Sam Sifton once again displays his dislike for shiny big box restaurants and glitzy, perhaps overzealous expansions and relocations today by giving A Voce Columbus two stars, a grade just below its sister restaurant downtown. As he puts it, "The A Voce downtown is Veronica. The one uptown is fair Betty." Betty's fine, of course, but none too exciting:
Ms. Robbins is a cool character. She cooks rustic Italian food and sends it out of the kitchen looking like modernist plate paintings, little sculptures, edible art...The colors delight, and the flavors redouble the feeling: salt against acid against the sweet meat. Ms. Robbins is an excellent chef. She didn’t come here to mess around.
But make no mistake. A Voce is a corporate enterprise, part of a master plan, and feels like it. Save for swiveling yourself around in the Eames-y leather chairs that appoint both restaurants, there is very little room for improvisation. Service is clinical, almost silent, beyond language...Sifty explains that the owner of the restaurant group hopes to expand this formula to cities, malls all over the country. While it may feel corporate, the food excels. Referring to a streaky "somehow more country, almost brave" lardo, Sifton notes, "It would be nice to have that in Dallas, in St. Louis, in Phoenix." [NYT]
Sam Sifton follows Alan Richman's lead and slams the over hyped Bill's Bar & Burger: "The burger is amazingly both crusty and underdone, underseasoned; it soaks its supermarket bun into a pulpy submission. It has no flavor. It is deeply uninteresting." [NYT]
Gael Greene notes that, as expected, Le Caprice is mostly scene: "At home in Picadilly, Le Caprice is more about scene – and being seen – than food...I suspect Caprice, popped up in an extended bowling alley-shaped sliver at the Hotel Pierre, may live up to its genes...It’s buzzing all the way to the kitchen, which only needs to be good enough not to insult our palates to compete with Swifty’s and Cipriani." [Insatiable Critic]
Ryan Sutton reveals that Bouley's still got it: "The 3 1/2-hour show continues over eight courses (not counting amuse-bouches, petits fours and gifts from the chef) for $150 ($245 with wine pairing). The downtown deal of the decade might be its five-course-plus, $48 lunch...Last year Bouley moved a block west, where the formal wait staff and the fancy fare now come close to four-star quality." [Bloomberg]
Adam Platt files a twofer this week, awarding the painfully hip SD26 and Abe & Arthur's one star each. On the former: "once you’ve oriented yourself in the cavernous, bizarrely impersonal dining room and puzzled your way through the tortuous new menu...you’ll find some very good things to eat." And the latter: "The bi-level dining room is appointed with...rows of steel girders painted gray, which make it feel like you’re dining deep inside the vault of a very loud, underdecorated bank." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Tables for Two deems the new Aureole a major quality of life improvement for workers in Times Square, Jay Cheshes gives a tepid two stars to Abe & Arthur's, Restaurant Girl gives her seal of approval to Mermaid Oyster Bar, Dave Cook checks in on Midtown's Gulluoglu, Sarah DiGregorio files on the Gringo-fied taqueria fare at Los Feliz and Dos Toros, and Sietsema finds a Greek spot unlike the others in Astoria, Ovelia Psistaria.
THE BLOGS: The Skinny Pig is already wowed by the food, but not the cramped quarters at two day-old East Side Social Club, The Hungry Roach enjoys the American staples at Irving Mill, Eating in Translation loves the "ingenious" Saltie in Williamsburg, The Girl Who Ate Everything treks out to Bushwick to try Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, Gotham Gal is still a fan of Noodle Bar, Ed Levine calls Prospect Height's The Vanderbilt the right restaurant at the right time, giving it a B+/A-, and Boozy NYC believes the cocktail list at newcomer Rye House is off to a good start.