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Week in Reviews: Deuce for Insieme; Soto and P*Ong Ride High

Insieme; Kalina, 4/21/07

1) Frank Bruni gets things started for us today at Insieme, which he awards an enthusiastic two stars. The spin this week, per the headline: Some Things to Change, and Some to Leave the Same:

When Insieme is good, it’s outstanding, and any serious food lover should head here fast for (apologies to Del Posto) the best version of bollito misto in the city; for a sumptuous beef tartare, reminiscent of Piedmont’s carne cruda, with subtle spikes of porcini; and for the pastry chef Amadou Ly’s memorable desserts, highlighted by a warm, moist semolina cake with a chocolate core.
There's much more the Bruni likes as well, but the review has to be a modest disappointment for chef/owner Marco Canora, who's been down the two-star road before and was likely looking for an upgrade. Click through for a bonus thinly veiled calling out of Adam Platt's take on the lasagna. [NYT]

2) Robert Sietsema lands at the West Village's newest sushi entry Soto, which is quickly ascending the ranks of the city's top sushi restaurants. Mr Counter Culture:

There's no sashimi on the menu. Rather, three sections offer sushi, kitchen-made hot dishes, and, best of all, raw fish transformed in any number of delightful ways. Typical of his stunning creativity is chayutoro tuna tartare ($20), a puck of pureed fatty tuna topped with a thin layer of whipped Japanese guacamole. Landscaping this creamy meadow is an artful arrangement of green chives, dried ginger shreds, and black caviar. Every bite is divine.
The green-conscious eaters in the group take note as well: "The ever-varying sushi list notes the geographic origin of each piece, allowing you to opt at least partly for local sustainable fish when you order by the piece. Think globally, fish locally." [VV]

3) Randall Lane for Time Out awards an eye-popping five stars (out of six) to P*ong, Pichet Ong's sweet house in the West Village. The closest we can come to explaining how a dessert bar could have possibly garnered one Lane's highest rankings ever:

Unlike other dessert-only joints that stick with all things sugary, P*ong, a mod perch with just a row of tables and a 12-seat bar, delivers full meals that bring a pastry worldview to savory ingredients. Those who opt for the $25 three-course dessert tasting are missing out on what’s most interesting here—that is, the melding of sweet and savory, which is most effectively experienced through the $59 ten-course sampler menu, arranged in order from least sweet to most.
Restaurateurs in search of raves from TONY will want to note the importance of brain teasers: "Ong has popped off a rare restaurant that, more than just pleasantly filling your tummy, makes you think about what flavors you like and why." [TONY]

Bonus: Paul Adams for the Sun is up in the P*ong, too: "P*ong reaches beyond the scope of dessert bars in the vein of Chikalicious and Room 4 Dessert, but too many shortcomings stand in the way of Mr. Ong's ambition to take responsibility for the entirety of the meal." [NYS]

Elsewhere, Briefs from Bruni, Fox and Burros on FR.OG, Dean's, and Rayeula, Tables for Two in Park Slope at Palo Santo, and Ryan Sutton at the revamped Monkey Bar.

On the blogs, Gotham Gal 'never again' at Buddakan, Scoboco on Stone Street at Smörgas, Andrea Strong in Murray Hill at Penelope, Avenue Food at Tribeca's B Flat and Writing w/My Mouth Full in Midtown for Public House.

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