This week, Pete Wells files on Carlo Mirarchi's 12-seat fine dining surprise, Blanca. The critic notes that "Mr. Mirarchi and his staff are trying to find a new voice for fine dining," and that many of the dishes on the tasting menu succeed:
Caviar was the first of 27 courses that touched down on a porcelain runway. At the far end of the runway, under the glass eyes and gaping mouth of a mounted bluefin tuna head, were two red pieces of raw meat, a lamb loin and a steak. In a steakhouse, each one might have passed for a single serving. But here, inside a converted auto-body shop in Bushwick, those cuts of meat commanded attention. They had presence.Wells finds that the execution is not always perfect, and that the meal sometimes feels too long. But ultimately, the critic likes the food and the ambition of the project enough for a two star rating. [NYT]
Carlo Mirarchi, Blanca's chef, excels at finding that kind of presence in his ingredients. One course, about midway through dinner, presented new potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes with a dab of buttermilk and watercress juice. He had coaxed a sensuousness out of the potatoes that gave them equal standing with any animal protein that night.
Steve Cuozzo gives two stars to Salumeria Rosi on the Upper East Side: "The menu breaks no new ground but works the known earth/territory well. Acqua pazza came alive with John Dory and light broth humming a ginger-and-thyme tune. Squid ink risotto tasted as sensuous as the plump specimen looked amid a sea of seppia-blackened Carnaroli rice. There are even a few bargains. A $17 antipasto, sgombro (mackerel), turned out to be nearly secondi-size, the fish in deep-green dandelion puree and chickpeas. " [NYP]
Robert Sietsema loves the Thai fare at Chao Thai Too in Elmhurst, Queens: "Perhaps the most unusual recipe on a bill of fare filled with them is homok ($9.50). This mousse—also eaten on the other side of the Mekong River in Laos—is an airy whip of fish, coconut milk, egg, and curry, achieving a lovely shade of dark orange. Two heaps per plate shaped like inverted teacups and cradled in banana leaves, they're irresistibly good." [VV]
Adam Platt awards two stars to the first NYC branch of Japanese chain Ootoya: "I agree with the picky Japanese-food experts about the soba and sashimi at Ootoya, and there might be better examples of classic pork katsu around town, too. But if you've spent time eating yourself silly in unpretentious restaurants around Japan, like I have, or if you're tired of blowing cash on increasingly pricey, non-carbon-friendly sushi dinners and want to experience the bustling intimacy of a populist Tokyo meal, then this is the place for you." [GS/NYM]
Stan Sagner wishes the food was better at Miss Lily's: "The Grilled Pork Ribs ($14) were meaty and tender, but their cloying glaze had little spark. For a moment, I wondered if I had accidentally wandered into Applebee's. Juicy Snapper Ceviche (billed as Fluke, at $14), served in vintage-style glass sundae cups, was bright and fresh, though its marinade resembled fruit punch and lacked any discernible acidity. Equally missed was the promised snap of Scotch bonnet." [NYDN]
Jay Cheshes approves of the Italian fare at Salumeria Rosi on the UES: "White bean, fresh tomato and old-bread panzanella is a straightforward classic. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and crumbled pork sausage is pretty textbook as well. But the food is much more exciting when it goes out on a limb. The old prohibitions on mixing seafood and cheese have no standing at all with Italy's cutting-edge chefs. Casella weighs in with long, thin bavettine in an oceanic carbonara: a rich, creamy mix of egg yolk, flaked sea bass, lemon zest, bottarga and grana padano." [TONY]
THE ELSEWHERE: Ligaya Mishan is a big fan of the noodles at Pok Pok Phat Thai, Gael Greene is impressed by many of the dishes at kooky newcomer Ducks Eatery, Tejal Rao finds a mixed bag at Sel Et Gras in the West Village, and Andrea Scott of Tables for Two likes the food but not the atmosphere at Swine.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives an A minus to M. Wells Dinette in Long Island City, Eat Big Apple finds that the food is still very good at Dumont, the Pink Pig samples some of the new dishes at Empellon Cocina, the Immaculate Infatuation boys dig Exchange Alley in the East Village, the Food Doc files on the new menu at Eleven Madison Park, and New York Journal loves the view and the Korean barbecue at Gaonnuri.
· All Coverage of Reviews [~ENY~]