Is Lutäce slipping? The steadfastly classic French restaurant, long considered to be Manhattan's top eatery, has been branded ``old hat'' by some upstart critics. Now—as detailed here by Daria (The Fashion Cycle, 1990)—restaurant critic Bryan Miller is revisiting for The New York Times and owner-chef AndrÇ Soltner has to wonder: Will Lutäce retain the Times' four-star rating? With this question posed at the book's opening to create some semblance of suspense, and answered at the end to close the bracket, Daria takes readers through a typical day at 249 East 50th St., from the 5:30 a.m. arrival of the three sous-chefs...through the ``dizzying'' and ``high-adrenaline'' hours of getting dinner cooked and served...to Soltner's 11:00 p.m. telephone orders for the next day's meat and fish. Lutäce's suppliers, waiters, pot washer, admirers, difficult customers, and professional critics are all given attention, and Daria goes on at fairly vacuous length about everything from the noon bartender's—or this or that sous- chef's or critic's—work history to how waiters keep track of who ordered what. But overall, the focus is on the dedicated Soltner, unfazed by fads, devoted to making his guests happy (favoring or scorning none), exacting about ingredients and preparations—and, yes, beaming with joy when the Times review comes out with all four stars intact. Daria approaches Soltner and Lutäce with less style or wit—or demonstrated background in food or hospitality—than sheer dogged reporting and gratitude at being admitted to the inner operations behind the venerable glamour. No doubt there are others who will appreciate the opportunity to go along.
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