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Week in Reviews: Country, Country, Country, Country

[Kalina, 10/05]

Before we get deep into the frogs' legs beignets of things—and today we will go deep—a special sidebar congratulations to PR puppetmaster Jennifer Baum for getting not two, not three, but four simultaneous reviews of Country onto the culturescape.

1) Bruni goes a three-star nuts for the "impressively realized" sister to Town, although he does, in Bruni-licious fashion, point out that the naming makes about as much sense as naming your son Antony's little brother Cleopatra. Both the more formal Country and the kickier Cafe at Country get checked out, and they're both "first-rate." Highlights in the cafe are the pressed chicken and un-Moroccan lamb shank, but it's the butter, cream, truffles, and caviar that ratchet the dining room up a couple notches on the manly diner's culinary bedpost. That said, there's room for the "strategic depoyment of vegetables," and a couple "little decisions with big payoffs," like adding mustard to the roasted apple marmelade accompanying the foie gras and pigeon terrine, or garnishing lamb with a cube of its brain. Overall, it seems like he's getting in touch with his inner Midtown Man, thanks in part to the "dark, clubby, distinctly masculine appeal" of the cafe, and in part to his completely unapologetic affection for Country's equally unapologetic luxury. [NYT]

2) Men are from Mars and The Hodg doesn't like Country. She one-and-a-half-stars her way into the restaurant, kicking the criticism off by comparing the place to the "ritzy showcases palaces" built by Soviet Bloc nations "to impress visiting Western customers." The review starts off with her feeling like she's in an "East German hotel circa 1990," and goes downhill from there. The mandatory prix fixe menu is way too short, and the food is, plainly, way too busy. "They can't leave well enough alone," she complains, pointing out her inability to find the squid in a squid dish, the asparagus in an asparagus dish, the point of all that Meyer lemon and truffle and sea urchin in a pasta that would have been just fine on its own, particularly if the "something fishy" in it were left out. That said, the place is somewhat redeemed by the shellfish veloute, deconstructed blanquette du veau, and the desserts, particularly the almond pithiviers, which also nicely brings her back to her point.

Revisionist bourgeois sympathizers will love it. And they will find much else to like at Country too.
Tell us she did not just pre-emptively call Frank a revisionist bourgeois sympathizer. [Observer]

Two more takes, and a swan song, after the jump.

3) Platt brings it back to the boys with his mixed take on both the cafe (barely one star) and the "grand dining room" (almost three stars). Also namechecks the frogs' legs beignets, and seems to split the difference between Bruni and the Hodg right down the middle. Yes, there is a "bombardment of old-fashioned riches," which starts as a Bruni-esque "impressive" but, over three courses, ends up a more Hodgson-sympathizing "daunting." Agrees that the veloutes are great, but concurs with Moira that the "who knows what else" in the Meyer lemon/sea urchin pasta is a little over the top. The Dover sole gets mistaken for a fish stick, and the pork entree is "overly busy." Another score for the Hodg there, and the final blow comes with a similar European-centric endnote smackdown.

But we’re not in Europe, of course. And, as you sip your glass of after-dinner Muscat, you can’t help wondering whether, in their rush to expand, these facile and talented New York chefs haven’t begun to run out of fresh ideas.
Snap. [New York]

4) Tables for Two also treads the line between the Bruni camp and the Hodg's take to call Country "consistently enjoyable," although they're a little less psyched about the "almost confused" complexity of the dishes and the "out-of-place flourishes." That said, the solicitous service (two apple crumb cakes to take home!) and the "simple harmonies" created by most of the accompaniments, makes up for any of the "strained" attempts at hipness. [New Yorker]

Elsewhere, $25 and Under tries having dinner at Williamsburg oyster bar Marlow & Sons, succeeds; The Cuozz laments the loss of 14 Wall Street; New York Sun checks in with the long-awaited E.U.; NYCNosh ventures to Brooklyn's Saul; and Augieland awards 811 copetisillian stars to NYMag's recent best brunch pick, 202.