It’s not quite at the same pitch as Jeffrey Chodorow’s famous letter to the Times after Frank Bruni’s zero-star Kobe Club review, but Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s rebuke to our own Adam Platt was potent nonetheless. Maybe it’s because Vongo, a far-cooler customer than Chodorow, so rarely speaks about bad reviews. He doesn’t think that Platt was wrong or vicious in giving Matsugen only one star. Rather, he was just misinformed. “It seems he may have misunderstood the concept behind Matsugen — it’s commitment to pure, authentic Japanese cooking,” Vongerichten writes.
Matsugen’s dishes are not spicy, not aggressively seasoned, and they’re not meant to be. Everything on the menu builds upon the very best of what the Matsushita brothers have served in Japan. I was taken by their cooking when I first ate at their Tokyo restaurant years ago and I still am today here in New York. I trust that other diners will be too.
In other words, not everything is supposed to blow you away with pork fat and funky masalas, you big goon! Secretly, we suspect that Vongerichten was more hurt than he lets on. Despite his seemingly imperturbable surface, he’s said to be extremely sensitive to slights and put-downs: Alan Richman’s full-bore takedown of the chef in GQ in 2004 was said to have kept the chef in bed for two days. We can just hear Platt protesting that “one star means ‘good’! It’s not a slam!” but that will weigh but little to Jean-Georges.