Mac ‘n Cheese…$55

Only one star in The New York Times. Ouch! Not too swift for the much buzzed-about restaurant, The Waverly Inn, to which Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has tied his gastronomic fortunes. (Does he really knead the dough?)

Actually, The Times’s restaurant critic Frank Bruni chose today to take down a few of the city’s haughty hot spots. As for Graydon’s home away from home, Bruni had this to say:

“He actually asked if the $55 macaroni and cheese with shaved white truffles could be ordered without the truffles. He didn’t get it. The whole point is the comedy of getting and being seen getting something so absurdly costly. No truffles, no deal. No kidding, Graydon, Waverly is sweet. It’s not just about an A-list daisy chain of writers, actors, models. It’s not just about ringside seats to the latest Perelman-Barkin smackdown.”

Bruni’s other feature today, “You May Kiss the Chef’s Napkin Ring,” dovetailed nicely with his critical (if confusing) review of the de rigeur Waverly:

“It’s not just the unsavory dinner times ‘We’d be delighted to seat you at 4:45 or 11:30!’ that the voice on the other end of the line trills. It’s the rules laid out, the threats: Call to confirm your reservation precisely 36 hours in advance, or else. Call if you’re running more than 12 minutes 45 seconds late, or else.”

Mr. Bruni makes a valid point. Earlier this week, a full-page ad in The Times trumpeted a new service that allows dining fashionistas to pay $3-400-a-year to ensure a coveted reservation at one of the city’s restaurants-du-jour.

“Once they were lucky to have us. Now we’re lucky to have them. They don’t meet us on our terms. We meet them on theirs,” observes Bruni.

I suspect that the food at The Waverly is not bad. But it’s not really about the food. It’s more about that rare Core Club kind of atmosphere – a place to see and be seen.

Word has it that Mr. Carter will not allow the restaurant to be photographed. Then who’s brilliant idea was it to have The Times review the restaurant in the first place? You’d think Cuozzo’s earlier send-up “The Inn Crowed Outlandish” would have offered a sneak peek of what to expect. Me thinks The Waverly could have coasted along rather nicely without the jaundiced take from a restaurant critic.