When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

15 April 2009

A little New York City restaurant culture inside-baseball

Frank Bruni tears Graydon Carter a new one over his pretentious new restaurant, "Charles":
Charles one-ups them all. While Waverly doesn’t answer its phone, Charles doesn’t even have one, at least not one that’s published. To get a table I would send an e-mail message, and some unseen, unknown, disembodied reservations deity would write back. It was like I was in a “Bourne” movie, arranging a secret meet. I was the Joan Allen character, but with a better colorist.

I haven’t yet told you the wildest part, which is the restaurant’s windows — so Salinger, so Garbo. They’re covered in old newspapers and blue tape, as if the space is under construction or even condemned, and they’ve been that way for so long that when I paused on the sidewalk the other night to read the fine print, I learned that Sarah Palin had resuscitated the McCain candidacy.

The newspapers are at first funny, then odd, then just sort of sad, maybe because Charles doesn’t have enough else going for it. In the end I couldn’t get around that.


The lamb kebabs should be called tartare. That’s how close to raw they were. The salmon, supposedly pan-seared, was more like pan-spurned, by which I mean it was nearly raw, too. Charles is as stingy with heat as it is with light. Maybe it’s saving on utilities.

It shouldn’t have to, given what it charges for wine. On a recent list only two of about 60 reds were under $70, and I couldn’t find a white for under $60 — not that I’m scrimping! It made me wonder: aren’t the newspapers, the blue tape and the unpublished phone number velvet rope enough?

And did I really just say that? It doesn’t sound like me, but then we’re all sounding a little different since the Dow went south, Obama came east and Bernie Madoff went up the river.

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