Sam Sifton awards one star to Geoffrey Zakarian's new Midtown restaurant in the Benjamin Hotel, The National Bar and Dining Rooms. It's a great neighborhood spot, given its unappealing neighborhood. Once he gets past loving on the room, the design, the history of the space, and a Georgia O’Keeffe reference, Sifton gets to the food:
...it is the sort of restaurant where it is nice to be. And the food, which hews close to Mr. Zakarian’s new-American aesthetic, is to match. It is simple but not really, a menu of standards put through the reinvention machine, followed by wise and often wonderful desserts from Marisa Croce, the restaurant’s pastry chef...He notes that "In a city run through with restaurants set in hotels, serving food appropriate to hotels...the National makes a case that it is different, decent and worth it, and thanks to Mr. Rockwell’s design and Mr. Corsentino’s attentions, it generally succeeds in the argument." [NYT]
...Mr. Corsentino’s appetizers are strong...Main courses mostly kept up the parade, save in the instance of a muddy entree of roasted pork tossed with fettuccine, with ramps and snap peas. A fine dish of roast chicken with risotto and spring garlic would be a nice thing to eat on your first night in New York after a hellish flight from Los Angeles or London, though.
Ryan Sutton for the most part enjoys the idiosyncrasies of tasting bar Compose: "Compose is a great place for creative grub and booze. Most of the time, anyway...Think reindeer sous-vide with wild herb gel, though no Rudolph is served at Compose. The kitchen instead hides medallions of American pork under a delicious canopy of fiddlehead ferns, miner’s lettuce and fingerling tater skins. Diners who want a piece of the agrarian action are encouraged to call well ahead." [Bloomberg]
Robert Sietsema finds a mixed bag at new Cuban diner Coppelia: "The food runs from inspired to terrible, and there’s no real correlation between authenticity and goodness. In any well-thought-out operation of this sort, shortcuts will be made with ingredients, and so certain things turn up again and again...None of this is necessarily bad, but if you know the originals the menu seeks to replicate, Coppelia’s renditions can seem wan by comparison—just like a real diner’s." [VV]
Jay Cheshes calls Sam Talbot's Imperial No. 9 a big, beautiful flop: "though the wretched crowd can make dinner here feel like a Kardashian konvention, the food is unfortunately a much bigger problem...While the small and large plates—starters and mains are so passé—are designed for sharing, there’s not much on the menu you’ll be clamoring to eat." [TONY]
Adam Platt files a double header this week on newish Soho spots Imperial No. 9 and Niko. Since the former is "feminine," he reviews the restaurant by revealing what Mrs. Platt would like and gives it two stars. The one-starred Niko, "is another trendy new Soho restaurant with unexpectedly good cooking and a slightly feng shui–challenged atmosphere. Unfortunately, there’s no easy remedy for the boxy second-floor loft space." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Ligaya Mishan writes that the soba at Cocoran on the Lower East Side thick and lusty, Lauren Shockey is won over by the new iteration of The Brooklyn Star, Tables for Two finds the food as inviting as the atmosphere at West Village French spot Lyon, Gael Greene checks out what former Sfoglia chef Ron Suhanosky is up to at Stuzzicheria and misses the food from her old haunt.
THE BLOGS: Law & Food finds the Laurent Gras Dinner at LTD to be really wonderful, Immaculate Infatuation files a review of M. Wells claiming one should order as much as possible then apologize to their body later, A Tiger in the Kitchen enjoyed the vibe and flavors at Snack Dragon, The Pink Pig sees Bistro Lamazou as a nice upgrade, The Food Doc uses the word "perfect" more than once when describing The Dutch, Gastrochic says the food at Monument Lane has a suburban vibe, Eat Big Apple claims the quality of the food served at Danji is above any other Korean restaurant in New York, and New York Journal awards Empellon one star.