Friday, February 23, 2007

When Restaurants Attack: More Eateries Want To Fry Critics Who Burned Them With Tepid Reviews

Frank Bruni Gets Some Company As Restaurant Enemy Number One

Much was written this week about restaurant mogul Jeffrey Chodorow taking out a full-page ad to rebut the negative review from New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni of Kobe Club, Chodorow's newest Big Apple eatery.
Reactions ranged from "atta-boy Jeff" to "he's even more insane than we thought."

To be sure, Bruni was not alone in savaging the steakhouse, pricey even by the mind-boggling expense account tabs typical of a New York meat emporium. Adam Platt of New York magazine and the New York Post's Steve Cuozzo also took Kobe Club to the woodshed.

But Chodorow spent at least 80 grand on the ad to go after Bruni, not the other doomsayers. Now, a bad review from Bruni (who savaged Kobe Club with a piddling no-star, Satisfactory rating) isn't necessarily fatal to a restaurant, unlike a thumbs-down from theater critic Ben Brantley. Still, it doesn't help, even if Chodorow threw out the PR playbook and made his displeasure so public.
In the rebuttal, Chodorow didn't help his case by saying Bruni was entitled to his opinion except when he said bad things about his restaurants.

I open restaurants for people, not critics. Kobe Club, with its 2000 samurai swords dangling blade-down, and its over-the-top luxe menu is not for everyone, but do we really need another traditional steakhouse in New York City?

And if he opens restaurants for people, then why does he care so much about the critics?

Still, Chodorow really is a people person. Honest.

I have been too successful and battle-hardened to be affected by this, but my restaurant staff,
who are some of the nicest, most hard-working people I have ever worked with are affected, and they deserve an apology.

So there.

At least Chodorow is confining his vitriol to expensive rebuttals and starting a blog so he can say nice things about restaurants and food. A Philadelphia-area restaurant wants to exact revenge in the courts for a review that took up all of three sentences.
Indeed, a little can say a lot. In this case, it's the steakhouse (another one? Geez!) Chops in Bala Cynwyd hot and bothered by Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan's labeling of a strip steak "miserably tough and fatty." Only thing: the restaurant alleges LaBan had a steak sandwich, not an actual steak.
The restaurant says LaBan apologized on the phone, but refused to make a correction in print. So, it's off to court we go, or at least to the lawyers' offices, which is bound to leave a bad taste in everybody's mouths.

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