I haven’t been Frank Bruni’s biggest fan, but I have to give credit where it’s due: the man knows how to deliver a smackdown!
Today, Frank uncorked the final zero-star review of his tenure, giving the bagel to Govind Armstrong’s Table 8 in the Cooper Square Hotel. (Frank has only three reviews left, and as goose eggs are a rarity, it’s safe to assume there won’t be any more of them.)
For Frank, as always, restrooms are the index to a restaurant’s success:
In its opening weeks, [Table 8] rewarded anyone who went to the bathroom with a glass of sparkling wine.
At least that’s what happened the first time I dined there, when my companions and I noticed bubbly for the taking in a chamber beside the sinks.
What to make of this? Freud surely would have had one answer. We had another: diners were being congratulated for actually managing to reach this remote, ill-marked destination, a Herculean feat involving an instinctive left here, a speculative right there, a hunch, a leap of faith, a descent into the underworld and a fearless crossing of the river Styx.
That tortuous journey — only the final phrase amounts to exaggeration — isn’t just a mood killer; it’s a metaphor, too. The people behind Table 8 have given too little thought to logistics and comfort. They were inattentive when they put the place together, and they’re inattentive still. The acoustics are insane, the absurdly narrow lanes of foot traffic clog, the bread isn’t reliably fresh and the filet mignon on a recent night had the stringy texture and stew-y taste of something that would only barely pass muster on a tray table in coach.
A hard-to-find bathroom might be forgiven if the food were better, but alas it’s not:
I was struck by how overworked and overdressed many dishes were. A deep puddle of excess liquid was left behind once the grilled octopus with celery heart salad, tomato and Moroccan olives was gone, and a similar puddle outlasted duck sausage with grilled radicchio, pine nuts, grilled peaches and a watercress salad. I would have traded all those accessories for more sausage with more of a crisp-soft contrast than this one had.
On a subsequent night, the torn pasta that served as a bed for pan-fried sweetbreads was mushy. Another pasta was even worse: a gluey clump of linguine with a combination of ricotta and lemon that might as well have been Elmer’s and Pledge.
With such condemnations as those, why does the review end with “SATISFACTORY”? Did Frank seem satisfied?
We’ll be traveling the next two weeks, and most likely won’t have the opportunity to post our usual “Review Preview.” I know, I know, don’t all cry at once.
We’ll be out with speculative predictions early next week.