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Week in Reviews: Dona, Craftsteak, Burgers, Sandwiches

[Kalina, 6/12/06]

1) As wagered, Bruni gives the Greco-Italian Dona two stars in a mix-and-match lovefest/critical take. He likes about half the dishes, seems to find the other half a touch too precious/conceptually overdone. Thankfully, he Week-in-Reviews-style breaks it down himself:

Above all else it's an expression of their ambitions, which means it reaches high and far — too far at times. Across an expansive menu that embraces raw seafood (terrific), pasta dishes (hit-or-miss), entrees (ditto) and a lobster tasting menu (forgettable), Mr. Psilakis works furiously to impress, loading and occasionally overloading plates with flavors and effects.
Requisite Frankophilic pun appreciation:
You see it, you taste it and — holy Zorba! — you get it. It's an unbound classic, spanakopita with a skylight, and it's a terrific example of just how resourceful Mr. Psilakis can be.
But it's not all about the chef, and Frank's loving up on the lady just as much. And scarring our imaginations:
If you took 40 years off Sirio Maccioni and gave him curves and a cocktail dress, you'd wind up with someone like her.
Lovely. [NYT]

2) One would think a place that started in Vegas and moved to New York would offer unbridled glitz, glamour, and excellence. On third thought, one wouldn't. Which is what makes Platt's Craftsteak two-star hardly surprising. He tries the strange-for-Colicchio monolithic mega-steakhouse, finds it huge and disappointing (but not hugely disappointing). The place is uneven.

Before you even think about steak, you can enjoy sweetbreads as large as a lady’s fist for $18 (they’re too big), a roasted lobster tail for $24 (it’s too expensive), and an entire lobe of duck foie gras for $160 (I didn’t dare). There are also ten excellent varieties of salad (order the fava beans with crushed hazelnuts), and a battery of inventive tartares, like salmon belly with lemony créme fraîche and caviar ($30, and almost worth it) or hand-chopped Wagyu (worth it).
More than that, Platt's working the theme. He sets it up:
Everything about the new production echoes the old one, only in a bigger, brassier, somewhat less original way. In theatrical terms, it’s like watching the glitzy, overheated traveling production of a first-run Broadway show.
...and knocks it down:
In the theatrical world of restaurants, the rerun is rarely as good as the original.
Snap. [New York]

After the jump, six burgers, eighty-seven sandwich ingredients, and... you know.

3) The Cuozz steps up and does the dirty work of simul-reviewing five burger joints to find the best "shamburger." In descending order of awesome, we've got Peter Luger ("mystery meat" that tastes like chuck); Five Points (grass-fed: flavorful but chewy); DB Bistro Moderne (rather just have the short ribs); Bar Americain ("indistinct flavor"); Artisanal (sirloin blended with brisket but noticed "zero brisket"); and Havana Central ("indecipherable" chorizo stuffing). [NYPost]

4) Meehan spends $25 and Under at Starwich, the "It's a lifestyle" sandwich shop that offers eighty-seven ingredients on fancy bread and fancier salads. You can make your own with a SAT-style bubble form, or go with the "preordained selections," which are unrecommended for their over-enthusiasm.

All fail for the same reason: an overly exuberant desire to cram too many highfalutin ingredients into one dish. Do lobster (surprisingly, not rubbery), yellowfoot mushrooms (with appropriately woodsy flavor) and steamed sunchokes (you love them or you hate them) need to share a stage, as they did in Starwich's lobster salad ($13.95)? No.
Do we still need to try it? Yes. [NYT]

Elsewhere, Gotham Gal likes Le Cirque; Bruni blogs burgers at Zip Burger and Burgers & Cupcakes; Tables for Two catches on to Degustation; and eGullet takes on the formidable task of processing the profundity of last weekend's Big Apple BBQ Block Party.