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The Payoff: Eighty One

Today, Frank Bruni awards the expected two stars to Eighty One, finding the ambitious food over-thought and over-wrought:

Maybe it’s an inevitable consequence of so many restaurants vying to be noticed. Maybe it’s an attempt to justify entrees sailing far north of $35. Maybe it’s a reflection of chefs too neurotic or vain to commit to one strategy or to dwell on one note.

Whatever the reason, the high-end New York dining scene is awash in troikas of pork, trilogies of tuna and the like. A meat that does a wholly satisfying turn as a chop, or a fish showcased adequately in a fillet, appears in many guises, as if it’s an actor doing one of those multi-part tours de force.

The spectacle is impressive to a point, but exhausting, too.

He awards points for the wine list, but subtracts them for the room:

Eighty One certainly preens. It goes so far as to title a section of the menu in which it lists spotlighted dishes the “tasting collection.”

When you see something like that, you’re less inclined to overlook a restaurant’s shortcomings. In Eighty One’s case, they include a sprawling dining room with unflattering lighting and oversize red velvet booths that look as if they were carted in from a bordello on some planet where the prostitutes are 12 feet tall.

We win $4 on our hypothetetical one-dollar bet. Eater, who had predicted three stars, loses a dollar.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $88.50   $99.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   +4.00
Total $87.50   $103.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 39–17   40–16

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