Rubbing Salt on the Wound?

Some readers are irate that the Washington Post Magazine went ahead with Tom Sietsema’s review of Suna even after Suna closed. These readers are enraged because, as one commented, “Suna no longer exists, it can’t defend itself, can’t grow to accommodate Sietsema’s criticisms, there was no point in putting out this perverse rant except to brutalize Mr. Spero’s image after the fact. It’s just cruelty for the sake of readership; which he can do with impunity because there’s no longer anything to prove him wrong, just our words versus his. If the Washington Post had any decency, they would pull this review.”

To be sure, this is a valid question—for the online edition. As the Post notes, the issue went to press before it was announced that Suna was closing. (For the record, I’ve written for the newspaper’s Wednesday food section.) The review itself is pretty tough:

The soup, in which a broth of charred ginger and leeks is poured over a soft-cooked egg and fried salsify, is dreadful the first time. Blame fell on a tepid consomme. But even a second round, with warm stock, didn’t make me a fan of what goes down like canned fried onions in water. As for the salad, some of the vegetables were so cold, it was as if we were eating them straight from the tundra. Frigid temperatures and bursts of cloying sweetness from candied celery root sent the dish back to the kitchen largely untouched. Curiously, no one asked why.

A reader observes, “I think the reviewer’s dining companion had it backwards—the kitchen did a lot of work for little reward from you, not the other way around. How much work is it to eat delicious food?” To which I was reminded of a commented by the venerable Phyllis Richman. I wondered how great her job must have been, considering all those exquisite dining experiences. But the Post‘s longtime restaurant critic replied, “You have no idea how many bad meals I’ve had to endure.”

This is not to say Sietsema’s experience was awful. It just wasn’t ideal. The critic ends his review by saying, “The unfocused Suna calls to mind a pique of mine: restaurants that taste like rehearsals but charge full admission.” Ouch! (But it’s an observation that reminds me of the current state of Morton’s Steakhouse where I get the sense from certain dishes—a Caesar salad with a stale crostini, a Morton’s salad with predominantly white lettuce leaves, including one with aging brown specks—that the new owners want to cut costs by lessening quality while raising prices.)


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