Entries in Bobby Flay (3)



Gato, Bobby Flay’s latest restaurant, asks us to ponder whether a TV chef best known for throwdowns and gimmicks, for a line of spice rubs and a middle-brow empire of tourist traps, can still cook food that matters.

For now, the answer is emphatically yes. Gato is so good, in fact, that it invites you to forget his multiply cloned restaurants at various casinos, his half-dozen TV shows (that’s only the active ones—there have been many others), his cookbooks, and his burger palaces in eleven states.

Flay is omni-present on TV, but he was once a serious restaurant chef. With the critically admired Mesa Grill in 1991 and Bolo in 1993, he was on the way to the kind of restaurant empire that chefs like David Chang and the Torrisi gang have built in New York today.

He chose a different path, proliferating his brand outside New York, and augmenting it with a lineup of cookbooks, spice rubs, and especially TV shows, where his good looks and winning smile made him a natural. He never entirely took his eye off his kitchens: he was already a minor industry in 2003 when William Grimes upgraded Bolo to three stars.

But the New York restaurants gradually faded. Frank Bruni demoted Mesa Grill to one star in 2008. Bolo closed in 2008 to make way for condos, Mesa Grill in 2013 after losing its lease. His remaining New York City restaurant, Bar Americain, was well off the radar.

The loss of Bolo stuck in his craw, and there were persistent rumors he would re-open it. He was certainly patient: he told Eater.com that he looked at “hundreds and hundreds of spaces” over “five or six years.” After securing a liquor license under that name, Flay changed his mind and called it Gato, after a stray cat that walked by while he and his partners were scoping the storefront they eventually chose.

Click to read more ...


The Payoff: Mesa Grill

Yesterday, as the world yawned, Frank Bruni issued a one-star mini-smackdown to Mesa Grill:

Mesa Grill, no question, has considerable charms. You can’t mix this many creative margaritas, put this much vivid color into the décor and the food, and tap this wide a variety of chilies without summoning a festive spirit…

But on balance Mesa Grill presents only flickers of the excitement it did in 1991, when it opened, or in 2000, when William Grimes gave it two stars in The Times.

It’s an overly familiar, somewhat tired production. More to the point, it’s an inconsistent one.

Flay could have responded by spending more time at the restaurant. Instead, he fired the GM, which seems a bit silly. He couldn’t have been screwing up that badly, as the restaurant is still packed. The review is history, and Bruni’s successor won’t be back for another decade.

We lose for the third week in a row…but this time Eater loses too. We’re both $1 poorer.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $65.50   $78.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   –1.00
Total $64.50   $77.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 28–12   28–12

Rolling the Dice: Mesa Grill

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Bobby Flay’s Southwestern standard, Mesa Grill. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 3-1
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 5-1
Three Stars: 75-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: The Times has reviewed Mesa Grill twice, with Bryan Miller awarding two stars shortly after it opened (March 1991), and William Grimes re-affirming that rating nine years later (May 2000). Re-reviews are a waste of space unless something has changed in the intervening years. No one would suggest that Mesa Grill is a three-star restaurant, so that means the only likely outcomes are one star or zero.

I don’t have strong feelings about Mesa Grill. I dined there only once, about two years ago. I didn’t blog about it, but my thoughts at the time were: nothing special, but not bad. I suppose that I would have awarded one star.

But Mesa Grill is truly irrelevant nowadays. You can tell how bored Bruni is, when he can find nothing more interesting to write about. Bruni is always looking over his shoulder to see what other people are doing, and I doubt any of his pals frequent Mesa Grill. If Bruni thinks its worth wasting a review for a smackdown, he’s probably going to smack it hard.

The Bet: We’ll try to break our two-week losing streak with a zero-star bet on Mesa Grill.