Allegory of Taste by Jan Brueghel the Elder. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Our favorite lines from As Not Seen On TV, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells’s now-famous review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar: all of them, but especially these. (In blue, like the watermelon margarita that tastes like radiator fluid and formaldehyde.)
Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?
What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniature croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense?
Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?
And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?
Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?
Mostly we’re gnawing our liver with envy because a negative review of a restaurant would not appear in our major dailies. Virulent attacks on political figures: Sure! Ad hominem attacks on show business personalities: Go ahead. Hypercritical movie reviews: Fine. Hypercritical book reviews: Umm, we review each other. But bad restaurant reviews: No no no no or we could never eat there again (As if we’d want to eat there again).
Have we mentioned that we got our Today column because of a bad restaurant review? We had total freedom. True, we had no ads because we published negative reviews (and that eventually killed us), but we could write whatever we wanted. Those were good times.