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Week in Reviews: Buddakashazam, Buddha Fight!!!, A Voce

[Kalina, 5/1/06]

1) He likes it! He really (with caveats) likes it! Today, our man Bruni sides with the official Eater Bet, gives Buddakan two stars. More importantly, he's back in the business of kicky kickoffs:

If a restaurateur is going to enter the competitive downtown arena of pseudo-Asian pleasure domes, he might as well go for broke. He might as well blow out more than 15,000 square feet of space, fill it with bright colors and festoon it with jumbled visual allusions: an enormous fake European tapestry here, scores of artfully showcased Buddha pictures over there.
He might as well dim the lights, crank up the hypnotic music and flood the zone with dozens of servers. He might as well try to leave Megu and Matsuri in the dust and Spice Market gasping for air.
Oh he so did not just go there. Once off the decor (which, explaining the fewer stars, looks "junky after fifth or sixth inspection") and on to the food, Bruni's loving most of it, especially the mae poe tofu ("If you want tofu to bust loose like this, you have to give it meat as well as heat."), tuna tartare, Cantonese spring rolls, steamed snapper, sole, and, of course, the requisite post-Nobu glazed black cod. For dessert, Frank seems to have particular fondness for the "'crying chocolate' cake," which "wept delectable tearsof white chocolate ganache." Frank, it's great to have you back. [NYT]

2) The Cuozz calls for Buddakan and Buddha Bar to get together and work that shit out, as he'll "like New York better as a one-Buddha town." In the Buddha-off, B-Bar comes out ahead in the having-a-gigantic-buddha-statue round, while B-Kan no-contest wins on the food front. And the style front. And the lack of "hordes of shirts-out-of-pants guys and chubby, boobs-popping babes" front, which B-Bar is rocking just a little too hard. Then again, in terms of things to look at, B-Bar's got jellyfish tanks and koi ponds, while B-Kan's idea of visual fun is a "conga-line of boozing 30-somethings wobbling down converging staircases." This one's gonna have to be a walk-off. [NYPost]

After the jump, a wash on A Voce, Bouley and burgers, and the usual blogosphere runaround.

3) Platt two-stars Andrew Carmellini's A Voce, both psyched and disappointed at how unintrusive and comfortable everything—from the decor to the food—is.

To someone whose job it is to explore the increasingly bizarre, Oz-like world of Manhattan restaurants, the first reaction, upon sitting down to dinner at A Voce, is relief. Everything about the place is carefully calibrated to convey a sense of soothing, almost soporific familiarity, including the décor, which is a study in retro Four Seasons–style modernity.
Which is great, but then again...
Unless, perhaps, you’re a devout Daniel Boulud fan, it’s difficult to be disappointed with any of this food. But since Carmellini is a chef capable of all sorts of culinary pyrotechnics, it’s hard to get too excited, either. A Voce is a place where all the rough edges have been conspicuously smoothed away, where the tone emanating from the kitchen isn’t hard rock (Batali) or haute classical (Boulud) but low-wattage easy-listening jazz.
Our service take? Stick to the market menu (spaghetti with ramps, squab, pork chop, black sea bass); don't knock yourself out on the fine but somewhat listless regular one (chicken cacciatoria, braised lamb shank, duck, scallops). The final sting? "If I wasn’t in the neighborhood, I might not make the trip." Ouch. [NYMag]

4) Tables for Two's Leo Carey heads downtown and upstairs to check out the new tri-level Bouley, Upstairs, finds himself fairly satisfied with the French-American fare (plus sushi, of course), but less so with the conceptual integration of dishes like grilled eel and cucumber and squash soup. Not to mention the punches the waitresses have to get used to getting thrown at them in the uber-cramped space. Still, it's almost all worth it for a sight of Bouley himself, as he "casually munches a burger." [New Yorker]

Elsewhere, $25 and Under's Peter Meehan hears himself slurp at Naka Naka; Augieland awards 921 opentoclozillian stars to the worthwhile Ditch Plains; Bruni, in an extra-credit week, takes on old-school Italian; and the Amateur Gourmet has the misfortune of the worst meal ever at Orchid. Overall, a delightfully sparky week.


75 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011 212 989 6699