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Week in Reviews: Tired and Mediocre at P.J. Clarke's, Telepan, El Centro,

[Kalina, 1/16/06.]

1) Bruni, seemingly exhausted by last week's Blaue Gans rhyming, takes a breather at P.J. Clarke's on the Hudson, where the food everything comes in at just a zero-star satisfactory.

It's better than snobs would like to think and worse than contrarians would hasten to claim, which may be another way of saying that it's usually serviceable and sometimes respectable.

It does nothing spectacularly well. It does some things badly.

The only Bruni spirit in an otherwise lackluster take on what he finds a lackluster restaurant is wrapped up in the "amenities."

[Owner Philip Scotti] had thoughts about Washington, and he's had 10 copies of the original's famously oversize, winged porcelain urinals made, at a total cost of about $80,000.

Ten was the minimum order that a special ceramics manufacturer in Ohio would accept, he said. Two of these urinals were installed in the new P. J.'s. Four pairs remain. P. J.'s could be the first restaurant chain with a destiny manifestly influenced by lavatory flourishes.

2) Tables for Two alliteratively treks to Telepan, where some things are disappointing and others are okay.

The results are not uniformly excellent, but for every mediocre bit there’s something lively and unique. A quail appetizer was too drab to merit the unwieldy effort to strip the meat from the bone; the accompanying apple-duck sausage was flavorful but dry and crumbly.

After which it starts getting a little better, until...
A smooth peanut-butter-and-milk-chocolate gianduja was classically satisfying, but it arrived with an incongruous heap of huckleberry gelée, which didn’t quite pull off its presumed evocation of jelly.

3) $25 and Under's Peter Meehan checks in at El Centro, billed (by them) as a "really fun place to drink Margaritas," which leads him to be thoroughly unsurprised by the menu's "significant shortcomings." Still, it seems to be worth a visit for some of the better dishes, which include anything "involving salsa roja," a pork Posole, and chicken tamales. The margaritas? "Not my cup of tequila."

Elsewhere, The Hodge boldly discovers this hip little bistro, Florent, in this hip new neighborhood, the Meatpacking District; Augieland gives standby favorite Cru "444 againijrillian stars"; and The Cuozz points out how much Brasserie Ruhlmann is struggling in the wake of its chef's departure.