Though it could almost qualify for a $25 and Under, Frank Bruni takes a trip this week to Carmine Street's goaty Mexican spot, Cabrito. On its best night, it's stuff dreams are made of. But, there are enough bad nights to balance the score to a one star:
"The kitchen is paying attention and taking care. Much of the time, that is...Cabrito is afflicted by an inconsistency that’s puzzling, even maddening, in the sense that you don’t want anything challenging the exhilaration you can so easily and rightly feel about this special place...
"...why are the braised spareribs in the pozole so repeatedly dry? Why are citrus notes almost absent from the guacamole? You wonder, but then you take another bite of the rajas con crema...and you don’t care about anything else. It’s as satisfying a Mexican dish as any around town, and it makes clear that Cabrito is a whole lot more than the bar-with-food it is sometimes cast as."[NYT]
Though Sarah DiGregorio finds the prices too high, the service too pushy, she'll return for the food at Shang: "The food is eclectic to the point of being trippy: Though some dishes amaze and some land with a thud, they are all rarely boring...I'm all for letting a great chef's imagination run wild, even if it produces some dishes I dislike." [VV]
Ryan Sutton files a twofer this week on Macao Trading Co. and 10 Downing. On Macao: "The place is basically a tarted-up takeout joint, which is to say the choices are endless -- and pointless." And 10 Downing: "It serves ambitious food in a painful environment...Those who brave such inconveniences are rewarded with Jason Neroni’s excellent creations." [Bloomberg]
The RG files on Carroll Gardens newcomer Buttermilk Channel, falls for its homey Brooklyn charm, and gives it three stars: "The food is straightforward American bistro cooking...This is where you see the subtlety of making familiar foods with superior ingredients and a little imagination. You end up with foods that taste close to home, only better..." [NYDN]
Adam Platt files a twofer this week on Jason Neroni at 10 Downing at Tom Valenti at West Branch, giving them both two stars: "At 10 Downing, however, Neroni seems to have found his balance...if you’re in the mood for a classy platter of braised short ribs, you’ll find it here...Valenti’s stolid new bisto...is a slightly more accessible, down-market version of his flagship establishment, Ouest." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Both Bruni and Jay Cheshes enjoy Salumeria Rosi as a snack spot, The Cuozz throws his support behind three oversized newcomers At Vermilion, Shang, and Rouge Tomate, Alan Richman is charmed by Vinegar Hill House, Sietsema is dazzled by Ayada in Elmhurst, and Tables for Two finds Braeburn too restrained.
THE BLOGS: As a prelude for the Super Bowl, Easy Ed checks out Rack & Soul and awards it an A-, NYC Food Guy goes on a hot wing tour of Harlem, Cleaned my Plate is mostly disappointed by the congenial Mara's Homemade, NY Journal checks out Bar Breton, Pigtrip compares Virgil's and Daisy May's, and Gotham Gal has a mixed bag for Allegretti.