1) It's nostalgia day at the Times, where Frank Bruni celebrates 119 years of Katz's by awarding it one star in his column, "typically reserved for restaurants more proper but no more deserving." Alright, then:
Let’s take the occasion of the most recent rumors, which swirled just a few weeks ago, to pause and appreciate Katz’s...To revel in its pastrami sandwich, one of the best in the land, with an eye-popping stack of brined beef that’s juicy, smoky, rapturous. To glory in the intricate ritual of the place: the taking of a ticket at the door; the lining-up in front of one of the servers who carves that beef by hand; the tasting of the thick, ridged slices the server gives us as the sandwich is being built; the nodding when we’re asked if we want pickles, because of course we want pickles.Shortcomings: 'a limited selection of desserts, none of them outstanding'; Mediocrities: 'the Philadelphia-style cheese steaks.' [NYT]
2) Over to Mr. Platt, for his on-the-fence, two-of-five-star report on Marco Canora's new Times Square Italian, Insieme:
Insieme is an Italian restaurant, too, but as the slightly tortured name indicates, it’s less casual and bohemian than Hearth, and much more studied. The room is decorated in the self-consciously spare Craft style, with dining tables made from bleached French white oak and curtains of billowing silk shading the windows. These curtains have a pleasant cocooning effect, and as you study the menu, with its references to ramp purée, pheasant eggs, and “pasture-fed baby beef,” you don’t feel like you’re in Times Square anymore. You’re back downtown, at some reconstituted, Mediterranean version of Craft 2.0.Note the main attraction, lasagna, as good as "you’ll find in the precincts around Times Square." [NYM]
3) When the Cuozzo strikes, the Cuozzo strikes hard, of course, which brings us to his business of today, a "Shake Down" of Danny Meyer's venerable Shake Shack. Oy:
The signature item is the Shackburger. In a town full of scrumptious burgers in myriad styles, Shake Shack sends out a 4-ounce pittance of mismatched sirloin and brisket, with a squirt of fat to prevent its turning into a brick.The all-out assault also includes the Post's own best burger list. Let the fallout begin. [NYP]
The beef is ground at Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park across the street - gilt by association with one of the city’s finest restaurants. Cooked only one way - medium, which too often means medium-well - it’s topped with cheap American cheese, a mayo-based sauce, lettuce and insipid tomato slices inside a lightly-grilled bun.
The watery topping boasting of a “secret” formula is sissy stuff compared to the thick slop at Wendy’s across the street, but it does the same job: It imparts mouth feel and blurs the meat’s underlying innocuousness.
Elsewhere, Bob Lape four-stars Chris Lee's Gilt, Robert Sietsema mostly happy at Boqueria, Peter Meehan in Sunset Park at Lucky Eight, Paul Adams middled at best at Wild Salmon, Randall Lane four-of-sixes the very same Wild Salmon, Tables at East Village tapas newbie Mercat, and Moira Hodgson three-stars Insieme.
On the blogs, Nosh pleased at Perilla, Andrea Strong has everything 'great' at Ed's Lobster Bar, Scobobo 'not totally convinced' at Scoboco, Gastro Chic on Gotham Bar and Grill, and Project Me at King 5 Noodle House.