This week Sam Sifton files on the unusual Tribeca newcomer Il Matto (the madman), offering it two stars. What he seems to like most about the place is that it is so unusual, a departure from the "increasingly codified Manhattan restaurant scene." He calls the cocktails silly, the chairs uncomfortable, and notes that the lighting is erratic. And yet:
But the service is exceptional and the food beautifully executed. And the trade-off is to the diner’s advantage. A little seating discomfort is nothing, against a braised pork belly, melting and rich, served atop a stroke of honey infused with black olives. The meat is served with head-on shrimp and a purée of chickpeas. The flavors combine into something that is almost surreal, and entirely natural.After raving about the rest of the menu, Sifton concludes, "it seems to celebrate a vision for what a restaurant in Manhattan can be — a reflection not of what we want, but what its owner desires. Il Matto’s is food to chuckle over and think about. It is a book of short stories, worth reading." [NYT]
Tables for Two on David Chang's Ma Peche: "Chang’s restaurant battles valiantly against the limitations of its room, a strange scrap of space underneath the hotel. There are parking garages that elicit greater joie de vivre, but the staff is upbeat and charming, earnestly trying to make the place’s bugs seem like features." [NewYorker]
Gael Greene seems to enjoy the food at Vandaag, the new gin-centric restaurant in the East Village. She ends her review thusly, "To be frank, the look of Vandaag puts me off, though it’s worth a detour for a tease of Dutch and Danish cooking by a passionate farm-to-table champion." [IC]
Sarah DiGregorio files on two new pizza places, Olio Pizza e Piu and Campo de Fiori. On the former: "The Margherita Extra—the 'extra' being halved cherry tomatoes strewn amid the tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil—boasts a crust mottled with char, and puffy ends that maintain an appealing salty, airy chew." And the latter: "As for the pizzas ($15–$18), they are sturdy and crunchy, soft on the top and crisp on the bottom. The crust tastes yeasty, though it might benefit from a pinch more salt." [VV]
THE ELSEWHERE: Betsy Andrews is impressed with the beer, the eats, and the prices at Strong Place in Cobble Hill, after noting that New Yorkers have a heavy-handed taste in Southern food, Pete Wells calls new Southern restaurant Seersucker "urbane, soft-spoken and modern," and Robert Sietsema experiences some hits and misses at Roman restaurant Testaccio in Long Island City.
THE BLOGS: The Pink Pig goes up to Harlem and realizes he likes both Bier International and its neighbor 5 & Diamond, Serious Eats gives Vandaag an A-, Law & Food doesn't like the attitude at Brooklyn Fare, NY Journal enjoys the pork chop at The Brindle Room, The Food Doc reports that the food makes up for the spotty service at 15 East, Always Hungry checks out the wonderfully French Le Gigot, and the Feisty Foodie tries the breakfast prix fixe at Maialino.