Today, Sam Sifton awarded the expected one star to the Breslin. He loved the food (mostly), but noted that an awful lot of it strikes the same chords repeatedly:
The Breslin is the sort of restaurant you end up thinking about a lot, not always pleasantly, staring up at the ceiling at 3 in the morning in cold sweat and mild panic. Yes, the food is good. But it is monochromatically good: it is 10 colors of fat. Excess can become wretched, and fast.
He also notes the insane ritual of trying to get a table at this crowded place:
The restaurant takes no reservations; it celebrates a democracy of the committed. Save for at breakfast, over pancakes and Stumptown coffee, the restaurant is almost perpetually jammed.
At night, out in the bar, people dance in place, drink amber cocktails, listen to music that bounces smartly between rock and hip-hop. They wait endlessly for tables to clear.
I question the idea of calling this “democracy.” It is simply owner Ken Friedman’s way of making more money: no need ever to worry about no-shows, or tables vacant because the last booking has departed and the next hasn’t yet arrived. If the Breslin ever quiets down, rest assured that Friedman will suddenly be pleased to take your reservation—not that this is likely anytime soon.
Eater’s prediction and the many reactions to it show that people still haven’t adjusted to Sam Sifton’s grading curve. For Frank Bruni, two stars was the default rating. He usually didn’t give one star without reciting a long list of complaints. This would explain the attitude of the Eater commenter, who said, “it only deserves 1 star but the review barely took the restaurant down or explained why.”
Sifton has returned the star system to its historical roots. One star means “good.” It is not an insult. There is nothing fundamentally inconsistent with a positive review that awards only one star.
We are not about to say that we fully grasp Sifton’s system, but at least we got this one right, and are awarded with a whopping $4 against our hypothetical one-dollar bet; this is courtesy of Eater odds that were wrong to begin with. Eater loses a dollar.
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Life-to-date, New York Journal is 76–32 (70%).