It’s kind of strange how so-called “top” models/chefs/designers seem to disappear after they claim their titles, isn’t it? I was at a Project Runway–themed event this weekend, which featured a discussion with two former contestants on the show. Claiming the program did little to help his career, one sniped about last season’s winner, Chloe Dao: “I think she’s on QVC now.” The other bit back: “She wishes.” (Actually, she is.)

Well, at least one winner hasn’t totally vanished. Word is that Perilla, the Manhattan restaurant opened in May by Top Chef’s first winner, Harold Dieterle, is doing good business, and serving solid food. The New Yorker’s Tables for Two review says that Dieterle “mostly pleases both the foodies and the fans” with food boasting “poppingly fresh herbs and vegetables” and an “inventive” menu. New York Times reviewer Frank Bruni isn’t as delighted. His review, “That Was Television, This is Reality,” notes:

With its tucked-away setting on a short West Village street, its understated décor and a cautious list of entrees (hanger steak, skate wing, roasted chicken) that could have evolved from some protein focus group, this restaurant amounts to a repudiation of flashy packaging and trumped-up drama. It’s earnest, endearing and just a bit of a snooze: a classy neighborhood place with more pull than Mr. Dieterle’s cooking — accomplished but hardly riveting — justifies.

Mr. Bruni also says that Dieterle “likes to festoon, throwing wax beans and cashews at a nonetheless retiring entree of steamed red snapper.” Ha ha, good one, Frank. And he concludes that Dieterle’s mousselines and gastriques are “dutiful,” and that “There’s some primness in Perilla, which lacks [an] exuberance and sense of fun — on and off the plate.”

Oh, ouch. There haven’t been too many reviews of Perilla yet in the blogosphere, but Breadchick gave a quick review of the place in response to a post on the blog Alice Q. Foodie: “[W]e split a dessert a tart with green tea infused something we couldn’t identify as sorbet really (um, definitely skip dessert here).” Chowhounders mostly agree with Breadchick, though they’re more enthusiastic about the entrées.

Don’t feel too bad, Harold! Epicurious editor Megan O. Steintrager loved your duck meatballs. You know, the ones Bruni implied were trendy. You just can’t win, can you?

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