Fantastic Frank stops by George Mendes' long awaited new project Aldea, awarding it a big, fat rave of a deuce. His takeaway is that the chef successfully "toggles the line" between schmancy and precious dishes and straightforward attempts that go for the gut:
"Mr. Mendes and Aldea are unusually ambidextrous, as comfortable whipping up ethereal foams as scattering hunks of pork anywhere they can be defensibly scattered. The cooking is precious, lusty, ultramodern, rustic and a host of other adjectives that don’t normally squeeze together but find themselves in a tight, mostly happy clutch here...
...New Yorkers want restaurants to spirit them far, far away, but not so far that they can’t glance over their shoulders and catch sight of a molten chocolate cake. So as Mr. Mendes tugs them toward Lisbon, he cushions the journey with faddishness and trusted friends."As to why it didn't get a three? Bruni's only critiques: stingy wine pours, wan consommé, overly strong citrus foam, an overworked hanger steak. [NYT]
Alan Richman isn't so sure why Aldea is such a big hit with New Yorkers, but he does know it's Manhattan's best new restaurant: "I admire everything about it, except the wine-by-the-glass prices...I understand perfectly why I feel this way, but I don’t understand why everybody else does. I thought chic New Yorkers wanted to sit at a counter, face a plywood wall, wear flip-flops...This sure isn’t that..." [GQ]
Jay Cheshes becomes the latest critic to have a few unkind words for Table 8: "The second outpost of his Table 8 brand...commits so many sins against good taste, the West Coast star may have been hoping critics would somehow overlook his arrival...this place is about as au courant as sun-dried tomatoes and white truffle oil." [TONY]
The Plattster files a somewhat ambivalent review of ritzy seafood spot Marea, awarding it the threespot: "For all its impressive, even dazzling qualities, it feels less like a labor of love than like one of ambition and duty. Like Joe Bastianich and Batali, Cannon and White are engaged in a bald play for Michelin glory (a multi-star jewel, as it were, in their imperial crown), and they’re pulling out all the stops to make it happen." [NYM]
The RG notes that quite an exorcism has taken place at the old Ago space, now Locanda Verde, giving it four stars: "Carmellini's cooking is thoughtful and imaginative. He's got a knack for making hearty foods somehow taste light and summery...When Carmellini's good, he's fabulous, which is what makes his blunders so frustrating. I wish the 'porchetta the way I like it' was the way I liked it." [NYDN]
THE ELSEWHERE: The Cuozz declares Benoit saved, Robert Sietsema calls Cobble Hill's Watty & Meg a decent neighborhood bistro, Gael Greene is charmed by Recipe, Sarah DiGregorio finds the oddities at Pho Sure charming rather than gimmicky, Ligaya Mishan files on pop-ups Asia Dog, Bep, and the Tuesday night dinner at Beer Table, and Ryan Sutton counts as another fan of Locanda Verde.
THE BLOGS: Eating in Translation has a few encounters with red onion marmalade at The Clerkenwell, A Tiger in the Kitchen finds great tacos at Calexico but finds the twenty minute wait a bit much, NYC Food Guy finds that it's the toppings make the burger at Corner Bistro, Fork in the Road finds great, cheap tacos at El Centenario/Luz de Luna #2, Food in Mouth finds the food at Sushi! by Bento Nouveau to be just OKAY, and A Hamburger Today fails to make any connection to her teenage memories at White Castle.