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Week in Reviews: One Star for Shorty's.32 and Smith's

Kalina, 11/16/07.

Mr. Frank Bruni finishes off the year with a two-fer, one-starring both Shorty's.32 and Smith's, "...the kinds of restaurants, gentle and comforting, that you want to fall into at the end of a shivery winter day."

Shorty's "...has its flaws, little elbowroom and big noise among them. The main decorative feature — more than 20 colorful shades on low-hanging lighting fixtures — goes a tad overboard...But this restaurant deftly works its way into your affections." Try the chicken and the sides.

Smith's: "With more than 60 seats, Smith’s is larger than Shorty’s, and its menu is longer. But many dishes are minimal-fuss affairs: bibb lettuce with buttermilk dressing; arugula with apple and Parmesan; sautéed brussels sprouts with almonds; roasted eggplant with piquillo peppers and much too much vinegar...You’re better off with the fantastic lamb or with lobster, out of the shell and splashed with a lobster reduction that has cinnamon, clove and orange. It’s a sauce like sunshine, appreciated around this time of year." [NYT]

Danyelle "Restaurant Girl" Freeman gets all throwback and stuff, with her two star review of '21' Club: "The '21' Club could easily rest on the laurels of its classics, many of which have been served since the 1930s. Where some classics are concerned, the kitchen coasts on autopilot - as was the case with a tired '21' Caesar salad with stale croutons and a shallow wash of dressing. The signature $30 burger proved average, and a breadcrumb-dense crab cake certainly didn't merit its $24 price tag...But what you're paying for is also the privilege of dining in a New York City landmark steeped in history." [NYDN]

Paul Adams for the Sun is at Community Food & Drink, on Broadway and 112th: "The restaurant hires staff from the community, as the name hints, which gives a homegrown mood to the loud, bustling dining room; but also it fills a void in the community, or several different ones. The roster of comforting, largely organic American food resembles that served at the owners' downtown outpost, the Clinton Street Baking Company...For a restaurant that fills such a multiplicity of niches, Community doesn't have the stretched-thin feeling one might expect. If it falls short in a few of its duties, it exceeds expectations in more of them, and the community is clearly glad to have it." [NYS]

Peter Meehan $25-and-Unders Cafe Katja, a new Austrian hole-in-the-wall on the Lower East Side: "This week’s word? Buschenschank (BOO-shen-shonk). Traditional buschenschanks spring up toward the end of the year in the south of Austria. (Nearer to Vienna they’re called heurigers.) They are places of simple eating and drinking, where farmers can sell as much of anything they’ve grown, raised, fermented, preserved or otherwise wrangled from their land before the government assesses taxes on it. The buschenschank — or its spirit, conviviality and cuisine — is the inspiration for Café Katja...The gingery housemade bratwurst ($7) won me over, as did the coarser Krainer sausage, though the cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped frankfurter ($8) was too much of a good thing." [NYT]

ON THE BLOGS, Nosh is in the Financial District at Adrienne's Pizza Bar; Writing with My Mouth Full goes to Noble Food & Wine, but the Eno machine is down; and on the Bed-Stuy Blog, we're at Le Conkary, a taste of West Africa.