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Week in Reviews: Matsugen Gets the Tres

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Krieger, 6/26/08

The Brunz says his part on the Jean-Georges Vongerichten/Matsushita soba palace Matsugen. He doesn't give it four stars, but his rave of a three star review reads like he was considering it:

"Apart from being an excellent restaurant, it’s a brave one. With nearly 150 seats to fill in a section of the city where other destination restaurants also fly the Japanese flag, Matsugen hasn’t chosen to be flashier, more conventionally approachable or more accommodating to American palates. It has chosen to be more obscure, more pure and more true to Japanese culinary traditions...

...The noodles — never too floppy or too firm, yielding at just the right moment to just the right bite — come in three gradations of weight and texture...Most are so clearly and cleanly flavored that you feel...that your senses have been sharpened, that your palate is more alert. Superior Japanese food has that effect."

His one critique comes at the very end, but Bruni quickly qualifies it: "And there are occasional failures of execution: an overcooked chicken breast, rubbery clams in a wan Japanese chowder. But more often there’s an obsessive attention to detail, and it spans every facet of a meal." [NYT]

The admittedly cranky Cuozz also files on Matsugen and likes it despite his misgivings: "Matsugen...is one-stop shopping for everything I can't stomach. It's got a hard-edged design devoid of color or accent; a menu harder to decipher than weekend subway service changes...But it's also one-stop shopping for dishes rarely found under a single Japanese roof, and more than enough of them are fabulous enough to stifle my crankiness." [NYP]

Randall Lane checks in to see if the food at romantic stalwart One if By Land, Two if By Sea is still has bad as it was 15 years ago. It is, and it gets two of six stars: "Hopson’s more modern emphasis mostly translated into a lack of nuance. A deep-fried squab was tough when it should have been juicy. A John Dory...while not unpleasant, didn’t quite jell...Those trying to distract their dates from such subpar fare can take refuge in the bottle—the wine list is very reasonable." [TONY]

The RG heads out to Prospect Heights to review the neighborhood block party of a restaurant James. She's quickly smitten and awards it three stars: "...he's created a genuine, neighborhood restaurant. This doesn't necessarily mean the food is modest...The sautéed skate is elegant, a golden fan that conceals perfectly lovaged potatoes...There's no better canvas for fresh herbs than a blank chicken. And the roast chicken at James is a minor masterpiece." [NYDN]

Platt is back in the saddle this week filing a two-fer on "haute barnyard" newcomers Hundred Acres and Forge, giving them both one star: "Most of the food at Hundred Acres is reasonably priced, solidly prepared, and sometimes even pleasing in an unobtrusive, neighborly sort of way...Forge...is yet another new big-city restaurant painstakingly designed to look like the inside of a barn...None of the pastas...quite achieve liftoff...But the fish dishes are capably made." [NYM]

THE ELSEWHERE: Gael Greene feels old but has a grand time at Delicatessen, Bruni has a brief on Talay, while Julia Moskin has a mixed bag for Olana, Paul Adams has kind words for Avenue A's Yerba Buena, Ryan Sutton, still in the Hamptons, files on Cyril's, Sietsema is a big fan of James, and Sarah DiGregorio samples the food at cocktail lounges Pegu Club, Clover Club, and Quarter.

THE BLOGS: Ed Levine gives an A- to Papatzul, Lifestyle of a Yuppie tries out Crisp, Always Eating has some good sandwiches at Blue Ribbon Bakery, EateryROW checks out the new Lantern, NYC Foodie has a rave for Cabrito, and Salli Vates has a mixed bag for Lunetta and an early review for Alegretti.

Matsugen

241 Church Street, New York, NY 10013

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