Route 9 Revisited

​I didn't want to have to respond to the Route 9 brouhaha, but so many untruths are out there that I really have no choice. I made four factual errors in one review -- it's pretty hard to imagine making more, and something like that obviously should never happen. I sincerely apologize to readers for my shoddy work.

Had any of my errors had any effect on what I was saying about the restaurant in the review, and therefore had hurt the restaurant in any way, it would be a really bad offense that I'd feel terrible about; I would be profusely apologizing to the restaurant owners. For instance, if I followed getting the date of their CIA graduation wrong with a remark that they were too old to be effective; or if I wrote that after high school they prepped in Miami, and followed that by saying the choice of Miami rather than a place like San Francisco had limited their growth; or if I wrote that the taco suffered because of the ingredients. But I did not. If I had misled readers into thinking the place was better than it was because of those errors I would also feel terrible and would profusely apologize to the readers for that as well. But I did not.

So yes, I had the worst workweek out of my last 600 or so of reviewing at New Times, and it is the nature of my job that when I louse up in royal fashion, everyone gets to know about it. But four factual errors (of which one menu item was involved) is the sum total of my transgressions. I'll repeat: That's very bad. Everything else, though, is just Charlie Sheen-like fun and entertainment. And really, I'm OK with that, which is why I didn't initially respond. But people are taking the silly stuff a wee bit too seriously, so let me set at least a few things straight:

- Nothing in the review was fabricated. I was present on both visits. Mr. Goldberg told my editor that Klime had dined with a woman and two Latin people. First time I've ever been mistaken for two people, Latin or otherwise, but the point is, we have my credit card receipts with dates and times to prove it. I might as well also use this opportunity to state unequivocally that I have attended every meal at every restaurant that I have ever reviewed.

- There was no conflict of interest: I've known Klime a long time. He had just returned to town to take on his own new place, so I took him with me to eat. He paid for his own food. Trio is not on any level in competition with Route 9 -- not in terms of genre, size, mission, or locale (it is in a different city). I would not have done so if it were.

- Klime contributed nothing to the review, nor does anybody I take out to dine with me. As I've already stated, Mr. Goldberg's claim that Klime admitted to doing so is a fabrication (I mean, even if Klime really had contributed, why on Earth would he admit that to Jeremy?). Anyone who has read my stuff should know I have strong enough opinions of my own that I don't need anyone to help me. It might surprise people to know that I rarely discuss my meals in depth with those I take on review -- obviously there are some comments passed between us about the food as with any dinner, but I don't integrate the review into my table discussions nor am I unduly influenced on what those who dine with me may say. If over the years I have used a guest's specific impressions, I have indicated so (I'm thinking Vinnie at Prime Italian). Klime happened to like the place and said it reminded him of when he and Huguette first opened Crystal Café together on a shoestring budget and a lot of very hard work. That's why Klime gave Jeremy his business card -- as a gesture of collegiality between two local chefs.

I might also note that during the years that Klime owned Crystal Café and I was writing reviews, I never reviewed the restaurant or wrote about Klime or the restaurant in any other format. And when Frank Randazzo and I had a little tit-for-tat after a blog post, I made sure somebody else reviewed the Water Club. I've always been careful in avoiding conflicts of interest.

- The "pie" error was committed during the editorial process. My original sentence read: "Banana cream pie is one of a few desserts offered verbally each night. The word pie should be written in quotation marks..." -- by which I meant my use of the word pie at the beginning of the sentence. Lord knows I made enough mistakes without having another added to my tab. This point is relevant, because had I not known that the menu was recited verbally and claimed a written dessert menu that in reality didn't exist was somehow lacking, it would lend credence to the idea of my not being there. If any investigative journalist wants to check the NT editorial records of my original draft, you certainly have my permission to do so.

- I understand Jeremy Goldberg being unhappy with the review. Now, had he been the chef at Route 9, I'd consider him sort of an egotistical jerk for overreacting. But his wife is the chef, and he is defending her, which I think is noble. I would do the same for my wife. Except I like to think that I would do so in a more honest and responsible manner. I would not have claimed the reviewer wasn't there at the restaurant, or made up a phony quote from Klime to make it seem as though he contributed, or have gone to Klime's place of employment and used inappropriate language to the hostess there. There are other things Mr. Goldberg said -- the table was "difficult," he spent time talking to us, etc. -- that aren't true, but, as I say, I get that he's trying to hurt the messenger.

And I also get that in today's world, anyone can say anything untrue about anyone, and within an hour some national blog will trumpet the possibility of it being true, thus lending credibility to it, and then all sorts of bloggers and commenters will discuss it as though it really were true. But I do I agree it's fair game for local food bloggers to post and posit on Jeremy's claims -- it's their (and my) job to cover stories just like this.

I bear no grudge toward Jeremy at all, and sincerely wish he and Paola success with Route 9. I always root for folks like this to make good -- even more so this time because I am also a CIA grad -- but I try not to let my rooting affect objectivity when writing reviews.

Finally, I am well aware that none of this could have happened without my having opened the door with my sloppy writing. And one last time: I apologize to readers for being lax in that respect.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein