The Post and Courier‘s full-time food editor and chief critic Hanna Raskin penned a review of Fanny and Patrick Panella’s new Spanish tapas restaurant Malagón this week. While all of Raskin’s reviews — see: only full-time food critic in the city — receive their fair share of attention, this review was picked up by national outlets.
But what’s so scintillating about Malagón?
Raskin couldn’t tell you — the Panellas preemptively banned her from reviewing the restaurant after finding fault with her 2014 review of another one of their properties, Chez Nous. But Raskin tried what she could, and then came as close as she’s come yet to fully addressing the controversy that has swirled around her restaurant criticism since Charleston Wine + Food festival last month. [content-1] In an email to Raskin, Patrick notified the critic of her expulsion: “Ms. Raskin: After careful consideration, we have decided not to grant you access to review our new restaurant: Malagón. We understand that you are an influential voice in the food and beverage community and that this is an uncommon position to take; however, we do not wish to subject ourselves to the type of personal insults or inaccuracies that were on display when you reviewed Chez Nous almost five years ago.”
The Panellas, who also own Bin 152, shared the full email on Facebook.
[image-1] The Malagón banning comes a year after Raskin announced during a 2018 Pecha Kucha speech that she had been banned from Hall Management Group properties, and only weeks after prominent Charlestonian Terri Henning took to social media with the query, “I think it’s time for a serious conversation about why the Food and Beverage Community deserves a skilled restaurant critic. Do you agree?”
Raskin asked that anyone with beef shoot her an email. “I’d be happy to discuss, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Raskin landed at the Post and Courier in 2013 with previous experience in Seattle, Dallas, and Asheville. Since arriving in Charleston, Raskin has won the James Beard Award for Local Impact journalism and Association of Food Journalists’ awards for “Best Restaurant Criticism” and “Best Food Business Story.”
The Panellas’ businesses have also gotten their share of accolades. Since opening in 2014, Chez Nous has been reviewed in Bon Appetit; Malagón, which opened last month helmed by chef Juan Cassalett, has already been highlighted in Garden & Gun; and Bin 152 has appeared in Travel & Leisure.
[content-2] Unable to sit down to a multi-course tapas meal at Malagón, Raskin had co-conspirators smuggle out bits of food for her, but something delicious seemed apparent. “Even from the literal scraps of evidence I could tell that something special is happening at Malagón.”
In the review, Raskin points out, that “Panella didn’t have to supply a reason for the pre-emptive ban: Restaurant owners have the legal right to decide who’s allowed through their doors, so long as they’re not discriminating against a protected class.” But she also notes, “it’s not up to a restaurateur to dictate if or how the local newspaper covers his business.”
Raskin lauds Malagón’s “magnificently crisp golden croquettes” where ham is the “centerpiece” and the “travel size-orbs” are “charged with silky bechamel.”
The review is incomplete, with ratings of food, service, and atmosphere left unstarred “because it wasn’t possible to visit the restaurant.” There are comical “?” next to “noise” and “temperature.”
But shifting her focus from Malagón directly in the review’s final act, Raskin zooms out to address the larger perspective on and from within the Charleston restaurant scene (which generated that recent backlash against her), proposing that the local industry is “about to hit adolescence,” conceding that it is a “tumultuous time.”
Raskin: “But it’s a critical time, too. Because what lies on the other side of the storm is adulthood, the point at which people begin to look outward and consider perspectives other than their own.”
“Charleston restaurants may collectively decide that they never want to grow up — they’d prefer to stay cute and cling to the folks they know instead of engaging with strangers from diverse backgrounds with different opinions. That’s an understandable inclination. But it also comes with consequences.”
Raskin has written little else in response to recent controversy about her food criticism, but she did tell Eater’s Erin Perkins last month, “I very much appreciate the interest in food journalism and its practice, and am always available for conversation. I can be reached at email@example.com or (843) 937-5560.”
Reached on Thursday, the Panellas have no comment.