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The Year of the One-Star Restaurant

Is this the year of the one-star restaurant? Frank Bruni has reviewed nine new restaurants so far this year, and only one, The John Dory, got two stars. None received three or four, except the re-reviewed Daniel. This is the critic who once gave the deuce so often that Eater’s Ben Leventhal dubbed him “Frankie two-stars.”

Here’s the list of Bruni’s reviews this year—all one star, except for Daniel and The John Dory:

Rouge Tomate (January 7)
The West Branch & Bar Bao (January 14)
Daniel (January 21)
Cabrito (January 28)
The Oak Room (February 4)
The John Dory (February 11)
Shang (February 18)
Buttermilk Channel (February 25)
L’Artusi (March 4)

Reader Comments (4)

Thats because he likes brand names. The two with more then one star are somewhat household names.The rest aren't as well known so theres no reason to get carried away. He will save the higher ratings for the big boys.

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjojo

Sorry, but that is simply untrue. Bruni has delivered scathing reviews to plenty of “brand name” restaurants, and he has delivered raves to many quaint, independent places. You could accuse Bruni of many things, but an attachment to brand names is not one of them. If anything, I think he holds them to a higher standard.

March 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

The real problem here is that the liberal distribution of one-star reviews makes it very difficult to turn the reviews into usable information. For example the idea that Rouge Tomate (a surprisingly good and fairly unique restaurant) is on the same level as Cabrito (pretty mediocre, and not even the best faux-Mexican in its zip code) is laughable. If he's going to be stingy with the stars, he's going to need to start awarding half-stars or something...

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlpshanet

@lpshanet, the problem you’re referring to existed even before Frank got stingy. In 2006, he gave two stars in consecutive reviews to The Little Owl and Le Cirque. Obviously those two places are in no sense comparable. The two stars for L.O. were meant as a compliment, while those for Le Cirque were meant as an insult. The owners of L.O. went out and celebrated; those of Le Cirque were reduced to tears.

The same thing is going on with his Rouge Tomate review. He didn’t like the place, so he gave it one star, instead of the two or three stars that the chef and owners were probably gunning for. Reviews like that can be found throughout Bruni’s tenure (and his predecessors too), where a low rating is used as an insult, whereas for other restaurants the identical rating is a compliment. It is a flaw of the system.

March 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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