Entries in Imperial Palace (2)


Review Recap: Imperial Palace

Some days, I am happy to be wrong. That’s how I felt about Sam Sifton’s one-star review of Imperial Palace.

Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but one star in the Times system is supposed to be “good,” but most of Frank Bruni’s one-star restaurants were mediocre. This led to a situation where it was nearly impossible to award one star, and have it be a compliment. The few restaurants so honored were lost in the scrum of many more where one star was an insult.

So I was gratified to read this:

Crab is the restaurant’s calling card. But a series of meals taken there over the last few months say more: The Palace is riding high, at the zenith of Cantonese cooking in New York City.  .  .  .

Entirely on the fly, it is possible to eat brilliantly there, in the manner of an improvised Cantonese banquet. It is not a formal restaurant nor in any way a perfect one; service can be slapdash, particularly if you speak no Chinese. But the cooking is extremely sophisticated.

Except for the reference to slapdash service, practically all of the review is positive—a rave, even. And it gets one star.

Sifton will need to file about a hundred more like it before people get the message that “one star means good.” But this is an excellent start. To make it stick, he’ll need to give zero a lot more often than Bruni did. I wonder if he has the guts for that.

Eater made the safe (and correct) one-star bet, winning $2 on a hypothetical one-dollar wager. We lose a dollar.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $0.00   $0.00
Gain/Loss +$2.00   –$1.00
Total +$2.00   –$1.00
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 2–1

Life-to-date, New York Journal is 71–27 (72%).


Review Preview: Imperial Palace

Tomorrow, Sam Sifton reviews Chowhound favorite Imperial Palace in Queens. The Eater Oddsmakers have set the action as follows: Sift Happens: 250-1; Two Stars: 3-1; One Star: 2-1.

The Skinny: Sifton’s first two reviews were about unfinished business that Frank Bruni left behind. DBGB and Marea both opened long enough ago that Bruni could have reviewed them—but he didn’t. Sifton had no choice about reviewing these places.

With tomorrow’s review, the Sifton era really begins. There is no particular news event that prompted this review. It is all Sifton’s doing. This is where he wants to go.

NYT critics have often given two stars to this type of restaurant. Like it or not, about 99.5% of the reviewed restaurants are in Manhattan and Brooklyn—mostly the former. Queens is teeming with ethnic restaurants, most of which the Times will never review. On those rare occasions when it happens, the critic ought to at least highlight the better ones.

Sifton doesn’t have much of a track record yet, but we assume he’s not going to start reviewing Queens restaurants on a regular basis. We therefore suspect that his reasoning will be like that of Bruni and his predecessors. You don’t go to Queens to award one star.

The Bet: We are betting that Sam Sifton will award two stars to Imperial Palace.