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Week in Reviews: Onespot for Barbuto

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Barbuto. Shot by the Kalina, circa 2004.

Frank Bruni takes the opportunity of his review this week to upgrade Barbuto, Jonathan Waxman's West Village Ital, from $25 and Under to one star. Let's be crystal clear: it's all about the chicken and nothing about Jonathan Waxman pimping his book, "A Great American Cook," on the menu.

I’ve had the roasted chicken at Barbuto when snow was blowing against the restaurant’s glass walls, and I’ve had it when summer sun streamed through. I’ve had it before 6:30 p.m., when the restaurant was just stirring, and after 10:30, when it was at full tilt.

I’ve had the roasted chicken when it came with the salsa verde, which leans hard on parsley and basil, and I’ve had it with a mixture of lemon and juices from the roasting pan, which is how Barbuto serves it around this time of year.

I’ve had it after a salad, when I was ravenous, and after spaghetti carbonara, when I wasn’t.

None of this made any difference. I’ve devoured it every time, because it’s always been terrific: crunchy, meaty, tender, glossed with oil.

That's the opening of the review, but he's not done yet. In sum: "The chicken is Rule No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 of eating at Barbuto. It’s Rule No. 4 as well." [NYT]

Adam Platt has two stars for Smith's, Danny Abrams' and Cindy Smith's Macdougal street restaurant. "The cooking at Smith’s seemed to get better every time I visited, and so did the quality of the occasionally harried service. But this is one of those sensitively calibrated, suddenly popular downtown establishments where your experience can vary widely depending on when you go and where you sit." Scratchpad play-by-play: "One star for the space, another for the food." [NYM]

Alan Richman files on Grayz, and develops a decidedly love-hate relationship with it, then ultimately just hates it: "You'll like the space, in an eminent midtown Manhattan townhouse once owned by the Rockefellers and made even more famous by the restaurant Aquavit. Unfortunately, that spot's most celebrated feature, an indoor waterfall, is no more. You'll love the virtuosity of several dishes. After all, this is Kunz, as good as they come...there's not much he can't do. You won't love the portions (minuscule), the prices (astonishing) or the jumble of disparate dishes (baffling)...Should you be led downstairs, run for your life. It's dark, depressing and cold...Will I be back? My appetite is too large and my bank account too small." [Bloomberg]

Peter Meehan for $25 and Under visits Seymour Burton, the East Village restaurant in the process of taking over the space that was Le Tableau (completion is still a week or two off): "Mr. [Adam] Kushner (an architect) and Mr. [Adam] Cohn (who is the chef, though he works by day at a law firm) say they hope to have the restaurant more fully converted later this month. But the ramshackle setting is part of what makes the place endearing.With a yards-long chalkboard menu written up in bright chalk, Seymour has felt like a co-op restaurant in a college town where the food and the conviviality matter more than the spit and polish usually on display a new Manhattan restaurant." Also, your attention please, the burgers, "occasionally flirt with greatness." [NYT]

Paul Adams for the Sun files late to the Back Forty game, but has this to get off his chest: "From the name to the music to the agricultural implements decorating the walls, the restaurant takes its focus on farm-to-table cuisine almost to the point of self-parody...Those who expect the precision and care of Savoy will be disappointed; but anyone who comes expecting just another trendy burger grill will be duly enlightened and impressed." [NYS]

ELSEWHERE, The RG, back and better than ever for 2008 (note: unconfirmed), has but 1.5 stars for Lunetta, the Brooklyn spin-off in the Flatiron; Ryan Sutton files the early word on, respectively, 'breastaurant' and 'expensively subversive' Pop Burger and Dovetail; Robert Sietsema heads to 'a pair of Bosnian cafes' in Astoria, Stari Most and Ukus; Tables for Two is at UES Turkish setup Peri Ela; and Randall Lane has four-of-six for Fiamma.

ON THE BLOGS, while not underestimating 'the joy of being warm and round' Andrea Strong files on Bacaro and Smith & Mills; the Feisty Foodie at Soba Totto, a 'pleasant experience' but don't go out of your way; Allergic Girl brings her epi-pen to Shorty's.32, doesn't need to use it; and American Madness takes brunch at 'monstrosity in only the most loving way' Rayuela.

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