Entries in Txikito (2)


The Payoff: La Fonda del Sol and Txikito

We were half-right, half-wrong about Frank Bruni’s double-review of La Fonda del Sol and Txikito. The latter restaurant got the expected singleton:

Across many meals here I had wonderfully memorable food (suckling pig as fine as any in New York beyond Eleven Madison Park’s); ridiculous food (a rib-eye so excessively fatty and undercooked it was almost inedible); food that fell somewhere in between (the crosscut spareribs, with too much bone and too little pork); and food that never tasted the same twice. The meatballs in a shellfish broth could be hard and dull or tender and nuanced. It depended on the night.

Although the prices on individual items are low, the bill can climb surprisingly high, especially considering the plainness and tightness of the quarters.

But to our surprise, La Fonda got the deuce. It’s not that we doubted La Fonda deserved two stars (it clearly does), but that we didn’t expect Bruni to see it that way. With two-star restaurants being a rarity these days, we had figured that any place he deemed worthy of the deuce would at least get the courtesy of having a review to itself. But Bruni’s review patterns were made to be broken:

Although the menu has weak spots, with a few too many dishes not from the heart but from a marketing plan, [Chef Josh DeChellis’s] cooking here feels less forced and more exuberant than it did at any of the other restaurants where I tried it.

More important, it reflects a steady, precise hand. A tried-and-true combination of octopus with potato seemed fresh again, because the kitchen got precisely the tenderness it wanted from the octopus and the firmness it sought in the potato, so that each was a textural mirror and mimic of the other.

At lunchtime, when so many restaurants put on their B if not C games, La Fonda served me a fillet of wild striped bass so vividly white in color and melting in consistency it could have been a snowdrift. The fish got a thrillingly salty, nutty charge — and some nice crunch — from the pumpkinseeds scattered over it.

We and Eater thought that Bruni would award a single star to both places. On our hypothetical one-dollar bets, we win $2 for Txikito and lose $1 on La Fonda, for a net gain of $1.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $127.50   $148.67
Gain/Loss +1.00   +1.00
Total $128.50   $149.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 58–26

Rolling the Dice: La Fonda del Sol and Txikito

The Line: We missed BruniBetting last week with the flu, but for the record our bet would have been the same as Eater’s: no stars for Charles. Oddly, we find ourselves nearly always in agreement with Eater these days. We realize that’s boring, but there’s no point in disagreeing for its own sake, especially where imaginary dough is on the line. Anyhow, back to business.

Tomorrow, Frank gives us a Spanish twofer, taking a fly on La Fonda del Sol and Txikito. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

La Fonda del Sol
Zero Stars: 10 - 1
One Star: 3-1 √√
Two Stars: 5-1
Three Stars: 25-1
Four Stars: 10,000-1

Zero Stars: 7-1
One Star: 2-1 √√
Two Stars: 5-1
Three Stars: 500-1
Four Stars: 20,000-1

The Skinny: Eater gives a good explanation why both of these restaurants will get the singleton, but we have an even better one. In Bruniland, the line between two stars and one is the line between good and mediocre, between important and humdrum, between destination and also-ran. Though one star is supposed to mean “good,” in Bruni’s world it almost never does.

Two-star reviews have been extremely scarce this year. So we figure that if Bruni thought that either of these places merited the deuce, he would let it have a review all to itself. As best we can recall, Bruni has never awarded more than one star in a double review if the Times had never reviewed the restaurant before—as is the case with both of these establishments.

For the record, we really liked La Fonda del Sol, but the other critics haven’t been as wild for it as we were.

The Bet: The year of the one-star restaurant continues. We are betting that Frank Bruni will award one star to both La Fonda del Sol and Txikito.