Sam Sifton awards one star this week to Jesus Nunez's modernist Spanish restaurant Graffit. It seems that most of the best dishes are the straightforward ones. He gets mixed results with the chef starts playing with his food:
The egg white is actually puréed cauliflower that has been seamlessly formed into an egg shape, surrounding the soft yellow yolk of a real egg. This dish is cool and beautiful and science-mad, a piece of sculpture right there on your plate, just $15. It leads to heartfelt oohs and ahs from some of those who order it.And in the end, "Graffit is an enjoyable restaurant. Despite its arty pretension, it can be a hoot to eat there. A simple reason is the quality of the restaurant’s service, which is superb and of the oldest school imaginable..." [NYT]
But the dish fails an important test. The cauliflower purée is not more delicious than an egg white...The impulse to create such a thing may not be the same one that brought the world seitan bacon; it is loftier and more interesting than that. It is art. But cauliflower egg white and wheat-gluten bacon are still of a piece. They disappoint.
The restaurant’s “fake truffles” on “edible dirt” are more interesting...and the playfulness succeeds on its own terms: it’s delicious.
Jay Cheshes files a twofer on the updated Yiddish fare at Brooklyn's Mile End and the East Village's Octavia's Porch: "At Mile End in Brooklyn, new chef Aaron Israel—a real mensch recruited by owner Noah Bermanoff from Torrisi last year—strikes just the right balance, with a new dinner menu that manages to be both ambitious and reverential. Across the East River at Octavia’s Porch, however, Top Chef alum Nikki Cascone misses the mark, fumbling awkwardly through her ancestral pantry." [TONY]
Tables for Two has their doubts but are easily won over by Sara Jenkins' Porsena: "to the pennette, the spaghetti, the maccheroncini, the lasagna. The latter is a rare miss, layered with noodles too thin to hold up to the ragù and besciamel between them. Anneloni with creamy, spicy lamb sausage and mustard greens, though, might leave you lusting after it the next day, and a recent special of nodi marini...tastes like it could cure a cold." [New Yorker]
The Robs award three Underground Gourmet stars to Earl’s Beer & Cheese, a new bar serving food way uptown: "Earl’s Beer & Cheese had us at the Calabro-mozzarella grilled cheese on a Thomas’ English muffin...Nearly as delicious is another seemingly loony-bin invention featuring New York State Cheddar melted over braised pork belly with kimchee and a fried egg on griddle-toasted sourdough. Man, is it good." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Oliver Strand finds quite a few misses among the hits at North Carolina themed sandwich shop Van Horn, Lauren Shockey, though averse to small plates, is charmed by Jody Williams' new spot Buvette, Gael Greene, who has been going to Fiorello's for 40 years, assesses it in its newer, more expensive state, and Robert Sietsema heads to Flushing to check out New York's first real Muslim Chinese establishment, Yi Lan Halal Restaurant.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives a B+ to Henan Flavor, a Queens import in Manhattan, NY Journal has a hit and a miss at Fedora, Law & Food enjoys steak and eggs at the brunch at Prime Meats, Immaculate Infatuation does an about face and files a positive re-review of the solid Maialino, Eat Big Apple enjoys a multi-course meal and blind tasting at Craft's private dining room, Life with Food and Drink finally visits Jean-Georges' Nougatine, and The Skinny Pig has a first taste of spring at Vai Spuntino Bar in Soho.