Smith's; by Kalina, 11/16/07.
Frank Bruni kicks off the new year with a one star, mostly unenthusiastic review of Irving Mill, the restaurant widely tagged a lesser version of Gramercy Tavern. And 2008 is underway:
Short of hayrides from the curb to the coat check, there’s not a whole lot in the way of farmhouse allusions that the new restaurant Irving Mill doesn’t try...I spotted two metal watering cans before I reached the host station, one of them perched near an antique bin brimming with pomegranates. The restaurant’s floors, wainscoting and tables bring to mind barn wood...Final word, Frank Bruni, all rights reserved: “Green Acres” goes to the Greenmarket, with a lilt in its gait but some bramble on its path." [NYT]
Apart from the quail and the ravioli (on their good night), I couldn’t find an appetizer to get too excited about. I enjoyed chicken liver crostini, but it’s rare that I don’t. Octopus had vaulted past tender to mushy, and a soup made with roasted garlic, white beans, sheep’s milk ricotta and rosemary somehow managed to be boring, not to mention sludgy. This is a menu that reads more flavorful than it tastes...At least the lamb itself was superb.
Via the Times Dining Briefs, the Bruni refiles on Gordon Ramsay, and, though improved, the basic premise remains: "This restaurant is clearly marshaling first-rate ingredients, rolling out the luxuries — several dishes had Perigord truffle — and hiring and training polished servers. I left feeling pampered but wanting something more from Mr. Ramsay, whose fiery persona makes the following sentiment an unlikely one. I wish he’d cut loose." [NYT]
Restaurant Girl Danyelle Freeman two-stars Danny Abrams and Cindy Smith's new Greenwich Villager Smith's: "The menu delivers approachable fare with unmistakable polish. Juicy lamb saddle perches above parmigiano purée, and tender lobster poses on rich trumpet mushrooms with a velvety swath of butternut squash purée. There's just something about dining on a steamed egg above polenta - dizzied up with a sharp gorgonzola froth - that feels entirely appropriate in this setting." [NYDN]
Paul Adams for the Sun files on ilili the palindromic Lebanese restaurant just above the Flatiron: "The early reports I heard from friends about Ilili condemned the upscale Lebanese restaurant for miserably poor service and indifferent cooking. That was all too believable of an oversized new restaurant in dark lower Midtown with a DJ, serving a mix of familiar Middle Eastern dishes and creative updates of Lebanese cuisine. So it seemed at first like a fluke, then like a very nice surprise, when the cooking turned out to be not just adequate but quite superior...Keeping one's expectations low sometimes pays off, and eating at Ilili was one of those occasions, with food that's far, far better than it needs to be. One minor note: The entrance to the wood-paneled restaurant is surrounded by deceptive floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Twice I almost walked into one; be careful."
ELSEWHERE, in the Dining Briefs Peter Meehan and Marian Burros are at Bun and TBar Steak and Lounge; Tables for Two is at not as full as it should be Tailor; and Randall Lane has three stars apiece for Mermaid Inn UWS and Community Food & Juice.