Welcome to our new Texas-born food writerWhat makes a food critic? This question has been directed toward me a lot lately. A little on my background: I am primarily a journalist. I was managing editor for a city magazine in sunny San Antonio, Texas, until about a month ago, when I made the big move to Indy. I’ve penned quite a few articles on food, both for “my” old mag and others, most notably Plate, a trade magazine for chefs. My work has included the requisite stories on Tex-Mex, that South Texas deity whose invocation will inevitably seep into my food writing.
My agenda as NUVO food writer is utilitarian: convey a dining experience — food, ambience, service — to a reader for his or her possible patronage. And minimize collateral damage. Gordon Ramsey I am not.
I’m still learning about the local dining scene. Lucky for me, I’ve been hand-held (not literally) by my wonderful predecessor, Terry Kirts. You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. I asked Kirts a few questions about his four years here at, ironically, a particularly ho-hum eatery by the airport.
On his review criteria
I think that the two things are innovation and execution. And I always scan the menu to see if there’s ... things [I] haven’t heard of, or flavor combinations or ingredient parings that do something new, or just solid executions of things you are familiar with ... [A restaurant] doesn’t have to innovate if what it does is very good.
On his first memorable review
Shanghai Lil. Because it had so many mishaps: Someone had driven a car into the back of the restaurant; then another night, a storm knocked in the roof; and it took so long to open; and it was in the former location of Peter’s, and also Chops, so it had big shoes to fill.
And so I went in there, there was a lot of mystery and intrigue about it, and I was rewarded with some really complex and elegant interpretations of Japanese and Chinese favorites, from the shiaolung bao (“soup”) dumplings, beautifully presented, to the pineapple shrimp. It was the first place that I gave five stars to.