Sam Sifton is really done with restaurant reviewing for The New York Times, but his predecessor Frank Bruni isn't. Because, really, where better for a restaurant review than the Op-Ed pages of the Paper of Record? Luckily Bruni's take on the bizarre Meatpacking "neuro-gastronomy" restaurant Romera is an excellent takedown of a restaurant that is as expensive as Per Se and far less honest about it (just ask Bloomberg's Ryan Sutton). As Bruni puts it, Romera is the "craziest example I’ve encountered of the way our culture’s food madness tips into food psychosis."
"While blazers are optional at Romera," Bruni muses, "straitjackets would be a fine idea." According to the former critic, this $245-per-person restaurant, from a chef/neurologist, is "far, far down the organic rabbit hole" so far, in fact, "we may have finally hit bottom." About time!
So what's the problem? Oh, there are a few! Fancy waters that "taste like indecisive teas, commitment-phobic broths or pond runoff," tiny portions that are "supposed to prompt a "sense memory,'" and so on.
Bruni's issue with the restaurant doesn't seem to be the price (again, Sutton has that totally covered) it is the absurdity and pretension of the whole enterprise. "Romera demands notice mostly because it’s such a florid demonstration of just how much culinary vanity we’ve encouraged and pretension we’ve unleashed." And, as weird as it is to essentially see a restaurant review in the Op-Ed pages, it is kind of nice to see one of the elder statesmen of current food criticism pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.