Esquire’s John Mariani, responding to our outraged post from earlier today, writes in with some cooling remarks. We present them here unedited, leaving it to Grub Street readers to decide who’s in the right.
Your comments on my list of Esquire’s 20 Best New Restaurants 2007 are fair enough insofar as your own preferences not making the list, though the inclusion of three NYC restaurants on a list of 20 (no other city has as many) hardly justifies your "Drop Dead" headline. And your assertion that "Food columnist John Mariani picks good restaurants located outside New York in place of the more deserving restaurants inside the city limits, such as Insieme, Sfoglia, Ssäm Bar, Suba, Hill Country, and many others. It’s not their fault that New York has more good places than the rest of the country put together!" may be churlish chauvinism but would only really be defensible if, as I did, you had in fact, eaten in more than 25 cities in the USA in the past year and dined at more than 80 restaurants in those cities…
NYC has no monopoly on wonderful restaurants, and while I might agree with you that Insieme is a fine restaurant, some of your other picks caused me not to put them on a list that takes into consideration 1) the importance of the chef’s active participation (you yourself note that your choice Suba is on its 5th chef, and Sfolgia is a branch of the original on Nantucket ); 2) the overall food, service, design, winelist, etc, which is severely lacking in some of the places you mention, like Ssäm Bar. I think that you–and your readers–would be amazed just how terrific food, service, decor, and overall excellence is out there, despite your assertion that, "this list represents a kind of trans-Hudson affirmative action for the restaurant world." which reminds me of the famous 1976 New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg of NYC’s importance in New Yorkers’ eyes. Last, regarding my choice of Porter House: You say that the porterhouse steak there is actually better than Peter Luger’s but that "anybody can buy a good piece of meat and throw it under a broiler, and nowadays, everybody does," Oh, how I wish that was true! The fact is, despite many NYC steakhouses’ insistence they buy the best meat, they don’t, and they don’t always cook it well either. Thanks for the coverage.John Mariani
Earlier: ’Esquire’ to New York: Drop Dead!