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Jun 14, 2011 02:15 PM


I assume we can discuss this here . . . for the good of dining in New York they must fire Sam Sifton immediately.

If I read one more review where he raves about the food and then gives a crappy star rating . . .

10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

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  1. I guess he was upset that he was told to wait outside for his guests, I haven't been to Masa and therefore can't weigh in on the demotion to three stars, but I always got the sense that ambience was more important to Sifton than his predecessors.

    10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

    4 Replies
    1. re: H Manning

      This is right. It is strange, while I will often notice a room (EMP and Per Se are my favorites in NYC), I can get past the worst imaginable environment if the food is amazing. When I eat, I am focused on my company and the food. Sifton seems to be focused on something else half the time.

      1. re: nmprisons

        Well I don't think Sifton means the decor. He's talking about unfairness/asymmetry in service.

        You say you focus on your friends & the food in front of you. There's more to restaurant dynamics than that, and IMHO, part of Sifton's job is to pick up on such larger issues and perspectives that apply to all patrons at a restaurant.

        1. re: calf

          i'm sympathetic to Sifton's criteria because being told to wait to be seated (let alone "outside") while the restaurant is empty is a pet peeve of mine and pretty much makes me loathe a place that does that from the get-go...

          i've never been to Masa, but i have to been to it's former incarnation as Ginza Sushi-Ko in Beverly Hills (before it was spirited away, like Howl's Moving Castle to NYC) and to Bar Masa...i found Bar Masa very underwhelming: basically an overpriced tourist trap for people who want to say they went Masa "sort of" and don't mind paying 35 dollars for some dry overcooked, my Ginza Sushi-Ko experience was lovely, but i had much less sushi experience then than now, so i can't really judge...i believe GSK was even smaller than Masa: 12 seats total, i think?

          Bar Masa
          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: Simon

            Agreed. And poor service, from the greeting to the check fiascos, and the chef having fun with his pals, is inexcusable at that price point. Or really any price point over $50.

    2. I think he has a good point. You can't assume that a restaurant, simply because it is world renowned and extravagant, is automatically good.

      I'm glad that he came in with a bit more clairvoyance and objectivity, rather than automatically fawn over it like so many other restaurant reviewers (both casual and professional) seem to do in these situations - not just for Masa but for other renowned restaurants.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ExFlexitarian

        Just like he did with Del Posto and Colicchio & Sons, right? If anything, he seems more susceptible than most to chef worship.

        Sifton's decision to champion those two restaurants was bizarre, when every other major critic in the city critiqued their uneven food quality. Even Bruni, an unabashed Italophile, was unable to give a four star rating to Del Posto on two separate occasions (though he clearly wanted to).

        Del Posto
        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

        Colicchio & Sons
        85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      2. Not surprising, given Sifton's tendencies. He did rave about the food:

        "The food at the restaurant is exceptional, offering tastes and preparations that can be unforgettable."

        " of New York’s peak culinary indulgences."

        "Much of my time was spent in a fog of pleasure, sitting dumbfounded on the shores of excess."

        2 Replies
        1. re: hcbk0702

          Sifton was quite clear about why he gave it three stars: Service was not up to the level of the food -- especially given the cost. Reviews are explicitly based on food, service, and ambiance (relative value is an implicit factor as well). It is not enough to serve great food to be awarded four stars. The dining experience must be great from the moment you walk in until the moment you walk out.

          Sifton gave vivid examples of how Masa failed repeatedly at high-level customer service, which is ironical given that that is precisely what the Japanese are world famous for. The problem with Masa, Sifton suggests, is that the overall experience feels more like a corporate rip-off, rather than a luxurious culinary oasis.

          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: Skillet Licker

            Agreed. Food and service should be viewed together, especially in a review by the Times. Of course, that doesn't mean Sifton isn't often wide of the mark.

        2. I think we should resist the temptation to call for the firing of critics whose opinions differ from ours.

          1. I agree with a lot of others here that a rating needs to be based upon the triumvirate of food, service, atmosphere. On a very recent trip to Picholine, a favorite of ours in NYC, the food was as wonderful as ever, the room was what we wanted for the nature of this visit, but the service was not what it once was (with the exception of the wine and cheese which were still spot on). Was it a glitch or the new normal? It doesn't make the food taste different, doesn't make the room less pretty but it does downgrade the the total package. As a result the overall experience would not be rated by us as high as every other time we have been there.

            35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023