This week, Pete Wells files on Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen's four-year-old vegetarian restaurant in the East Village. Wells likes the playful spirit of the restaurant, and he is impressed by many of Cohen's dishes:
Ms. Cohen dabbles in overseas influences. Cabbage!, a lonesome hobo no more, is reimagined as the star of a marvelous Asian noodle salad, with kohlrabi threads standing in for noodles, fried walnuts carrying a spicy blast of Sichuan peppercorn, and purple fried won tons getting their color and flavor from juiced cabbage. A new item on the menu, Beans!, surrounds haricots verts and crisp tofu with a deeply intriguing sauce in which saffron, ginger, cilantro, coriander seed, cumin and Urfa biber pepper offer echoes of Morocco.Some dishes aren't perfect, but Wells is charmed by the restaurant, overall. The critic gives Dirt Candy two stars. [NYT]
But there is no mistaking a Dirt Candy dish for one that you would find in another country. Ms. Cohen is not adapting the vegetarian cuisine of some other culture. She is inventing her own.
Ryan Sutton awards two stars to Battersby in Cobble Hill: "Order carefully and you will eat well. Plump mussels soak up a lovely Thai coconut broth. Fregola with tripe plays the starchy, chewy foil to a perfectly balanced tomato sauce. Any pork dish is perfect, whether fried and topped with mozzarella, parmesan-style, or braised ($27) into a meltingly tender bliss over cocoa beans." [Bloomberg]
Adam Platt awards two stars to L'Apicio, the new East Village Italian restaurant from Joe Campanale and Gabe Thompson: "The fresh, faintly spicy linguine with clams was the best of the lighter pastas we sampled, and if you're looking for a perfect combination of elegance and weight, I suggest the delicate little packets of agnolotti, which Thompson and his chefs stuff with sweetbreads and garnish with a dab of mascarpone on the side." [GS/NYM]
Steve Cuozzo likes The Library, even if it is "Carmellini Lite": "At least some nights, pasta, freshly prepared and al dente, could pass muster at Locanda Verde. In a typical menu quirk, Carmellini pairs sausage and broccoli rabe with rigatoni instead of the usual orecchiette in one of his patented, vivid red tomato sauces. There's sting in the salsa suffusing tender ruby-red shrimp in floppy corn tacos. But it's baffling to find pulled pork rolls without the peppery piquancy they need. It's a shame because the meat's supple and vinegary." Two stars. [NYP]
Michael Kaminer finds that The Odeon is still holding it down: "Odeon's most impressive main course, an elemental but refined steak frites ($37), comes cooked precisely medium as ordered. A thick slab of meat gets glazed with a subtle sauce that whispers of pepper and red wine. It's a nice contrast to the suffocating glop most places slather on. The companion fries, crispy outside and fluffy inside, carry a hint of salt. Neither meat nor spuds need condiments." Four stars out of five. [NYDN]
Tejal Rao likes the food, but not the service or the scene, at Leah Cohen's Pig and Khao: "The sizzling sisig ($13) is a fine, kinky show of fat on fat. The wobbly meat of the pig's head, braised and roasted, tossed at the table with a raw egg, lime, and cilantro. Mix it slowly, or the creamy yolk will go too far, too fast. A red curry rice salad ($11) is pleasantly hot and rich with toasted rice. Cohen's rendition of the noodle curry khao soi ($14) is full of quality crunch and chew, though the broth can lean on its sweetness. Dishes like the simple quail adobo ($15) reveal that the chef is capable of a light touch." [VV]
Jay Cheshes visits Giovanni Rana Pastificio and Cucina in Cheslea, the first NYC location of an Italian chain: "Though the pastas—delivered at their al dente prime with a light slick of olive oil or butter—are rich and substantial enough to anchor a meal, proteincentric entrées have been tacked on for good measure. There's a juicy roasted baby chicken and a big-ticket aged steak, served sliced off the bone. And while both are competently executed, neither has the personality to rival the keynote dish here." The critic awards three stars out of five. [TONY]
THE ELSEWHERE: Robert Sietsema loves the Indian fare at Chote Nawab in Curry Hill, Gael Greene has a great meal at Arthur on Smith in Carroll Gardens, Silvia Killingsworth of Tables for Two likes the authentic Southern fare at tiny Alphabet City restaurant Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter, and Ligaya Mishan finds a mix of winning dishes and ambitious misfires at Ducks Eatery in the East Village.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives a B plus to Marcus Samuelsson's American Table Cafe and Bar, Eat Big Apple loves the vibe at Rosemary's, The Pink Pig is pleased by his random meal at Dumont, Chekmark Eats visits the Midtown location of The Smith, The Food Doc has a terrific birthday dinner at Marea, and NY Journal likes the decor and some of the dishes at De Santos.
· All Coverage of Reviews [~ENY~]
[Amanda Cohen photo: Krieger]