Today Sam Sifton delivers a real spanking to Xiao Ye, Eddie Huang's small but brash Lower East Side Taiwanese joint, awarding it a goose egg. Why pick on such a small, relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things late night eats type of place? It sounds like it's because he wanted so badly for it to be good. And Huang's outsized personality probably had something to do with it as well:
...if Mr. Huang spent even a third of the time cooking that he does writing funny blog posts and wry Twitter updates, posting hip-hop videos and responding to Internet friends, rivals, critics and customers, Xiao Ye might be one of the more interesting restaurants to open in New York City in the last few months.
As it stands, though, Xiao Ye is an artful misfire: the sort of place that, as Mr. Huang sadly appears to desire it to be, is really only best when the customers are a little drunk, a little high, maybe both and in any event extremely hungry...Xiao Ye could almost be the right place to eat right now.
He loves the dumplings, some of the noodles, the Taiwanese pork on rice, the Hainan chicken with rice, the General Tso-style prawns. Then comes the hammer drop. The steamed cabbage is "a school-lunch nightmare that is hard to shake," braised beef ribs "might have been made by your college roommate in a borrowed Crock-Pot one night." He calls the dishes dishonest and "more calculated, more desperate and far less interesting" than their counterparts at Huang's sister restaurant BaoHaus, concluding " Xiao Ye is a bummer." [NYT]
Though Robert Sietsema notes that "It's impossible to sit in Manzo and not feel like you're part of a diorama at the Natural History Museum," he adores the food: "the menu is amazing, with the capacity to transport you from your shopping-center surroundings into a realm of pure culinary invention." [VV]
There were a couple of mediocre dishes, but Steve Cuozzo writes that the Lambs Club is getting better by the week: "I’ve never had a lobster roll so good (and worth $32)...The $18 burger was a gamy, oozy grind of sirloin, chuck and brisket. Pristine-tasting “crispy” ocean trout came gently foamed with ginger and kaffir lime...toothsome ravioli packed with well-herbed, chili-sparked pork shoulder presaged that marvelous pork chop, served with sinfully pan-fried, breaded trotters." [NYP]
Gael Greene has a knockout meal at The Lambs Club the first time around, noting, "Both the remarkably moist chicken and a meaty pork chop....were textbook juicy and I remembered the seared sea scallops days later." But in a follow up visit, "dinner is somewhat uneven, good and good enough, less brilliant." [IC]
This week, Plattypants awards two stars each to kinda Dutch Vandaag and offal-centric Takashi. On the former: "Vandaag’s inventive executive chef...has a penchant for madcap, slightly obsessive locavore experimentation...some of these experiments work better than others." And the latter: "The grilled short ribs at Takashi (dusted with salt and sesame oil) are worth a special trip, and so are the milky strips of rib eye." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Nick Fox says newcomer Sam Matteo may be the Upper East Side's best pizza spot, Ligaya Mishan files on the modern ranch meets food court that is Midtown's Tri Tip Grill, Ryan Sutton has a roundup on fried chicken in New York, and Jay Cheshes awards four stars to the kinda Dutch Vandaag.
THE BLOGS: eateryROW does a beer garden roundup in honor of Oktoberfest, and Berry Park, Bohemian Hall, Radegast, The Standard and Studio Square all make the cut, NY Journal finds pleasing Polynesian fare with no bargains in sight at The Hurricane Club and and encounters better prices and heavy dishes at Bar Blanc's do-over Lowcountry, The Food Doc praises Michelin for praising Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen, Immaculate Infatuation has "just south of ok" food amidst a sea of estrogen at Balaboosta, A Life Worth Eating likes the burger burger at The Breslin but finds it to heavy, Law & Food writes that not everything at Hill Country Chicken is completely terrible, just most things, while Serious Eats gives it a B+.