I am an unabashed Bourdain follower, and my wife and I travel to NYC every couple of years from Portland, Oregon, for a week of eating and drinking, with a play or a museum visit thrown in occasionally to pass the time between lunch and dinner. Since Tony has lately been squeezing at two or three shows per season out of Manhattan or the boroughs, there's no shortage of spots to visit that he has featured, and they generally fall into 3 categories: (1) places I would probably not know about or pay much attention to if they weren't on his show, (2) places I'm generally aware of beforehand but his portrayal pushes up from a "might-go" to a "must-go", and (3) the obvious places anyone would visit. I've also gotten familiar with Josh Ozersky through his appearances on No Reservations and have more recently been making daily visits to his rather excellent Ozersky.TV site.
Our most recent trip was last week, and we hit several Bourdain-featured places in Cat. 1 (e.g., Keens, Sushi Yasuda, Barney Greengrass) and Cat. 2 (e.g., Momofuku Ssam, Russ and Daughters, RUB). Now, I do have a mind of my own -- or at least I do synthesize opinions from other sources -- and, for example, have never been to Les Halles, and included EMP (OMFG... thanks, NYC Hounders, for letting me know not to fixate on unobtainable seats at Per Se), Shopsin's (twice), and Carmine's Times Square (which I unapologetically love love love) on our recent itinerary.
But this isn't a trip report. This is about Minetta Tavern, and to express my beef, pun intended, with the recent adoration given by Ozersky and Bourdain on the "Obsessions" episode of No Reservations for their Black Label Burger. Now perhaps they have extremely well-developed palates that have been trained with years of extensive vertical beef tastings, which I decidedly do not have under my belt, capable of appreciating the subtle differences between cuts and grades and finishes and aging and grind and whatnot. But if you haven't seen the show, the mouth-gasm that they implied -- nay, virtually guaranteed -- would be achieved by any Joe Schmo upon taking the first bite of a Black Label was the single thing that compelled me to pay a visit to Minetta for a Sunday brunch. And to cut to the chase, I instead experienced 26 dollars worth of "meh." Underseasoned, bland, unjuicy meh. I might take some blame for the unjuicy character, having ordered it medium, but that's usually a worthwhile trade-off for more char flavor. Not in this case. And having been to Keens a couple days prior, where I believe I went as far as duplicating what Josh ordered on the show (mutton chop, creamed spinach, hash browns, and scotch (the dinner flight)), which proved to be an utterly sublime meal, the MT BLB let down was that much harder to take. Parenthetically, I'll add that I can't remember a restaurant as pricey as Minetta where the upsell was so strong, but I can't hold that against TB and JO -- unless, of course, they were paid off for their upselling of this rather mediocre hamburger, which is now my working assumption for how this segment got aired in the first place.
So, Tony, Josh -- I'll let you know next time I'm in town so you can pay up. A couple rounds at PDT might do the trick, or maybe take me to a place that you actually love so much that you don't even dare feature it on your show or website for fear of naive tourists like me ruining it for the locals. Thanks guys.