Pete Wells takes a break from reviewing new restaurants this week, and visits five-year-old Japanese restaurant Kyo Ya in the East Village. He finds some remarkable vegetable and seafood dishes down in the basement dining room:
A gratin of creamy sesame tofu with bits of deeply sweet blue shrimp was like a Japanese translation of shrimp and grits, and a great translation, too. Poached burdock mousse tasted the way the woods smell after it rains. Most astonishing of all was a plate of scallops in a sea-urchin butter so richly pleasurable that the only intelligent response was total submission.Wells notes that a few dishes were too strange for some of his dining companions, but he deems the food and the overall experience worthy of three stars. [NYT]
If you have heard of Kyo Ya, chances are you have been told that the kaiseki menu is the thing to get. It is a rare treat, no question, but so are many of the dishes that can be ordered à la carte with a smaller investment of time and money. If you eat this way, your meal will be less epic, but it can be just as enjoyable. Not every good tale is a novel.
Robert Sietsema is impressed by the food and the value at both the Bronx and Manhattan locations of Italian restaurant Zero Otto Nove: "Rigatoni Salernitana features grooved tubes interspersed with egg, soppressata, ricotta, and tiny meatballs, arriving thickly mantled with cheese. The combination is irresistible. Among pizzas, the one featuring pureed orange squash and big cubes of pancetta was a favorite..." Sietsema prefers the pies at the Bronx original, but concludes that "Manhattan proves it can furnish food every bit as great as that of the Bronx." [Village Voice]
This week, Jay Cheshes files on hot new Williamsburg pop-up Frej, awarding it four stars: "Don’t expect a feast—they serve small food on big plates—but do anticipate an engaging experience...While the casual, sometimes raucous vibe inside Kinfolk Studios fits the price point, the food deserves a bit more room to breathe. But this is clearly just the beginning for the chefs behind Frej." [TONY]
The Robs award three Underground Gourmet stars to "self-styled Asian gastropub" The Toucan and the Lion. On the burger: "The beef, as it turned out, was fresh and juicy; the bacon and cashew butter winningly juxtaposed the salty with the sweet...In short, here was a burger that may have sounded horribly wrong, but tasted unbelievably right." [NYM]
Gael Greene notices some recent improvements at Alain Ducasse's Benoit: "Some people rescue stray cats. Others adopt vulnerable recently-divorced husbands. Visionaries take on ravaged countries. Alain Ducasse, in his evolution from Michelin three-star wunderkind at Louis XV in Monte Carlo, to a Gallic iteration of a global Let-Us-Entertain-You emperor, has a weakness for aging bistros. Inside this jet-streaming calculator lives a kind of Mother Teresa, intent on saving the souls of this threatened species." [Insatiable Critic]
THE ELSEWHERE: Tables for Two finds a great scene but uneven food at Acme, Ligaya Mishan likes the pizzas but wishes the rest of the menu was more interesting at Speedy Romeo, and Julia Moskin encounters some very good vegetable-based dishes along with spotty service at Pera Soho.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives an A minus to Noho restaurant and market Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, Gotham Gall checks out Loi on the UWS and Saraghina in Bed-Stuy, Chekmark Eats digs the croquetas and the ceviches at Super Linda, Feisty Foodie has an unspectacular meal at Taste Good in Elmhurst, Eat Big Apple is blown away by lunch at Bouley, and the guys from Immaculate Infatuation find lackluster food and "one of the most uncomfortable dining experiences in NYC" at Sauce on the Lower East Side.
[Photo: The Purple Passport]