Sam Sifton is so utterly charmed by the Long Island City oasis M Wells that he stays put to wait for his entrees as a kitchen fire threatens, concluding "It would be terrible to miss eating the food there for anything less than a catastrophe." He awards it two stars. He notes that the restaurant is a little discombobulated, and there are a few misses, but when they get it right, they really get it right:
A deep bowl of tripe cut to resemble noodles was severely under-salted...Beef tartare, cut as beautifully as only a hand with a knife can cut, was its spectacular opposite: silky and powerfully seasoned, bound in a sauce that was rather wetter than one generally sees in tartare — and good for that.
Also first-rate: a plate of veal brains that displayed the sort of sauté skills generally associated only with the very highest level of classical French cooking...It is brain panna cotta, essentially, and if it is on the menu it is an absolute must-order even if this sentence freaks you out.And if that doesn't seal the deal, maybe this will: "Those who recall the thrill of eating at the Momofuku restaurants for the first time would do well to book passage on the No. 7 train, bound for Hunters Point." [NYT]
Ryan Sutton has a take down for Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster: "Dirty rice ($11) lives up to its name, like spooning a mouthful straight from a box of Zatarain’s. Blackened catfish, no better than a prepackaged supermarket version, arrived with black eyed peas that smelled like dishwater. Jamaican beef patties tasted like microwaved meatloaf; pulled pork had all the flavor of powdered Taco Bell seasoning. I washed it down with a glass of Paul Goerg Champagne ($20) that was flat." [Bloomberg]
Meanwhile, Steve Cuozzo files a scorcher on Todd English's newest, Ember Room: "Ember Room has yet to advance much beyond 'concept.' This, according to a waiter, is 'American barbecue fused with Asian sophistication,' but cilantro fastened to barbecued blubber would be more like it." [NYP]
Plattypants visits the new, popular hipster magnet Fedora, noting that it bottles "the elusive, homespun alchemy that the best Brooklyn restaurants are known for." He gives it two stars: "Brunet-Benkritly is capable of cooking with a light, classical touch, but most of the earthy fusion recipes at Fedora are designed to be consumed in a happy lather, with flagons of ale...Fedora can feel, on crowded evenings, like a woolly, cut-rate version of the Minetta Tavern." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Tables for Two likes that Red Rooster is genuinely comfortable with itself, Time Out New York says Red Rooster is consistent, accessible and easy to like and awards the restaurant three stars, Gael Greene has a pretty wonderful experience at Pier 9, Julia Moskin loves the restaurant but is disappointed by the food at Midtown's La Silhouette, Eric Asimov finds wine bar Thirstbaràvin an oasis in a desolate stretch of Crown Heights, Metromix finds a mixed bag at Social Eatz, and Lauren Shockey is charmed by LES newcomer Saro Bistro but has some issues with the food.
THE BLOGS: Immaculate Infatuation enjoys Babbo the most out of all the Batali restaurants, A Tiger in the Kitchen says Jones Wood Foundry was worth the trek from Brooklyn, What Andy Ate loves Chelsea newcomer Coppelia, At the Sign of the Pink Pig finds the smoked meat sandwich at Mile End to be very good, New York Journal gives one-star overall to the new Upper West Side Ditch Plains, Serious Eats awards a B+ to the new version of The Brooklyn Star,the tasting menu at East Village vegetarian restaurant Kajitsu exceeds Law & Food's expectations, and The Food Doc writes that the new version of The Brooklyn Star is comforting and familiar yet still new and interesting.