Frank Bruni awards Steve Hanson's Fiamma a huge Three Stars. Bruni notes upfront, "Fiamma is about as Italian as a poodle in a Prada scarf....It owes its classically indulgent soul to France." We'll note upfront that other three star French restaurants in New York include, Cafe Boulud and Bouley; other Italians include, Babbo.
On to the video tape:
For [the chef] Mr. Trabocchi, more is more. He puts poached bone marrow on a saffron-flavored risotto. He puts fried bread crumbs on a whole lot, including monkfish liver and, separately, thick-cut, gorgeous Dover sole. He puts crushed Alba hazelnuts, sautéed in butter, on top of braised veal cheeks, which accompany a hunk of roasted veal rib-eye.In the end, the lesson for today is that Steven Hanson gets what he wants. Period. Also, kudos are due to chef Fabio Trabocchi for obvious reasons and, we have to imagine, to Fiamma flack Jennifer Baum for working this thing behind the scenes from every angle twice. [NYT]
There’s nuance in the mix, the tofu in the newfangled carpaccio providing one example. It lends volume, shape and a chewy element to the silky beef without muffling its flavor.
Alan Richman is at Primehouse, which he likes, though not enough to return: "...the meat from Prime's issue is gorgeous, consistent and beefy (even if it appears to resist aging and is not quite as marbled and flavorful as I would have hoped). The kitchen cooks the steaks perfectly and adds a nice char...Will I be back? Probably not, although the crab cake with Le Clos is a lure." [Bloomberg]
New York's Underground Gourmet Three Stars East Village coffee shop Abraço:: "To call the minuscule East Village storefront a coffee bar is both an overstatement and an understatement. It’s smaller than a Starbucks bathroom. There’s nary a table or chair, never mind Wi-Fi. With two slender ledges and mere inches to maneuver, Abraço is a coffee bar in the strictest sense. But it’s also much, much more. Factor in relatively ambitious food, some congenial barista banter, and a design so bright and sunny it could cure seasonal affective disorder, and you’ve got an instant neighborhood institution and the U.G.’s favorite new hangout." [NYM]
Peter Meehan is on the fence about Back Forty in the East Village, but the $20 burger isn't bad: "On the plate, where the real statement is left to be made, the burger is good. It is smallish, served on a rich brioche bun. The grass-fed beef lacks something (maybe that special oomph that grain-fed beef has), but dressed up with ketchup, mayo — also homemade and available at no charge on request — and mustard, the sandwich satisfies." [NYT]
The RG goes to Queens and has one-and-a-half stars for Athens Tavern, a new restaurant for greek seafood—try the whole fish—in Astoria: "...the best of Athens Tavern is the fish selection: porgy, red mullet, shrimps and langoustines, which arrive sweet and moist with subtle strides of lemon, olive oil and the charcoal grill. On a recent visit, a nearby table of 12 ordered 12 whole baked fish. Though it seemed slightly comical, they had the right idea." [NYDN]
Moira Hodson for the Observer one stars the Union Square area Gramercy Tavern knockoff Iriving Mill: "Comfortable booths, gorgeous flowers, good lighting, fine service: Irving Mill has it almost all right. I know Mr. Schaefer is a great chef; I’ve eaten his food at Gramercy Tavern. Is it just a matter of time before he gets his menu right? Let’s hope so." [NYO]
ELSEWHERE, Steve Cuozzo files on Fiamma, L'Impero and Alto; Robert Sietsema is in Astoria at the Moroccan restaurant Walima; Ryan Sutton has the early word on new Itals Dell'Anima and Lunetta; Tables for Two at Stonehome in Fort Greene; and Randall Lane four-of-sixes and three-of-sixes Market Table and Shopsins, upping his aggregate star count to 1,223,091.