Today, the Brunatrix bends Spice Market over the table and administers a one-star spanking:
When Spice Market opened its doors in the fleetly evolving whirl of Manhattan’s meatpacking district in early 2004, it…suggested the possibility of excellence in a genre often content with frivolity.
Today it suggests the steepness of many a restaurant’s decline once it has made its first, glowing impression, especially if the restaurant was conceived as, or destined to be, the parent of money-making offspring elsewhere. Said restaurant comes out of the gate strong, whipping up the buzz and establishing the brand, but once that mission is accomplished, its motivation falters. Its cooking deteriorates. Sloppiness creeps in…
While it still looks gorgeous, sends out the occasional superb dish and delivers a measure of fun, much of its menu is executed in a perfunctory or even slapdash fashion. Once a compelling destination, it’s now a modest diversion.
He has some choice words for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who is still nominally the chef at Spice Market, even though the menu hasn’t changed in five years:
Mr. Vongerichten is equal parts proud artist and profit-hungry entrepreneur, on the one hand making big-hearted contributions to the city’s restaurant scene while on the other wringing as much lucre from his stardust as he can.
Jean-Georges the Great helps finance and promote Wylie Dufresne at wd-50 and Jim Lahey at Co. pizzeria. He imports — and collaborates with — serious Japanese talent at Matsugen, a principled restaurant with remarkable prix fixe deals at lunch and dinner. He keeps careful watch over his outstanding flagship, Jean Georges.
Jean-Georges the Not-So-Great presides too distantly and cavalierly over the likes of Vong, Mercer Kitchen and Spice Market. He’s clone-happy, and in 2006 established a special wing of his empire, Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges, to supervise his swelling brood of restaurants in hotels worldwide. That wing oversees all the Spice Markets.
This is yet another one-star review that reads like zero. Although one star is supposed to mean “Good” in the Times nomenclature, Bruni has often used that category for reviews like this one, where the tone is overwhelmingly negative.
It creates a perception that one star is an insult, and makes it difficult to give one star to places that actually are “Good.”