The best review of the worst restaurant

Tina Nguyen’s review of Trump Grill(e?) for Vanity Fair is a work of art.

Politics aside, Tina Nguyen’s now-famous review of the resturant inside New York’s Trump Tower is the stuff of legend and journalistic goals. She took a basic restaurant review and told a story out of her experience, from the atmosphere, the people around her, and most importantly, the food.

Nguyen is a political writer at Vanity Fair’s politics and business-focused magazine The Hive. Her other most recent pieces focus on breaking political news like Trump’s transition, Obama’s recent press conference on Russian hacking, and Democrats’ recovery post-election. Her articles all have the brutal honesty and voice of her Grill review, something I find refreshing in the always stoic news cycles of the NYT, AP, and so on.

Now I love a good Trump bashing as much as the next bleeding heart liberal, but I really loved Nguyen’s piece for its writing. Nothing about Nguyen’s writing sounds passive. I could easily talk about her use of analogy, metaphor, and her great use of imagery, but it’s something readers should see for themselves:

The restaurant features a stingy number of French-ish paintings that look as though they were bought from Home Goods. Wall-sized mirrors serve to make the place look much bigger than it actually is. The bathrooms transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store. And like all exclusive bastions of haute cuisine, there is a sandwich board in front advertising two great prix fixe deals.

I asked the waiter what Trump’s children eat. He didn’t seem to understand the question, or, like Marco Rubio, appeared unable to depart from his prescribed talking points.“Oh, I’ve shaken hands with him before, and they’re pretty normal-sized hands,” he responded.

The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan.

The fried shell, meant for one, contained a party-sized amount of lettuce and ground beef suspended in sour cream and “Dago’s famous guacamole”, which NASA might have served in a tube labeled “TACO FILLING” in the early days of the space program. Sadly, the taco bowl, perfectly adequate as it was, is not good enough to prevent Trump from deporting millions of Hispanics.

The Fifth Avenue — Grey Goose with Cointreau and a “splash of cranberry” — tasted like vodka mixed with Crystal Light, the ultimate drink for an 18-year-old pledging a sorority.

Savage. And wonderfully written, her own voice coming through clearly in her assessment of Trump’s restaruant as a possible metaphor for the man and his upcoming presidency. At the end she says she wanted to be generous in her review, but looks around the grill again and the parade of humiliated Trump enemies vying for postions on his staff going in and out of the lobby. Nguyen takes in the tourists and overwhelmed staff and has to “wonder if he cared about any of them, either.”

Of course the man who’s too busy to hold a formal press conference or attend intelligence meetings has more than enough time to respond to a bad review in Vanity Fair. He tweeted his anger, because that’s all he knows how to do, and specifically called out the editor of the magazine, Graydon Carter.

Interestingly enough, NPR reported back in March that Carter was the one who started the beloved running joke of Trump’s small hands. The satirical magainze he co-created, Spy, would lambast Trump and NPR says, “the magazine chronicled New York’s obsessions with wealth and social status, zeroing in on Trump’s questionable business dealings (of which there were many) and his outlandish personal traits (of which there were perhaps even more).” So really, this has less to do with the review and more with Trump’s easily wounded pride.

Fortunately, Nguyen, Carter, and Vanity Fair came out the stronger for the article. CBS Money Watch reported, “in the aftermath, Vanity Fair said Thursday’s subscriptions soared 100 times the level it usually gets in a day. Plus, Thursday saw the largest number of subscriptions sold in a single day for any Condé Nast publication. Further, Vanity Fair added 10,000 new Twitter followers.”

So I say read Nguyen’s article for its writing, stay for its scathing review of Trump’s attempt to con people into believing he offers a quality product — be it his restaurant, competency, or presidency.

Not This Bitch’s President

Well America, we done fucked up.

I talk a lot about the importance of representation. Strong women, Asian American, LGBTQ, POC communities in general. Those are what I want to see, because it means so damn much to look at the media, your government, your neighborhood and feel like you belong. Your existence is valid and your voice will be heard. Last night, we saw the flip side of that.

For the next four years, any dumbass bully will look up to the highest office in the land and see themselves reflected back. Trump’s entire campaign told that idiot shit head you went to high school with that he won’t see consequences for his racist, sexist, homophobic actions. No, even better, he can become President of the United States of America. If little girls in America were going to look up at Hillary Clinton and say, That could be me some day, then so too will any little white rich boy who refuses to grow up and take responsibility.

I convinced myself at one point last night that when I woke up it was all going to be a dream. That this didn’t just happen. But it did. That man, Donald Trump, a man with no political experience or knowledge is slated to become our next President. After four years with the first black president in America, the jilted, racist, middle America felt threatened enough (by a woman leader) to vote in droves for that.

Of course they don’t really know what feeling threatened is like. I do. I am scared of the next four years. I don’t feel safe when I think of the next four years. I fear for myself, as a Chinese American, feminist, journalist. But more importantly I fear for my black, LGBTQ, Latinx, Muslim, and POC friends.

After a year and a half of being encouraged to beat, harass, and attack minorities — and many did — that atmosphere of Us vs. Them (i.e.: White vs. Other) will only heighten in the next four years. His message of hate, misogyny, fear, racism actually resonated with a 84 percent of America. With an approving president looking on from the White House, what’s stopping them?

When I went on Instagram today, I already saw the immediate hate mongering that will be our future. These are only 3 Asian Americans, targeted because they were outspoken about the real issues America faces today: immigration, Islamophobia and hate crimes, LGBTQ rights, reporting the truth in the media. I can’t imagine what the black, Islamic, and LGBTQ leaders are facing right now.

Last night and this morning, I curled up in despair. I didn’t want to see more confirmation that this was our new reality. I wanted to hide under my covers and ask Why? How? What? again and again until it made sense. I wanted to reach out to my POC, LGBTQ friends and loved ones who felt the same fear, sickness, and sadness and just hold each other. I wanted some one to blame, I wanted a recount of the votes, I wanted for this all to go away. But it won’t. So that means I have only one option:

Work. Write. I have the voice, means, and privilege to hold this motherfucker accountable at every turn and I will. I love what I do, and I’m pretty damn good at it too. This Bitch will not let him bully me, a journalist, feminist, and Asian American into silence.

To take advice from a piece by the Poynter Institute:

  • Tell stories. Maybe we were telling the wrong stories to the wrong people. But we know that stories help people understand each other. So we have to keep looking for stories to tell.
  • Hold the powerful accountable. This will be easier with a president than with a candidate. An actual president causes real consequences, starting with the economy today, and extending to our justice system, education system, our social welfare system and the security of our nation.
  • Explain more things. This may be the one area where journalists universally fell short. While there was some great explanatory work over the past 18 months, it paled in comparison to the horse race banter.
  • Help identify the pathway forward. Give your audience a way to be heard, a way to listen to each other and concrete actions they can take.
  • Finally, model compassion and civil discourse. We need that now more than ever.

These next four years are going to be awful, and we’re not going to get through it alone. And we don’t have to. Reach out to each other, support each other, and stay strong. And start digging because there’s not a whole lot of light at the end of this tunnel.


If you’re like me, you also just really need this right now: