So a 'Times' Critic Walks into a T.G.I. Friday's ... The New York Times sent critics to review chain restaurants this week. David Corcoran reveals what they found, while blogger Ezra Klein describes the conceit as an exercise in contempt for middle America.

So a 'Times' Critic Walks into a T.G.I. Friday's ...

So a 'Times' Critic Walks into a T.G.I. Friday's ...

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The latest New York Times dining section has a review of a restaurant called Momofuku Ko. But that review is largely theoretical for a lot of readers, because the Manhattan restaurant is nearly impossible to sample — it has only 12 seats. Earlier this week, the paper did something unusual: It reviewed the kind of restaurants that are anything but exclusive.

David Corcoran reviewed T.G.I. Friday's as part of the Times piece, which also looked at the Outback Steakhouse, Chili's and the Olive Garden.

"I was intrigued," says Corcoran, who regularly reviews restaurants for the newspapers's New Jersey edition. "Typically, I do the kind of place where it's a 32-seat bistro run by a guy named Philippe. He owns the place, it's small and the dishes are quite nice and refined. Here my editor was asking me to take on a place that has 900 outlets throughout the country."

The idea, Corcoran says, was to apply the same standards of any review to the universe of restaurants where most people go.

But Ezra Klein, a writer and blogger for The American Prospect, took umbrage at the execution. He says Corcoran's review was largely positive, fair and technically fine — it was mainly some of the others that hit the wrong mark. "What shocked me about a couple of these were how overwritten they were," Klein says. "They wrote as if they'd descended into a jungle."

A paragraph from the review of P.F. Chang's drew particular ire:

But this chain restaurant is not for the meek of spirit. The one we visited, at the MarketFair mall in Princeton, N.J., was cold enough to raise goose flesh, dark enough to make us feel as if we were spelunking and noisy enough to bring to mind academic studies on cacophony as torture.

"I wonder what the guys in Baghdad feel about that?" Klein asks. "You know what's not for the meek of spirit? Baghdad."

>> In good taste or not? Let us know what you think on the Bryant Park Project blog, where you'll also learn how much one BPP staffer loves Arby's.