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Two Stars for the Great Food, Even Better Design at Vandaag

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Sam Sifton is taken by the beautiful and minimalist design at new East Village restaurant Vandaag this week, offering the vaguely Dutch spot two stars. He says it's "the sort of dining room you could move into with a couple of tattered leather armchairs, and sit all day, bare feet on the polished concrete floor, reading novels." And the food isn't half bad either:

...there are fat, barely pickled Blue Point oysters that taste of the East Village’s once-vibrant appetizing stores, and pickled sausages that come straight from the neighborhood’s still-extant Ukrainian meat markets. Mr. Kirschen-Clark’s salad of red Russian kale arrives mixed with nutty green strawberries, sweet onions and caraway — the combination unfamiliar and close to transcendent...
Chilled cucumber soup comes tasting of ginger, mint and gin, with hints of pickled cantaloupe and smoked eel. Sounds awful? It is the opposite.
There's also a magnificent chicken and excellent littleneck clams. He notes, of a recommendable stroopwafel, "Eating it in this room is to be thrilled by the unfamiliar, and to experience what the art critic Robert Hughes called the shock of the new." [NYT]

Jay Cheshes files on the latest from the BLT empire, and the first of its restaurants to open without Laurent Tourondel at the helm: "The clone-ready restaurant—a generic New American tavern with leather booths and TV-topped bars on two sprawling floors—is a personality-free zone, and an embarrassment to the man whose initials still adorn the marquee." [TONY]

Robert Sietsema calls Strong Place the most perfect evocation of the Brooklyn bistro to date: "Strong Place conforms to modern food preoccupations, featuring plenty of seasonal produce, a preponderance of omega-3-rich seafood, few carbs, and a playful take on dishes you've probably seen before. In fact, much of the menu is splendid enough to make you want to visit on a weekly basis. Which is the whole point of a bistro, isn't it?" [VV]

This week Plattypants gives one star to the impressive but sometimes jumbled cooking at Flatiron newcomer Nuela: "Schop is an acolyte of the acclaimed Nuevo Latino chef Douglas Rodriguez...and he clearly has a knack for this kind of high-wire auteur cooking. But there’s a hectic quality to the proceedings...a sense that in his big-city debut the chef is trying to display his entire repertoire in one sitting." [NYM]

THE ELSEWHERE: Oliver Strand finds new energy in the kitchen at New Wonjo, Metromix finds that the bad food outweighs the good at Broken English, Gael Green gets reprimanded for eating her No. 7 Sub sandwich in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, Sarah DiGregorio visits Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi restaurant Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant during Ramadan, and Ryan Sutton files a twofer on the dismal Plein Sud and the mixed bag of Provencal fare at Mangeoire's.

THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives an A to Hide Chan Ramen, Sign of the Pink Pig tries the fried birds at The Commodore and Hill Country Chicken and deems the former superior despite service issues, NY Journal samples the "cheap" small plates at Lina Frey, eateryROW goes pierogi-crazy at Veselka, NYC Foodie loves the free focaccia and ricotta at A Voce, Immaculate Infatuation gives Toloache the pre-theater nod, and Law and Food deems the dining room at The Modern "a true masterpiece."

Strong Place

270 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

No. 7 Sub

1188 Broadway, New York, NY 10001 Visit Website

Nuela

43 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10010 Visit Website

Plein Sud

85 West Broadway, New York, NY 10007 Visit Website

Hill Country Chicken

1123 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 Visit Website

Vandaag

103 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003 Visit Website

Vandaag

103 2nd Ave., New York, NY

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