Critical Condition takes a look at the week's restaurant reviews from the various newspapers and magazines around the United States. Think of it as a snapshot of what's hotand, sometimes, what's not.
GARDEN AT THE CELLAR | Boston Globe
Rating: 2.5 stars (of 4)
Boston's new hot spot, where Will Gilson cooks back-to-basics fare (hangar steak, flatbreads, cod cakes, roasted chicken and tater tots) among pots of herbs. In-the-know Bostonians have made this comfortable restaurant a destination.
PORCHETTA | New York Times
Rating: 1 star (of 4)
Bruni weighs in on Porchetta (241 Smith Street, 718-237-9100), run by 71 Clinton refugee and exposed self-promoter Jason Neroni (he wrote an e-mail imploring his friends to get him nominated for the Beard Rising Star Chef award).
Yum: Roasted and braised short ribs over puréed mustard greens, red pepper, and touches of cream and gorgonzola.
Yuck: The candied lemon zest in the Gnocchi preparation: "The way it interacted with other ingredients made the dish taste as if someone in the kitchen had inadvertently sprayed it with a bit of Pledge furniture polish."
Conclusion: I’d go, but I’d certainly follow Frank’s lead in ordering.
KYOTOFU | New York Times
Style: Tofu dessert
When the "Under $25" columnist for the New York Times stopped by Serious Eats HQ the other day, he told us he loved Kyotofu, the new Japanese tofu dessert restaurant (705 Ninth Avenue, at 48th Street; 212-974-6012). His review today proves it.
Yum: “...The insanely rich scoop of maple-spiked mascarpone atop the toasted-walnut vanilla parfait.
Great lines: "The place couldn’t be a tougher sell. Dessert restaurants are hard enough, but rallying your friends with the late-night cry of 'Who wants to go to Hell’s Kitchen for some tofu?' really pushes it."
Conclusion: Meehan makes us want to go eat tofu for dessert at Kyotofu.
PERA | New York Post
New Yorkers expect Turkish food to be cheap, which limits the quality of the raw materials and results in lackluster fare. Not at Pera, says Steve Cuozzo, where "spices permeate mezes from heaven; sensational breads, like puffy lavash served with tangy, feta-like tulum cheese; and marinated, hand-ground lamb adana butchered on site."
BLT BURGER | The New Yorker
Style: Burger joint
Finally, a critic who sort of likes BLT Burger (470 Sixth Avenue, between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets; 212-243-8226). Personally, I was thrilled when the aforementioned Mr. Meehan laid into BLT Burger, Laurent Tourondel’s misguided attempt to cash in on the cheffy burger craze. But the New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten shows he’s not afraid to swim against the critical tide by calling BLT's burgers well-proportioned and served on blessedly soft, plain, and white buns. Actually a careful reread of his review indicates that he doesn’t really like the place. Maybe Mr. Paumgarten could have been a little clearer in his overall assessment.
Conclusion: You can have a better burger at a Greek coffee shop.
THE LONDON BAR and GORDON RAMSAY AT THE LONDON | New York
Rating: 3 (of 10)
Adam Platt wanders into Hell’s Kitchen and doesn’t get fired (up). Platt shows he is unafraid of the blustery television star (and Michelin 3-starred) chef Gordon Ramsay with a paltry 3 stars (of 10) for Ramsey’s two restaurants in the Hotel London (151 West 54th Street, 212-468-8888). I dined with him on his initial foray into the London Bar, and I thought much of the food was quite good. Platt’s meals there must have taken a precipitous turn for the worse on succeeding visits.
Yum: Pork belly baked with honey and apples.
Best Line: "Ramsey even offers his diners a nice version of that aged haute cuisine warhorse, apple tarte Tatin. Is this the best tarte Tartin in New York City? Probably not. But I doubt you’ll find a better one in Shanghai or Dubai."
Conclusion: "You’ve seen this all before."
BABOUCHE | New York Sun
The food is satisfying and authentic at this Prince Street Moroccan, but the seating's a dragtoo-low tables with uneven surfaces. Adams finds Babouche's pastilla "remarkably accomplished, a tender, spiced mince of chicken in a custardy sauce, all enshrouded in phyllo and dusted liberally with cinnamon and powdered sugar."
SMOKE JOINT | Village Voice
In general, New York barbecue blows, but Smoke Joint gets it right, Robert Sietsema says. The classically trained chefs here smoke a mean brisket but don't do it often (it takes 14 hours). But when they do, it's "amazing brisket—fatty, smoky, and just plain delicious."
Best line: "Maple is Brooklyn's mesquite."
PANE CALDO | Chicago Tribune
Rating: 2 stars (of 4)
Paul Vettel visits this low-key 15-year-old Gold Coast veteran whose Northern Italian fare takes on French accents thanks to its Haitian-native chef. Almost everything on the menu is solid here, but the mille feuille of lobster and the osso buco are true standouts. Avoid the fig-and-prosciutto-stuffed quail with Hawaiian seaweed and papaya vinaigrette.
GINGER ASIAN BISTRO | Chicago Sun-Times
Style: Pan-Asian fusion
Exciting new restaurants are creeping south from Chicago out to the 'burbs, and this is one of the latest. Influences from Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, French, and American cuisines. Steak frites and coffee ribs? The chef is creative but "at times it seems to be not so much inspiration as desperation to create something entirely different." Thai crab cakes and Korean bulgogi beef are winners here.
CUCINA DE-RA | Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Rating: 1.5 stars (of 4)
Flipping the script, De-Ra's lunch is actually better than its dinner, which is a shame, says Rebekah Denn, because the place is priced too high to lure office-worker regulars and is a tad too casual for power lunchers. The house-made pappardelle with sausage and sautéed greens is impressive, but the rest of the menu is shrug-inducing. Comfortable dining room and welcoming atmosphere, though.
BAROLO | Seattle Times
A beauty of a space but beastly meals at Barolo (1940 Westlake Avenue, 206-770-9000). "Elegant Italian-crystal chandeliers hang over a communal table ... candelabra and tabletop tapers flagrantly drip wax, their thousand points of light sparkling off mirrored walls." But only a couple dishes entrance Nancy Leson as much as the setting: "fresh scallops ... sliced and silky, tossed with yolk-colored ribbons of housemade tagliatelle" and the "Slices of melting beef carpaccio showered with Parmesan, capers and arugula."
Conclusion: The chefs, "imported from the Veneitan hotel in Las Vegas," might accout for the fact that a meal here "is pretty much a crapshoot."
ZOYA | San Francisco Chronicle
Style: New American
Rating: 2.5 stars (of 4)
Housed in a funny-looking building that evokes a small-scale revolving restaurant, Zoya's food elicits cheers from the Chronicle's Bill Addison while its digs provoke jeers ("The exterior looks like a funhouse circa 1967"). But it sounds like the place has endeared itself to the critic, particularly the hangar Oscar, whose "steak is remarkably supple," with "Dungeness crab meat mixed with silky hollandaise ... strewn elegantly atop the steak." There are few misses here.
Conclusion: "...A culinary cocoon that serves its neighborhood astutely."