A week ago Saturday may wife, my sister, my brother-in-law and I drove into New York City for a meal at Carmine's on 44th and 6th. We've been there many times and always have a great time. One needs to understand how the food is served (family style) before ordering and and that you'll need a suitcase to carry home the leftovers but it is dependably terrific.
I dropped everyone off on 44th in front of a parking garage (that cost us $40 for the 6 hours we would be there but hey, it's NYC) within 50 yards or so of Carmine's. It also happened to be directly across from Guy's American Kitchen and Bar. A disclosure needs to be made- I frequently watch “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” It tends to be a diversion ifrom the routine and once in a while one can pick up some convenient cooking tips from those Guy visits. Guy pronounces his last name “Fieddi” or “Fietti.” His real name is Guy Ferry but “fieri” sounds so much more “en fuego.” Fieri translates into “proud” from Italian. “Ferry” is most likely Irish.
I honestly have no idea which is more accurate.
He's been successful, having opened several Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi restaurants. But a NY Times review of his place in Times Square hit me right between the eyes.
GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?
Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?
Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table? Were the “bourbon butter crunch chips” missing from your Almond Joy cocktail, too? Was your deep-fried “boulder” of ice cream the size of a standard scoop?
What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniatur
e croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense?
Wow. And more to come.
Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?
At your five Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in California, if servers arrive with main courses and find that the appetizers haven’t been cleared yet, do they try to find space for the new plates next to the dirty ones? Or does that just happen in Times Square, where people are used to crowding?
How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?
By the way, would you let our server know that when we asked for chai, he brought us a cup of hot water?
When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?
Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?
Anthony Bourdain was equally demeaning of Fieri:
I'm fascinated by the Guy Fieri terror-dome they just opened up. 600 seats, something like that? 600 seats. And a gift shop. And all of these poor diners, drives and whatever, douchebags waddle in there. First of all, he single handedly turned the neighborhood into the Ed Hardy district which I'm a little pissed off about.
But all of these poor bastards see him eating cheap food on TV, they go in there and it's what $18? For a fucking hamburger? The french fries are like $12? By the time you buy a drink you're out of there for what?
I tell you what, that guy has set back spelling like two decades. All these kids trying to spell “kewl” with a K.
Then again, I think Bourdain is a self-absorbed prick. I watch “No Reservations” but it's the cinematography that makes the show. Todd Liebler was really good but Zach Zamboni is galactically talented.
There's more about Guy, but I am not sure I can be looking for you on Diners Drive-ins and Disasters. I haven't eaten there but for now I am sticking with Carmine's.