Today Sam Sifton files on another Midtown Italian spot, one with an interesting past and with wealthy patrons to spare, Casa Lever. It may seem snooty, "built for socialites," but the food here is actually, for the most part, impressive, making the restaurant "deeply likable" in Sifton's eyes:
There is a lot of cashmere and silk at Casa Lever, plenty of crazy wealth. (That’s Mr. Rosen over there now!) But it’s still fun in Spence-Chapin thrift-shop merino, in a Housing Works frock.
The service is appealing, comic-opera stuff. And the food, while basic, is often quite good. The spirit of Sant Ambroeus, a restaurant born in Milan in 1936 and mother to the society rooms in the Village, on the Upper East Side and Main Street in Southampton, has never been more serene.
After filing on the food—skip most of the pastas, go for the vitello tonnato, spring for the Luger-like meat—he concludes:
None of the food at Casa Lever is particularly groundbreaking. It owes little to the recent trend toward Italian cooking of the sort found at Marea or Del Posto, all towering ambition and crazy imagination. That’s all right. People used to say the thing about Italian cuisine was that it is mostly just excellent ingredients served plain on a plate, without much interpretation. Sometimes that’s worth recalling over just such a meal, in a beautiful room.[NYT]
Alan Richman goes to Sparks, expects his steaks to be cooked properly, and is sorely disappointed: "I do not know how many shell steaks the kitchen at Sparks has prepared...Here’s the thing: The kitchen, once expert, now has no idea how to cook them. I twice went to Sparks in the past couple weeks, and both meals were extremely uncomfortable, simply because I insisted on steak prepared as I ordered it...I have never in my life come upon another restaurant that makes customers feel so wrong if they insist on their food cooked properly." [GQ]
Gael Greene has a mostly excellent time at OBao when Michael Huynh is in the kitchen, not so much when he's MIA: "Oddly grizzled spring rolls might be forgiven, but not the two leaves of dead lettuce our server suggests we wrap them in...Korean short ribs with wide noodles, mustard greens and green man¬go kimchee, restores my faith. I hope the key is ordering well, but I suspect that it’s having Huynh himself in the kitchen." [Crain's]
Oliver Strand on the Union Square area, San Francisco style taco/burrito shop Dos Toros: "there is the simple and succulent food, stripped-down cooking served in spartan conditions. Like Gordo, Dos Toros has a short menu, high standards and such satisfying fare you don’t mind the hospital lighting." [NYT]
THE ELSEWHERE: Tables for Two is won over by Joseph Leonard, Bloomberg's Yvette Fernandez rounds up all the best vegetarian eating in New York, Sietsema has spectacular food at Best Fuzhou Restaurant on Eldridge, Sarah DiGregorio checks in on the new South African restaurant on the LES Bunny Chow, and Gael Greene has her first encounter with April Bloomfield's cooking at The Breslin and is mightily impressed.
THE BLOGS: Ed Levine gives a B+ to L.A. Burdick on East 20th, NY Journal finally goes to Katz's and sees what all the fuss is about, The Pink Pig checks out the haggis at newcomer The Highlands, Immaculate Infatuation deems the food incredible at Carroll Gardens' Prime Meats, and Life with Food and Drink is floored by Maialino.