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Tuesday
Apr152008

Rolling the Dice: Adour

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Alain Ducasse’s Adour, the chef’s latest attempt to bring high-end French dining to New York. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 15-1
One Star: 10-1
Two Stars: 6-1
Three Stars: 3-1 √√
Four Stars: 7-1

The Skinny: We weren’t impressed with Adour. Perhaps its far superior predecessor, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, cast too long a shadow. We found Adour boring and underwhelming, a verdict that a number of other early diners have shared. Even New York’s Adam Platt, while awarding three stars, seemed to damn with faint praise: “Ducasse’s new, occasionally flat interpretations of local tastes is rescued by the elegant room (one star), the elevated cooking technique (another star), and the desserts (the third star).”

On top of that, Bruni has never shown much affection for French food. Until quite recently—his review of La Sirène, to be specific—I was not aware of an example where Bruni went to a French restaurant by choice. He visited them, to be sure, but only when the visit was more-or-less compelled by circumstances beyond his control. No restaurant critic can avoid French food entirely, but it just doesn’t seem to float his boat the way Italian, Asian, and steakhouses do.

For all of these reasons, until a week ago, we were ready to bet the house that Adour would receive at best two stars from Bruni, with a singleton being a not indistinct possibility. But as Eater noted, we can’t ignore the dicta in last week’s review: “I knew that Chop Suey, which I’d visited before, wouldn’t give us a meal as proficient and pampering as the one we’d get at, say, Adour.”

Now, for a restaurant at Adour’s price level, a two-star review is a put-down, and Bruni knows it. If he thinks Adour is “proficient and pampering,” he has to award the three stars the restaurant was designed for. You just can’t call Adour “proficient” while two-starring it.

We could leave it at that, but there’s one other observation. Critics love it when their opinion is perceived to be vindicated. Bruni wasn’t fond of Adour’s predecessor at the Essex House, demoting it from four stars to three. It was one of the dumbest reviews of his tenure, but it happened, and the restaurant closed. He was vindicated. Bruni thinks New Yorkers no longer want traditional formality. He is wrong, but that’s what he thinks. Adour is a lot less formal than Ducasse’s old space in the Essex House. Bruni is again vindicated, and the review will surely say so.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award three stars to Adour.

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