This week, Pete Wells files on Alison Price Becker's Manhattan comeback, Alison Eighteen. He deems it a "perfectly normal restaurant," worthy of one star. After an inspired rant about how the dining scene has changed since Becker's first restaurant closed, Wells gets to the food:
There is no funny business at the rotisserie...It will spit-roast a chicken that looks and tastes the way a rotisserie chicken should, and will do wonderful things with a hunk of lamb shoulder seasoned with preserved lemons.There are some missteps on the menu though, and the service isn't always on point. Wells concludes: "Alison Eighteen can feel a bit like seeing a revival of an old play in out-of-town tryouts. The sets look great, but the dialogue can feel a bit strained, and the players need time to learn their lines. " [NYT]
There is a no-nonsense grill, too, applied to uncomplicated cuts like a juicy pink pork chop and a sirloin. If I couldn’t taste the evidence of all 35 days the steak had supposedly been aged, it didn’t matter much. The lip-smacking Bordelaise and the hot, crisp potato sticks supplied more than enough flavor.
Ryan Sutton awards two and a half stars to Hemant Mathur's Indian restaurant, Tulsi. He praises the $65 tasting menu and notes: "We’re accustomed to paying more for American, European and Japanese fare, less for African, Latin American and South Asian cuisines. We hit up Per Se with our expense accounts then swing by Curry in a Hurry for a late night snack after. Maybe Tulsi isn’t expensive enough?" [Bloomberg]
Gael Greene likes most of the Szechuan fare at Midtown's Cafe China: "The portions are all generous, entrees $11 to $28, but mostly less than $20, the powerful Kung Pao chicken pocked with fiery ma chilies, peppercorns and peanuts, is just $12, a superior fried rice with tea smoked duck, $11, a mountain of tiny sweet and sour ribs, $14. The hotter dishes are just right for me – I hate when all you can taste is chili fire. But be warned: some in our posse could not eat the spicier options." [Insatiable Critic]
Jay Cheshes finds some brilliant dishes along with a few misfires at Alex Stupak's Empellon Cocina: "Stupak’s best work at Empellón Cocina is exciting and thoughtful—the kind of food you’d expect from a veteran savory chef, not a newly minted renegade. The more he accedes to his wildest instincts and forsakes the culinary anthropology, the clearer it becomes: Stupak has the makings of a master." Cheshes deems the restaurant worthy of three stars. [TONY]
Adam Platt award two stars to Neta, the new sushi restaurant from a pair of Masa vets. He enjoys most of the dishes, but notes: "Neta doesn’t offer the wildly esoteric range of sushi and sashimi that you’ll find at some of the grander, more established sushi palaces...and at this early date, the atmosphere can be disrupted by occasional glitches in service." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Dave Cook loves the vibrant Middle Eastern fare at Wafa's in Forrest Hills, Robert Sietsema samples the durable Cal-Mex food (and flaming margaritas) at Florencia 13, and Tables for Two heads to Battery Park City to try Floyd Cardoz's new creations at North End Grill.
THE BLOGS: The guys behind Immaculate Infatuation call Gwynnett Street "one of the most exciting new restaurants," Serious Eats Give a B minus to Five & Diamond in Harlem, The Food Doc heads to Nordic pop-up Frej in Williamsburg, Kika Eats samples the fancy sausages at Sausage Inc., Eat Big Apple checks out Nios and Red Hook Lobster Pound, The Feisty Foodie tries the ramen and sushi at Zutto, and New York Journal thinks that the $55 tasting a Bohemian "might be one of the best bargains in town."