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Week in Reviews: Merkato 55 Gets the One

Kalina, 2/6/08

Frantastic makes his way over to MePa this week to weigh in on the already heavily-reviewed Marcus Samuelsson project, Merkato 55. There are a few highlights, but for the most part Bruni's review of "Spice Market on the Serengeti" reads like a pan, and he deems the pan-African behemoth worthy of one star:

"’s not just geographically that Merkato 55 is all over the map. The menu mingles inspiration with too many hedges: the tuna tartar...a lobster salad...a thinly veiled steak frites; a rack of lamb — supposedly graced with an Ethiopian berbere spice mixture, including garlic, red pepper, cardamom and fenugreek — that could be any restaurant’s rack of lamb.

...In the worst case, the African breads we ordered never came. The pauses between courses stretched forever...a server accidentally poured water into my stemless glass of unfinished white wine...These lapses undercut the restaurant’s significant promise and many New Yorkers’ rightly high hopes for it."

But Frank hasn't given up hope. His closer implies it's just a work in progress: "This entree is a delight in the making, provided it gets some more tinkering and attention, and that is the story of Merkato 55 as well." [NYT]

Paul Adams is the third major critic this week to stop in at Akhtar Nawab's Elettaria, and like the RG, he is a big fan: "Its environment may not suit every taste, but Elettaria’s sense of fun is welcome in a Manhattan dining scene that often seems ponderous and overwrought. Crucially, the cooking doesn’t devolve into triviality; for all the fun, Mr. Nawab has ideas to express, and expresses them well." [NYS]

The Cuozz files on Eighty One this week, and he likes it so much he goes back on his own dime: "Critics consumed by loftier conceptual matters too often forget to broach the main question about a new place: Would you go back on your own C-note? I wanted to eat there again for my own selfish pleasure....I haven't put stars at the top of this column for years, but if my editor insisted, there'd be three." [NYP]

The RG tries out Elettaria this week, and unlike Platt, she enjoys the food and deems the restaurant worthy of three stars: "This is an entirely different script for this chef. Seizing upon his heritage, Nawab paints a modern American menu with a palette of Indian seasonings...In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix headlined in this space. Now chefs are post-millennium rock stars and Nawab's Off-Broadway production delivers pleasurable fare with a distinctly Indian edge." [NYDN]

Adam Platt files a two-fer this week, giving two stars to traditional Greek restaurant Persephone and one to new west 8th St. joint Elettaria. Persephone wins over both Platt and his mom: " mother made polite noises about most things she encountered at Persephone"—while Elettaria isn't substantial enough of a restaurant for the Plattster: "The name makes Elettaria sound like a restaurant of the most ambitious, high-minded kind. But the small, truncated menu makes it feel more like a high-minded bar." [NYM]

THE ELSEWHERE: Bruni and Julia Moskin file briefs on The Rusty Knot and I Sodi respectively, Sietsema runs a thorough guide to the food stalls at the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Randall Lane, like the Cuozz is a fan of Eighty One and gives it four of six stars, Alan Richman and his blonde friend get spoiled at the Le Cirque Wine Lounge, Tables for Two has a confusing time at Bobo, and Gael Greene checks in on the new Avenue A Vietnamese spot Tet.

THE BLOGS: Gotham Gal has a great time at Eighty One, The Sign of the Pink Pig likes Merkato 55 more than Bruni, NY Journal sees the man in action at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, The Girl Who Ate Everything at Pig Heaven and Andre's Cafe, EateryROW checks out Astoria's Il Bambino, Project Me tries the famous burger at Royale,


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