The Honorable Frank Bruni files his final review today. He ends not on a takedown nor does he go out on a four star; rather the Brunz focuses on an unassuming yet still widely celebrated little East Village bar/restaurant The Redhead, giving it his final star. Why? Because it's a sweet story—the owners practically built it all by hand—because it's not a big brand name place, because it represents what Manhattan diners have been increasingly looking for:
"...it sharply reflects a few of the most prominent and rewarding developments in Manhattan dining over the years during which I’ve had the privilege of serving as The Times’s restaurant critic.
Now more than ever, diners find principled, distinctive cooking in places where they wouldn’t have expected it before: dessert trucks, baseball stadiums, postage-stamp storefronts, wine bars, taverns and cocktail lounges. In fact the Redhead...exemplified the possibility of terrific eating with untraditional trappings and captured the sense of gastronomic serendipity that defines this culinary moment.
With its first-come-first-served seating policy and its televisions showing sporting events behind the bar, the Redhead speaks to the moment’s casual ethos. And it underscores the extent to which the East Village has become a center of gravity for young chefs intent on bold flavor.As for the food, it's for the most part delicious, affordable, "revelatory," and the Bruni notes that chef Meg Grace is one to watch. [NYT]
The RG, a fan of Sfoglia on the UES, is disappointed by its midlife crisis of a downtown sister restaurant Civetta, giving it two stars: "You’ll get tons of attention in the dining room...But nobody’s home in the kitchen. Almost everything’s overcooked or over-sauced...Maybe Ron and Colleen were downstairs drinking a sidecar." [NYDN]
Plattypants files early this week, bestowing one star upon Graydon Carter's celeb clubhouse Monkey Bar. Predictably, he spends most of his word count on the scene before decimating the food program: "The new menu looks like the old one and contains some of the same dishes...but it’s even more of a hodgepodge than before, and much more expensive...people will ingest almost anything to be part of the show." [NYM]
Robert Sietsema declares that good pizza has finally come to Bed Stuy with the arrival of Saraghina: "...the special apps list includes pastas, of which the simple spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil ($12) turned out to be the best evocation I've had this year...But why avoid the pizzas when they're this perfect?" [VV]
Alan Richman is pleasantly surprised by the room, the wine, and the food at LES Italian spot Sorella: "The breadsticks...would win the grissini competition in New York, should there ever be one. The menu appears at first glance to be small, but the kitchen turns out an impressive array of complex, imaginative, and generally well-conceived dishes, the only persistent drawback the evening I ate there being a tendency to oversalt." [GQ]
THE ELSEWHERE: Ryan Sutton loves the fried chicken and the bo ssam and hates the rib eye at Momo Noodle and Momo Ssam, Jay Cheshes awards four stars to DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Ligaya Mishan files on two new Brooklyn taquerias Calexico and Oaxaca, and Tables for Two is enchanted by Belcourt.
THE BLOGS: Easy Ed gives a B/B+ to the food at Brooklyn Bowl, Food in Mouth finds unspectacular ramen at the new May Chan Ramen on East 7th, The Pink Pig returns to Le Gigot and is not disappointed, and Always Hungry gives a B+/A- to Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar.