October 14, 2009

Ben Leventhal & Frank Bruni at NY Food and Wine Festival

So before the Chang/Bourdain party, I sat in on a relatively muted discussion between Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal and outgoing New York Times Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni.

Biggest takeaway of the talk - I love Frank Bruni about as much as I dislike Ben Leventhal. Which is a lot. He just came off very down to earth - someone you wish you could be friends with.

Ben on the other hand came off a little surly, a little impressed with himself, exactly the kind of person you hope you aren't placed next to at a dinner party...

Was it just me, or did Leventhal seem a little stoned? Maybe I shouldn't be saying that - it's just that he seemed so out of it for most of the conversation. Thus, unlike the exciting pace of the Chang/Bourdain talk, the Bruni talk moved at an almost unbearably slow pace.

I think the only thing they talked about was the fact that Bruni awarded Momofuku Ssam bar, "a place with no white tablecloths!!!" 3 stars. This apparently DID NOT sit well with Leventhal - who seemingly must have some beef with David Chang.

After every comment resulting in a pause in the conversation, Leventhal without fail would bring the conversation once again back to the question of how a place like Ssam bar could get 3 stars from the New York Times. As if annointing Ssam Bar 3 stars meant the death of fine dining? Have an open mind!!!

Other tid bits from Bruni -
  • Brooklyn will not likely have a 4 star restaurant in the near future due to the socioeconomic climate/environment. He stepped back to say that a business lunch/dinner climate is necessary for an expensive extravaganza to be profitable. Oh so politically correct, Bruni!
  • Restaurants need to focus on their phone etiquette and host greeting. First impressions MATTER
  • 3 stars go to restaurants that he continuously feels like recommending to friends/out of town guests. White tablecloth not necessary
  • Anonymity is meaningless in the Internet age
  • He still hates Ninja

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