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The Payoff: Oceana

We’re rather late with this week’s edition of The Payoff, as in five days late. Our only excuse is that we’ve been busy.

Anyhow, the news is that Oceana is still great. Who knew? We all do now, thanks to last Wednesday’s three-star review from Frank Bruni:

I RARELY hear people chattering about Oceana anymore. They don’t mention it as a special-occasion restaurant they yearn to try. They don’t mention it as a favorite they circle back to.

Say the restaurant’s name even to some diners who diligently canvas the city’s dining scene, eager not to lose touch with anything noteworthy, and you can tell that Oceana has slipped away from them…

But more than a decade and a half since it opened, Oceana presses on, still proud, still vital, still very much worth boarding.

Its owners, the Livanos family, who also operate the Greek restaurant Molyvos and the Italian restaurant Abboccato, obviously care about Oceana, which they’ve steered through several chef changes: from Rick Moonen to Mr. Gallagher, and then to Ben Pollinger, who took over in late 2006.

Like a number of other people, I was skeptical when this review was announced. Given the rarity of re-reviews, I thought it made more sense to review Oceana when it moves next year, rather than now, when it’s nearing the end of a sixteen-year run in its old digs.

But Bruni made a persuasive case that the review made sense. Although he doesn’t admit it, about 90% of his reviews are really just confirmations of critical judgments the market has already made for itself. It isn’t often that he can actually draw attention to an excellent place the food cogniscenti had ignored. As far as I’m concerned, he can do that all he wants. It’s never too early to celebrate excellence.

We and Eater both anticipated a demotion to two stars. We both lose on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $96.50   $120.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   –1.00
Total $95.50   $119.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 44–21   47–18

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