Il Mulino - best Italian in Montreal? (moved from Quebec board)
In Saturday's Gazette, the honourable LC gave Il Mulino a top four star rating and called it "best Italian restaurant" in Montreal (http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/m...). While I generally like her reviews, this one doesn't match my own experience at all; I could name several that I like better, although admittedly (and for that reason) I haven't been there for a while. There doesn't seem to be much about Il Mulino on this board so far, so I'm wondering what other people's opinions are. Have I just been unlucky, or did the chef go out of his way to pamper a known critic (she states that she was recognized when she walked in)?
I think the lack of comments speaks to how seriously we Chowhounders took her reviews even before this latest ridiculous entry.
SoupSon, you should have read to bottom for this whopper:
"I'm sure they had enjoyed quite the Italian meal, but unless they were sitting next to me at Il Mulino, nobody on St. Zotique that night did better than I did."
I have to wonder if it's not a review, or even rubbing our noses in it, but deadpan satire. I feel this could be the basis of great Fringe show; every other customer experiences a comedy of errors while they cater to her every whim.
Did the chef go out of his way to pamper a known critic? With a line like this? Pretty much a no-brainer, I'd say:
"Not only did he recognize me the moment I took my seat (this is the third time I’m reviewing the restaurant), he even remembered that my dining companion on my last visit in 2004 was my mother and that she ate the octopus salad. Impressive."
I would be interested in reading an unbiased review of the restaurant, but would never go by this one. Shattered, I think you've got a great idea for a show there...
Since this thread has been moved from the Quebec board and since people who don't read the Gazette may not know, LC = Lesley Chesterman, the newspaper's "fine dining critic." While in this case Ms. Chesterman was upfront about being recognized, she normally isn't. And yet her reviews run with the claim "The Gazette's reviewers visit restaurants anonymously."
Indeed, in a recent Macleans article -- http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/04/08/the-new-unpaid-restaurant-critic/ -- she self-servingly assets that her long tenure (which brings with it widespread recognition by in-the-business types) makes her a superior judge of fine-dining establishments. She also streches the truth about being censored on Chowhound. A friend wrote: "She thinks that's censorship? In some countries they simply cut off bloggers' fingers... I can imagine the writer [of the Macleans article] pitching the editor and saying 'it's a light-hearted bit' on social media and the impact it has on restaurant criticism. But it's a shame the writer couldn't spare a sentence to call out the hypocrisy – that Gazette-accredited writers are somehow more qualified to write terse, self-indulgent texts that are passed off under the heading of Criticism." A couple of days later, he followed up with "There are several reasons my thoughts drifted back to this last night: perhaps a Frank Bruni article in the Times or the wonderfully cryptic food-critic cartoon in a recent New Yorker -- www.cartoonbank.com/2010/One-of-our-g... -- or a more recent thread about 'tweating'; however, there are so many reasons the 'domain of the experienced professional reviewer' statement is wrong, and it's the same reason that blurting out undigested thoughts via Twitter is wrong. The key is writing. IIRC Bruni was on the city desk for years before they swept him into the critic's role. All that is not to mention the Times' insistence on anonymity."
Well... the original goal of my posting was to figure out if I should go back to Il Mulino. I must admit that I was disappointed that the posting was moved and the real question (note to editor: that's the one with the question mark) was never answered. But I believe Il Mulino is closed or the chef has retired or something (which is it?), so that's water under the bridge.
But, since this posting has spun out of control and for what it's worth, here are my 5 cents of wisdom... I don't think the problem is with LC, it's with this type of review in general. You go to a restaurant once, on a given day, in a given mood, with a given set of pals. You taste a hand full of dishes that may or may not be your style, may be too hot, too cold or just right. Half of that is luck! No restaurant in the world can be 100% spot on all the time. I love Lemeac, but I've had not-so-great experiences there, and I've had real disappointments in Michelin-decorated places in France and Germany. Really, a reviewer would have to go to each restaurant a dozen times, and which newspaper is going to pay for that? This is why I trust Chowhound... :)
Hey, maybe LC and other critics should read Chowhound and work our views into their reviews...?? That would be innovative journalism for the 21st century!