The Most Disappointing Restaurants of 2012

Yesterday, writing for Bloomberg News, I published my list of thirteen best new restaurants of 2012, as well as a list of the year’s “twenty best new dishes.” Now, onto slightly heavier things. Here are the restaurants that disappointed: 

1. Traif: Even food critics have limits. Just as Alan Richman famously allowed himself only a single meal at L’Artusi (a place I like), I can’t yet force myself back to the nearly three year-old Traif after my one trip. The food, service and interior design was about on par with that of a suburban Cheesecake Factory. This was, by many orders of magnitude, my worst meal of the year. No plans to review, but I’ll give it another go in the near year.

2. Brooklyn Crab: This was the first time I ever had to produce a receipt before leaving a restaurant, as proof that I had paid. If this was a cheap joint, such inconveniences might be excusable. But for a Brooklyn restaurant where waiters are happy to recommend $98 seafood platters, that doesn’t quite fly.  

3. [redacted]: Still reviewing. 

4. Brasserie Pushkin: Someday, there will be an expensive, Michelin-starred restaurant that will showcase the great multi-ethnic cuisines of the great multi-ethnic Russia. That restaurant will likely not be Brasserie Pushkin, which charges $22 for slimy beef tartare. This all feels less like Russia, more like Russia’s bootleg DVD of Western Europe, sold at a ridiculous markup. Or let me put it differently: Brasserie Pushkin is to Russia, as Hakkasan is to China. Minus the Michelin star, and minus Hakkasan’s great cocktails and sort of halfway-decent albeit overpriced grub. (Update: BP is closed for renovations). 

5. Hakkasan: Well hellooooo! We were just talking about you! We appreciate that you dropped the caviar requirement for your Pekin duck, which is now available for $88 instead of $245. But you’re still stir-frying your dover sole into a culinary choke hold for $46? We’ll pass. 

6. Nicoletta: I was told the pizzas improved since my review. They have — marginally. The crust is no longer as thick as at Sbarro’s, but the quality of the dough can’t come close to that of Motorino or Roberta’s. The toppings, applied with reckless abandon, still overwhelm the (subpar) mozzarella and the (well-balanced) sauce. Michael White is one of city’s great Italian chefs; I’m sure he’ll get his pizza right someday. Until then, Nicoletta is where you go for affogato. 

7. Rosemary’s: It is not statistically impossible to construct a good meal here if you happen to choose wisely. But a good restaurant should be more than a crapshoot. Especially if you’re waiting 90-minutes for that table. SELL.   

8. Catch: Mother nature gave king crabs six legs for a reason, so they could be split up and ordered in smaller portions at restaurants. Right? So there’s something inherently criminal this Kardashian-esque seafood nightclub that starts its king crab pricing at $60. And yeah much of the grub ain’t too good either. 

9. Acme: If Frej and Isa 1.0 were the high points of our new Naturalistic or Nordic(ish) class of restaurants, Acme, for me, was the nightclub-esque nadir, the excellent beer and bread porridge notwithstanding. I realize I don’t belong to the larger critical consensus that the Acme and Il Buco are “Great” places to eat on “Great Jones,” and so be it. All of us react differently to different restaurants. Speaking of… .

10. Il Buco Alimentari (Last visit: Dec. 2012): The Iberico ham at Il Buco is one of NYC’s great rip-offs. While Tertulia serves a platter of the nutty, fragrant meat for $23; Il Buco AV charges $40. And while Tertulia slices the jamon thickly, to showcase the its gorgeous meat and fat, Il Buco uses a thin prosciutto slicer, to make the Iberico look and taste like, well prosciutto. Oh and then there’s the casually cramped communal seating, made all the more painful when your bill registers at $500 for three after tax and tip (so much for casual). And the servers consistently disappear, causing to meal to drag on and on. I awarded 1.5 stars in my review. In retrospect, that was generous. 

11. [REDACTED]: Still reviewing this joint. 

Let the record state that Pok Pok, which I gave a rather negative review last summer, was promoted to my “best of” list after I encountered better food and service in December. Andy Ricker has given us a winner. 


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