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May 17, 2013 09:26 AM

According to Gawker, Robert Sietsema has been laid off from the Voice

This sucks. I hope he finds a place to write for. I'd like to keep reading him.

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  1. Wow. An era (or three) has ended. Whether I agreed with his personal take on a place or not, Sietsema was one of the most interesting and knowledgeable critics in NYC, and the ONLY major critic to write regularly about smaller ethnic eateries in the "other" boroughs. He may have been responsible for keeping literally hundreds of worthy restaurants open through his advocacy, by drawing attention to these obscure spots that the average diner would never know about otherwise. I don't even know how many great places I was first hipped to by his column. This is a HUGE loss to food journalism in NYC, and hopefully some other major picks him up.

    Didn't the guy at Time Out just quit recently? Maybe they can grab him.

    85 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      I agree with your appraisal. I found that sometimes, Sietsema was overly excited about a place he thought was great that I found merely good, but I loved his passion and commitment, and he's a good writer.

      I wonder if the NY Times would want him for $25 and Under at some point (not that their current writer isn't good, though), but in the meantime, I wouldn't be half surprised if he starts a blog (I'm assuming he doesn't have one yet?).

      1. re: sgordon

        The modern age has certainly trivialized his excursions, but there really was a time when he was doing real leg work by merely writing about something as non-threatening as Mexican food in Bushwick or Park Slope.

        Since there aren't a lot of unexplored neighborhoods left, people aren't afraid to try just about any hole in the wall to tap into their inner Anthony Bourdain. He finally has an audience who are doing more than reading him....that means 1) they're better at finding ethnic places than he is, and 2) it's a little more obvious that's he's not finding the best tripe, he just likes writing about tripe, a lot.

        In retrospect, he missed some of the best places and I hate to say it, did the city a disservice by leading people off the trail of really exceptional and accessible food.

        1. re: sugartoof

          trivialized in what way? in this modern age, people suddenly get telepathic messages notifying them that a new Kazakh place has opened in Kew Gardens Hills?

          and while people are more willing to try holes in the wall, how many bayside residents go on regular strolls through, let's say, parkchester?

          whether or not he missed some of the best places is highly personal observation -- sure, he missed some. but i'm also curious how he played pied piper to lead people away from exceptional food in the process.

          1. re: debinqueens

            There are other sources that didn't exist during his hey day... Ever hear of Chowhound?

            The current trend is towards adventurous dining....and considering the Village Voice never distributed to Bayside...I'm lost on your point.

          2. re: sugartoof

            He wasn't laid off because he wasn't relevant anymore. Be careful not to "blame the victim"--the Voice is clearly cleaning out anyone who got paid decently.

            1. re: Elisa515

              I wasn't linking his layoff to my own criticisms. The layoff has nothing to do with the quality of his writing and reporting.

              I just think his inability to keep up (the way other food writers have) is one of many reasons why alternative weeklies made themselves irrelevant.

              1. re: sugartoof

                well, the internet has been available in bayside for at least two or three years now, and sietsema had been writing web-only pieces almost daily for the past several years. and, to be honest, chowhound was a far more useful tool back in the late '90s and early '00s -- for me, at least. others may disagree about that.

                the "trend" towards adventurous dining hasn't really caught on in any major way as far as i've seen. there are waiting lists to get in to the usual suspects (from carbone to lafayette to Lincoln to db Bsitro) and empty tables to spare at the more adventurous places in Flushing (Rural, for instance), or my part of queens (Phayul).

                1. re: debinqueens

                  In case you're not following, I'm saying Sietsema's influence, and usefulness as a food writer pre-dates the internet entirely. Now that there are other sources, there are others doing it better. The more sophisticated, more knowledgeable, more spread out audience has outgrown him. If you want to reduce him to a blogger, then sure, he's as enjoyable as any other professional daily blogger writing about green tea Kit Kat bars.

                  I'm talking about the difference between a line outside Grimaldi's, and a line outside Difara's. Or a time when a visit to a Chinese food mall in Flushing, or the Red Hook ball fields for ceviche, and pupusas, is standard. Times have changed. He was a pioneer, but his mistake was overlooking good food while focusing on some other criteria entirely.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    i'm "following" perfectly well, and disagreeing on every step of the trip.

                    the "other sources" are often ill-informed -- you've surely seen demi-professionals on much-read sites preface reviews by saying "i'm actually not familiar with {x}, but.....and often written so dryly that the writer may as well just cut and paste a menu with star ratings next to each dish.

                    i'm curious as to two things:
                    what "good food" did he overlook so egregiously?
                    who's doing it consistently better?

                    1. re: debinqueens

                      I already gave some examples. I'll turn the question back on you. What establishment did he discover, and champion that has become a standard favorite of New Yorkers, once he exposed them? Since you want to champion him so much, then let's change the tone, and you can have the chance to give him credit by naming specific memorable reviews.

                      Writing about the latest mofongo spot, or Kazahk place is enough anymore...I don't think good food is his priority.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        actually, i just went back and read the thread.

                        zero examples of who's doing it better consistently. zero examples of what sietsema was remisss in missing.

                        ball in your court.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          and, since i really don't care what's "a standard favorite of new yorkers" (not a fan of famous famiglia, not particularly fond of yama or tomoe, not too into most of the sixth street indians), it's hard for me to answer that question.

                          great places i learned about from reading his reviews?

                          maima liberian
                          several of the uzbek places in brooklyn
                          tanoreen, more than a decade back
                          tabaq 75 (RIP)
                          kopiaste, just a couple weeks ago.

                          1. re: debinqueens

                            He gave a good review of Skyway, and I thought it was a good place for quite a while.

                            1. re: debinqueens

                              So basically, Tanoreen was the most influence he's had?

                              I would have at least gone with Margon, or something, and pretended he wasn't late to that party. I don't think he has a clue or care what a good Mofongo is like, but he's done a lot to promote the dish, at House of Mofongo, and other places.

                              Anyway, it's one thing to be a fan, and another to disparage every other food writer, while depicting New York Chowhounders as Famous Famiglia fans.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                I think I get some of what you are saying in that possibly he was more interested to scoop a place just because it served a certain exotic, ethnic dish rather than going to a cafe or restaurant that served something really good.

                                it could be true. And he's usually not reviewing the big-ticket NY Times restaurants.

                                In this day and age, maybe some critics do not have as much sway with the Bourdain-viewing set than say say in the 80s when he published "down the hatch" and the internet and blogs were still in their infancy.

                                But I can't remember if he scooped DiFara's, but if that is so, I for one am forever grateful.

                              2. re: debinqueens

                                I'll add some more.

                                Chote Nawab.
                                The Istrian restaurant at the Rudar social club
                                Bosna Express
                                Southern Spice
                                Sao Mai
                                Katsuhama 55
                                Chao Thai

                                Was Sietsema infallible? No - he was human. Sometimes he got overly enthusiastic and said a place was great when it was merely good. But he was right about things way more than most people.

                                Yes, there are plenty of blogs and posts out there now about ethnic restaurants but Sietsema was a very knowledgeable and reliable voice who wrote prolifically. We don't have all that many of them.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  Almost all of those places were scooped by others:

                                  NY Times (Chao Thai), Serious Eats (Chote Nawab, Southern Spice), Midtown Lunch (Katsuhama 55), and various CH or blog reports (Sao Mai) and again CH (Rudar Social by 6 years). I'm not sure any of these were that notable anyway.

                                  He romanticized some mediocre to outright bad places. That's not human error.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    Dates please. I'd like links with dates so we can compare the date of a blog posting against Sietsema's reviews.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      If you'd like it, google it.

                                      Why presume Sietsema was first, or pretend Chote Nawab is an off the beaten track hidden gem?

                                      Sietsema is still playing catch up reviewing places that were at least around since the 90's, which is the last time he had a large audience.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        as a matter of fact, i did read his stuff in the early and mid '90s, in down the hatch and his book as well (i think that was published in 2000 or 2001). didn't agree with everything, thought he was a little too charitable in those, but the book was supposed to be a "best of ny" kind of thing, using his aesthetic. and as a longtime critic of another form, i never thought it to be prudent to waste space on pointing someone to something they'd never ever stumble across on their own, only to say 'by the way, it sucks.'

                                      2. re: Bob Martinez

                                        Btw, does anyone happen to have a link to his old newsletter, Down the Hatch ? It would be interesting to read a myriad of old reviews and see how the restaurant scene has changed in the past couple decades.

                                      3. re: sugartoof

                                        There's another thing - audience size.

                                        Lets say there's a really funny guy who hangs out at the corner bar. On Friday night he's on a roll and he makes a very funny remark about a topic in the news. The people in the bar laugh.

                                        The following Wednesday Jon Stewart makes a similar remark on his show, only because he's Jon Stewart, he's even funnier.

                                        Who do you think reaches more people? Seven people laughed at bar guy. Two and a half million laughed at Stewart. The fact that bar guy made the remark first gets him points for originality but in terms of real reach it's Stewart in a landslide.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          Fine. Discuss the jokes that have influence and changed the landscape. Not just the ones you thought were cute. Or rehashed internet memes. Done with that analogy?

                                          I'll go back to Difara's pizza. Jim Leff probably gave it the most notoriety, and only then did the Voice jump on that bandwagon. The average food fanatic in NY had no idea it existed, and here you have a guy with the Voice going out of his way to write about out of the way places and he still can't really can't be credited for discovering anything.

                                          His influence might be indirect, in that it surely inspired the Bourdain figures to try goat dishes and the like, but as someone who remembers a time when NY wasn't filled with food reviewers, and didn't have nearly as many restaurants to explore, it's now clear just how much great food we missed out on because he wasn't all that good at what he did.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            "Fine. Discuss the jokes that have influence and changed the landscape. Not just the ones you thought were cute. Or rehashed internet memes. Done with that analogy? "

                                            Actually, no. I'm not done. Not at all.

                                            With the advent of food message boards and blogs there's a lot more information available than there was 15 years ago. But that can only take you so far. Just because some blogger writes a place up and gets 30 hits doesn't make him an influential food critic.

                                            Sietsema had critical traction and with luck, will have it when he moves on to his new gig.

                                            I'll never have influence like that. You'll never have it either.

                                            *That's* the difference.

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                              If only I was saying any individual on CH had more influence than a Village Voice critic. I wasn't.

                                              Address what I'm actually saying...

                                              A) He fetishized exotic, ethnic, and divey, more than good food. Seeking out ethnic holes in the wall was a mainstream publciation practice as early as the 70's. He only made a career by going to places others found scary.

                                              B) For a guy who wrote books about secret NY, and hidden ethnic spots, he missed many important spots, and isn't easily credited for discovering any of great importance which changed the landscape.

                                              C) He doesn't currently have the influence of other sources, whether pooled by individuals, or small blogs that cover as much ground as he ever did. Periodicals that now cover his turf, only better, including Time Out, Serious Eats, Midtown Lunch often one up him. Even the NY Times gives ink to secret out of the way dives.Thankfully we now know about places Sietsema missed and realize he wasn't comprehensive at all.

                                              I'm not disregarding the influence writing about oxetail, of offal might have, week after week...but for someone covering the food scene attempting to comprehensively introduce adventurous eaters to great overlooked establishments he is far from indispensable.

                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                so you're essentially saying:

                                                1) he was not infallible while at the voice

                                                2) he did not single-handedly out-write or out-"discover" the rest of the food writing world combined while he was there.

                                                3) he can't be credited as the guy who did the restaurant reviewing version of signing the beatles, nirvana or skrillex to their first deals.

                                                4) he didn't tip you off to any of the restaurants on your personal short-list of favorites.

                                                1. re: debinqueens

                                                  "3) he can't be credited as the guy who did the restaurant reviewing version of signing the beatles, nirvana or skrillex to their first deals."

                                                  Funny how everyone defending him has to resort to nonsensical pop culture references, and pretend not to know what this guys schtick has been.

                                                  Remember, he had about a decade or longer where he had little competition, and a smaller pool to research. You're a fan who refuses to judge accordingly.

                                                2. re: sugartoof

                                                  So because he wasn't perfect and missed some things in a city of 8.5 million people his work was crap?

                                                  Tell me who does it better.

                                                  BTW, iIt would be a silly to compare Sietsema's aggregate work against the sum total of everything written on the Internet over the last 10 years. Nobody could compete against that. It's infinitely more probable that somebody living in Jackson Heights will discover the latest tandoori place before a critic will.

                                                  But aside from roaming the streets an ethnic food critic also can use the Internet as a legitimate research tool. If he sees a flurry of posts about a promising Lebanese restaurant in Bay Ridge he can check it out to see if it's really as good as some people claim.

                                                  He can use his experience and his judgement to get his review right.

                                                  Here's something I learned over the last 14 years since I've been posting on CH. Just because a handful of people on a food message board think a new restaurant is great doesn't mean they're right. It takes somebody with judgement to figure out which are the keepers.

                                                  There are a small group of long time CH posters that I trust to do that. I also trusted Sietsema, and most of the time he was right. That's all you can ask.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    But it is the internet and the modern world that has trivialized Sietsema, and in many ways, The Voice itself.

                                                    The guy has a band called Mofongo...but he couldn't tell his readers where to find the best versions of the actual dish called Mofongo, and he's tried.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                      I'll repeat my question from before. Who does it better than Sietsema? Give us a name. It should be easy since you're so sure that Sietsema is so awful.

                                                      Come on - let's hear it.

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        I've made it clear this isn't a matter of preference between feuding fanboys, this is about Sietsema's own failings as a food reviewer, quasi-anthropologist, historian, tour guide, or journalist - no matter how much you try to deflect that.

                                                        Despite my criticism, I'm one of the few giving him credit for what his actual legacy is, and I've done that from my first post in this thread. Sadly, he's now entirely dispensable to the NY food scene, and it's his own fault.

                                                      2. re: sugartoof

                                                        sugartoof - You speak as though there is some scientifically provable definitive "best" mofongo in NYC that Sietsema somehow overlooked. Can you tell us where to find the best versions of Mofongo? Because, y'know, some of us might disagree with YOUR opinion. You might disagree with my opinion. Big deal.

                                                        A critic states opinions, hopefully in an entertaining and informative way. You may not agree with Sietsema's choice for best mofongo, and that's fine. You may not always agree with Roger Ebert's ratings, or what Car & Driver has to say about how comfortable the seats are in the new Ford Explorer. Whatever.

                                                        Your hatred for Sietsema (and I suspect all critics - I haven't noticed you mention any that you actually like) is odd. Just because, out of the 80,000 restaurants in NYC he missed a couple places that YOU think were the best? Sietsema NEVER claimed to be "comprehensive" - as if that's even remotely possible in NYC!

                                                        The Times, New York Mag, TONY, the Post, etc - none of those critics were eating "sea intestines" at M&T in Flushing and reporting back on the growing Qing Dao cuisine community out there. Sure a couple chowhound regulars might have hit them first (scoopG, probably, and maybe Lau?) - but big deal. Lots of people filed Yelps and Houndposts on Lafayette and Del Posto and wherever before critics weighed in. Nobody's "scooping" anyone. There's a big difference between a proper critic review and the kind of tossed-off meal recaps which tend to be posted here.

                                                        Now, maybe you didn't think M&T was the best place for sea intestines, and that he overlooked some other better place - that's not the point. The point is Sietsema covered a beat - and with great enthusiasm - that NO other major critic in this city did. For you, a Card-carrying Foodie, sure, places like these forums are where you go to find info on new and obscure places. But name one other critic writing for the non-foodie masses that did regularly.

                                                        1. re: sgordon

                                                          "But name one other critic writing for the non-foodie masses that did regularly."

                                                          I tried asking that twice before. I don't think we're going to get an answer.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            Because it's not a genuine question, and the tone sneering at "foodies", calling me a "foodie", requesting a name of a critic writing for "non-foodie masses" just proves it.

                                                            I'm not going to blame Sietsema for that kind of attitude, but it seems symptomatic of those he appeals to.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                              it is a genuine question:

                                                              you refer, ad nauseum, to things that Sietsema missed -- and amorphous "great food" that he led the masses away from -- but don't mention a single one.

                                                              you refer, ad infinitum, to the scores of more influential writers and the places they championed into supremacy, but don't mention a single one.

                                                              your refusal to provide any specifics at all renders your argument specious: like a restaurant review that says nothing more than "this place serves really great stuff. and some excellent things, too."

                                                              1. re: debinqueens

                                                                I've made examples. Not going to repeat myself.

                                                                I'm also not qualifying my criticisms by pointing to who I prefer, as that's not the point.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                  just re-read:

                                                                  no examples of what restaurants the man ignored.

                                                                  no examples of good things he led readers away from.

                                                                  no examples to back up anything in your general complaint.

                                                                  generally, when we have discussions about things on this forum, and someone says "there are many better (for example) sushi places than yasuda, which has been coasting for years," they don't bristle when asked "well, what places are better?"

                                                                  you're obviously going to reply by saying the analogy is not valid, so i'll pre-emptively note that i believe it is.

                                                                  1. re: debinqueens

                                                                    I've justified my opinion, whether or not Sietsema fans want to acknowledge or comprehend it.

                                                                    Discrediting me is not the way to defend him let alone celebrate him. He'll keep writing, I'm sure. If he doesn't, New Yorkers will continue the trend of exploring new ground, and new dining options, high and low, hoping to find good food without any need for guidance out of Sietsema.

                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                      You seem to think you can discredit people who respect Sietsema by calling them "fans." I posted my take on him right near the top of this thread:

                                                                      "I found that sometimes, Sietsema was overly excited about a place he thought was great that I found merely good, but I loved his passion and commitment, and he's a good writer."

                                                                      Does that make me a "fan"? I'm not sure I care whether you think it does or doesn't, but I think that having passion for one's work, plus at least a reasonable amount of specific knowledge, and being a good writer is enough to make someone a worthwhile restaurant critic. I didn't always agree with Sietsema, but I also found him a good read, and I appreciated that he cared about his work. It's certainly true that I've read him much less in recent years, but then I've read all newspapers much less and seldom watch TV because I get most of my news and information on the internet, and secondarily the radio. That's not a function of the quality of anyone's work, though; it's just a change in medium.

                                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                                        Pan, I haven't seen you trying to attack anyone with a contrary opinion about Sietsema. You're entitled to your opinions, and you seem secure in them, as you should be.

                                                                        A lot of people who liked his work are still realistic about his shortcomings and erroneous's one such discussion here on CH:


                                                                        Mocking a transliteration and showing ignorance of other cultures was something he did now and again, and it cheapened his work. I'm sure there are people here who would defend his lame Borat jokes too.

                                                                        Sietsema fans to me are the ones scoffing at the idea that he should be held to the criteria of being comprehensive, are then challenging me to prove he wasn't comprehensive. That's a nonsense exercise, just like denials that the typical food fan is increasingly adventurous...because, as I've pointed out, that's to Sietsema's credit, and a legacy, but it's also his downfall. Many of us outgrew him along with the Voice itself.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                          I certainly think one can reasonably criticize Sietsema. He is no god. But I think that while there are criticisms that can be made on an absolute basis, it would be great if this discussion had a little more light (specific criticisms and praise) and a little less heat (unsupported assertions).

                                                                          So let's go back to your initial remark. I may have missed something, but I don't think I ever saw a specific elaboration on this from you:

                                                                          "In retrospect, he missed some of the best places and I hate to say it, did the city a disservice by leading people off the trail of really exceptional and accessible food."

                                                                          How did he "lead people off the trail of really exceptional and accessible food"? Just by not reviewing some places you liked (which I don't think would have led people away from them, as "leading away" is an active verb)? Which places?

                                                                          "Now that there are other sources, there are others doing it better."

                                                                          Who is doing it better? Please give us his/her name, so we can follow them. I'll give you an example: I love Lau, who posts here and on his site, Lauhound. His recommendations are great. But I don't think he would pretend to be as prolific in his coverage as Sietsema, nor as broad in his overall coverage (yes, he does cover a broad spectrum, but with a bias toward East Asian food that coincides with mine, and therefore is congenial for me).

                                                                          So who do you suggest we follow as better than Sietsema, or is your argument that it is better to follow numerous sources, and in that case, how does it benefit anyone if one of our sources is silenced?

                                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                                            Pan, I'm not going to entertain hysteria. I never said he should be silenced or implied it. I'm not telling you who to read in place of him, or saying he neglected my personal favorites. The topic is Sietsema, not me, so I don't see any reason to go in circles and keep rephrasing myself because people here are looking for a way to defend the guy. The landscape has changed. One doesn't need to rely on the Yellow Pages, a guide book, or a friend's hot tip, and you don't need to wait for the Voice delivery on tuesday nights anymore. We're all better for it.

                                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                                              OK, I get what you're saying, but I don't think the fact that there are more sources of information now reflects on him.

                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                It sure has reflected on his reporting. He doesn't exist in a bubble.

                                                                                He's also helped nurture the mindset that knowing and eating at certain types of places makes them more intelligent.

                                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                  well brains are brain food, after all....

                                                                                  1. re: debinqueens


                                                                                    i would agree with that. so to keep this onto the food, where would you guys go for a great plate of scrambled eggs with calf brains (the old billy wilder special, if you will) ?


                                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                                      brains are one of the few things i absolutely can't make myself eat. grapefruit being another one, for what it's worth.

                                                                                      but i've been at the table when ali at kebab cafe in astoria served a dish to my friends. they adored it. there are also very good egg dishes on his menu so maybe a mix n match (even though this isn't your exact goal)

                                                                                      1. re: debinqueens

                                                                                        sounds dope.

                                                                                        still haven't gotten to kebab cafe yet, and i do feel bad about that. is his bros place, mombar still around ?


                                                                                        if anywhere, can serve a great calf's brains i would guess it would be kebab cafe. and another question: stick to the special's there right, don't order off the seemingly and deceptively pedestrian menu ?

                                                                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                                                                    Are you saying Sietsema is to blame for hipsters? :-)

                                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                                      Funny. I mean, he did put Ikea meatballs, and the Oasis falafel (both impossible to defend) in a top ten list.... and he does make Pavement references....No joke, Vice Magazine would be a great match. I'd say that's a no brainer, but I hear some people wear their brain consumption like a badge.

                                                                                      But no, I was pointing at a different persona altogether.

                                                                              2. re: Pan

                                                                                haha thanks!

                                                                                haha and no i am definitely not as prolific

                                                              2. re: sgordon

                                                                The one thing you're right about is Sietsema's claim to fame was seeking out things like sea intestines, although you would never know that from some comments here. But let's not pretend reviewers weren't daring enough to seek out offal, or ethnic, or out of the way. They just didn't do it weekly, and make it their shtick. If he's now trolling forums like Chowhound for tips then he's lost a step. along with the beat itself. Esoteric food took priority over good food, and that's a failing.

                                                                Please refrain from long winded personal attacks in your reply. Thanks.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                  Long winded, yes, but certainly nothing personal in there.

                                                                  And to reiterate deb's point - you don't give a single example of things he missed or led people away from. I quite literally have no idea what your problem with him is, even though you've written a thousand words about your dislike for his work thus far. It's kind of like you're just saying, "there's better mofongo out there!" and leaving it at that.

                                                                  I mean, it seems that the argument you're making is that there's better information / criticism going on in Chowhound and Yelp and blogs and wherever. Which suggests that you'd think the same of ANY professional critic.

                                                                  I'm not sneering at foodies. Shit, dude, we're ALL foodies here. Otherwise we wouldn't be on Chowhound in the first place.

                                                                  1. re: sgordon

                                                                    I think what I'm sort of getting from all this is that in the Internet age where almost anyone can Tweet, Tumble, Instragram, Facebook, or fill in the blank with the new and applicable technology, the full-time restaurant critic is in a different world and has to attempt to keep up with the times and maybe Sietsema is not keeping up with what's out there, perhaps.

                                                                    But I would say that restaurant critics are writers and journalists and the good ones at least provide a story, or a narrative if you will, with their criticism, which Yelpers, most bloggers, etc may not provide.

                                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                                    "He romanticized some mediocre to outright bad places. That's not human error."

                                                    no, that's your opinion, which may or may not have one shred of credibility.

                                                    "Almost all of those places were scooped by others"

                                                    because being first is the only thing that matters.

                                                    1. re: debinqueens

                                                      Yes, we're sharing opinions...

                                                      Question...did you follow Sietsema's reviews and chase his recs pre-internet, based on his printed content?

                                                      First matters, considering his schtick.

                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                        Before and after, for me. I'm not terribly concerned about anyone being able to claim "firsts" or "scoops" or "discoveries," and find those to be loaded terms -- loaded with class/ethnicity/inside-outside assumptions ("discovered" means what? by whom? etc). To me, Sietsema's value during his long run at the Voice -- one I hope will be continued elsewhere -- was the deep well of information and knowledge he brought to his project of casting the geographical and ethnic net very widely. Even if I wasn't scooting off to the places he mentioned, I learned an enormous amount about food -- accurate information -- from reading his columns. It doesn't mean he didn't have hits or misses, but by an overwhelmingly large margin, I found him to have a consistent point of view and taste that could give me far more direction than I can get from scanning multiple blogs with little blips that might talk about the same restaurant. He really knows an incredible amount, and I want there to be a continuing outlet for that knowledge.

                                                          1. re: mary shaposhnik

                                                            I guess you're unaware Sietsema titled one of his books "Secret New York The unique Guidebook to New York's hidden sites, sounds and tastes".

                                                            you claim to want to avoid loaded terms, but then use even more loaded terms, talking about "class/ethnicity/inside-outside assumptions"...Well newsflash, Sietsema was notoriously distracted by matter of class all that other mumbo jumbo. Seems your problem is actually with Sietsema.

                                                            Finally, his knowledge of cultures and cuisine was beyond ignorant and riddled with errors, and strange misunderstandings. I hope he continues to write, but he should not be mistaken for an authority, or anyone to look to for guidance when it comes to great food.

                                                      2. re: sugartoof

                                                        It is a sadness when one has to face painful truths. I had walked and peddled (before it was either popular or profitable) the streets thinking that I knew notable from non notable when it came to Thai eating establishments. When browbeating friends into going to Chao Thai to get massive deliciousness I will, now that I am better informed, indicate to them that the resto is not of certain notability. Fantastic food -
                                                        Northern Pork Laab (from the board)
                                                        Northern Salad of Preserved Bamboo Shoots, Pork
                                                        Sour Sausage
                                                        Tom Zap
                                                        Northern Sausage
                                                        Fish Two Ways
                                                        Prik Khing
                                                        Three Buddies Salad
                                                        Chicken Laab
                                                        - but not," notable anyway".

                                                        1. re: wewwew

                                                          Big fan of Peter Meehan's work with the Times?

                                                          "Chao Thai reminded one companion of Sripraphai in Woodside, Queens, in the early days before it became the most celebrated Thai restaurant in the city"

                                                          Two months later....

                                                          "This place is way better than Sripraphai," my Thai American friend proclaimed."


                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                            gosh, comparing one restaurant serving a particular cuisine to another one that's widely considered (correctly or not) to be the local paradigm. stunning. i'm shocked that he wasn't fired on the spot.

                                                            of course, the fact that sietsema was championing sripraphai more than 15 years before meehan quoted his companion makes meehan subject to scrutiny for plagiarism as well. how did his companion know about the place? seems suspicious to me....

                                                            1. re: debinqueens


                                                              Sietsema can not be credited for discovering Chao Thai.

                                                              I don't think we have any insight into the near identical companion quote (Or do you DebinQueens??) used in the same spot of the review, or why that companion didn't give preference to Sietsema....or if this is another case of borrowed language, like the Golden Palace review that mimicked CH posts.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                There needn't be any insight into the "near-identical" quote because,.. those quotes are not near-indentical.

                                                                They don't even express the same sentiment, for chrissakes - one says it reminds them of Srip, the other says it's "way better" - two different thoughts.

                                                                The Golden Palace review was another case - it didn't even "mimic" the CH posts. Hitting on some similar points is not copying. Reviews of a specific restaurant are bound to do that. Is every Yelper who gushes about the pork buns at Momofuku "mimicking" whoever did it first?

                                                                It's getting to this (relatively new) idea that "firsties" mean something. Back in the day, months would go by before a critic weighed in, because they had to visit an establishment numerous times (3 minimum for most critics) over a time span that allowed for the place to settle in and find their groove. I don't much care who I hear about a place first from.

                                                                No one's claiming (at least not that I saw) the Siets "discovered" Chao Thai. But he did bring Chao Thai to a lot of people's attention who would not have heard of it otherwise.

                                                                Many people only read the pro critics, they're not subscribing to Lau's RSS feed or checking the Chowhound Outer Boroughs boards daily for the latest spots. For you (sugar) personally you might not have needed or cared about what Siets had to say - so, fine, don't read him (or any of the critics) or just treat them like another voice in the forest along with the rest, as you will. Whatever.

                                                                1. re: sgordon

                                                                  Nice try.

                                                                  My correction stands....Chao Thai is not an example of a Siestema discovery that had great influence. I asked for examples. People were indeed claiming he discovered it.

                                                                  Re: Being first, there's no explaining why he got scooped by two months by a Times critic (who would have operated under the same or stricter lead times, and requirements for return visits), but your continued insistence on either discrediting or denying Siestema's mission itself while thinking you're defending him is curious.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                    I don't really care who "scooped" a place. I'm sure some film critics beat Ebert to the punch occasionally. A review is not news, it doesn't matter one jot who got where first. Not sure why it's such an issue for you.

                                                                    1. re: sgordon

                                                                      Ebert never specialized in rare films, so your analogy, which you've tried to make more than once in this a worthless distraction.

                                                                      Sietsema wasn't just looking for the best food, he had an agenda.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        and you have one as well, it's patently obvious what said agenda is, and for me to state it would be wrong, because, as we all know, it's not about me, it's about your agenda. .

                                                                        1. re: debinqueens

                                                                          I don't have a professional relationship with Sietsema or the uh, my only agenda is sharing my opinion.

                                                                  2. re: sgordon

                                                                    Sheesh, many, including myself, have "scooped" Sietsema and certainly Meehan, an obvious Sietsema protege, many times on restaurant "finds" But posters here on Chowhound or writers on other sites just don't have the audience that those other two critics had/have, so they are credited with the "find." But we 'hounders know better. So what.

                                                                    1. re: salvati

                                                                      So you disagree with the idea that Sietsema's legacy was going off the beaten track to find holes in the wall, and hidden gems, going so far as to write books about secret finds?

                                                                      The so what is I asked Chowhounders to highlight specific contributions, and we're now discussing one where someone wanted to credit him, when the credit should go to the Times/Lucky Peach writer.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        "I asked Chowhounds to highlight specific contributions ..."

                                                                        And we did. They bounced off you like salt off a rock.

                                                                        S Gordon (among many) has explained why being first is less important than being right. I (among others) have explained why a critic's "reach" is important. Your defenses are undented.

                                                                        I expected no less. Some might think that all of this was a waste of time but I like to think that if it gives people reading along a chance to assess our credibility than it's worthwhile.

                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                          Aren't you capable talking about food without defensively attempting to attack your fellow Chowhounders credibility in such a predictable manner?

                                                                          Whether Sietsema was "right" is subjective to your personal tastes. Whether he was accomplished unearthing hidden gems and contributed to the food scene in a manner that is indispensable can be discussed. You gave him credit for places he did not discover. I corrected that. You claim it's unimportant, but the tizzy defending him speaks otherwise.

                                                                  3. re: sugartoof

                                                                    as a writer, i would not call those quotes "near identical." they express a similar sentiment, not an identical one. and, oddly, i've used comparisons in my pieces shared by others writing relatively contemporaneously -- sometimes before me, sometimes after me, sometimes within hours of each other. it's a normal thing: the restaurants are of the same ethnicity, in close proximity and are both highly touted. i can't imagine a companion/friend/eating partner commenting on a chao thai meal by saying it was reminiscent of la portena, better than wo hop or on par with carbone.

                                                                    1. re: debinqueens

                                                                      As an interesting note, Deb & I just expressed similar sentiments nearly simultaneously, and independent of one another.

                                                                      I guess one of us must have been copying. Only possible explanation.

                                                                      1. re: debinqueens

                                                                        You addressed the comparison and defend Sietsema under a false pretense, purposely, because the real oddity here you're trying to distract from, is that both reviewers differed to an unnamed friend/companion's opinion for the same purpose.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                          Lots of critics mention their dining companions' thoughts in reviews. This is nothing new.

                                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                                            Did Ruth Reichl do that in every review by mentioning her boyfriend as the Intrepid Trencherman ?

                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              Do you mean Gael Greene and Steven Richter, sometimes known as the Road Food Warrior?

                                                                              1. re: thegforceny

                                                                                My bad.

                                                                                Yes, you are right.

                                                                                Sorry about that. Yes, Road Food Warrior rings a bell.

                                                                                Btw, is the gael greene still writing anywhere ?

                                                        2. re: debinqueens

                                                          You're right Deb. I agree with you completely.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            Most Sietsema haters (count me among them) need to look no further than the Golden Palace thread on the outer boroughs board.

                                                            1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                              This must be it.

                                                              I don't blame him for crowd sourcing his subjects at this point, but that was pushing it.

                                            2. Why don't they just lay off the paper?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                They have, in essence, done just that. Michael Musto was also axed.

                                              2. That would really stink.

                                                There was an article earlier this week, or late last week, about a near Saturday night massacare at the VV the other morning. The owner had told two editors to lay off about a half dozen plus employees, I believe. Rather than lay off the workers the two editors walked out, mid morning.

                                                1. i posted about this in "food media".... their plan seems to be getting bloggers to write for free (or better yet, have 'writers' pay them to publish a review). very sad.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: debinqueens

                                                    The Voice has been circling the drain for what seems like a couple of decades. I'd say the decline began when they became a free paper to compete with the New York Press (I'm sure people older than me would point to a date even further back), and then it accelerated after the internet destroyed the classified ad business. Sietsema is a special loss, though. It's easy to find reviews of movies and plays and bands, but who's going to write about eating a bowl of goat lips after walking twenty-seven blocks from the northernmost stop on the F train?