Park Avenue Autumn, courtesy of the restaurant.
1) First up, we've got Frank Bruni at Park Avenue Autumn, for a somewhat surprising, highly impressive, two stars. It's a gimmick, yes, but it works:
Park Avenue Look-at-the-Weather-and-Fill-In-the-Blank has more than a striking gimmick. It has some terrific food and a talented executive chef, Craig Koketsu...the restaurant strives to capture the seasons not just in the ingredients used — there was sweet corn throughout the summer menu, certain mushrooms throughout the current one — but in the spirit dishes project...Go now and you’ll encounter venison chops, festooned with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, that feel like a necessary prelude to winter, like an investment in insulation.Kudos to the Stillmans, Alan and Michael, who created this little monster. Though the restaurant is two seasons and several years away from becoming a legitimate success, a deuce from the Bruni is an excellent start. [NYT]
2) In the two hole, it New York's Adam Platt and his take on BLT Market. Two stars, say the man who coined the term Haute Barnyard:
Because I’ve poked fun at the whole Haute Barnyard phenomenon before, it would give me a certain dark pleasure to report that these gimmicks are the prelude to a lousy meal. But alas, they’re not. Having labored mightily to establish their Slow Food credentials, Tourondel and his chef de cuisine, David Malbequi, wisely don’t overplay their hand... The worst dish I had was the first one: a few meager figs wrapped in prosciutto and then grilled that tasted more like charcoal than ham. After that, however, came lightly crisp soft-shell crabs served with corn salad and a few pickled ramps, which cut the richness of the crab but also set off its sweetness. Among the seven appetizers, there were fat, golden zucchini blossoms (filled with three cheeses and garnished with white anchovies), servings of exceedingly fresh hamachi set over a smooth avocado purée, and bowls of nicely cooked rigatoni and Arborio-rice risotto tossed, respectively, with spicy Esposito sausage and langoustines.That's quite a lot of Plattage, so let's adjourn to the Scratchpad: "Do we really need to buy pickled dilly beans at the Ritz? No. But Tourondel has set up a multi-star kitchen here, and the seafood dishes alone are worth a special trip. [NYM]
3) And finally, Paul Adams for the Sun dines at Casellula, a cheese-focused restaurant in the West 50s that has flown somewhat under the radar. He likes, and issues the following mac 'n cheese alert:
The macaroni and cheese ($12) tastes very much as though the chef knows that she, and the restaurant, will be judged on it: It's a golden casserole of sweet and mild Fol Epi and nutty, complex Comté cheeses, with a dusting of salty crumbled goat cheese on top. Amid the gooey cheeses one finds beautifully caramelized strips of mellow onion, fatty bits of pork, and, almost as an afterthought, twists of macaroni. It's a masterful take on a simple dish.Adams in sum: service is horrendous, but, "Casellula can be a thrilling destination — for anyone, but especially for us cheese aficionados." [NYS]
Elsewhere, in the Times Briefs we have quickies from Julia Moskin and Peter Meehan, who are at, respectively, Market Table and Five Guys. Then, the RG one-and-one-half-stars Los Dados, where 'you never know what you can expect'; Moira Hodgson one-stars Sandro on the UES; Ryan Stutton files on Fiamma and Primehouse, Fabbio Trabocchi's new Soho stage and Steve Hanson's new steakhouse; Robert Sietsema in Washington Heights at El Salvadoreno for Central American as far as the eye can see; and Randall Lane looks downright greedy giving BarFry, which he seems to like, a mere four of six stars and noting, "Those trying to keep their cholesterol under 500 shouldn’t come here."
On the blogs, Andrea Strong with a 'great' for Market Table, where BF Craig discovered eggplant; the Feisty Foodie tries Will Goldfarb's new Battery Park kiosk Picnick, and it is 'absolutely NOT recommended'; Nosh at west side newbie Il Melograno, where the hope is they'll 'work things out'; NY Journal has a star-and-a-half for Grayz; and Scoboco with an early report on Matt Hamilton's new east sider Belcourt.