Sam Sifton, like any critic, has his devoted fans and his share of enemies, but after just two years on the beat, those camps are really still solidifying. Now, John Koblin is reporting at Women's Wear Daily that New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who started her new job on Tuesday, has tapped Sifton as a favorite to head up the national desk. Koblin quoted an unnamed Times source who said Sifton "would make the leap in a minute — he has much greater career ambitions than to be restaurant critic." There are those who would be happy if he left the beat, and many more (to whose restaurants he gave two or more stars) who would certainly miss him. Because reviving old conflicts is more fun than remembering love-ins, we've rounded up a few of the former, below.
- Sam Talbot: The Imperial No. 9 head chef may be the one cheering loudest if Sifton puts down his reviewer's pen. "That wasn't a review, it was venom," he tweeted in June after Sifton gave Imperial zero stars. The review was, in fact, pretty harsh. Describing a plate of octopus legs that fell "decidedly on the far side of the line" between soft and mealy, Sifton wrote, "they were pillowy in the sense of the word that describes the taste of a pillow." Ouch. In fact, there were so many of these little digs that Eater compiled them into an adorable cat-themed feature, perhaps just to cushion the blow.
- Michael Psilakis: The owner of Fishtag, an Upper West Side Mediterranean restaurant, would also not mind Sifton showing his back to the Dining and Wine pages. Another goose-egg recipient, Sifton's harsh take on Fishtag drove Saveur publisher Merri Lee Kingsly to weigh in that Sifton should "stop being so rude." Rude, of course, is a judgment call. Would this passage from Sifton's review count? "Fishtag recalls what happens when children get into Mom’s closet and play at fashion. The food shows up in the dining room overdressed and shrieking in three shades of lipstick and mismatched slingbacks, with flavors that clash or do something rather worse than that."
- Mimi Sheraton: The former New York Times food critic is still active, and she's not at all impressed with Sifton's work. In a lengthy interview in Capital New York back in January, Sheraton said of Sifton's writing: "It’s food writing for an audience less interested in food and more interested in the experience and the theater of it... I don’t like it at all. I always told people what the place was like, but these long, long introductions about the scene—I usually skip the first column and a half and get to the food, because that’s what I think it’s about."
- Donatella Arpaia: The owner of Midtown's Mia Dona did not let the zero-star review of her restaurant go easily. After the flame, the restaurant debuted a new cocktail, called Siftonade. A sign outside described the concoction: "Siftonade can be made with or without bitters, but it's always bitter."
- Masayoshi Takayama: While he didn't rail against Sifton publicly, the chef at Masa likely gritted his teeth pretty hard when he read the critic's review that downgraded the four-star stalwart to three back in June. As Grub Street's Daniel Maurer pointed out, Sifton is "not exactly known for knocking culinary demigods off their pedestals," but hit out at Masa after his visit revealed "wrinkles in [its] fine silk."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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