In Washingtonian review, some read a below-the-toque swipe at Jose Andres

September 3, 2014

A review of the America Eats Tavern in Tysons Corner made waves. (Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

A recent review in Washingtonian magazine of America Eats Tavern, the newest offering by celebrity chef Jose Andres, is the kind of take-down that leaves readers cringing (sometimes in delight, because as we know, scathing reviews can make for delicious guilty pleasures).

But one particular barb in the write-up that appeared in the mag’s September issue seemed to put some readers off — and set the city’s foodie scene abuzz.

After roundly trashing the Tysons Corner restaurant (“contrived,” “stiff,” and “tone-deaf to the spirit of what it aspires to capture”) and taking the fare to task for various offenses (the burger was overpriced and overcooked; the chicken and dumplings oversalted), writer Todd Kliman ended the review with this: “Andrés recently became an American citizen. Let’s hope next time he can come up with a better thank-you to his adopted country than this gutless homage.”

Andres, a native of Spain, took his oath of citizenship last year. Some read the kicker (that’s journo-speak for a pithy concluding paragraph) as a curiously personal criticism in a piece otherwise devoted to analyzing Andres’s performance as a chef and restaurateur.

In an online comment to the piece, local blogger Alejandra Owens scolded Kliman, a longtime food writer who is well known and generally respected in the local food scene. The review was “completely invalidated by the low blow you deliver in the closing,” she wrote. “This is a deeply personal comment to make and a completely inappropriate one at that.” She posted the article to her Facebook page, where some members of the local restaurant community shared her reaction.

Local food blog Eater DC highlighted the quote. On Twitter, others echoed surprise at the mention of Andres’s citizenship.

Kliman defended his words, standing behind his pan of the restaurant but saying Andres’s citizenship wasn’t the target. “This was a relatively critical review, and any talk of it being anti-immigrant feels like an attempt to change the subject,” he told the Reliable Source, noting that he’s written extensively about many cuisines and cultures in the region. “You’d have to really really search far and wide to find a critic who has spent more time immersing himself in [them], trying to give them the great due they deserve.”

And not all commenters took offense. Below Owens’s comment, there was an anonymous rejoinder: “Geez, people are too sensitive these days … Todd didn’t say anything inappropriate or negative about his citizenship, he was just criticizing the meal.” Andres didn’t respond, either on social media or to our request for a comment, but he did retweet a message from fellow chef Eric Bruner-Yang critical of the Kliman comment.

[Insert non-offensive kicker here.]

Read more Reliable Source: 

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Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Helena Andrews · September 3, 2014