Again Sifton bucks the trend. Today, he awards two stars to Recette, a small but ambitious neighborhood place that received none too enthusiastic reviews from three other big New York critics. They found it too pricey, too salty. Perhaps they missed something, because Sifton was positively charmed:
The cooking at Recette is smart and imaginative, the food that results from it elegant and full of flavor...It is casual, almost to a fault. But Recette is a very good restaurant.
...Mr. Schenker’s foie gras terrine is revelatory, a single slice revealing a kind of glistening mosaic, perfect in its form, each lobe of the liver unmolested by the process: luscious, creamy, with a faint mineral tang. It’s a meat painting, an organ sculpture; like most complicated French cooking, it tastes utterly complete, perfect in the way a ripe strawberry is, or a fresh-shucked oyster.
The codfish fritters come beneath a drizzle of curried aioli, bright and lemony, and above a few tablespoons of fiery lamb-sausage ragù. This is a head-scratchingly good combination...the menu is remarkably free of stuff that’s available everywhere else.
Just about everything he describes sounds fairly impressive from the pork belly with rock shrimp ("Spin on a plate") to the ocean trout ("it tastes of high tide and the sun") and the deconstructed s’more. He concludes, "Ms. Lee and Mr. Schenker are going to be around for a while." [NYT]
Sarah DiGregorio has some misses, some overpriced items, but deems the revamp of El Quinto Pino a win: "...the patatas bravas, for instance, might be the best in the city, with resolutely crunchy fried potatoes that hold up under a deliciously goopy, spiced ketchup. An equally good bar snack can be found in the fried lamb intestines...the sand eels rival the intestines—the tiny, inch-long creatures sporting a craggy crust that reminds me of the best New England fried clams." [VV]
Gael Greene thinks Mia Dona is doing just fine without chef Michael Psilakis at the helm: "Zia Laura’s cauliflower soup is unlike any other I’ve tasted – not just creamy, but almost a mousse, with a small island of arugula pesto afloat. Ricotta gnocchi with sausage is a feathery miracle napped in a melt of caciocavallo cheese. And the eggplant parmigiana is remarkably elegant..." [IC]
Tables for Two is none too pleased with the swanky London import Le Caprice: "One evening, a salad of burrata, romaine, lobster, and tomatoes was flavorful but texturally cacophonous...steak tartare, was faultlessly familiar, and the “small” portion would more than fill a lowball glass...The service, though, is unforgivable. On recent visits, it ranged from hostile to bumbling to nonexistent." [New Yorker]
Adam Platt likes Scott Conant's Faustina much better than its predecessor, but still thinks it merits no more than one star: "In the end, you may find yourself wishing the talented chef had pulled more from his old menu. The dishes at Scarpetta have a tight, composed rhythm to them, but too much of the food here feels like it’s been whipped together in a hurry and slapped on the plate." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Robert Sietsema finds standout Kyoto style cuisine at sleeper restaurant Hibino, Jay Cheshes files on newcomer sandwich shops Saltie, This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, The Meatball Shop, and Torrisi Italian Specialties, Sam Sifton files on three newish museum restos Robert, The Wright, and Sandwiched, Alan Richman checks in on solid, celeb-filled Tribeca standby Tribeca Grill to commemorate its 20th anniversary, and Ryan Sutton is living the good life, devouring mutton chops with Scotch at Keen's.
THE BLOGS: A Life Worth Eating is a fan of the coffee and the fast wifi at Stumptown at the Ace Hotel, Boozy NYC finds a tasting flight steep but rewarding at Brooklyn's Char No. 4, Ed Levine gives a B+ to Print at the Ink 48 Hotel, Cleaned My Plate is for the most part impressed by the food at JoeDoe, Immaculate Infatuation deems the $62 menu at the excellent Convivio a steal, The Pink Pig thinks Hearth is still awesome, The Food Doc loves the Pulino's burger, but not their fries, The Hungry Roach advises diners to try the food at newcomer Betel, even though the scene if off-putting, and The Skinny Pig likes Faustina but not as much as Scarpetta.