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Is Boston’s toughest restaurant critic going soft?

Holy crap. For foodies who read our pages, it must look like a streak of DiMaggio-like proportions.

First came Basho: a rare four-star review from ROBERT NADEAU, the Phoenix’s long-time restaurant critic, who is known to be frugal with his praise.

The next week, shockingly, he submitted another four-star review: for Stoddard's Fine Food and Ale. We called to make sure it wasn’t a typo. Nope, nope: Nadeau just gave back-to-back raves.

To get a sense of how rare such an occurrence is, you have to know this about Nadeau: he doesn’t fuck around. He can be mean and is always tough. He’s naturally contrarian, consumer-oriented, dismissive of the ‘food community,’ populist, and given to drawing on what he describes as both right-wing (“much great food is old-fashioned and culturally conservative”) and left-wing (“much great food is ecologically sound and invented by peasants and oppressed minorities”) methods of critique.

So when this week’s review came in, we were completely in shock. Someone mentioned an Oliver Sacks article and suggested he might have a tumor. We started poking around behind desks to make sure Ashton Kutcher wasn’t hiding somewhere with a film crew and a punchline.

Nadeau has given a third four-star review in the last four weeks: to Khayyam Restaurant. (He calls their lamb shank “
simply the best of the year.”)

Reached at his super-secret location, Nadeau, between mouthfuls, dismissed our incredulity. “I hate star systems exactly because they impose a bell-curve mentality,” he said. “My goal is to represent reality as it is, rather than as a bell curve, so if I am knocked out by what I eat three weeks out of four, that’s three four-star reviews.”

Boston chefs: we dunno what you’re doing, but keep it up. If Nadeau goes four-stars next week we’re going to officially announce a New England cooking renaissance.

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