So is there still room for the steady (and, yes, sometimes weary) voice of the professional in a world where everyone’s a critic? Of course there is. This is especially true in the theatrical realm of restaurants, where the quality and enjoyment of your dinner can vary dramatically depending on where you sit, what time of day you eat, how long the restaurant has been open, and what you happened to order. Anonymity would be nice, but it’s always been less important than a sturdy gut and a settled palate. Most important of all, however, is a healthy expense account, because if a critic’s employer allows for enough paid visits to a particular restaurant, even the most elaborately simpering treatment won’t change his or her point of view.
Now that the Platt mug shot is officially part of the public record, I don’t plan on changing my routine very much. I will continue to book restaurant tables at odd hours, under a string of ridiculously random made-up names, because more than a wig or a set of false whiskers, the art of surprise has always been the critic’s most useful tool. I won’t be posting photos of myself over my column or making reality-show appearances. If an eager chef sends extra menu items my way, I will do my best to ignore them. A couple of months back, the proprietors of the clam shack ZZ’s Clam Bar sent a bouncer over to boot me from their restaurant, presumably in retribution for an unflattering review. Now that the great anonymity charade is over, maybe the bouncers will recognize me before I walk in the door. If they don’t, then the incensed chefs can come out of the kitchen themselves and explain to their paying, well-behaved customer why it’s time to leave.
Meanwhile, I will wander the avenues in my sauce-stained coat to root out everything that’s overrated, fashionably of the moment, and downright delicious. This year, as in years past, I’ve traveled far and wide to bring you my usual snapshot of New York’s endlessly expanding fine-dining universe. I’ve elbowed my way into crowded upmarket taco parlors, bellied up to the bar in trendy gourmet-whiskey bars, and stood in line in the rain with jolly tourists to taste that wondrous international dessert sensation the Cronut. I’ve sampled messy bánh mì sandwiches in the wilds of Midwood, slurped steamy bowls of Vietnamese phô soup with members of the Smith Street gentry in Brooklyn, and debated different grades of tuna belly in the numerous sushi omakase joints that have popped up around Manhattan like rainy-day mushrooms.
As is the custom this time of year, I’ve compiled my annual lists of the best new restaurants and chefs in town, along with all the overrated trends that I’ve tired of during the course of my endless gastronomic rounds. These are the opinions of one solitary, reasonably well-informed eater, and, as usual, they are open for debate. In this new, post-anonymous era, however, you now have a face to put on these crackpot views. So if you happen to spy a giant, slightly unkempt gentleman inhaling large amounts of food in the corner of a restaurant, you’re entitled, I suppose, to go up and (politely) give him a piece of your mind. Who knows, it might even be Adam Platt out for an early-evening feed. And after he’s wiped the sauce from his chin, he will nod sympathetically. Then he will tuck his napkin back into his collar and continue with his meal.