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A Triumphant Three Stars for Michael White's Ai Fiori

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Krieger, 11/30/10

Sam Sifton files his fourth three star review—and his second for Michael White—on Ai Fiori, the French-Italian restaurant in the new Setai in Midtown that he calls "a winning new defense of fine dining." What else does he call it? Just "one of the best restaurants to open in New York in the last 12 months." Enough accolades, let's get to the food:

For those with a taste for offal and seafood, there is a soft-poached egg served with crisp sweetbreads, braised lobster knuckles, more of that black truffle and some tarragon...There is a roasted breast of squab as well, its shatteringly crisp skin giving way to soft and gamy meat below, with a sticky Madeira sauce, a cotton-ball purée of parsnips and a golden croquette filled with liquefied foie gras. This tastes of wealth and self-satisfaction...Eaten alongside wines to match...they help set the stage for a meal that moves well beyond the familiar Italian boundaries of what Mr. White has heretofore cooked in New York.
He concludes, "There may be prettier restaurants in the world of Michael White. But the cooking is at its very top here at the Setai." [NYT]

Jay Cheshes finds a lot to like at Michael Psilakis' FishTag and awards it four stars: "Fish Tag, may be his most impressive experiment so far. The restaurant combines the best of its predecessors into a dynamic new venture, with food as refined as it was in the Onera era, served alongside Gus & Gabriel’s gastropub fare and more classic Greek dishes reminiscent of Kefi. The manic mix adds up to a whole lot of restaurant for such a small space—overwhelming at times but also exhilarating, with some of the most bold and original new cooking in town." [TONY]

The Cuozz likes the pies, the pork chop, and the affordability of Donatella in Chelsea: "An instant hit with Chelsea locals, Donatella is the latest twinkler in New York’s artisanal pizza firmament. Unlike certain baroquely conceived doughs and crusts around town, the pies churned out by chef Jarett Appell are amenable to their various toppings: You can eat them with the hands, or with knife and fork, and not feel you’re doing the wrong thing." [NYP]

Gael Greene is skeptical at first but quickly falls for John Fraser's fare at his temporary restaurant What Happens When: "What we’re eating is pure Fraser, sophisticated and mostly remarkable. Crunchy fried fingerling potato skins in the shape of a large thimble on wheat beer fondue, tossed with pickled sausage and sorrel, so original and creative...If you don’t like it, you might call it eccentric rather than original." [IC]

THE ELSEWHERE: Metromix says that they are fast becoming fans of the new Van Horn Sandwich Shop in Cobble Hill, Pete Wells offers a doughnut shop roundup, Tables for Two likes Hung Ry in NoHo, but thinks the noodles are besides the point, Robert Sietsema enjoys Cantonese fare with Hong Kong flourishes at Bensonhurst's Yummy City, and Lauren Shockey deems Breuckelen a good neighborhood spot but not a dining destination.

THE BLOGS: Pink Pig gets a table at Red Rooster and has a pretty good meal, Life with Food and Drink awarded The Modern four Offset Spatulas, Feisty Foodie has an awful experience at Hop Kee, New York Journal gives David Burke Kitchen 1.5 stars overall, Serious Eats awards a B+ to Nolita's Rubirosa, The Hungry Roach deems Torrisi Italian Specialties a true New York gem, and Kika Eats attempts to compare Bowery Beef and This Little Piggy but in the ends cannot make a definitive decision.

Hung Ry

55 Bond Street, New York, NY 10003 Visit Website

Ai Fiori

400 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10018 (212) 613-8660 Visit Website

What Happens When

25 Cleveland Place, New York, NY 10012 (212) 925-8310 Visit Website

Ai Fiori

400 5th Ave., New York, NY