Though Sam Sifton notes that Gotham Hotel restaurant Tenpenny resembles "a half-finished Bennigan’s" and "has all the charm of a lobby bar in Albany," he concludes that against all odds, it is a good restaurant. He gives it one star:
An order of the spring vegetables on the appetizer menu provides the first inkling that at Tenpenny, all is not what it appears. The dish brings peas and wax beans and favas and more. Some are roasted, some pickled, some crisped, some raw, some candied...It is great to eat this, and to imagine yourself telling friends how you used to eat the chef Chris Cipollone’s food back when he was cooking in that grim hotel space in Midtown.Sifty makes his umpteenth reference to how much he dislikes the space and concludes, "But if it were in Brooklyn or on Avenue A, you might have already heard about it from your coolest friend, and you would probably have to wait in a long line to get in and pay for your meal in cash." [NYT]
...This is food to give pause, intricately flavored and plated with an emphasis on beauty. It is ambitious and fascinating, much more so than the plain wooden tables, lunchtime burgers menu and vapid, anonymous atmosphere would suggest.
Jay Cheshes calls Empellon a "promising antidote to the faux-Mex epidemic" in New York right now, but isn't completely won over: "This is an attractive, buzzy space, with a colorful mural evoking abstract roses behind a lantern-lit bar. The service is warm, the margaritas fresh, the chunky guacamole well spiced. But the tacos and other antojito snacks mostly fall pretty flat." [TONY]
Robert Sietsema also heads to Empellon, and while he finds much of the menu uneven, he adores the tacos: "The tacos, however, are magnificent. Delivered two to a plate, and expensive in a range of $11 to $17, they’re largely a main ingredient with few distractions, reverent paeans to the product served from Mexican taco trucks all over Gotham. Using his gastronomic prowess, Stupak has sent the flavors soaring." [VV]
Adam Platt awards two stars to David Bouley's ambitious new Japanese restaurant, Brushtroke. Although he's not pleased with the fact that you can only order a sushi dinner at the bar, he finds a lot to like there: "the milky, rose-colored o-toro tuna belly...is as good as any you’ll find in the more established fat-cat sushi temples farther uptown. Ditto the pearly white slices of squid..." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Betsy Andrews recommends trying Tap Room 307 during the day, Oliver Strand tries the creative gelato and ice cream flavors at LES newcomer Stellina, Lauren Shockey calls Sam Talbot's Imperial No. 9 a crapshoot, Gael Greene finds MP Taverna, Michael Psilakis' newest, worth the trek to Long Island, and Tables for Two is charmed by the great food in tight quarters at Gentleman Farmer on the Lower East Side.
THE BLOGS: Immaculate Infatuation loves Takashi and has some big hits but also some bad misses at The Dutch, Gotham Gal uses words like "perfect" and "wow" when describing Hudson Clearwater, The Pink Pig calls Boulud Sud a surefire winner, Serious Eats gives Samurai Mama an A for udon and a B+ for everything else, AHT tries the burger at Keens and likes it but doesn't love the fries, and Eat Big Apple was impressed by Epicerie Boulud.