Pete Wells heads to Chinatown this week to review Royal Seafood Restaurant on Mott Street. The critic discovers that the lobster is the must-order item here (it's off the menu). But there are many other great dishes coming out of chef Kendy Cheng's kitchen:
Smoking-hot oil is often the elixir of happiness at Royal Seafood. It cooks a whole flounder impeccably and makes the fins, tails and bones brittle and hard to resist. It turns salt-and-pepper seafood into fritters with a slightly sweet, saffron-colored batter that reminded me, pleasantly, of the Coney Island Boardwalk. The same batter makes a nifty little snack of cubed pork ribs; you chew and suck them before spitting out the bony bits.Wells gives the restaurant an enthusiastic one star. He also meditates on the importance of supporting restaurants like this in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, noting: "Chinatown has lived through so much that it can seem indestructible, but restaurants are fragile." [NYT]
And the deep fryer's transformation of tofu into an object of desire is so impressive I might almost have considered it fraud, if I hadn't been busy helping myself to more. Fried crispy bean curd was lovely; even more appealing were cubes of tofu dressed with a rich minced-pork sauce, and olives that were vaguely sweet and more fruity than briny.
Ryan Sutton awards four stars — Bloomberg's highest rating — to Carlo Mirarchi's Blanca. He's floored by the cooking here: "Blanca is about minimalism. Few ingredients, intense flavors. Neither the palate nor the eyes are confused. The front-row view allows you to watch Mirarchi shave white truffles over pine-nut agnolotti. Some restaurants would levy a $175 supplement for such fungi. No hidden fees here. Japanese Wagyu comes with the meal as well. The beef's silky, striated fat all but melts into the sweet kohlrabi broth it's finished in, like shabu-shabu." [Bloomberg]
Although he finds that the restaurant can be loud at times, Steve Cuozzo digs the food at El Toro Blanco: "Guacamole served with toasty-crisp chips is the spiciest I've had in ages. While doughy shrimp empanadas could moonlight as a tacky bar snack, intricately composed tamales and tacos ($9 to $17) reflect rare discipline. My favorite was the cheapest: green corn tamales (elote verde). Near-pudding when I tried them a month ago, they matured into firm masa channeling the Mexican sun, garnished with green chile sauce and a crunchy roast of corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion and serrano chilies." Two stars. [NYP]
Tejal Rao likes most of the food at L'Apicio: "Polenta boards sound awfully trite, don't they? But ordering one here is in your best interest. A long smear of hot, sweet polenta does well for itself with bouncy pork meatballs, braised oxtail, or gently bitter broccoli rabe ($16 to $19). The blackened tuna ($26), an outdated dish that is certainly not due for its comeback, also surprises. The deeply colored meat is rare inside, sliced carefully and beautifully, on a sweet and vinegary caponata of fennel." [VV]
The Robs award four U.G. stars (out of five) to Little Pepper Hot Pot in Flushing: "Broth is the essence of hot pot, and Little Pepper Hot Pot's are delicious on their own—the milky-white house style as smooth and rich as tonkotsu ramen broth, and its spicy companion roiling with red oil, chile peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and slices of ginger. Hard as it may be to envision draining the pot, that time will come, and when it does, no matter how much you've devoured thus far, it's worth ladling the now-super-seasoned remnants into a fresh bowl and sipping it like soup." [GS/NYM]
Jay Cheshes like only one dish at Graydon Carter's Beatrice Inn: "The monochromatic fare is so tame, you might call it postfoodie, and you might wonder if there's a secret menu somewhere that plebeian diners don't receive. Insiders seem to know what to order at least, judging from the number of lamb chops coming out of the kitchen one night. The exceptional meat, from Thomas Keller's supplier, Elysian Fields Farm, anchors a very rare thing here: a dish that's an actual pleasure to eat, with baby artichokes and charred-eggplant puree." [TONY]
Michael Kaminer awards three stars (out of five) to Korean newcomer Gaonnuri: "A Frisbee-sized Haemul Pajun ($12), the gut-filling seafood-scallion pancake typically made from wheat and rice flour, minimizes grease and maintains a chewy integrity. Haemul Japchae ($12) stir-fries al dente sweet-potato glass noodles with meaty calamari, but gets undone by snoozy, spongy vegetables. Sweet-spicy sauce makes the concoction appealing when warm, less toothsome once it cools." [NYDN]
THE ELSEWHERE: Robert Sietsema checks out three Japanese fast food places on East 41st Street, Hannah Goldfield of Tables for Two is especially fond of the lighter dishes at Allswell, Ligaya Mishan samples the goods at Barclays Center, and Gael Greene has a blast at Talde in Park Slope.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives an A minus to Sip Sak, Eat Big Apple is surprised by how good the food is at Ainsworth Park, the Immaculate Infatuation boys like the apps way more than the entrees at The Brooklyn Star, The Pink Pig has a pleasant lunch at Grand Central Oyster Bar, NYC Foodie enjoys the food and the vibe at Ducks Eatery, Goodies First tries much of the menu at Aska, Chekmark Eats has a great meal at Left Bank, and NY Journal loves the meaty fare at The Cannibal.
· All Coverage of Reviews [~ENY~]