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Wednesday
Mar072012

The Pete Wells Wars

Last Update: September 24, 2014

Pete Wells, the latest New York Times restaurant critic, has been in the saddle for almost three years. How’s he doing?

Early Assessment: Wells is being extremely lenient on casual restaurants, but he has his knives out for upscale ones. Shake Shack got a star, despite inconsistent burgers and terrible fries. Parm got two stars, when it is basically a $25 & Under sandwich place. Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria got three stars, when it is in essence a slightly over-achieving neighborhood trattoria/grocery.

But Crown received one star, in a review dripping with contempt for its affluent clientele. Jungsik received just two stars, along with some condescending comments about Korea.

Wells’s grade inflation has doomed his tenure from the very start. One star supposedly means “good” in the NYT star system. In a world where Shake Shack (with all its faults) gets one, and Parm gets two, nobody will ever feel good about a one-star review, ever again.

We will have to wait and see whether Il Buco A&V’s three-star review was just a mistake, or if he intends to start handing out three-star reviews like Christmas candy. (This post will be updated periodically.)

The table below shows every starred (or star-eligible) restaurant review that Wells has filed, his rating, and what I consider to be the “correct” rating. Those Wells over-rated are highlighted in red; those he under-rated are highlighted in green.

The correct rating is based on a consensus of sources I trust. Sometimes, it is different than the rating I gave the restaurant when I visited. Where there’s not much to go on, I give Wells the benefit of the doubt. If you disagree, I am happy to refund your money. Oops! I forgot; you didn’t pay anything. Forget the refund, then. But feel free, to weigh in (with civility) in the comments.

As a point of reference, in my view one star ought to be a compliment, two stars a high compliment, and three stars an exceedingly high compliment fairly rarely bestowed. At any given time, there shouldn’t be more than about 50 three-star restaurants in NYC, and restaurants receiving that rating need to have it all: not just extremely good food, but the service, wine list, and atmosphere to go with it. (Three-star atmosphere needn’t imply crisp white tablecloths and Limoges china; by the same token, restaurants that take this approach shouldn’t be docked a star for it.)


Date


Restaurant

Wells
Rating

Correct
Rating

01/04/2012

Wong

**

**

01/11/2012

La Promenade des Anglais

**

*

01/18/2012

Romera

*

zero

01/25/2012

Parm

**

*

02/01/2012

Crown

*

**

02/08/2012

Kutscher’s Tribeca

*

*

02/15/2012

Il Buco A&V

***

**

02/22/2012

Shake Shack

*

zero

02/29/2012

Jungsik

**

***

03/07/2012

RedFarm

**

*

03/14/2012

Acme

**

**

03/21/2012

North End Grill

**

**

03/28/2012

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

zero

zero

04/04/2012

Gwynnett St.

**

**

04/11/2012

Kyo Ya

***

***

04/18/2012

Alison Eighteen

*

*

04/25/2012

Empellón Cocina

**

**

05/02/2012

Café China

**

**

05/09/2012

La Silhouette

*

**

05/02/2012

Perla

**

**

05/23/2012

Le Bernardin

****

****

05/30/2012

Back Forty West

**

*

05/30/2012

Back Forty

zero

*

06/06/2012

Neta

**

**

06/13/2012

Hakkasan

*

**

06/20/2012

The NoMad

***

***

06/27/2012

Pok Pok Ny

**

*

07/04/2012

Hill Country

**

**

07/11/2012

Almayass

*

*

07/18/2012

Atera

***

***

07/25/2012

Mission Chinese Food

**

**

08/01/2012

Reynard

*

*

08/08/2012

Nicoletta

zero

zero

08/15/2012

Biang!

*

*

08/22/2012

La Vara

**

**

08/29/2012

Rosemary’s

*

*

09/05/2012

Nougatine

**

**

09/12/2012

Governor

**

**

09/19/2012

Le Cirque

*

**

09/26/2012

Ichimura at Brushstroke

***

***

10/03/2012

Calliope

*

*

10/10/2012

Yunnan Kitchen

*

*

10/17/2012

Blanca

**

***

10/24/2012

‘21’ Club

zero

zero

10/31/2012

Talde

*

*

11/07/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

11/14/2012

Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar

zero

zero

11/21/2012

M. Wells Dinette

**

*

11/28/2012

Dirt Candy

**

**

12/05/2012

Moti Mahal Delux

**

*

12/12/2012

Royal Seafood

*

*

12/19/2012

L’Apicio

*

*

12/26/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

01/02/2013

Thirty Acres

**

**

01/09/2013

El Toro Blanco

*

*

01/16/2013

Arlington Club

**

*

01/23/2013

Krescendo

**

*

01/30/2013

Lakruwana

*

*

02/06/2013

Maysville

**

**

02/13/2013

Aska

**

**

02/20/2013

Louro

*

**

02/27/2013

The Marrow

*

**

03/06/2013

Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

**

*

03/13/2013

Jeepney

**

*

03/13/2013

Pig and Khao

**

*

03/20/2013

Chez Sardine

*

*

03/27/2013

Dining Room at The Modern

***

***

04/03/2013

Hanjan

**

**

04/10/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

04/17/2013

Manzanilla

*

*

04/24/2013

Randazzo’s Clam Bar

*

*

05/01/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

05/08/2013

Pearl & Ash

**

**

05/15/2013

Caravaggio

*

**

05/22/2013

The Beatrice Inn

zero

zero

05/29/2013

Salvation Taco

zero

zero

05/29/2013

Taqueria Tlaxcalli

*

*

06/05/2013

Carbone

***

***

06/12/2013

Montmartre

**

*

06/19/2013

Kajitsu

**

***

06/26/2013

Lafayette

*

*

07/03/2013

Uncle Boons

**

**

07/10/2013

Alder

**

**

07/17/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

07/24/2013

Daniel

***

***

07/31/2013

ABC Cocina

**

*

08/07/2013

MP Taverna

*

*

08/14/2013

Costata

**

**

08/21/2013

The Pines

*

*

08/28/2013

Betony

***

***

09/04/2013

NO REVIEW

 

 

09/11/2013

Armani Ristorante

**

**

09/18/2013

Estela

**

**

09/25/2013

Lake Pavilion

**

*

10/02/2013

NO REVIEW

 

 

10/09/2013

The Elm

**

***

10/16/2013

Khe-Yo

*

*

10/16/2013

Whiskey Soda Lounge Ny

*

*

10/23/2013

Le Restaurant

**

**

10/30/2013

Hearth

**

**

11/06/2013

Quality Italian

*

*

11/13/2013

Sushi Dojo

**

**

11/13/2013

Kurumazushi

*

**

11/20/2013

Piora

**

**

11/27/2013

Somtum Der

*

*

11/20/2013

Charlie Bird

*

**

12/11/2013

Sushi Nakazawa

****

***

12/18/2013

Marco’s

**

**

12/25/2013

NO REVIEW

 

 

01/01/2014

Toro

**

**

01/08/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

01/15/2014

Bistro at Villard Michel Richard

zero

zero

01/22/2014

Han Dynasty

zero

zero

01/22/2014

Hirohisa

*

*

01/29/2014

M. Wells Steakhouse

*

*

02/05/2014

Annisa

***

***

02/12/2014

Gotham West Market

**

*

02/19/2014

Mission Cantina

*

*

02/26/2014

Dover

**

**

03/05/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

03/12/2014

Contra

**

**

03/19/2014

Rôtisserie Georgette

**

**

03/26/2014

All’onda

**

**

04/02/2014

The Peacock & The Shakespeare

*

*

04/09/2014

Jean-Georges

****

****

04/16/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

04/23/2014

Telepan Local

*

zero

04/30/2014

Cagen

**

**

04/30/2014

Ristorante Morini

**

**

05/07/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

05/14/2014

El Quinto Pino

**

*

05/21/2014

River Café

**

**

06/04/2014

The Simone

***

***

06/11/2013

Gato

**

**

06/18/2014

A Voce Madison

**

**

06/18/2014

BLT Fish

*

*

06/25/2014

Tavern on the Green

zero

zero

07/02/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

07/09/2012

NO REVIEW

 

 

07/16/2014

Grindhaus

**

*

07/23/2014

Racines NY

**

*

07/30/2014

Russ & Daughters Cafe

**

*

08/06/2014

Ivan Ramen

**

**

08/13/2014

NO REVIEW

 

 

08/20/2014

Delaware and Hudson

*

**

08/27/2014

Bâtard

***

***

09/03/2014

Bar Primi

**

*

09/10/2014

Barchetta

*

*

09/17/2014

Claudette

*

*

09/24/2014

Sammy’s Roumanian

*

*

 

Reader Comments (6)

You give the New York Times the benefit of the doubt. You assume that they actually have an interest in objectively reviewing restaurants of note (and a few selected others). That is naive in the extreme. The Times has given up on any sort of objective reporting, and has moved to a personal, subjective model that changes with the personality of the current reviewer. It is no different than their news reporting, on which they pay much more attention.

Why are you surprised?

March 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriamnotachef

Thanks for the comment. Where did you read the word “surprise” in my post? I never said I was surprised. After three critics in the row who suffer from similar faults, nobody who follows the subject could have expected any different.

I do not “naively” assume that they have any interest in doing the job any differently. That interest is mine, not theirs.

March 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

Hello - Can you point out for us where the condescending comments from Mr. Wells were in his review pf Jungsilk? I read the few paragraphs backward and forward and can't see anything resembling 'condescending comments about Korea.' Thank you.

September 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCMoss

@CMoss: The Jungsik review contained this comment: “All of this put the food of Korea on an equal footing with that of Europe and the United States, a forceful statement of national pride.”

Some of us (I wasn’t the only one) found this condescending, as it implied Korean cuisine wasn’t already on an equal footing until the chef started making it look and taste more Western.

September 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

FYI, I believe Wells gave Le Cirque 1 star.

October 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

@Matt: Yes, correct. Thanks for the catch. It’s fixed now.

October 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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