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Week in Reviews: West Branch/BarBao Get the One

Today Frank "Prince of the UWS" Bruni reviews two of his neighborhood's newcomers, West Branch and BarBao, handing them each a one spot. Both are decent additions to the neighborhood, but right now, only comfort food centric West Branch is a runaway success:

"Both the West Branch, a mostly Mediterranean brasserie, and BarBao, which interprets Vietnamese cuisine, deserve to make it. While their kitchens aren’t consistent enough or their menus quite original enough to brand them destination restaurants, they have real talent in their DNA and bring serious food to a patch of Manhattan that, for all its recent strides, could still use more of it. At a different moment, in a different climate, both could probably count on success...
...BarBao is more ambitious and nuanced than at the West Branch...Although BarBao could certainly improve, it deserves more attention and affection than it’s getting."

Alan Richman is one of the first to check in on Shang, and he is smitten with Susur Lee's cooking: "My friends and I tried about half the dishes on the oversized, well-priced menu, and there was only one I didn’t like..His food is being promoted as 'global Chinese,' but I think it’s absolutely the opposite, totally individualistic, one man’s admirable and elevated version of Chinese." [GQ]

Sarah DiGregorio would love it if At Vermillion could tone it down a bit (and improve the food while they're at it). On the menu: "It's a jumble of buzzwords—tapas! Tasting menu!—and blatant exotification, and the paragraph at the top of the menu actually made me squirm. Reading it, we learn that the word vermilion 'connotes the essence and ebullience of the Indian and Latin American peoples.' Not only that, but the restaurant is a 'celebration of the beauty of women.' Is this dinner or Oprah?" [VV]

The RG visits The John Dory, and unlike Plattster, she's a fast fan, giving it four stars: "Too many chefs think of fish as a faceless protein. She understands that texture and flavor are equally important...The oyster pan roast is a mind-blowing cup of soup. It tastes naughty. And I haven't even mentioned the sea urchin-buttered crostini that comes with it..." [NYDN]

Adam Platt is back after a long break to review April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's seven week-old spot, The John Dory. He gives it a deuce: "The menu, at this early date, is limited and slightly uneven, and the room is overamped by an octave or two. But like the Spotted Pig, there’s a vibrant sense of fun in the air, an infectious feeling that you should be having a good time even if, quite possibly, you’re not." [NYM]

THE ELSEWHERE: Though it pains the Cuozz, he has a slam for the Four Seasons; it sounds like Betsy Andrews is trying incredibly hard to like the EVill's Mr. Jones, while Julia Moskin doesn't mince words about her dislike for At Vermillion; Tables for Two shows some love to Flex Mussels, and Sietsema tries the Egyptian fare at Bay Ridge's Asmak Taama.

THE BLOGS: This week Ed Levine skips the restaurants and heads straight to the sandwich counter at Murray's Cheese, giving it a B, Writing with my Mouth Full sees more Curry Ya in the future, eaterROW finds S'mac fun but tiresome, Cleaned my Plate is not wowed by BarBao, and Gotham Gal reminds us that she loves The John Dory

Flex Mussels - West Village

154 West 13th Street, New York, New York 10011 (212) 229-0222 Visit Website

The Four Seasons Restaurant

280 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017 212 754 9494