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Wednesday
Feb142007

Critiquing the Critic: Pera and Dennis Foy

Today, New York Journal adds a new weekly feature. In “Critiquing the Critic,” we’ll deconstruct Frank Bruni’s latest performance in the Times dining section.

Sadly, Jules Langbein’s hilarious Bruni Digest has gone dark— she has posted only one of her patented Bruni-skewerings in the last three months. I can’t possibly replicate what Jules did, and I won’t even try. I’m afraid I’m going to sound much more sanctimoniously serious than the situation calls for.

To business: This week, Frank Bruni files a double-review of Pera and Dennis Foy, granting one star to both.

The frequency of double-reviews has gone up, and that’s a good thing. There are far too many restaurants that never get a Times review, and far too many others that go years before a re-review. If Bruni is right about Pera and Dennis Foy—and I’m not saying he is—neither one is important enough to deserve a column to itself.

Bruni reminds us, “Dennis Foy occupies the elegant, creamy space that belonged to the excessively self-conscious restaurant Lo Scalco.” That restaurant, I might add, won a Michelin star, but Bruni never got around to reviewing it. Whatever you thought of Lo Scalco, restaurants at that level shouldn’t go un-reviewed.

Today’s headline, “Knowing Their Place and Aiming to Fill It,” has an “Aw, shucks!” attitude. It is never a compliment to tell someone they “know their place.” It’s a bit like the massa telling the slave to be happy about picking the cotton. I don’t know about Pera, but I’m sure Dennis Foy thought he was opening a two-star restaurant. I’m not saying it is two stars, but it’s patronizing to give him one, and then congratulate him for “knowing his place.”

Bruni says that Foy is “an ‘if you happen to be’ as opposed to a ‘you have to try’ restaurant.” The trouble is that almost no one “happens to be” on Church Street between Walker and Lispenard Streets. It’s not a “happen to be” block.

I suspect Pera will be just fine with Bruni’s one-star review. As he notes, “Its jazzy look and feel are unmitigated delights, and jazzy isn’t so easy to come by on its patch of Manhattan, in the shadow of Grand Central Terminal.”

Overall, we are left with a sense that Frank was slumming it this week. Both restaurants slightly bored him.

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