British Food Critic Calls NY's Food "Depression Chow", Incites War

by Cary Randolph Fuller · March 5, 2010

    A.A. Gill, food critic for the London Times and noted baboon killer, visited New York last week, dined at three restaurants, and flew home with the conclusion that we are a teaming horde of unsophisticated cows, chewing "cud Valium", stuck in an "infantile-regression recession." Our own critics aren't taking it lightly.-

    Gill's tirade against our current culinary zeitgeist begins with the opening sentence: "New York City is the worst-dressed best city in the world." He makes fun of fat people, rich people, hipsters, and then, finally, some of our newest restaurants: Momofuko Milk Bar, DBGB Kitchen, and The Breslin.

    About Momofuku Milk Bar, Gill is dismissive:

    The menu could have been written by a seven-year-old who’d forgotten his Ritalin. Cakes and pies. Now, depending on how tight your trousers are, you might think that’s genius. Or like supping leftovers in an orphanage. This is a dealer selling baby-blanket neediness.

    About DBGB, he rants:

    This restaurant is an effortful and knowing step downmarket. A deeply unpleasant black pudding that claimed affinity with the Basques, presumably after they’d blown someone up. A Vermont sausage with cheese that was like eating an infected toe. This room is heavily designed to imply sophistication while serving you street-vendor food. It says: “We all know this is what smart people want to eat if they’re being honest. And they won’t mind paying for permission.

    About our beloved Breslin, Gill speaks more fondly (perhaps because chef April Bloomfield is also a Brit):

    The Breslin is named for Jimmy Breslin, a New York journalist who won a Pulitzer prize, advertised beer, got beaten up by the mafia and was famously the voice of the street. The regular Joe at the bar. What’s not to love about a restaurant named for a journalist? The name is already saying paragraphs about the attitude of this busy, dark dining room, the ground floor of a new budget hotel. The Breslin is one hell of a restaurant. Packed with regular Joes talking with their mouths full and their heads empty. I loved it here.

    The oh-so-British interior at the Breslin, located in the Ace Hotel.

    But those back-handed compliments weren't enough for Robert Sietsema, food critic at the Village Voice. His headline this morning demands, "Kill Gill," and his rebuttal is no less vigilant. He immediately calls Gill racist (for his flippant suggestion that "Korean is the new must-have oriental") and for his poor opinion of Daniel Boulud, which "quite simply reflects the age-old hatred of the English for the French." Ultimately Sietsema asks,

    Did he bluster in there flashing his puss and hoping for the royal treatment? New York has always been wary of such international scoundrels...He seems to like April Bloomfield and the Breslin. Of course he does. She's English. But then he only ate brunch there, and found it agreeable since it was filled with English commonplaces. This guy is about as xenophobic as he can get.

    Sietsema is as New York as it gets, fighting back at the naysayers with biting sarcasm, wit, and to-the-point name-calling, but we have to agree that Gill's sweeping generalizations about our city's current collective tastes (and, yes, our love affair with butchered meats) are pretty weak, based on just two meals and a snack.

    But more than great food, we love a great feud! Hopefully Mr. Gill will fire back with some choice British swear words, and hopefully more American critics will chime in as well.

    Until then, we're starving.

    [Photos via London Evening Standard and Strumerika, respectively.]