Friday, December 18, 2015

Good, Better, Best?

Monday, December 14, 2015
Normally, I would rush to promote a list of the purported 25 "Best Fine Dining Restaurants" in the world, e.g., http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Restaurants-a_Mode.expanded

This list has some interesting contents. Of the 25, only 2 are in the United States, but 3 in the United Kingdom; 3 in France, but also 3 in Spain. Upon examination, however, I found some questionable logic. Bouley, 163 Duane Street, is the only New York restaurant included. This is at least its third location that I recall, all within one city block. The spot that I remember visiting twice is now a bank branch. I don’t fault Bouley its designation, but, in another current Trip Advisor compilation, it does not even rank number 1 in New York City. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g60763-New_York_City_New_York.html

Digging deeper, I found that Trip Advisor’s New York City list placed Lincoln Square Steak, 208 West 70th Street, less than 11 months old, third best overall in the whole city of New York with 629 reviews, while the Palm, 837 Second Avenue, my personal favorite steakhouse, open since 1926, placed 1,232 on the list with 314 reviews. Sorry, Charlie. That doesn’t make sense; maybe Lincoln Square (which I have not visited, although I frequently went to the two restaurants that preceded it at that site) has better food than the Palm, but I refuse to believe that it honestly accumulated twice as many reviews although operating 88 fewer years. That means that two customers each day that it has been open wrote a review, and a favorable one at that. Two couples that I know have been there and they differed sharply in their opinion of Lincoln Square, hardly surprising for any restaurant in its early days.

Very important reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/opinion/the-words-that-killed-medieval-jews.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=MostPopularFB&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
It is 62 degrees at lunch time on December 15th and I found a new joint. AA Noodle, 45 Bayard Street, replaced Hong Kong Station and the cuisine moved much closer to Tokyo. The space is high and bright, with chlorophyl green touches on a creamy white background. There are 20 two tops, at least half of them occupied while I was present. Ramen is featured, along with noodle dishes wet and dry. Two friendly men stand in the window pulling noodles.


All the food was good. I ordered a grilled lamb skewer and a grilled beef skewer, both $1.75. Each had been rubbed with some spices before grilling; I recognized cumin. I also had chicken dumplings; a small order of 6 for $2.49. They had been boiled and then lightly sautéed. 
"Best" lists proliferate at this time of year, and I can’t keep away from them. The New York Times produces three lists for best movies of 2015, one for each of its three staff reviewers. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/movies/best-movies-2015.html?hpw&rref=movies&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

While none of the reviewers is able to stick to ten selections, their top tens show some similarity. There is almost perfect consistency though between me and them. I have seen only one of the movies that made any of their top ten lists, The Kindergarten Teacher, an interesting but very annoying Israeli film.

For best books of 2015, the New York Times Book Review has one list – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/books/review/best-books-of-2015.html

The daily staff reviewers then each have their own list – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/books/the-top-books-of-2015.html

In spite of the many works listed, I am even further out of touch with the books than the movies. By the time that I work my way through the daily and Sunday newspapers and each week’s New Yorker magazine, attend a dozen Rangers games and another dozen Mets games each year, watch a far greater number of their televised games, go to 20 or so theatrical performances, eat, sleep and go to work daily, the opportunity to read a book has almost disappeared from my life. I have a plan, though.

If you have lost touch with your inner Che Guevara, read this story about wretched excess and gaming the system in Los Angeles real estate. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/us/shell-company-bel-air-mansion.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Forget for a moment any concerns about taste or judgment in home design and furnishing, and consider the macro-political dimension. These endeavors are conducted behind the shield of shell companies, organized as limited liability corporations (LLCs). Our beloved United States Supreme Court has given corporations almost unfettered access to the political process – money is speech, speak as loud as you can. But, these ersatz "citizens" (Citizens United) abandon their "personality" at the first sign of trouble, or accountability for the trouble they create. Read the story; be disgusted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Today, the New York Times offers it list of the top 10 new New York restaurants. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/dining/best-restaurants-in-nyc.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

The virtue of this list, unlike the typical top top list, is the relative humility of several choices – only 4 out of 10 offer fixed meals. One place is actually a hamburger joint, although BE WARNED, the hamburgers are vegetarian.

Further pushing the modesty agenda, the New York Times also lists the 10 best local cheap joints for the year. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/16/dining/best-cheap-eats-nyc-2015.html?action=click&contentCollection=Food&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

This group is all over the ethnic map: Caribbean, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Indian, French. In other words, typical New York.

Another typical New York manifestation is honorific street namings. Care to guess the distance between Al Jolson Way and Billie Holiday Place? Or, where is Bob Marley Boulevard? Thanks to Gilbert Tauber, a retired city planner, you can find the location of hundreds of gratuitously labeled New York City locations. http://nycstreets.info/

Thursday, December 17, 2015
In the past, I was thrilled to hear lectures by the great scholars Raymond Aron and Isaiah Berlin. Boy, that's smart, I thought. It was so long ago, I can only remember that Berlin spoke about Joseph de Maistre and the origins of fascism, but can't even guess at Aron's topic. More recently, I admired the erudition and delivery of Rabbi Ethan Tucker talking about the shifting views on Jewish lineage. But today's New York Times crossword puzzle is maybe as smart as any one of them.

Picture this -- going down, the parallel answers to two clues side-by-side have adjacent squares containing the letters d-i-e. Going across, the d-i-e d-i-e squares have to be read as dice, as in Pride and Prejudice or Candice Bergen. How about that?

Friday, December 18, 2015
Nearing year end, I was able to find another new restaurant when I went to lunch with Marty the Super Clerk.  Gunbae Tribeca, 67 Murray Street, is a very attractive Korean restaurant with about 20 solid wooden tables holding a grill at the center to prepare "Korean BBQ."  Above each grill is an aluminum tube that stretches down to vacuum the smoke away. 

We made simpler choices, sharing an excellent seafood pancake ($10.95) containing scallop, shrimp, calamari and scallions.  Marty had Dduk Be Gi Bulgogi (marinated rib eye, shitake mushroom, glass noodles served in beef broth) with brown rice for $13.95.  I had Jap Che (stir fried glass noodles with rib eye, yellow squash, onion, carrot, shitake mushroom & spinach) ($11.95).  Quite delicious.  A good ending to the 50th week of the year. 

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