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Week in Reviews: Freemans, Japonais both goose-egged

1) At the end of the day, Frank Bruni has the burden of relevancy. While others can play it looser, and, fortunately, do, the Frank has to matter. It's one of those for better or for worse things. So his sticking Freemans with a Satisfactory this week is somewhat inexplicable in that it reads mostly as an "I told you so" wrist slap:

It’s the kind of unlikely restaurant you’d sooner expect to find in a David Lynch movie than in reality, but here it is, and here it’s been since the summer of 2004, at times pretending to shun attention as a cunning means of getting it...

Most of its dishes — including a dessert that’s essentially a brownie á la mode and another that mashes together berries and poundcake — could be quickly and easily replicated at home. If cooking were a sport involving a pool, a springboard and numerical degrees of difficulty, nearly everything Freemans does would be a swan dive. There’s not a triple flip in the bunch. That’s not a fatal knock, and Freemans must be commended for keeping the average price of entrees to about $20.

Certainly, Bruni has the right to set the adgenda as he wishes; but come to think of it, perhaps the one would have been better suited for $25 and Under. Oh, right. [NYT]

2) Adam Platt issues a goose egg of his own this week, taking to task Gramercy mega-newcomer Japonais:

A few of the splashy new Asian joints in town (Morimoto, Matsuri, Buddakhan) happen to have accomplished, even world-class, chefs in the kitchen. At Japonais, however, the menu is an overwrought, even cryptic, document, including subsections for “Les Soupes” and “Les Salades,” plus a list of appetizers and maki rolls designed mostly to be picked at with your drinks. The house sushi is standard, though aggressively priced, and the chef’s signature rolls (try “Spicy Mono” and “Tuna Tuna Salmon”) are perfectly good. But after that, things go steadily downhill.
And that's the story of how Japonais got the Deathwatch committee's undivided attention. N.B., Gastro Chic has a few words to say about all this, too. [NYM]

Ahead, Stevie 'The Cuozz' Cuozzo on Boqueria and -- wait for it, wait for it -- Elsewhere.

3) Coming as close as he has in months to filing a formal review, Steve Cuozzo files on Boqueria, which he rather likes:

Tapas-making is a serious craft not mastered merely by throwing a few pieces of Serrano ham on a cracker. Boqueria's lineup is an arresting alloy of tradition and originality. And everything comes out of the kitchen sparkling fresh.

One night, [chef Seamus] Mullen improvised with mackerel "that came in too small" to be a large dish, he said. The fish was pickled, boned and graced with complementary shades of olive tapenade and apple - all in perfect balance.

Mullen's paella Valenciana uses clasparra rice, a short-grain variety with a crackling consistency that's a far cry from the mushy strains common here. It's ideal to absorb the flavors of saffron and shellfish, and it made all the difference.

The menu can be confusing, with dishes of varying sizes priced at $3, $6, $11, $19 and (for sharing) $29. but the waitstaff walks you through it without making you feel like a nincompoop.

Nincompoop, being The Cuozz's subtle way of asserting his non-critic status. [NYP]

Elsewhere, Peter Meehan at Forte Baden Baden, Paul Adams at Tasting Room, Robert Sietsema at Treichville, Bruni via the Bruniblog at Boqueria, Tables for Two at Ushiwakamaru, Strong Upstairs at Country, and Ryan Sutton has the early word on Le Cirque Cafe and Chat Noir.

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