This week Sam Sifton files an aggressive smackdown on Sam Talbot's shiny, new restaurant within the Mondrian Hotel in Soho, Imperial No. 9. He says of the space, "It can be awful there," and calls the tuna "not totally inedible." He gives it no stars and a "Fair" designation:
...a plate of raw fluke fell far short of fresh. Clammy in temperature, with a nasty aftertaste, it overpowered the frozen coconut layered on top of it. Octopus legs in a mixture of soy and sofrito danced one evening at the divide between soft and mealy. On another they were decidedly on the far side of the line. They were pillowy in the sense of the word that describes the taste of a pillow.As if that weren't enough, he ends the review by telling diners they'd be better off at Jeffrey Chodorow's Asia de Cuba, the tenant of LA's Mondrian. [NYT]
And lobes of dismal-flavored sea urchin served over thick lardo and heavy toast were just dreadful: the eighth band after Nirvana to write loud-soft-loud music and call it new.
Steve Cuozzo is very pleased with how the owners of Leopard at des Artistes have revived the old Cafe des Artistes, and even improved upon it: "The Italianized second coming of New York’s least favorite, old-favorite restaurant seems wildly improbable. After a month and a half, The Leopard seems bound for a long, long run. The persuasively southern-Italian menu would be welcome anywhere. But the larger news is that the Café’s faded confines now sparkle for the first time in generations..." [NYP]
Gael Greene notes that Boulud Sud is already off to a great start: "I won’t say I’m seduced by every small plate or appetizer that first night, though we’re already demanding seconds of the fabulous crisps and crusts, focaccia and croutons...I’m already finding favorites: crusty little falafel planted in a paste of fresh hummus to pile on lavash...Crispy artichokes a la Romana to drag through a feisty aioli." [IC]
Dave Cook files an Under on excellent East Village Thai newcomer Zabb Elee: "Grilled and fried dishes, offered in abundance, include juicy kai yang, or grilled marinated chicken ($9), and an even better grilled squid ($9), nicely charred, exceptionally tender. Grilled catfish ($14) was a tad dried out; so were deep-fried pork spareribs ($8). A minimalist skewer of chicken hearts, gizzards and livers ($2) was accompanied by a intriguing, tart tamarind sauce." [NYT]
Adam Platt awards two stars to Alex Stupak's Mexican spot Empellon: "....the tacos I couldn’t get out of my head were the classics, like braised beef tongue (which Stupak simmers to a kind of funky softness in beer and soaks in a spicy árbol salsa), and the smoky lamb barbacoa...After this parade of gut-busting delicacies...most of the entrées at Empellón felt like an afterthought." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Robert Sietsema tries the braised phoenix feet and more at Flushing's Hunan Kitchen, Jay Cheshes awards three stars to Mabel's Smokehouse in Williamsburg, and Metromix is charmed by Fatta Cuckoo.
THE BLOGS: The Immaculate Infatuation boys were very impressed with Dirt Candy, New York Journal gives Vandaag two-well-deserved stars, Salli Vates thinks the food at David Burke Kitchen is delicious, Law & Food weighs in on Coppelia and has mostly hits, some misses, NYC Foodie started crying tears of joy at a point during his meal at Eleven Madison Park, Eat Big Apple was impressed with Hospoda and disagreed with Sifton on Fishtag, Serious Eats recommends avoiding Southern newcomer Gravy, Goodies First enjoys Midtown's Tenpenny, and the Pink Pig seemed to like Lyon.