This week Sam Sifton awards one star to Niko, the new Japanese restaurant in the old Honmura An space in Soho. After comparing co-owner Cobi Levy to Don Draper, a big cat, and a driver going fast at night, he gets into the food:
Particularly good are the starters. An appetizer of “soy-burnt” octopus brings tender, caramelized tentacles set amid a salad of watermelon radish and kiwi fruit, with macerated cucumber as a kind of dressing: salty sweet, with a crunch...But the point isn't really the food: "The important thing about Niko is the scene that Mr. Levy is attempting to build in conjunction with the food: a crowd that is mostly modish and young, though still welcoming to the occasional group of people who remember the old days at Honmura An, when Yoko Ono sat in a quiet table by the windows, and everyone knew Leo Castelli by sight." [NYT]
Mr. Sawatari’s sushi is estimable...The single-portion entrees are also quite good, in particular a miso-cured salmon with Asian pear and celery root, and the sansho-glazed pork cheek served with collards, a crisp pig tail and a gently poached egg. A slow-roasted spicy chicken served with consommé can improve a mood immediately, and sustain it for hours afterward.
Jay Cheshes gives five stars to Long Island City's renegade diner M. Wells: "M. Wells, an ambitious newcomer in Queens that is shaping up to be NYC’s deliverance from its rustic Italian rut. The underdog project, in an old diner overlooking the Long Island Expressway, serves the most exciting and fearless food this town has seen in years." [TONY]
Ryan Sutton deems Beaty & Essex better than its club kid brethren Lavo and Tao and actually likes some of chef Chris Santos' "Epcot World Showcase of multiethnic finger food": "Eat Japanese. That country is represented well with Kobe carpaccio; a preparation that wouldn’t be out of place at Jean Georges...Italy gets an estimable nod to Emilia-Romagna...Short rib tamales honor Mexico." [Bloomberg]
Tables for Two checks in on Lincoln six months in: "Mozzarella in Carrozza (cheese in a carriage) turned out to be no more than a hockey-puck-shaped disk of breaded fried cheese over puttanesca sauce. But a velvety green-garlic-and-broccoli purée with ricotta gnudi was ethereal, and the complimentary focaccia with rosemary, salt, and lardo should be sold by the bagful. Pastas are hit or miss...The carne can be beautiful." [The New Yorker]
Adam Platt files a twofer on French newcomers La Silhouette (two stars and La Petite Maison (none). He says of the former, "The lamb loin I ordered one evening...wouldn’t have been out of place at one of Daniel’s finer restaurants, and neither would the softly braised monkfish tournedos, which were sunk in a rich, smoky shellfish broth cut with a hint of preserved lemon." The latter restaurant, on the other hand, serves "listless, overpriced facsimiles of Niçois classics." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Steve Cuozzo recently realized that he is in love with Benoit and awards it three stars, Robert Sietsema reports that the barbecue at Williamsburg newcomer Mabel's Smokehouse is often great, Ligaya Mishan encourages a visit to Chinatown old timer Nom Wah Tea Parlor for their excellent dim sum, Lauren Shockey writes that the dishes at Todd English's The Ember Room are battered by sweetness and abandoned by spice, and Gael Greene adores Marc Forgione noting the the chef, the son of great chef Larry Forgione, has finally grown into his inheritence.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives an A- to So Kong Dong in Fort Lee, NJ, Gotham Gal is entirely unimpressed with the overpriced and ridiculous Compose, Social Eatz gives the Hungry Roach a reason to envy Midtown diners, The Food Doc sees room for improvement but a lot of potential at Alex Stupak's Empellon, Immaculate Infatuation puts the Chef's Counter at Brooklyn Fare on par with Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Momofuku Ko, and NY Journal has a nice hot dog at Brats: Dogs & Weiners.