Veritas, the wine centric three star restaurant that suddenly closed last summer with no notice to employees, reopened in late November with restaurant world vet and Tao alum Sam Hazen at the helm. He must have done something right, because today Sam Sifton returned it to its former glory, re-establishing its three star status:
Mr. Hazen, known primarily as the kitchen force behind the mega-club restaurants Tao and Tao Las Vegas, has introduced to the restaurant a tightly focused, extremely flavorful and somewhat less expensive à la carte menu of aggressively American cooking, terrifically executed by Alexander Williamson, his chef de cuisine. The sommelier Rubén Sanz Ramiro matches the treasures of Mr. Smith’s cellar to it with both an eye toward value and a firm understanding of glee.He notes, "There is little about the place to knock save the cacophony that develops in the dining room when it is crowded, the traffic jam at the door and the occasional line at the restroom." Those were not problems at all just under a year ago. [NYT]
...Veritas, now without tablecloths or pretense, has become a sophisticated, enjoyable restaurant. It is the sort of place where people make their reservations not over the telephone from the office, but as they’re making their way out of the dining room after their meals.
Jay Cheshes is not as impressed as some other critics with Michael White's Ai Fiori: "On paper, his new spot, Ai Fiori, appears just as sharply conceived as the others, exploring the real cross-pollination that exists on the coastal French and Italian border. In practice, though, the concept is as incoherent as it is ambitious: White, operating for the first time without former front-of-house partner Chris Cannon, has given us a restaurant that is all over the map." [TONY]
Ryan Sutton loves the bold flavors of Gabe Stulman's Fedora, and notes the hits outweigh the misses in the kitchen: "Chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly...serves strong Franco-American fare whose flavors holler louder than the crowd. Silky avocado contrasts with gossamer slices of cured mackerel. Beef tartare, typically strewn with capers and anchovies, gets a dose of tobiko, the crunchy Pop Rocks of the caviar world. Meats come head to tail. Round little nuggets of pig’s head, under the adult supervision of vinegar, dissolve on the tongue." [Bloomberg]
Sam Sifton on John Fraser's temporary restaurant What Happens When: "It recalls a college black-box theater that happens to serve food. But it’s pretty terrific food for that, a $58 prix fixe menu worth eating even if the space vibes temporary and the chairs are uncomfortable. Mr. Fraser, who has the elegant Dovetail on the Upper West Side, did not come downtown to play fast and loose. His budget is low. His kitchen is top-flight." [NYT]
Steve Cuozzo says Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster is everything he hoped it would be and more: "This is not your garden-variety, overhyped, celeb-chef eatery opening...Harlem’s fabled long-ago and its emerging new-age embrace like old friends...Uptowners in hats and furs, downtowners in late-winter black feast equally, not separately, on a strange smorgasbord of a menu that ranges from blackened catfish to tacos and tostadas to Swedish meatballs." [NYP]
THE ELSEWHERE: Gael Greene finds a lot to like at French newcomer La Silhouette, Robert Sietsema has unique and delectable Taiwanese fare at Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet in Queens, Julia Moskin writes that the preciousness of tasting menu only restaurant Compose is tolerable because the food is so good, Lauren Shockey finds the highest of highs and the lowest of lows at the new incarnation of The John Dory Oyster Bar, and Tables for Two experiences one too many misfires at Southern restaurant Seersucker.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats checks in on all the offerings at Food Gallery 32, The Hungry Roach finds wonderful food to go along with the wine at Jody Williams' Buvette, Will Chu has an early take on the newly reopened Brooklyn Star, Law & Food is not so psyched about the tight quarters at the Nolita location of Socarrat, Feisty Foodie overindulges at LIC diner M. Wells, and Eatery Row loves the sliders at FiDi's Zaitzeff.