Entries in Wakiya (2)


The Payoff: Wakiya

Today, as expected, Ian Schrager is eating goose eggs and bagels for breakfast, as Frank Bruni dropped the hammer on the over-hyped Wakiya. Bruni has his bad days, but here he delivers a delicious takedown:

[T]here’s a crushing sense of letdown … an experience in which pleasures are flickering and unreliable, in which the slickness of the gleaming red-and-black setting and the poise of the best servers are undercut by inconsistent cooking and dishes that too often look three times as good as they taste.

Out comes the “fiery pepper hunt chicken,” one of Mr. Wakiya’s signature dishes. It’s a glittering hillock of bright red Chouten peppers, there to infuse the chicken with a tingly heat but not to be eaten, as your server playfully warns you. You tunnel with your chopsticks to the buried chunks of battered, wok-fried meat, and what’s your reward? Nuggets no more tender than those you retrieve from many a drive-through window.

Eater and I both both win $4 at 4–1 odds on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $45.50   $49.67
Gain/Loss +4.00   +4.00
Total $49.50   $53.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 20–5   19–6

Rolling the Dice: Wakiya

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 Wakiya, the new haute Chinese place in the Gramercy Park Hotel. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 4-1
One Star: 3-1
Two Stars: 10-1
Three Stars: 750-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: Wakiya had a star-cross’d birth. It was originally supposed to be run by Alan Yau, whose Michelin-starred Hakkasan is one of the hottest restaurants in London. When Yau backed out of the project, the Nobu team stepped into the breach, including chef Nobu Masuhisa and his protegé Yuji Wakiya, for whom the restaurant is named.

Early reports suggest that the place is long on attitude and short on results. Wakiya managed the rare feat of getting panned by both Andrea Strong and the Restaurant Girl, the city’s two most easily-pleased critics, as well as the not-so-easily pleased Adam Platt in New York. In Time Out New York, the star-happy Randall Lane handed out four of them, while the Post’s Steve Cuozzo (under “idealized p.r.-massaged conditions”) thought Wakiya had promise. On the BruniBlog, Frank complained about the restaurant’s reservations policy. He gave no hints about his view of the food, but he wasn’t happy about the sky-high prices.

You can never discount the possibility of a one-star review, as Frank Bruni has given a singleton to plenty of mediocre places. But with Platt, Strong and RG giving zero, or the equivalent of zero, we aren’t tempted to take that bet.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award no stars to Wakiya.