M. Wells, an ambitious newcomer in Queens that is shaping up to be NYC’s deliverance from its rustic Italian rut.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 812 (May 12–18, 2011)

    IMPERIAL NO. NINE

    Rating: 2/5


    “But though the wretched crowd can make dinner here feel like a Kardashian konvention, the food is unfortunately a much bigger problem.”

  • Photograph:

    Issue 821 (July 14–20, 2011)

    BRUSHSTROKE

    Rating: 4/5


    “Peering into the busy kitchen after that very last bite, you may be expecting a curtain call. It’s an impressive performance—culinary Kabuki—priced and paced like a Broadway show.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 832 (October 13–19, 2011)

    THE CANNIBAL

    Rating: 4/5


    “Run by guys and packed with them, the place is so unabashed in its bromance for craft beer and artisanal meat it’s almost a parody of a manly restaurant.”

  • Photograph: Daniel Krieger

    Issue 839 (Dec 1–7, 2011)

    ISA

    Rating: 5/5


    “The cooking at Isa is entirely free-form—culinary improv tied to no particular time or place. The food is wild and whimsical but homey, too—modern primitive is the term Mattos has come up with—gorgeous, strange, hard to predict.”

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Issue 844 (Jan 19–25, 2012)

    PARM

    Rating: 4/5


    “As with David Chang, whose empire was built on the shoulders of ramen, Torrisi and Carbone have shown us that their humble deli debut was just the beginning of a full-court press on the city…Memorize these names now, NYC: They’ll be on the lips of tastemakers for years to come.”

  • Photograph: Daniel Krieger

    Issue 859 (May 10–16, 2012)

    THE NOMAD

    Rating: 5/5


    “The food, like the space, exudes unbuttoned decadence—like wearing a tux with no socks.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 865 (June 21–27, 2012)

    BRASSERIE PUSHKIN

    Rating: 0/5


    “Consider Donald Trump’s signature comb-over, or Leona Helmsley’s choice of a canine heir, or even mogul haunt Nello on the Upper East Side, where $29 buys a plain bowl of pasta with tomato and basil. There’s no correlation, clearly, between wealth and good taste…Even a simple thick veal chop is petty-larcenous: At $44, it has the texture of a waterlogged Dostoyevsky paperback and is caked in a gummy herb crust.”

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Issue 868 (July 12–18, 2012)

    MISSION CHINESE FOOD

    Rating: 4/5


    “In an increasingly globalized age, when shiso and guanciale are as common as pimiento cheese and Maine lobster, it’s about time that the Szechuan peppercorn took its place on the contemporary American plate.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 870 (August 2–8, 2012)

    BLANCA

    Rating: 4/5


    “There’s a real grace to the simple pursuit of perfection on display, in one lovely course after another…The finest ingredients are brought to life with just a few complementary notes—a streak of sauce here, a foraged leaf there. The raw materials alone are worth the price of admission, an introductory dollop of caviar with goat’s-milk granita setting the luxurious tone.”

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Issue 871 (August 9–15, 2012)

    NICOLETTA

    Rating: 2/5


    “Even the best pies—heavy and grease-soaked—are like lead going down.”

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Issue 875 (September 13–19, 2012)

    MILE END SANDWICH

    Rating: 3/5


    “Chefly attention to detail permeates every baroque creation, delicious upgrades on old-fashioned combos. The most indulgent handful—and messiest, certainly—turns a veal sausage patty, apple butter, fried egg and house-baked English muffin into a superdeluxe McMuffin of sorts (a “breakfast burger” available anytime). The inspiration is lowbrow, the execution anything but.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 876 (September 20–26, 2012)

    JEZEBEL

    Rating: 2/5


    “On a recent packed weeknight, a waiter confided they had even hosted a few A-listers. ‘Russell Simmons has dined at least twice,’ he said. ‘He likes the music.’ Fitting. He couldn’t possibly have come for the food.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 881 (October 25–31, 2012)

    GUY’S AMERICAN KITCHEN AND BAR

    Rating: 1/5


    “TV’s most over-the-top food personality—known for high-fiving his way across the country and scarfing down junk food while dressed like a rodeo clown—has toned his shtick down at his first East Coast restaurant…California egg rolls—filled with a dull mix of white-meat chicken, mashed avocado and shredded cabbage—also miss the bus to Flavortown.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 885 (November 22–28, 2012)

    M. WELLS DINETTE

    Rating: 4/5


    “The decor pays homage to the space’s public-school roots, with a daily-changing chalkboard menu and cubbyhole desks. But instead of juice boxes and Salisbury steak, there’s grower champagne and fork-tender pork tongue in a warm vinaigrette…But Dufour, still the king of over-the-top, also serves excellent gutsy fare like apple-scented blood pudding on sweet-savory kraut, and heady maple-smoked chicken, burnished dark as tobacco, with a macabre curled claw at the end of the leg.”

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 888/889 (December 13–26, 2012)

    THE BEATRICE INN

    Rating: 2/5


    “The monochromatic fare is so tame, you might call it postfoodie, and you might wonder if there’s a secret menu somewhere that plebeian diners don’t receive.”

  • Photograph: Noah Fecks + Paul Wagtouicz

    Issue 890/891 (December 27, 2012–January 9, 2013)

    ELEVEN MADISON PARK

    Rating: 5/5


    “With the new menu, a whimsical feast of nostalgic tastes and the absolute finest regional ingredients, the restaurant is as locavore-minded as Noma in Denmark—celebrating its particular urban locale—as theatrical in its own way as Britain’s wildly inventive Fat Duck. You won’t find a more purely entertaining New York dining experience outside dinner and a racy show at the Box.”

  • Photograph: Dominic Perri

    Issue 893 (January 17–23, 2013)

    KRESCENDO

    Rating: 2/5


    “While the Finocchio Flower Power, topped in a rich gutsy mix of heavy cream, crumbled sausage, sharp provolone and braised fennel, earned Falkner a first place trophy in Naples’s Caputo Cup last spring, one winning pie is hardly the makings of a new pizza star nor compensation for a restaurant with many shortcomings.”

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Issue 897 (March 7–13, 2013)

    SALVATION TACO

    Rating: 3/5


    “Friedman and gang have hidden a very good restaurant inside an extremely clamorous bar. It’s a little unfortunate. By the time your piping-hot churros arrive, the place may be mobbed with revelers too soused to really care what they eat. Bloomfield’s food deserves more respect.”

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Issue 899 (March 21–27, 2013)

    ASKA

    Rating: 4/5


    “A gorgeous trompe l’oeil first course, in the last gray gasp of winter, featured a hay-roasted beet channeling a rare hunk of beef—in its dense texture and deep crimson hue—topped in sweet melted onions and a caramelized vegetable broth so concentrated, it could pass for veal jus.”

  • Photograph: Loren Wohl

    Issue 901 (April 4–10, 2013)

    JEEPNEY

    Rating: 3/5


    “For all their work spreading the word about the country’s food culture, the Philippine government ought to be paying them a stipend—you won’t find better goodwill ambassadors.”

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Issue 903 (April 18–24, 2013)

    CARBONE

    Rating: 5/5


    “The new spot from tag-team chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone is a Godfather hangout on steroids, more fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback. Like Torrisi and Parm, their first projects together, it’s a hyped-up spin on a vanishing form, a restaurant where, breadsticks to bowties, everything looks, tastes and feels like much more of itself.”

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Issue 653 (April 3–9, 2008)

COMMERCE

Rating: 4/6


“[Harold] Moore’s high-end food taps into a nostalgia of a different sort, with a surfeit of luxury ingredients bringing a dose of F. Scott Fitzgerald into a room that, incongruously, still shouts Joseph Mitchell.”


Users say

0 comments