Sam Sifton offers an enthusiastic one star review to Alex Stupak's "brave" new West Village Mexican restaurant Empellon. He says Alex Stupak is doing to Mexican what Harold Dieterle is doing to Thai:
Empellón is one of the more captivating restaurants to open in recent months, with food that outstrips an atmosphere that is more frat-like than fine...He concludes: "Go there and be horrified by the scene, eat amazing food and go to sleep thinking what Mr. Stupak must, every night when he gets home: Hope this place makes it." [NYT]
...Spoon melted Jack cheese topped with morels and garlicky guaje seeds into a warm tortilla from the Nixtamal shop out in Queens. Eat that pillow of intense and vaguely sweet earthiness: swoon.
Repeat. Yes. And again. And suddenly it does not matter that Genesis-era rock is playing loud in the background and a shouty office party next to your table is screaming as if one of them is on fire. The restaurant’s food and drink are a balm for nerves scraped raw by its din.
Lauren Shockey writes that the retro-themed Astor Room falls short of recreating "the unbridled bliss of the Roaring '20s.": "Some natural light filters in, but the subterranean space borders on depressing. While architectural elements like the original multihued tiled walls and an early-20th-century fan add quirky charm, the office-like, exposed-grid drop ceiling and drab, patterned carpet scream hotel dining—and we're talking Ramada, not Ritz-Carlton." [VV]
Steve Cuozzo writes that Georges Mendes Aldea is better than ever, calling it "a seamless fusion of muted luxury and 'flavors on steroids,' as my guest put it, from the warm 'welcome back' at the door to the last morsel of Valdeon cheese...Mendes extracts the deepest flavors from raw materials." [NYP]
Gael Greene, who of course experienced the Limelight during its "notorious drug-and-disco days" returns to try Todd English's newest, CrossBar. On one night everything is good to very good (and all very porky), and on another it's hard just to place an order. But sitting out on the patio is nice, and "While the kitchen is finding its mojo, you could just get drunk." [IC]
THE ELSEWHERE: Jane Black loves the food and cocktails at East Village newcomer The Beagle but doesn't recommend going for the pairing boards, Ligaya Mishan raves over Yuba but thinks that it's struggling because of its "no-man’s-land address" (East 9th Street?), the Times reviewer in Long Island calls Michael Psilakis' newest MP Taverna one of her favorite restaurants in the area, Tables for Two takes issue with the confusing and unrestrained menu at FishTag, and Robert Sietsema gets his mind blown by Phayul, a Tibetan cafe hidden on the second floor of a building in Jackson Heights.
THE BLOGS: NYC Foodie has a great cheeseburger at the new STK Rooftop, Serious Eats gives Mable's Smokehouse a B- and Fette Sau a B, Jonathan Forgash checks in on SugarFreak in Astoria, The Immaculate Infatuation boys are displeased with the service, the menu, the inconsistency at Degustation, Eatery Row notes that the cocktails and the vibe are better than the food at Vinegar Hill House, The Pink Pig is surprised at how good the food is at new Bushwick spot The Morgan, and NY Journal has an exquisite whole turbot for $46 at The Leopard at des Artistes.