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Review Recap (lame duck edition): Minetta Tavern

Well, blow me down.

The day after we wrote that “One or two stars are the only plausible outcomes here,” Frank Bruni awarded three stars to Minetta Tavern:

The minute you heard that Keith McNally was dusting off Minetta Tavern — that musty, sputtering Greenwich Village relic from the late 1930s — you probably figured he’d get the look and atmosphere right…

But were you prepared for a côte de boeuf like Minetta’s, a sublime hunk of glorious meat that you dream about hours later, pine for the next day and extol in a manner so rapturous and nonstop that friends begin to worry less about your cholesterol than about your sanity?

And did you expect that Mr. McNally, with the chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, would come up with the best steakhouse in the city?

We never saw this one coming, nor did over 500 Eater.com voters, 91.4% of whom believed, as we did, that two stars was the maximum for this place.

Our experience here is limited to the $16 Minetta Burger (like us, Bruni prefers it to its $26 cousin), but this didn’t strike us as a three-star restaurant. Indeed, Minetta Tavern serves a slimmed down version of the Balthazar menu, and no one has suggested that Balthazar is unfairly rated at two stars (Amanda Hesser, May 2004).

We don’t agree with Bruni every time, but all of his other three-star restaurants were, in a sense, predictable. They were types of restaurants where you knew this outcome was possible. This is the first one that just came out of nowhere.

Indeed, even taken on its own terms, the review makes a poor case for three stars. Bruni concedes that “little of the rest of Minetta’s food rises all the way to the extraordinarily high level of the beef.”

What a bizarre way to begin the last three months of his tenure.

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