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Starred Review. As the New York Times's restaurant critic for most of the 1990s, Reichl had what some might consider the best job in town; among her missions were evaluating New York City's steakhouses, deciding whether Le Cirque deserved four stars and tracking down the best place for authentic Chinese cuisine in Queens. Thankfully, the rest of us can live that life vicariously through this vivacious, fascinating memoir. The book—Reichl's third—lifts the lid on the city's storied restaurant culture from the democratic perspective of the everyday diner. Reichl creates wildly innovative getups, becoming Brenda, a red-haired aging hippie, to test the food at Daniel; Chloe, a blonde divorcée, to evaluate Lespinasse; and even her deceased mother, Miriam, to dine at 21. Such elaborate disguises—which include wigs, makeup, thrift store finds and even credit cards in other names—help Reichl maintain anonymity in her work, but they also do more than that. "Every restaurant is a theater," she explains. Each one "offer[s] the opportunity to become someone else, at least for a little while. Restaurants free us from mundane reality." Reichl's ability to experience meals in such a dramatic way brings an infectious passion to her memoir. Reading this work—which also includes the finished reviews that appeared in the newspaper, as well as a few recipes—ensures that the next time readers sit down in a restaurant, they'll notice things they've never noticed before.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This third volume of Reichl's autobiography covers her years as the New York Times' powerful restaurant critic, and readers of her previous books will relish the tales of her life at the summit of her power. Having been lured east from a successful stint in Los Angeles, Reichl faces a hideously competitive market, where even her predecessor seems out to get her. She adopts a number of disguises to keep restaurant owners from recognizing her. Repeated visits to Le Cirque, Sirio Maccioni's lionized temple of dining, yield wildly differing experiences, so she pens a so-so review only to find out it's the publisher's favorite restaurant. Reichl's insistence on reviewing non-mainstream restaurants upsets those who think Manhattan ends at Central Park North. Reichl offers few other insights into the inner workings of the nation's most powerful newspaper. Some of the book's most affecting episodes involve her young son's love of potatoes in all forms. And a touching encounter with a homeless man in the subway after a particularly chic and elegant lunch outlines the ironies of her profession. Reichl reproduces a number of her most significant reviews, and she also offers recipes for favorite dishes. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.