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Capitol Hill Eastern Market Modern American Dinner Only Tue-Sat $48 and $78 Tasting Menus Mindful Restaurant Group Closed

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#151 Bart

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:53 AM

I'll probably have more to say on the "professionals'" "reviews" about Suna tomorrow. Right now, I'm not going to bother.

 

But I will say that it's time for a change in this town.

 

I look forward to that as I’d like to know what the “behind closed doors” talk is about regarding our local critics.  Sometimes people drop veiled comments about Tom or Todd that I don’t really understand.

 

Just as observation from the peanut gallery as a casual reader of DR:  

 

It seems when Tom S raves about a place that is one the DR.com darlings, like Ashby Inn, everyone agrees with him, and when he slams a place (or chef) that many people seem to have soured on, like Jose Andres/minibar/barmini, everyone agrees with him.  But when he raves about a dish or a place that is deemed underserving by the mob, he’s a hack with a crappy pallet, or if he trashes a place that the insiders or local food community loves, he’s a megalomaniac with an axe to grind.


I don’t know the guy, but from reading his stuff for years, that doesn’t seem to add up to me.  It’s in his best interest to have DC become a premier food destination in the country/world, but raving about a place that doesn’t deserve it serves no one but the restaurant in question.  Can you imagine if he raved about Suna (or any other place) and the food critic from the NYT checked it out and then savaged the same place, and DC as a whole, in the Times?  I can see the review now:  “If this is what DC considers a 4 star restaurant, plan your visit around the monuments and museums, not the restaurants.”   

 

And regarding all the conspiracy theories and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Post running this article, I’m sure it wasn’t logistically or financially possible to pull the article.  This is a huge embarrassment for them.  I can see Fox News and Rush Limbaugh having a field day:  “The Washington Post is so out of touch, they ran a review of a place that has been closed for over a week!  If you can’t trust them to get a simple restaurant review correct, how can you believe anything they say!?!?”  And then they could go on to bash the “liberal media” ad infinitum.

 

Leaving it up on the website is probably something beyond Tom’s control too.  They’ve invested a huge about of money and time into their website and there’s probably a policy that everything that appears in print gets published online (along with a ton of other stuff that doesn’t make the printed version).  They’re a news organization first and foremost.  It’s highly unlikely that Tom could bust into the editor or publisher’s office and demand major action over a lowly restaurant review.

 

Reading this back, I think I may sound like a Tom apologist.  I’m not, or at least I don’t think I am.  There are plenty of things about him with which I disagree, but in this case I think it’s just as simple as bad timing of a bad review.


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#152 Waitman

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 09:01 AM

Yes, the actual last night. I knew they were closing, and wanted to pay my (considerable) respects.

 

I'll probably have more to say on the "professionals'" "reviews" about Suna tomorrow. Right now, I'm not going to bother.

 

But I will say that it's time for a change in this town.

 

This seems to suggest that there is something beyond a mere disagreement regarding the merits of the restaurant going on here -- that there is something unprofessional or nefarious in the critical reaction to Suna.  I am curious to hear more.


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#153 Toogs

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 09:08 AM

I am sure Don will answer in time but I don't think he meant nefarious so much as Tom would rather eat in 1985 than in 2013.



#154 RWBooneJr.

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 09:37 AM

And regarding all the conspiracy theories and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Post running this article, I’m sure it wasn’t logistically or financially possible to pull the article.  This is a huge embarrassment for them.

 

Tom may be embarrassed, but The Washington Post is a business, not a person. Businesses don't get embarrassed, they just make money or lose it. I would bet that the review of Suna is the most read and talked about review they publish all year. It was probably a great business decision to run it.  But that's not why the Post ran the review.  They ran it because it would have cost more money to fix than any benefit they perceived from doing so.  This has happened before, both with good reviews and bad.


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#155 TedE

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 10:11 AM

Tom may be embarrassed, but The Washington Post is a business, not a person. Businesses don't get embarrassed, they just make money or lose it. I would bet that the review of Suna is the most read and talked about review they publish all year. It was probably a great business decision to run it.  But that's not why the Post ran the review.  They ran it because it would have cost more money to fix than any benefit they perceived from doing so.  This has happened before, both with good reviews and bad.

 

Agreed, and I like to think about it this way: if Tom had given Suna a rave 3.5 star review would that change your opinion of the Post running it in print and online?  Anybody with an answer of "Yes" to that question should rethink ascribing some ulterior motive to the publishing decision that was made.


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#156 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 12:25 PM

I would bet that the review of Suna is the most read and talked about review they publish all year.

 

I doubt anyone outside of DR is talkng about it (no discussion on Chowhound) and the only reason we're beating this dead horse is because so many members have declared Suna to be great and then have their declarations contradicted by the city's two most prominent restaurant critics.  Rationalization ensues.  I wouldn't project our own idiosyncrasies to the readers of Wapo in general.


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#157 Toogs

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 12:59 PM

I doubt anyone outside of DR is talkng about it (no discussion on Chowhound) and the only reason we're beating this dead horse is because so many members have declared Suna to be great and then have their declarations contradicted by the city's two most prominent restaurant critics.  Rationalization ensues.  I wouldn't project our own idiosyncrasies to the readers of Wapo in general.

 

Is this the only place you "discuss" food?  I have seen conversations on several message boards, and among real life friends as well.



#158 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:32 PM

Is this the only place you "discuss" food?  I have seen conversations on several message boards, and among real life friends as well.

 

I read Chowhound and I didn't see a discussion there.  Are there other prominent food discussion forums?



#159 Toogs

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:36 PM

I read Chowhound and I didn't see a discussion there.  Are there other prominent food discussion forums?

 

not food forums, I am saying people are talking about this in various parts of their lives.



#160 Michael Landrum

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:39 PM

Since this thread has devolved to the point where it no longer reflects on the restaurant under discussion, as someone who does have direct knowledge of the subject, I will make the following simple points:

 

1. How many times has it been said by Tom, and many others on this board as well, "How hard can it be for a restaurant to up-date or correct its web-site?" Well, apparently it is more difficult for a news organization whose primary function is to publish a web-site--and it seems more excusable to some here as well (curiously some of whom are the most vocal critics of restaurants failing to up-date their web-sites). The Post had over a week to plan its strategy regarding the web-site and made a conscious choice to run a piece that could be nothing but hurtful, rather than a very reasonable (as I suggested before): "Due to the unexpected closure of the restaurant under review, the review will not appear on-line, but will be stored in our searchable archives. Unfortunately, the review has already gone to press for the print edition. We regret the confusion and misinformation."

 

Let us hope he does not in the future hold restaurants to a standard in regards to on-line publishing that his own news organization can not meet.

 

2. Similar advisements, cancellations or delays in running a review (perhaps with more notice than in this case) have been made due to sudden chef departures regularly in the past, or have been handled with greater transparency or in a more informative manner.

 

Let us hope there is no motive for doing otherwise in this case.

 

3. Without any implication of conspiracy, within the industry Tom makes no secret of the fact that he does not take kindly to not being made privy to information when that would reflect poorly on him or cause him to appear less than the most knowledgeable figure in and behind the scenes.

 

Let us hope that Suna's failure to prevent this personal and professional embarrassment did not lead to an act of questionable judgement.

 

4. Again, I will pose the question: "How is a newspaper's or a journalist's failure to prevent or correct inaccurate or out-dated information on its web-site any different than a restaurant's?"

 

Let us hope that it be possible to point out hypocrisy and double-standards without it necessarily following that one is chasing conspiracies.

 

5. And on the ninth day, god created a critic so someone could live off of the farmer's work...


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#161 DonRocks

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 02:21 PM

[All I ask is for this thread not to spin out of control. Thanks. D.]


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#162 Tujague

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 03:38 PM

Since this thread has devolved to the point where it no longer reflects on the restaurant under discussion, as someone who does have direct knowledge of the subject, I will make the following simple points:

 

1. How many times has it been said by Tom, and many others on this board as well, "How hard can it be for a restaurant to up-date or correct its web-site?" Well, apparently it is more difficult for a news organization whose primary function is to publish a web-site--and it seems more excusable to some here as well (curiously some of whom are the most vocal critics of restaurants failing to up-date their web-sites). The Post had over a week to plan its strategy regarding the web-site and made a conscious choice to run a piece that could be nothing but hurtful, rather than a very reasonable (as I suggested before): "Due to the unexpected closure of the restaurant under review, the review will not appear on-line, but will be stored in our searchable archives. Unfortunately, the review has already gone to press for the print edition. We regret the confusion and misinformation."

 

Let us hope he does not in the future hold restaurants to a standard in regards to on-line publishing that his own news organization can not meet.

 

From what I've seen at the Post in the past few years, I wouldn't begin to assume there is such a neat, easy relationship between the print and Web units imagined here. Sometimes that kind of bureaucracy can make it much, much harder to make these sorts of updates than for small businesses like restaurants.
 


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#163 Choirgirl21

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 06:34 PM

[All I ask is for this thread not to spin out of control. Thanks. D.]

 

It may not be out of control, but it seems to me this thread stopped being about Suna quite some time ago.


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#164 B.A.R.

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 07:15 PM

[All I ask is for this thread not to spin out of control. Thanks. D.]

 

This is about 24 hours too late. Shut it down, as we appear to be about to create a food version of Godwin's Law.


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#165 collije

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:39 PM

From what I've seen at the Post in the past few years, I wouldn't begin to assume there is such a neat, easy relationship between the print and Web units imagined here. Sometimes that kind of bureaucracy can make it much, much harder to make these sorts of updates than for small businesses like restaurants.
 

 

The Post uses a fairly robust Content Mgmt System (CMS). I happen to know as I'm a IT consultant that once interviewed years ago with them for a gig in their web operations and generally know the underlying technology used there.

 

The short answer is that it's super simple to choose whether to post / display nearly ANY piece of regularly-produced of content on that website. Content such as restaurant reviews is only a matter of a business call (i.e. business sponsor who owns that section of the website), not a technology challenge / bureaucracy issue. IT in today's world doesn't run web content for F500 companies.

 

EDIT: and sorry Don, I'm contributing to this now well-off-topic convo. Back to munching on food.



#166 darkstar965

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 09:24 PM

[All I ask is for this thread not to spin out of control. Thanks. D.]

 

I'm not sure that the thread has "spun out of control" but I really think it has way outlived its useful life and should now be shut down so the topics of food media, food critics and even the future for Suna's principals can be discussed on other more suitable threads in a more constructive way. And so everyone can be friends again as much as realistic.  :)

 

Most of the last 40 or so posts can be summarized as follows, in just three points, in descending order of importance:

 

1. Whatever one thought or thinks of Suna's model or food, it's very sad that they had to close.  All indications are that Suna's people worked their butts off with real passion and talent. They created something new, something different, something creative and, to some of us, something pretty darn delicious.  In the big picture, it doesn't freaking matter so much how great or ridiculous one feels their plating was. Now, nearly a week after they closed for good, that's petty small-ball stuff imho.  No more plating will be done at Suna. Sure they could have done X or Y differently or better.  And, given the humility of the folks involved, no doubt those learnings would have been used at Suna going forward had it endured and will be used in the future elsewhere. Nearly all here clearly wish Chef Spero and his team nothing but happiness and success in the future.  And, many of of us are confident that that will be their destiny. They deserve that as we all do.

 

2. The Post may or may not have been able to pull the post-mortem review that was published. Good points above supporting both perspectives. Whatever the actual  answer to that, it likely wasn't ultimately Tom's decision and what he said in his chat may or may not have reflected what Post leadership truly felt and decided.  RWBoone captured this much more succinctly than I did though; we entirely agree as his post below and my previous longer posts make pretty clear.

 

Tom may be embarrassed, but The Washington Post is a business, not a person. Businesses don't get embarrassed, they just make money or lose it. I would bet that the review of Suna is the most read and talked about review they publish all year. It was probably a great business decision to run it.  But that's not why the Post ran the review.  They ran it because it would have cost more money to fix than any benefit they perceived from doing so.  This has happened before, both with good reviews and bad.

 

3. Finally, the content of the Washingtonian and WaPo Suna reviews can and has been fairly and thoroughly challenged and debated as with most any significant review published.  While I don't personally agree much with the content of either review, I respect both as the work of pros who do a ton of good for DC's food community and supported their views well; however much their views on Suna diverged from mine and from those of some others here. Coin of the realm stuff.

 

If anyone has the patience to read the last 40 or so posts on this thread, you'll note two things. First, if there are relative degrees of "dead" this is about as dead a horse as you'll ever find. Second, a careful review of those posts would show visceral disagreement (fine/good) and occasional hostility (bad) with prose and "likes" the weapons of choice indicating people are talking past each other with sometimes more reactive writing than real consideration of others' views.  Harshness and potshots, whether here or elsewhere serve no good or productive purpose. I know some regrettably don't agree with that but please don't confuse harshness/negativity with constructive criticism; they're wholly different things.

 

Just my view.  Your mileage may--and clearly in some cases does--vary.

 

Time to shut this thread down out of respect to Suna and its professionals if for no other reason.


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#167 DonRocks

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 11:45 PM

[This topic has become unruly. I don't mind that it became *off-topic* because I can always simply split off-topic posts into new or different threads (that is, after all, my job), but there's a certain grieving period here that isn't being respected, so let us take some time to cool down, and then if anyone feels strongly about airing their thoughts or grievances, perhaps we can do it here, perhaps in a new thread. I agree out of respect for Suna, and their extremely unwarranted 1/2-star review by an otherwise reliable Tom Sietsema, we should give this a rest. And as we do, please ask yourself this: Has anyone been to Suna who agrees with them receiving 1/2 star? In other words, do you believe that Suna was most certainly *not* one of the Top 200 restaurants in the Washington, DC area? A 1/2-star rating is essentially saying Johnny Spero has little talent and no future, and that is diametrically opposite from the truth - he is an extremely talented chef, and he is going places whether certain publications think so or not. On a similar topic, I knew Suna was an important restaurant 10 minutes after being inside the door - I knew it was an excellent restaurant 20 minutes after being inside the door. Molecular Gastronomy might be confusing to some critics, but it's not confusing at all to me. Get used to Molecular Gastronomy, friends, because it, and all its variations and sub-classifications, are here to stay. Learn about it, and if you don't personally like it (or aren't sure), then keep studying - one sign of a good critic is to overcome personal dislikes and tastes and uncertainties, and still be able to evaluate all types of styles and cutting-edge movements fairly. The change that I was referring to earlier has nothing to do with new restaurant critics (Tom is a fine restaurant critic - he just missed this one review ... badly (*)); that change needs to come from you: the DC dining public itself, who need to acquire greater wisdom in selecting which sources of information you rely on. And also the chefs and restaurateurs, who choose the wrong sources to "fear" and pander to (<--- this will not get you a higher rating, for example - the truth is, you don't need to fear, or pander to, anyone but yourselves). You are grossly misguided and outdated in terms of what you think is important. The internet has changed everything, and the members of donrockwell.com, with all their built-in checks and balances, have risen to the top despite being ignored by their "competition," almost surely because the website is viewed as some sort of "threat" - which it isn't. Thank you to the entire staff at Suna for having such a wonderful restaurant. You had a fan in me. Kind regards, Don Rockwell]

 

(*) "As for the salad, some of the vegetables were so cold, it was as if we were eating them straight from the tundra."

-- That's because the arugula was a granita, Tom. An ice. Frozen intentionally. This review makes it sound like a mistake, and that's not fair. 


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#168 DonRocks

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 10:46 PM

[I'll open this topic now, but I'd like the discussion to be limited from this point forward to Suna. Yes, critiquing the reviews about Suna is fine. I consider Tom a personal friend - I will never forget his kindness during an extremely difficult time in my life - and respect him very much professionally, but I think it's essential that the work of any critic is allowed to be responsibly criticized without fear of reprimand (most certainly including my own). Never before have Tom and I been so far apart on a restaurant, and I think this is the biggest miss of his career - I think Johnny Spero's worst enemy should have given Suna no less than two stars, and I see it as being higher than that, but maybe I'm the one who's wrong. Please stay on topic, and feel free to share your thoughts about Suna. Cheers, Rocks]


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#169 MsDiPesto

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 11:20 AM

Never got to go to the establishment, but I found the similarities in Sietsema's and Kliman's reviews interesting.


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#170 Tweaked

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Posted 05 April 2013 - 12:08 PM

yeah, yeah I'm dragging this thread back up from the graveyard.

 

A rather mangle explanation from Ari Gejdenson about the sudden closing of Suna (also a bunch of stuff about their liquor license).

 

"In responding to questions raised by nearby neighbors, Gejdenson shed new light on the sudden closing of Suna and lent credence to neighbor concerns that the restaurant had gone beyond neighbor’s understanding of what Aqua Al Due (AA2) would be. Alluding to a possible disagreement with Suna chef Johnny Spero, Gejdenson said that Suna was supposed to be a “tasting room” within AA2, but the chef wanted to establish a separate operation and compete with AA2, “that’s part of the reason it ended quickly.” Citing the blogosphere reaction when Suna closed and Harold Black Bar stayed open, Gejdenson said “it seemed like a separate operation.” Although Gejdenson cited other examples of “tasting rooms” it is in reality unclear how these differ from a restaurant in a factual sense, and indeed, if Chef Spero was attempting to compete with AA2, it’s not clear that they do.

 

Regarding the space which was formerly Suna, Gejdenson said, “all we’re doing is private dining and cocktail events.” He went on to say that he would think that the neighbors would be happy (with Harold Black Bar) which prohibits standing at the bar and loud conversation, and limits seating to 28. Frishberg backed up the claim, noting that the bar’s rules of decorum are printed on the menu."


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