Bruntastic hits up Anita Lo's Asian barbecue joint Bar Q this week, and even though he, like most other critics, had some disappointing meals there, the food is generally good enough to merit two stars. Bruni also explains that the the test of a good restaurant is how drunk his friends have to be to eat there:
"There’d been some grumbling from their predecessors, the canaries I brought along on Visit 1. To quiet it and to unruffle their feathers, I’d had to be especially profligate with the wine...During this second meal, though, I got by with a single bottle of Slovenian ribolla. The food carried the night...Bruni explains that the "wobbles" were more like "doozies" and at times this reads like a one star. But the wise Frank explains his decision this way: "Wisdom comes late to some of us, and across-the-board excellence comes hard even to many restaurants with plenty of merit." [NYT]
...Bar Q is more than flesh and bones, and only obliquely related to the explosion of barbecue joints around the city. It’s a laboratory in which Ms. Lo can root around, paying special heed to grilling and smoking and occasionally exploring the similarities of hoisin and Western barbecue sauces. In the end her triumphs, more than her wobbles, stayed with me."
Ryan Sutton is one of the first big guns to file on Scarpetta, and according to him, it doesn't entirely fail: "...we get a straightforward, strongly flavored, sometimes anti-seasonal cuisine...But 14 of the 21 items I tried were forgettable...Did he sample my saffron-parmesan orzo? Only at a barbecue restaurant have I encountered such overcooked pasta." [Bloomberg]
Paul Adams checks in on the goat-centric Mexican place Cabrito, and while he likes a few of the offerings, most can be found better and cheaper elsewhere: "Cabrito's other tacos stack up similarly, unimpressive next to their cheaper, more substantial counterparts around the city: one containing a mere sliver of batter-fried white fish draped in cabbage slaw ($6); one made with bland salt-dried beef ($5), even the one with crumbly "house-made" chorizo ($5), which tastes much like the store-bought stuff." [NYS]
Adam Platt files a double review this week, giving two stars to Anita Lo's Bar Q and one star to the city's newest bbq palace, Wildwood: "One is located in a stark, modish space in the West Village, the other in a faux-honky-tonk barn on Park Avenue South. One is a nakedly commercial venture, replete with stacks of dry-rubbed ribs and greasy brisket and a pit boss named “Big Lou.” The other is a small, gourmet Asian-fusion operation, and not very traditional at all." [NYM]
Following Platt's review, the RG takes a trip to Steve Hanson's Wildwood and gives it two stars instead of one. The burger is worth the trip alone, but is the decor?: "Eating at Wildwood is like eating at a theme park called Barbecue Land - big faux barn, dish towel-size napkins, jam jar glasses, firewood stacked against the wall....What Steven Hanson did with Mexican at Dos Caminos and Asian at Ruby Foo's, he's doing with American barbecue at Wildwood." [NYDN]
THE ELSEWHERE: Kim Severson and Frank Bruni file dining briefs on South Brooklyn Pizza and Artisanal, Alan Richman discovers a reason to go to Ditmas Park in Pomme de Terre, The Cuozz thinks Benoit is "less fun than a bad quickie" while Randall Lane awards it four of six stars, Tables for Two finally tries out Bar Boulud, and Sietsema finds some incredible Malaysian food at Bath Beach's Redand Island.
THE BLOGS: Ed Levine calls Blue Hill at Stone Barns the "most important restaurant in America" and gives it an A, Ubereater celebrates the opening of 7th Ave South's Grand Sichuan, Writing with My Mouth Full is at Aquavit, Goodies First visits Brooklyn's Red's Produce, Word of South samples Sunset Park's Lucky Eight, Cleaned My Plate at Mia Dona, and NYC Nosh braves Times Square to try Joe Allen.