Sam Sifton pens what is likely to be his first of many assessments of the Danny Meyer empire over his tenure, giving two stars to the Roman trattoria Maialino. "It is warm and familiar, comfortable, a trattoria in an imaginary Rome where everyone comes from Missouri and wants you above all else to have a nice time," he begins. Sifty loves the salumi, the wine program and its director, the antipasti that you can dance to, and of course, the star of the menu, the Maialino al forno:
The skin, blasted to crisp in a hot oven, is dusted in rosemary, cracked fennel, salt and pepper: an apparently unambitious preparation that tastes just great — pork at its best. Over roasted potatoes, the dish can serve three with ease. Maialino al forno is a sorry-grateful, regretful-happy way to eat dinner. It leaves a diner panting a little, ready for sleep.But the highlight of the review is his praise for Danny Meyer the man, the restaurateur, the lover of New York:
Yes, the impetus for change here was Mr. Schrager’s hotel. But it is Mr. Meyer who has brought New Yorkers to the room, to the view, back to the neighborhood. His restaurants have almost always done this in some way. They encourage their customers to appreciate what sits outside them, to rediscover Manhattan in the process. They direct attention to architecture, to parks, to the ideals of urban life. Mr. Meyer has changed the city with restaurants. Isn’t that something?[NYT]
Alan Richman is totally floored by the nightly $95 multi-course dinners Cesar Ramirez is serving over at Brooklyn Kitchen, calling it "the most outrageously wonderful, unfathomably underpriced, and virtually unattainable meal in New York," and the "foremost competition to David Chang’s Momofuku Ko for the title of greatest informal dining venue in New York." [GQ]
The Cuozz also files on Maialino, offering up three stars for its "baby-food supple" lamb, its "supernally soft" suckling pig: "New York chefs take lots of liberties in stretching the traditional 'Italian' envelope. Maialino instead channels the true restaurant cooking of one city at its casual best...When experimentation's the rage, loving fidelity to the genuine article can seem the most radical departure of all." [NYP]
The Siftonator gets a brief in on Upper East Side newcomer and Vynl replacement MXco: "The food is not quite uninspired. It isn’t dazzling...MXco would be the second-best date-night restaurant in a second-tier city, a perennial readers-poll winner for best guacamole in the regional glossy magazine." [NYT]
THE ELSEWHERE: Sam Sifton files on the new Manhattan branch of Flushing's Xi'an Famous Foods, Tables for Two wonders if the food at Red Hook's Fort Defiance is intentionally bland to showcase the wonderful cocktails, Restaurant Girl gives three stars to Rye in Williamsburg, claiming The Breslin breaks new gluttonous ground, Jay Cheshes gives it four out of five stars, Sietsema dines with the Organ Meat Society at Flushing's Northeast Taste Chinese Food, and Gael Greene hits up Maialino with Gail Simmons.
THE BLOGS: Immaculate Infatuation has a surprise rave for Pure Food & Wine, The Food Duc mostly approves of the new chef at Cru, though he has big shoes to fill, Harlem Condo Life decides that newcomer Frizzante was worth the wait, Gastro Chic finds mostly hits at the revamped Mia Dona, NY Journal finds affordable sushi but little to rush back for at Sushi Uo on the LES, Ed Levine gives a B to Vinegar Hill House, Fork in the Road is not impressed with the one week-old Matsukado, and EateryROW is blown away by goat cheese and beet gnocchi at Baci & Abracci.