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Batali charged, Saito himself, F&W listed, Fieri cemented, and more...
Family Meal - Friday, May 24th, 2019
A longish, profile-heavy edition today, but first: Big congrats(!) to New Yorker restaurant critic Hannah Goldfield, who announced on twitter last night that she “was literally having a baby” five days ago when her big piece on Joe Beef’s David McMillan came out, so you’ll excuse her for not promoting it earlier. (Which reminds me: What’s Bon Appétit’s excuse for leaving McMillan’s half-truth op-ed up un-asterisked? Is there a test kitchen baby I should know about? Confetti emojis all around if so!)
Let’s get to it…
The Charge – Mario Batali “is now facing criminal charges for allegedly kissing and groping a woman against her will in a [Boston] Back Bay restaurant in 2017. Batali, 58, is charged with indecent assault and battery in what appears to be the first criminal charge to arise from a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Friday morning. His accuser’s name was redacted from court records, but the account matches that of a Massachusetts woman who filed a civil lawsuit against Batali last August.” Details of the accusations are in the Boston Globe via Gal Tziperman Lotan and Maria Cramer.
The Profile Treatment – Toronto’s Chris Nuttal-Smith has a contender for best profile of this young year with his piece on chef Masaki Saito. “Saito is a 31-year-old jet-setting sushi chef, one of the most charmed, charismatic and, by some estimations, bankable names in the big-money world of fish on rice. The counter he ran most recently, Sushi Ginza Onodera, a $400-per-head affair on Fifth Avenue in New York, won two Michelin stars and made him a media darling. But it wasn’t his name on the door; last August, with a mind to building a place of his own, he walked away.” And then he walked into this profile, wherein he gets incredibly glowing craftsmanship coverage alongside vignettes of him berating female employees (while kid-gloving male staff), and managing to aggressively hit on seemingly every woman he encounters throughout the day. “Not once did I hear Saito’s handlers suggest he tone it down a notch—that the leering, Prada-clad Austin Powers routine might not play so well in Toronto in 2019.”
Or maybe it will? A Pete Wells take: “Mr. Nuttall-Smith makes his profile subject stand in for a larger issue: the rise of bromakase.” Still rising?
Also of note, the landlord situation at Saito’s new home: “Late one evening at Onodera in Manhattan with friends, after a dinner bill that ran to $25,000, [Chinese-Canadian candle manufacturing magnate William Cheng] took Saito out for a night of karaoke… The two of them hit it off. For the next two years, Cheng wined, dined, bromanced and jetted Saito around the planet in hopes that he’d move to Toronto. Cheng had quietly started building a small but exquisitely designed and furnished sushi counter in Yorkville, and just above it, a hidden Japanese cocktail bar. The millwork and sliding pine panelling came straight from Japan, as did the hinoki wood countertop, which was cut from a 200-year-old tree. The cost of the build for those two spaces, the restaurant and the bar, will total $2.5 million, says Cheng—a ludicrous figure for a restaurant meant to serve just 14 customers in an evening. But for Cheng, the money is beside the point.” Candle. Manufacturing. Magnate. Guidance counselors failed us all.
The Profile Treatment Too – This road trip story of Tejal Rao joining 96-year-old scholar of Mexican cuisine Diana Kennedy for part of an “800-mile drive from her home in Mexico up to Texas to donate her personal archives, half a century of research, to a university” is pure, cranky, joy: “‘This is why I don’t like traveling with other people,’ she sighed, as we got in the car in Monterrey, a few hours south of the Texas border, setting off on the second leg of the trip. I’d asked, gently, if we might be stopping for snacks. ‘If you want snacks, you take them with you!’” Hard agree.
The Profile Treatment Three – In the Washington Post, Tim Carman has a restaurateur write-up wrapped in rising rent: “Larry La fled Vietnam and thrived in restaurants. But he could not save his flagship Meiwah… As La spooled out his life story over plates of garlic spinach and Peking duck, one thing became obvious: At 62, he is a survivor. The man behind the Meiwah Restaurant Group survived the Vietnam War as a boy. (‘If you heard the explosion that means you’re still alive.’) At age 22, he survived that harrowing trip across the South China Sea as part of a wave of refugees known as Vietnamese boat people. (He had to help toss the body of a dead passenger overboard.) And throughout his life he has survived — no, he has thrived — in settings where he was the outsider, including the restaurant business, where he started as a manager more than three decades ago.”
The Critics – Continuing a national trend, the Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema has a piece out this week headlined: “Why I will start including accessibility information in my restaurant reviews.”
The Lists – Food & Wine is out with its 10 Best New Restaurants in America 2019 courtesy of Jordana Rothman. And the listed (with mini write-ups for each included) are… 10. Piece of Meat, New Orleans; 9. Nightshade, LA; 8. Indigo, Houston; 7. Fox & the Knife, Boston; 6. Adda Indian Canteen, NYC; 5. Kumiko, Chicago; 4. Konbi, LA; 3. Frenchette, NYC; 2. Suerte, Austin; and coming it at number 1: Cadence in Philadelphia. Congrats, all!
The Prime Real Estate – “Less than a month after San Francisco bid adieu to Hayes Valley’s Jardiniere, a new restaurant is set to replace it on Grove Street. Tracy Vogt, owner of a 32-acre farm animal sanctuary in Sonoma, is spearheading the new venture alongside Matthew Kenney, a chef with multiple upscale vegan restaurants across the country. The forthcoming project is going to be called Baia, which means ‘bay’ in Italian.” Details via Justin Phillips in the Chronicle. Guesses on the rent?
The Media – Jobs Edition: Seven Fifty Daily is looking for a new Senior Wine, Spirits, Beer Editor, and Eater is looking for a Features Editor. Both jobs in NYC, though Eater’s could be remote. (Eater is also still looking for Denver and SF staff, FYI.)
And writer-readers, here’s a little nudge from Silvia Killingsworth on Twitter yesterday: “Just a reminder to send me your submissions for next year's BEST AMERICAN FOOD WRITING silvia dot killingsworth at gmail I love you goodbye.”
For Design Fans – In Wallpaper, check out the “globular stalactite” pendant lamps hanging from the ceiling at Opasly Tom in Warsaw. It’s a testament to the power of lighting design that had these been replaced with globes or big brass atomic numbers or whatever, the room would’ve slid right back up the bell curve toward seen-it.
And Last But Not Least: The Critics Too – This Pete Wells review is fine. It’s funny that the restaurant,“Hanon, a new udon shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was produced by the union of a Tokyo video-production company and a Japanese manufacturer of unusually thin condoms.” And you can watch the first “Acts of Love” video he references to if you want (meh). But as a fan of clever embedded links (surprise!), I love that clicking the underlined section in the following paragraph opens a youtube tab for… a lo-fi cell-phone video of a panda eating bamboo. Nothing more, nothing less. 882 views at time of writing. Take us there, Mr. Wells: “This dough is also made into a green noodle, called sasauchi, by mixing in powdered barley shoots and leaves of kuma-zasa, a bamboo variety that pandas dote on. To the human palate, or at least this human’s palate, sasa tastes something like green tea.” Enjoy.
Oh wait, let’s end on one more congrats! Headline in F&W: “Guy Fieri Accepts Walk of Fame Star: 'Thank You to the Residents of Flavortown'”. You’re welcome, Mr. Mayor. You’re welcome.
And that’s it for today. Heads up that there’s a chance we’ll skip Tuesday’s Family Meal on account of slow news over the long weekend. But we shall see…
Either way, I’ll see you here next week for Family Meal.
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