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 gives us another pulse check on the Upper West Side’s fine dining revolution, with a review of Ed Brown’s Eighty One. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):
Zero Stars: 10-1
One Star: 5-1
Two Stars: 4-1
Three Stars: 5-1 √√
Four Stars: 12-1
The Skinny: This week’s Eater odds reflect the lack of consensus on Eighty One, with anywhere between one and three stars being realistically possible.
Of the reviews so far, the worst came from Paul Adams in The Sun. Adams doesn’t award stars, but he called the restaurant “a sad disappointment.” At the other extreme was Steve Cuozzo in The Post, who doesn’t do stars either, but said he would award three. Adam Platt in New York was in the middle, awarding the deuce.
For the record, we gave Eighty One 2½ stars. If we were using Bruni’s system, which does not have half-stars, we’d have rounded down to two. We think that’s the most likely outcome here—not just because it conforms to our own verdict, but for other reasons too.
First, Bruni is seldom impressed with the trappings of luxury, which he usually calls “fussy.” I abhor the word, but if ever there was a fussy restaurant, Eighty One is it.
Second, Eighty One is more expensive than nearby Dovetail, to which he awarded three stars. Given that Bruni is highly sensitive to price, Eighty One would need to be a lot better than Dovetail to receive the identical rating. It’s hard to see that happening, given that his review of Dovetail was a rave. Most critics, regardless of their rating, have had their complaints about Eighty One. If Bruni does too, it’ll be enough to withhold the third star.
Bruni has been pretty generous with three-star reviews this year. Maybe they’re putting happy pills in the water over at Times HQ. The year’s not half over, and three new restaurants have received that honor. In all of 2007, none did. As the honor comes rarely, and Frank can time his reviews however he wants, we doubt he’d do two of them in a row. Last week’s review, of course, was three-stars for Momofuku Ko.
Lastly, there’s the Cuozzo effect: he and Bruni seldom see eye to eye. Cuozzo loved Eighty One.
We’re a little perplexed as to what has taken Bruni so long to file this review. The place has been open for months, and Platt’s review appeared more than six weeks ago. We can only guess that Bruni really wanted to love this place—it’s in his neighborhood, after all—but in the end, couldn’t quite make the case.
Why not one star? For a restaurant at Eighty One’s level, a measly star would be close to insulting. Bruni is quite capable of delivering that kind of smackdown, but usually only when he feels he has to. Given how long he’s waited, we figure he has something nice to say—just not three stars’ worth.
The Bet: We are betting that Frank Bruni will award two stars to Eighty One.