Chow, Baby: Tuesday, November 21, 2006
No Joy for Love

Editor’s note: Chow, Baby, en route to the Big Easy for a holiday visit, asked fellow columnist Last Call to deliver some bad news from the Big Apple.

The reviews are in for Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in New York City, and they ain’t as pretty as a speckled pup.

In the two months since the owner/chef held the grand opening for his second Dove location in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, restaurant critics across the board have panned the Cowtown native’s upscale cowboy cuisine as well as Dove’s dimly lit ranchhouse atmosphere — ironically the very two things that made his original location a Stockyards staple and propelled Love toward celebrity chefdom.

But in NYC, a burg where more than 20,000 restaurants serve up meals and where positive food reviews are critical for one’s survival, these Lonesome efforts apparently aren’t even par for the course.

The main problem with the grub, apparently, is Love’s overambitious combinations, drowning high-quality meats in expensive cheeses and sauces. “My rabbit empanada was fine,” wrote New York Magazine’s Adam Platt, “though I couldn’t tell you whether the meat inside was rabbit or chicken or some errant lizard flattened by a truck outside Waco.”

The New York Times’ Frank Bruni said his buffalo rib-eye was trounced by serrano chiles, shallots, Boursin cheese, and lime juice. The New York Sun’s reviewer dismissed his meal altogether: Love “subjects almost every bit of meat to a thick coating of spice rub that overpowers any subtle flavors it might attempt to demonstrate,” he wrote.

The décor of the dining room (almost a carbon copy, though only about a third the size of Love’s Northside original), was also given the back of the big-city hand. The deer antler chandelier, according to New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo, “suggests not the Great Plains but a Goth club liquidation.” New York Magazine said the setting smacked of “a basement bar in some two-bit college town ... the lighting is so dim I had to hold up candles to see our food, like miners in a cave.”

Both New York Magazine and the Times gave the restaurant zero out of five stars, and the Post’s Cuozzo won’t be going back for seconds. “If this is the grub that won the West,” he wrote, “I’ll never cross the Hudson again.”

You might think all this is just the media’s exercising a grudge against anything from the homeland of George Dubya Bush, but, when it comes to food, the biggest, baddest blue state of ’em all doesn’t care where the cook comes from.

Nor are New Yorkers unfamiliar with Southwestern cuisine, game dishes, or Texas-size portions. SoHo’s Blue Ribbon Brasserie has experimented with exotic meats for years. Food Network star Bobby Flay runs three successful and critically acclaimed restaurants in Manhattan, all with strong Southwestern and Spanish influences. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in NYC is by far the highest-volume restaurant in the chain.

In the end, the media dismissed the Dove’s dishes as overblown, gimmicky, and fancy for the sake of being fancy — not because they were Yankees who turn their noses up at “haute cowboy” cuisine.

On a positive note, however, Time Out New York magazine put Dove at “the top of the list of new, must-try restaurants.” None of the other critics made snide remarks over the service, which presumably was good. So, what else is there to argue over except for who is buying Love a one-way ticket back to Fort Worth?

For comments on this week’s column only, contact Last Call


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