Mr. Frank Bruni weighs in on Akhtar Nawab and Noel Cruz's East 8th Street experiment Elettaria and gives it the old onespot. It's cute, it's darling, and the food is somtimes good. But the design just does not work for the Brunz.
"Elettaria doesn’t work as well practically as it does visually. A lack of any real division between the dining room and an open kitchen means that you have to step into the kitchen and sometimes even squeeze past a cook to descend to those restroomsAnd of course the Bruni never misses a chance to have a little fun: "...when every second restaurant calls itself 'market-driven,' Elettaria describes itself as “spice-driven.” (I’m waiting for the restaurant that’s driven by Morgan Freeman.)" [NYT]
...The ostensibly individual tables bisecting the dining room are essentially one way-too-long communal table, which makes for odd traffic patterns.
...Elettaria is lovely but awkward, and its awkwardness undercuts Mr. Nawab’s impressively creative cooking. But then his cooking also undercuts itself, some dishes mirroring the setting: seductive in the abstract, less so in actuality."
Alan Richman tries out De Niro's Ago and basically has the worst meal ever: "Margherita pizza from the wood-burning oven was essentially melted cheese on a soft crust. Hard polenta was dry and overcooked. Eggplant parmigiana was limp and overcooked...my friends sat stunned...they couldn’t believe dining in New York had come to this." [GQ]
And our other favorite curmudgeon, The Cuozz, has a pan too. His is for the Palm Court: "...the Palm Court is goofier, gloomier and only slightly more appetizing than it was before...The lunch and dinner menus eat as dully as they read....the kitchen sends out oodles of unpleasant surprises." [NYP]
The RG weighs in on the Denton bros' Grammury project, Bar Milano, and even though it's too noisy to think, she gives it three stars: "..they're challenging themselves and their clientele with upscale cooking that shows real imagination...Consider the cabbage...Such a humble leaf until it's stuffed with farro, dried currants and cherries and anchored in a chicken and cabbage consommé. Then it becomes a Cinderella story." [NYDN]
Randall Lane also checks out Bar Milano this week, giving it three out of six stars. He thinks it's okay, but he isn't wowed: "While more than serviceable, Bar Milano is my least favorite establishment in the Denton family—but the throngs who have packed the place since Day One suggest that my opinion is not shared. My favorite part remains the bar, thanks to the cocktails, well-chosen wines by the glass and food recommendations that proved more informed than those of the dining room’s servers." [TONY]
THE ELSEWHERE: Paul Adams files a two-fer on Brasserie Cognac and the New French, Ryan Sutton gives three stars to Eleven Madison Park, Kim Severson and Betsy Andrews file Dining Briefs on The Moxie Spot and Burger Shoppe, Tables For Two has a mixed bag for Mia Dona, Sietsema has a chile eating contest at Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge, The Brooklyn Paper hits up the newly reopened DUMBO joint Toro, and Sarah DiGregorio tries the headcheese at East Village newcomer Tet.
THE BLOGS: Ed Levine gives an A- to MePa's Scarpetta, Sign of the Pink Pig files a two-fer on Kafana and Benoit, Cleaned My Plate is at The Harrison, eateryROW hits up an empty Moco Global Dining, and NY Barfly is at Colors.