Earlier today we asked for help in identifying the anonymous food critic Danny Meyer bribed for a good review. Eater moves the story along with the actual excerpt from Meyer's book. Relevant passage after the jump:
One critic who had given Tabla a no-star rating when it opened was about to review Blue Smoke. He wrote for another influential publication in New York, and I understood through the restaurateur grapevine that he welcomed being "hosted." I had also heard that whether or not he w as hosted might even affect the outcome of his review. When one of my managers spotted this critic in Blue Smoke one night, he let me know. I had never comped a critic before in my entire career. I had learned that most newspapers and magazines prohibited their writers from accepting freebies in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. But after weeks of watching the restaurant take a public beating, I decided to experiment. With the miserable reviews we were getting, there was nothing to lose. And since critics aren't public officials, I reasoned that hosting them wasn't illegal. As instructed, the manager went to the critic's table and said: "Danny is so honored that you're dining with us tonight that he wants very much to welcome you as our guest for your first visit." That one visit was enough to produce a glowing two-star review, one of the very best we got early on.
Eater sagely notes that "the list of reviewiers who, circa 2000, employed a star system and goose-egged Tabla and two-starred Blue Smoke is not long." Who might it be? During the course of the day, one name kept popping up consistently: Esquire's John Mariani. A reader writes:
The Danny Meyer item on Gawker is totally John Mariani. Remember a few years ago, Esquire said [Philadelphia's] Bliss was the best restaurant on like the East Coast, and it's not even like the best restaurant on like, Broad Street? He's a big whore. I think in bits and pieces he's been accused of stuff before, if you Google or Nexis, but no one's ever really slammed him, and he needs to be taken down.
A bit of Googling and Nexising reminded us of this: Back in 2005, the Chicago Sun-Times noted the following conflict.
[Esquire food columnist John Mariani] uses his annual forum ["20 best new restaurants"] to slam two of Chicago's hottest young chefs — Grant Achatz of Alinea and Homaro Cantu of moto. . . [Cantu said] that Mariani sent his PR people a four-page list of requests before dining at moto last year, asking the restaurant to pay for everything from cab fare to his hotel bill — requests the restaurant did not honor and Mariani denies he asked for.
There's a whole forum on the subject at eGullet should you care to wade through it. Anyway, the issue seems simple enough: How did Mariani treat Tabla and Blue Smoke? We'd tell you, but Esquire's online search function is, as the French might say, "a piece of fucking shit," so we've been unable to find the reviews. Any readers out there with copies, or Mr. Mariani himself, should he care to deny it, can reach us at the usual address.