This week, Pete Wells files on Jeepney, the new Filipino gastropub in the East Village, and Pig and Khao, Leah Cohen's Southeast Asian spot on the Lower East Side. He's equally impressed with both, though he notes that they're very different takes on Asian cuisine:
The two places have many things in common. Open since last fall, they are small, casual, fun and often loud — Jeepney with American and Filipino party rock, Pig and Khao with slow-rolling Southern hip-hop. Neither stocks hard liquor, but each still manages to shake up very entertaining cocktails. Recently, I'm glad to report, both dropped their no-reservations policies.At Pig and Khao he approves of the pork-heavy menu that doesn't go for straight authenticity, as with the "crispy red curry rice salad" that "turned out to be a less-spicy Thai pork larb tricked out with fragments of curried rice cooked into a crust." At Jeepney he praises the longanisa sausage wrapped in jasmine rice, tocino cured in 7Up, and, of course, the balut. He gives both two stars. [NYT]
In their styles of presenting Asian cuisine, though, they go their own ways. Before opening Pig and Khao, Leah Cohen, the chef, spent a year eating and cooking in countries like Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, where her mother was raised. Eating at her restaurant, I felt as if I were poring over an album of carefully edited postcards from her travels. Dinner at Jeepney, on the other hand, felt more like parachuting into Manila myself. I didn't know all the vocabulary and didn't always know what I was putting in my mouth, but I knew I had left home.
I've grown fond of both places, but I would take different sets of friends to each.
Ryan Sutton writes that both Mighty Quinn's and BrisketTown are the best barbecue joints in town. On the latter: "The brisket ($25 per pound) is legit. Even the leaner slices are moist, the fat silky, never blubbery. The post oak smoke is restrained; then again, so is the meat, perhaps a bit too mild tempered. Pair with braised collards or beans mixed with more pork and beef ($4) and there's your meal." [Bloomberg]
Steve Cuozzo writes that the kitchen at Siro's is hit-or-miss. He praises the "deep-flavored" marinated flank stank and the filet mignon and ribeye ("as good as any for their mid-$40s prices"), but: "What Siro's needs more of is consistency from executive chef Nicholas Armstrong's kitchen. The same day I had that fine flank steak, I also had cocktail shrimp that tasted as if they'd washed up with the Sandy sea surge. Another day, 'sashimi-grade' sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna did recall sashimi at a cheap Japanese place where it might cost half of $38." [NYP]
Stan Sagner gives three stars (out of five) to the Indian Mughlai cuisine at Moti Mohal Delux on the Upper East Side: "Signature Daal Mahkani ($12.95), black lentil porridge, is merely a pretext for showcasing the Mahkani, a decadent house-made butter that has been stirred in, transforming this otherwise earthy dish into undiluted indulgence. Well suited to this richness are various pilafs. Lemon Rice ($6.95), in particular, with its flecks of mustard seed, tempers the swirling flavors and occasional heat." [NYDN]
Jay Cheshes gives three stars (out of five) to Red Gravy, Saul Bolton's new Southern Italian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights: "Pastas are as complex, nuanced and distinctive. House-made reginetti—chestnut-flour ridged ribbons—come bathed in a rich, buttery hunter's ragù, spun from tender rabbit punctuated with tangy preserved lemon and salty prosciutto. Calamarata, semolina rings stained black from squid ink, are fiery from melted nduja (a sort of loose pepperoni) with plump shrimp, crisp bread crumbs, and the Moorish perfume of bergamot, orange and mint." Cheshes does find fault with the service and the desserts, however. [TONY]
And Robert Sietsema is not entirely thrilled with the food from the Yunnan Province of China at Lotus Blue in Tribeca: "While Lotus Blue's crossing-the-bridge noodles proved an epic disappointment (the rice noodles, soft as toothpaste, were wrong, too), other dishes were good, and sometimes even quasi-authentic. Artistically arranged in tubular rolls studded with boiled quail eggs, potted beef shank ($9) had been braised in the province's celebrated pu-er tea—a mild brew said to aid digestion—to great effect. Pale swatches of stewed sea bass ($25) came in an arrestingly orange bean-paste sauce with pickled greens, a Yunnan passion. ... Had the restaurant only been less timid with its menu, spectacular cooking could have resulted." [VV]
THE ELSEWHERE: Ligaya Mishan praises the "broadly American" concept at Mayfield in Crown Heights, the Observer's Joshua David Stein isn't totally sold on Aska, Gael Greene tries out Battersby, Tejal Rao digs the hearty and satisfying Mexican food at Cocina Economica on the Upper West Side, and Tables for Two approves of Harold Dieterle's work at The Marrow.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats praises the "damn good" food at Hanjan, Goodies First tries out the Mediterranean fare at Zizi Limona in Williamsburg, Chekmark Eats recommends Commerce in the West Village and China Cafe in Murray Hill, and New York Journal writes that Lourent Tourondel scores a bullseye with Arlington Club.