This week Bruni hits Michael Psilakis and Donatella Arpaia's new Midtown East joint Mia Dona and grants it two stars. The food is on the mark, the setup, awkward, but you just know that no matter what, offering high end food at mid range prices (with low end beer pitchers no less) is what really hits Frank's sweet spot:
"And if you step back to survey all of what you’re eating and all of what it’s costing — which, in the context of the restaurant’s East Side neighborhood, isn’t very much — you’ll find something else: a portrait of a rising young chef with more practicality than vanity, even though the acclaim that’s rushed his way over the last few years has given him ample reason to preen.There's nothing Brunz loves more than a celebrated yet accessible chef: "Mr. Psilakis even wants to start offering take-out and delivery. A lauded up-and-comer doing pappardelle to go? Good for him, and good for us." [NYT]
...While much of the food does justice to Mr. Psilakis’s talents, there’s nothing high-flown about it or the prices...In terms of pleasure per dollar, Mia Dona is as successful as any place he and Ms. Arpaia have worked on with or without each other."
Jay Cheshes debuts as the alternate food critic at TONY with a review of Commerce. He four of sixes it: "While prices, extravagant but not unusual by the new neighborhood standards, are hardly a throwback, the dining room certainly is...Moore’s high-end food taps into nostalgia of a different sort, with a surfeit of luxury ingredients bringing a dose of F. Scott Fitzgerald into a room that, incongruously, still shouts Joseph Mitchell." [TONY]
Alan Richman weighs in on MePa's African palace, Merkato 55: "Now along comes Merkato 55, a large restaurant in Manhattan's meatpacking district—to me more alien than Addis Ababa...As you might expect from a restaurant representing an entire continent, there's plenty to like...The cooking at Merkato 55 is refined, and the dishes consistently well-prepared." [GQ]
The RG heads over to MePa this week to try out Merkato 55. She enjoys the "vast culinary roadmap" that is Marcus Samuelsson's menu and gives it 2.5 stars: "It's surreal to enter this splashy brasserie and discover a sea of stylish diners spreading aromatic chutneys and sambals onto homemade African breads...Merkato 55 is Ethiopia by way of a splendid, butter-spiced lamb and South Africa by way of mustard-spackled venison skewered with apricots and smoky chunks of bacon. It's a quick trip to Mozambique via meaty, head-on shrimp sauced with a pungent piri piri (chili pepper)." [NYDN]
Platt doesn't quite understand how so many high end restaurants are opening with the recession on the horizon, but no matter. He visits the newest fancy UWS extravaganza, Eighty One, and gives it two stars: "There are usually two reasons to peddle food this expensive. The first is that good ingredients cost a lot; the second is that really expensive ingredients help to convince a certain kind of diner that what they’re eating is actually very good..if you’re willing to pay $28 for a ration of exceptionally tasty leeks, you won’t be disappointed. " [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Paul Adams also checks out Merkato 55, Moira Hodgson three stars Adour, Gael Greene's at Commerce, Meehan's at Astoria's reborn Greek favorite Philoxenia, Sietsema, also in Astoria, hits up Arcos, Tables for Two files on Williamsburg's Egg, and Richard Vines reviews a V-Day meal at Jean Georges.
THE BLOGS: Strongbuzz is at Dovetail, NYC Nosh files on new Village spot I Sodi, Project Me gets into Momofuku Ko, Vittles Vamp does Bacaro, EateryROW checks out Astoria's new Bar 36, and Sign of the Pink Pig heads to Terroir.