Sam Sifton this week files a zero star review, his first since slamming the now shuttered Xiao Ye, on Fishtag, Michael Psilakis' newish "strange and frustrating if occasionally marvelous restaurant" in the old Gus & Gabriel/Kefi/Onera space. Psilakis and his chef de cuisine Ryan Skeen do some things well—grilled fish, lamb burgers, mussels with merguez—but most dishes are overdone:
A neighborhood joint with aspirations that are somewhat higher than that, the restaurant marries solid Mediterranean cooking to a kind of wackadoo, cheffy bravado that brings sea urchin to the table floating in a glass of brackish seawater as if it were art...He does his best to point out what one should stick to at Fishtag but concludes, "There is too much at Fishtag that is too much, and too little to offer compensation for that fact. Mr. Psilakis has shown us — first at Onera, more recently at his Kefi, on Columbus Avenue — that he can do better." [NYT]
...What, however, is the purpose of a grilled branzino stuffed with headcheese, except to tempt food loons eager to experience something different? (The dish might serve as a prime example of the term “critic bait.”) There is an excellent accompaniment of greens braised with guanciale, but the fish itself was overcooked, with an interior that proved of sticky interest only to those predisposed to believe a fish stuffed with headcheese is a good idea.
Steve Cuozzo gives two and a half stars to Shea Gallante's Ciano: "In New York's golden age of pasta, can any chef contribute anything new? Gallante pulls it off with rich, rugged creations more attuned to the country-farmhouse schtick than his more cosmopolitanized secondi. Not to be missed: malloreddus intertwined with dungeness crab, argula, Calabrian peppers and speck, topped with mullet bottarga." [NYP]
Robert Sietsema is blown away by the cooking of Fedora's Montreal born chef: "The chef has several non-Canadienne tricks up his lard-encrusted sleeve. The English schoolboy classic of toad-in-a-hole is parodied through the addition of tomato sauce and shreds of tripe that you don't always realize you're eating until it's too late...Asian accents appear, too. A delectable quarter fried chicken ($23) is offered in a bowl on rice tinged with sweet vinegar; alongside find a Japanese cucumber salad...A duck leg comes smeared with something that tastes like bottled barbecue sauce, to surprisingly good effect." [VV]
Ryan Sutton finds rushed service but the same wonderful sushi at Sushi Yasuda: "Sushi Yasuda remains true to its owner. You still will be offered hard-to-find fish, simply prepared...How civilized it all is. Until precisely 90 minutes from the beginning of your very good, very traditional feast, when you and your date are politely given the boot along with the $294 bill." [Bloomberg]
Adam Platt files a twofer on new high end Indian restaurant Junoon (two stars) and April Bloomfield's new iteration of The John Dory (one star). He writes of the latter, "Bloomfield’s abbreviated, tapas-style menu is a shadow of its former self. There are no grilled-fish entrées (crudi rule the day), no rib-sticking stews (although Bloomfield’s excellent oyster pan roast has survived), and no sign of the old restaurant’s ethereal version of fish and chips." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Gael Greene experiences some major missteps at Todd English's newest The Ember Room, Tables for Two writes that Riverpark does the basics brilliantly, Lauren Shockey notes that while not always delicious, at least everything at Upper West Side restaurant Graffit is challenging and interesting, Oliver Strand doesn't love the room, but the food makes up for it at Edi & The Wolf, Josh Stein checks out barbecue newcomer Mabel's in Williamsburg, and Ligaya Mishan notes that the real excitement is in the small plates at Japanese newcomer Wasan.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives a B+ to modern Korean restaurant Danji in Midtown, NYC Foodie takes an early look at the just opened East Village restaurant The Trilby, Immaculate Infatuation are, not surprisingly, huge fans of Katz's Delicatessen, The Food Doc finds some big wins on the new dinner menu at M. Wells, The Hungry Roach has a wonderful time at The Brooklyn Fare, and The Pink Pig gets a great $9 sandwich at old-timer David's and is turned away at Mile End.