This week, Pete Wells files a zero star "Satisfactory" review of Midtown legend "21" Club. In an interesting twist, the critic spends most of his column space focusing on the positive. Though he writes that the food is "largely forgettable," Wells argues that some of the dishes are still worth ordering, and the service and the spirit of the place are as charming as ever. His take:
I ate only four things at "21" that I'd go back for with any anticipation: the famous chicken hash, as creamy and agreeable as Jo Stafford's voice; the "21" burger, blended with onions and thyme for a homey taste, like meatloaf without the bread; the coconut cake, topped with a beehive of white meringue and toasted coconut; and the olives in the martinis that are as cold as a walk along Park Avenue in January.Wells praises the work of wine director Phil Pratt, who has a "practiced theatricality and patter more often heard above the splash of gin than the gentle swirl of old Bordeaux." And after noting the loss of recently-shuttered old-timer Bill's Gay Nineties, the critic notes: "'I'll be back, because I have enough regrets already." [NYT]
But to judge "21" as a restaurant is to miss the point of the place. Like Galatoire's in New Orleans, "21" is at its best when you treat the food as a solid foundation for the liquid entertainment.
Steve Cuozzo gives two and a half stars to Leah Cohen's Pig and Khao: "There's fire to spare on the menu. Expect less of the sweet and sour, salty and bitter balance for which Thai and Filipino cuisines are known; Cohen aims for impact, not subtlety. Her best work is in 'small plates' that are anything but small and mostly under $15. Several reflect tradition. Crispy red-curry rice salad sizzled throughout crunch-on-crunch strata: finely minced pork, crisp garlic, peanuts and, of course, rice — spiced, rolled, flattened and deep-fried to a satisfying toothsomeness." [NYP]
Michael Kaminer drops by Ktchn in Chelsea: "Duck Breast ($28) brought six stringy pieces of pinkish meat atop an inert pile of grilled shallots, fava beans and oily potato cubes. Plump, sweet gooseberries alongside seemed like an afterthought, and the "lavender crisp" on top may be the world's most boring cracker. A 7-ounce Black Angus Filet ($34) made no such blunders. Perfectly proportioned, pinkish and juicy, it was expertly cooked medium-rare as ordered." Kaminer gives the restaurant three stars out of five. [NYDN]
Tejal Rao is a big fan of Matthew Lightner's food at Atera: "Cooking is nature plus science, not a war between the two. Lightner's work at Atera shows a deep understanding of this, and a respect for the culinary movements that have come before him. Then it pushes forward. A meal there reminds us that right now is the most exciting time to be alive in this freakishly beautiful world." [VV]
Ryan Sutton visits Tori Shin on the Upper East Side: "Chicken meatballs seem tame enough. They're not. The salty spheres pack a curious crunch. What is it? Cartilage. If your dining companions ask for an explanation, lie and say it's crushed nuts. Another bonus: One of your three vegetable plates might include soft eggplant with gossamer sheaths of bonito flakes. This is a vegetable course for carnivores. There's also a $55 tasting option, which includes fewer skewers, a cup of chicken broth, and a chicken rice dish; it's a burdensome amount of food. Stick with the $50 offering and be firm about no duck (because it's mediocre) and no pork belly (because it's blubbery)." Sutton gives the restaurant two stars. [Bloomberg]
Jay Cheshes is disappointed by Guy's American Kitchen and Bar: "By Times Square standards, the place is a snooze, a big, empty restaurant—Fieri's fans seem to be pretty absent so far—with less flash than even the giant Red Lobster a few blocks away. 'Go big or go home,' screams a box on the menu touting 'Guy-talian nachos' and 'winner, winner chicken dinners.' But the advertised Fieri flair never shows up in the food." Jay gives the restaurant one star out of five. [TONY]
THE ELSEWHERE: Silvia Killingsworth of Tables for Two is smitten with the market-driven American fare at Parish Hall, Gael Greene digs the food at Andrew Carmellini's work-in-progress The Library, and Robert Sietsema finds that Union Square Cafe is still serving very good food after all these years.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives a B to Exchange Alley in the East Village, Eat Big Apple is blown away by Blanca, The Pink Pig declares that Dear Bushwick is a "work in progress," the Immaculate Infatuation dudes are very impressed by Kajitsu, NYC Foodie loves Ayada in Elmhurst, Chekmark Eats is likes the food and the service at Crave Fishbar, and NY Journal has a pleasant enough meal at The Goodwin.
· All Reviews on Eater [~ENY~]