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Week in Reviews: August, Buddakan, Bistro du Vent

[Kalina, 3/1/06]

1) Bruni takes the 10-1 odds and goes for a two-star review of West Village shoebox August. Never one to resist a name-drop, least of all two that would embellish his already growing hipster cred, Frank describes would-be diners' faces:

It was two parts hope, one part dread and one part determination — the same expression worn by supplicants at Freeman's and Blaue Gans.
That said, the first bite of the tarte flambee wipes all memories of awkward sidewalk-style waiting from his memory, and the rest of the dishes—potato and ham mash, Scandinavian-nodding shrimp salad, chicken paprikash, mustard-glazed pork belly—keep the time-sensitive critic at bay. The worst Frank's claws come out are when he calls some dishes—like the casserole of salt cod or the "strangely sour hamburger"—"unappealing." Bruni, very helpfully, ends the review:
Besides, you could beat the crowds by supping early or late. You could do lunch, when the menu's a hybrid of dinner and brunch. You could even go at a prime time and get lucky. If that happens and you feel the warmth of August's welcome, you'll be tempted to return, no matter the risks. I say that almost without reservation.
Service journalism, and a pun? Spring is in the air! [NYT]

2) Platt heads over to NoMeat to grant two stars to megaultrasuperbehemoth Buddakan, finds himself first lost, then grateful to his Sherpa-style hostesses, then overawed by Christian Liagre's Chinoiserie-inflected renovation of the old 9th Ave Nabisco cookie factory, then unconvinced that Buddakan feels like the restaurant it, maybe, should.

It feels like an oversize nightclub, or a random gathering in the semi-abandoned mansion of some absent Cantonese billionaire.
That said, the food—cooked by the "non-Chinese chef Michael Sulson"—arrives, and "the mood changes." Not-very-Chinese highlights are deboned frogs' legs, tuna tartare spring rolls, and cabbage-rolled sea bass, while Cantonese spring rolls, steamed pork buns, and scallion pancakes bring it back down to Chinatown. Overall, it seems a little Spice Market Round Two: a little too big, a little too busy, still totally tasty. Bonus close-reading props: effete Sherpas, anyone? [NYM]

After the jump, an orgy-free take on Bistro du Vent, more on Good Fork, and Bruni puns galore.

3) Tables for Two makes a concerted effort at exploding the prevailing myth that the theater-district Bistro du Vent, despite being a (should-be foolproof?) Batali-Bastianich-Pasternak collaboration, just kind of sucks. Because even though "eight o'clock might as well be midnight," the food is "worth lingering over." Mysteries of Page Six-reported after-hours orgies and Michelin-starred Laurent Gras' kitchen presence aside, the food is, straight-up, "spectacular." Sweetbreads, prawns clams, striped bass, lamb saddles, spit-roasted poussins. With baguettes! It's... just... beautiful! [New Yorker]

4) $25 and Under picks up where last week's Underground Gourmet left off, at Red Hook's Asian-inflected Good Fork. In a land of bars and open-til-midnight liquor stores, it seems Good Fork was exactly what the neighborhood needed, as are its sweetbreads, Korean steak and eggs, and actually crabby (baitermeat free?) crabcakes. Assuming they can keep it together, Meehan'll be back. [NYT]

Elsewhere, Augieland waxes lyrical about Otto's ramps pizza; NYCNosh tries brunch at East Village standby Mogador; Amateur Gourment points out the difference between Bouchon Bakery and Samsung; and BruniBlog has a "lunch from hell" at (zing!) Hellas-inflected Kellari. This week's lesson? Sunshine makes a difference.