Letters from the issue of May 1-7, 2003

Invoking Osama bin Laden and remembering George Zirwas

Your Food Critic Has Poor Taste

And I don't mean that he can't tell polenta from bruschetta: For more than seven years I've been reading the wonderful and informative New Times. I always read the restaurant reviews, and have even sent some e-mails voicing my agreement or disagreement. After reading Lee Klein's review of Metro Kitchen & Bar ("Metro Pale," April 24), I felt compelled to comment.

I was disheartened that, at a time like this, Mr. Klein would make reference to Osama bin Laden, as well as saying he was tempted to drop a piece of spaetzle on the floor to see how high it would bounce. This leads me to believe that the professional critic has poor taste (no pun intended) in his choice of words. I completely respect the job Mr. Klein is allowed to do, and I look forward to reading his reviews each week, but these remarks were off-color and left me dismayed.

Within the past two months I have been to Metro Kitchen twice and enjoyed both meals. One was better than the other, but both were enjoyable.

Michael B. Jacobs, executive chef

Ferrell Schultz Carter Zumpano & Fertel, P.A.

Miami

We Believe I Was Offended

We also think I am a pillar of the community and we ask that I receive an apology: We just read Lee Klein's review of our restaurant, Metro Kitchen & Bar, and are very disappointed he did not have an entirely pleasant experience. We apologize for that. As we write this letter, we are taking action to address all the problems appropriately addressed in the review.

While we understand that Mr. Klein has the right to highlight his personal dislikes at a particular establishment, such as certain dishes or the service, we find unprofessional and highly offensive the manner in which he wrote the review, particularly some of the references he made. For example, using war references such as the veal cutlet being pounded by a "bunker-buster," and his waiter being "harder to find than Osama bin Laden," are plainly in very bad taste. They are unacceptable, politically incorrect, and blatantly inappropriate. We are frankly surprised that New Times would allow such references to be made in a restaurant review. They could hurt our establishment and have us endure prejudice and, ultimately, economic hardship. Is that what New Times really wants?

A community paper of New Times's caliber should support local businesses. An article of this kind, which is mean-spirited and disrespectful of the hard work and many years of dedication my partner and I have put forth in this community, could turn locals against you. Referencing my hard-earned money is also very inappropriate. Why would Mr. Klein make personal references to my bank account that he knows nothing about? I have been a pillar of this community and helped transform it into the success story it is today. My management team and I have put our blood and sweat into building, maintaining, and now improving this property. We are all locals and have worked with perseverance over the past decade to achieve good rapport with our local community.

The bottom line is this: We are hosting hundreds of Miami locals and tourists each week, dedicated patrons who find our product to be more than satisfactory. If Mr. Klein felt that our establishment did not meet his expectations, then he could have reported so in a professional manner and not attack the core of our business.

We are not opposed to constructive criticism, but we cannot accept sarcastic and vicious commentary that is out of place. Who does Mr. Klein think he is, anyway? Making references to the war and to America's most-wanted terrorist and associating me, my staff, and my establishment with someone who did such horrible things to our country is inconceivable. We suffered from the September 11 attack like everyone else, and it is astonishing that this review is associating the Astor with such negativity. I find it hard to believe that this paper would condone such irresponsible journalism, and I believe we are entitled to an apology.

Karim Masri

Hotel Astor

Miami Beach

We Fondly Remember George

His warmth and generosity were the highlights of our visit to Havana: Because of President Bush's absurd crackdown on travel to Cuba, we are hesitant to attach our names to this letter regarding the wonderful article about George Zirwas, written by Kathy Glasgow and Lissette Corsa ("Murdered in Havana," April 17). Our story, however, is true.

We met George in January 2001 on a flight from Nassau to Havana. It was open seating on an ancient Aeroflot plane so crammed with seats that most people's knees were up against their chins. We ran for the more spacious emergency-exit seats and George asked to sit next to us. We thus had a window into his happy realm, and he in turn warmly assisted us during our stay.

With no hotel reservation (we had just found out about the reservation mix-up in Nassau) and pathetically poor Spanish, we had no plan. My wife noticed a kitchen utensil poking out of one of his many plastic shopping bags, figured he wasn't a tourist, and asked for advice. From that moment George was our guardian angel throughout our entire trip to Havana.

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