Over at Eater.com, Ben Leventhal asks the existential question:
The biggest question is, Will The Brunisimo inaugurate one more restaurant into the four star club before he leaves? He confirmed Daniel’s four stars in January, but hasn’t put a new restaurant into the club since Masa in late 2004. Frequent dining companions of his whisper about the man’s quiet interest in finding one more perfect restaurant before he departs. And these critics, they like to leave a mark, which to me means we’ve got one more four star review coming if any restaurant even comes close to getting it done.
We totally agree with Leventhal that Bruni must be itching to play king-maker one more time. Indeed, we’ve noted before, Bruni currently holds the record for the longest interval between new four-star reviews. Awarding four stars—not reaffirming, as he did with Daniel, but awarding—is a critic’s signature moment, and he has kept his powder dry for the last 4½ years.
We doubt, though, that Bruni will pull the trigger unless he’s convinced. In a post late last year, he mentioned recent visits to Eleven Madison Park and Del Posto—clearly looking for an excuse to promote them to four stars, but finding both wanting.
Here are the restaurants that Leventhal thinks could break the string, with Eater’s trademark odds:
Del Posto: 18-1
Blue Hill, Stone Barns: 19-1
Babbo (Bruni’s first review): 75-1
Momofuku Ko: 298-1
Le Cirque: 500-1
Locanda Verde: 5,000-1
We do not think Marea is designed to compete with the likes of Le Bernardin and Jean Georges. In flusher times, Chris Cannon and Michael White would no doubt have liked to, but by all appearances it seems they (wisely) hedged their bets. The new Aureole, even if it ultimately gets four stars, is probably opening too late (not till June, by most reports).
Del Posto needs to be crossed off the list for now, based on Bruni’s year-end comments. Babbo? I doubt that even Mario Batali thinks it’s a four-star restaurant. We certainly agree that Le Cirque is the longest of long-shots, and Locanda Verde is (by its creators’ admission) intended to be a neighborhood place.
In our view, that leaves only Momofuku Ko and Blue Hill Stone Barns as plausible candidates. We think BHSB is a near-perfect restaurant, but even if Bruni thinks that, would he award four stars to a restaurant that is not even in New York City?
That leaves Momofuku Ko. Bruni has been curiously silent about the ambitious lunch menu that was launched after his original review. That lunch menu would certainly provide the excuse for a re-review, and if the inconsistencies he wrote about have been smoothed out, perhaps Ko would be the place.
Given Bruni’s long-standing shine for everything Chang, we have to think that Momofuku Ko is the best candidate.
Edit to Add: I am not saying that I believe Momofuku Ko will be (or should be) upgraded to four stars. I am only saying that if Bruni files another four-star review, Ko is a more likely recipient than any other.