Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Danyelle Freeman's Idiocy Color-Coded!

No one figure writing about food or living on this Earth raises my hackles as much as Danyelle Freeman who is also known as Restaurant Girl and who works as the restaurant critic for the New York Daily News. She's a stain on the profession of food writing. Though she may actually know about what goes into her mouth (I have yet to verify this) she certainly knows not how to write about it. A textual analysis of her reviews reveals that of the around 500 words she uses, nearly 400 of them are complete bullshit. Now, sometimes doctoring pure quality with dross is fruitful. One thinks of the burger at Royale which is partially made of beef fat. But in Freeman's case, reading the words she uses is a constant assault on one's eyes, brain, sense and sensibility. Her writerly sins range from miserable adjective-noun, adjective-adjective pairings ("criminally delicious," " vivacious mix"), improper or awkwardly active verb usage and annoyingly quirky tropes to the larger issue of being nonsensical. This, of course, is not taking into account the fact that she plasters her face as often as possible thereby rendering it impossible that her reviews could even be used as a mark of how a regular patron might be treated.

She recently reviewed Bar Blanc. The review, in which the phrases "criminally delicious" "vivacious mix" "and "beguiling interplay" appear, is indicative of her inane writing. Or, to put it in terms she herself might use, the dynamically excruciating prosody burns like a tallow candle the dark and turgid recesses of vivifying horror. Thusly, I've color-coded bits of it. Blue indicates an error in description be it through a tasteless stacking of adjectives or merely poorly chosen ones. Green indicates an annoying verb usage. Purple indicates a more general issue either with a clichéd image or an awkward trope. Red just means something doesn't make sense in a larger context or is just dumb.

Everyone looks beautiful at Bar Blanc. Perhaps it's the way the candlelight bounces off the polished white tables that casts an unmistakably flattering glow throughout the space
. It's a stylish stage set in the West Village, where diners lounge on shimmery banquettes in the 65-seat dining room. Bar stools wear plush leather and even the servers are fashionably dressed.
But make no mistake: Bar Blanc is an ambitious restaurant in a laid-back disguise. This supposed "wine bar" offers a four-course tasting menu ($72) that begins with steamed foie gras and follows with sea scallops and Burgundy escargot. Chef César Ramirez, who runs this spot alongside two other Bouley alumni, has devised an eclectic, French-based menu. Thus, you can start with tuna sashimi before settling into savory lasagna stacked with braised lamb.

I immediately entered into a love-hate relationship with a duo of tuna: On one side of the plate, an exquisitely fresh piece of sashimi nestles in crispy burdock, tender elf mushrooms and a black truffle dressing - a beguiling interplay of textures and flavors. On the other, a disconcertingly salty tuna confit gets a pasty anchovy dressing with shocks of rosemary.
Other appetizers aren't quite such stormy affairs. In fact, Ramirez is skilled at balancing acts. There is a baby Boston lettuce salad with a poached egg, and a palate-cleansing tangerine gelée that tempers a herbaceous dressing. He also offsets the succulence of sweetbreads and slow-roasted rabbit with a delicate spill of ricotta. A roasted red snapper gets a shiso dashi broth that forms a smoky-sweet glaze around the fish and infiltrates a tofu puree.

Even better, the homemade ravioli look like a store-bought sheet straight from a box. It's a deceptive maneuver with criminally delicious returns: Each doughy pocket gets plumped with a vivacious mix of four cheeses and spackled with a silky lettuce sauce. It's a superb indication of the kind of performance Ramirez is capable of, but often fails to deliver here.

Some dishes simply looked better than they tasted. Drumstick sausages, bursting with flavor, steal the limelight from a bland centerpiece of "slow-cooked organic chicken" that slips into the backdrop. There was an artfully plated but indistinctive black cod eclipsed by a surplus of accessories. The same was true of a tough strip steak that couldn't be salvaged, even by a rich bone marrow sauce.
Though Bar Blanc proves a stylish showcase, the kitchen can be inconsistent. During one dinner, seared scallops with an orange confit were beautifully caramelized and juicy. At another dinner, they emerged rare and gummy, deflecting any sweetness the orange confit had previously invited. A bittersweet chocolate cake was moist on a first visit, dry and chalky on a return trip - not to mention remarkably small.

The best of the menu's low-impact desserts was a Meyer lemon soufflé accompanied by huckleberry marmalade. You'd be wise to revisit the handsome wine list as you bask in the irresistible glimmer of the room. If only you could request ambience in a doggie bag.