Pete Wells digs ABC Cocina, the new Latin restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger. The chefs are mixing and matching elements of Spanish, South American, Mexican, and Central American cuisines, but Wells thinks that this grab bag approach works, for the most part:
This attempt to reassemble the Spanish Empire does not shed new light on any of these cuisines. Intellectually and culturally, it borders on incoherence. But in the kitchen it has inspired a large number of smart, exciting dishes along with a small handful of slightly peculiar ones.He's not wowed by the dining room, but Wells likes the food and the spirit of the place enough to give it two stars. The critic has a lot of fun in this review dissecting the absurd mission statement on the restaurant's website. [NYT]
You can get along just fine without intellectual coherence when the flavors are as clear and harmonious as they are in a ceviche of white shrimp bathed in a vivid citrus sauce. Just as the throb of habaneros begins to build up, a bite of soft banana or a crisp Marcona almond breaks the tension.
TONY critic Daniel S. Meyer is not impressed by Vongerichten and Kluger's newest creation: "With ABC Cocina, Vongerichten has meandered out of his wheelhouse to Latin America and Spain, straying unnervingly far from the standard of excellent seasonal cooking that he and Kluger established next door. This is his Spice Market of Latin cuisine, a boisterous fun house of culture designed to please the Meatpacking crowd in a different locale." He gives the restaurant one star out of five. Oof. [TONY]
[ABC Cocina by Krieger]
And Steve Cuozzo gives ABC Cocina one and a half stars out of four this week: "'Arroz con pollo,'" less Latin than Chinese, bailed in with greaseless (thanks, sunflower oil!), medium-grain jasmine rice, chicken and candy-crackling skin — a salty, satisfying dish enough for two for just $19. But certain choices seemed tailored to no concept at all, but thrown together for the heck of it. Peekytoe crab and corn fritters tasting little of either might as well have been hush puppies, while 'crunchy' (soggy) calamari rings with squirts of jelly-like ancho chili in the holes belonged in a sports bar." [NYP]
[Clarkson by Krieger]
Stan Sagner gives two stars out of five to Hudson Square newcomer Clarkson: "Bavette steak ($35), a tasty cut of beef more common in France than the U.S., certainly deserves more airtime — but should have gotten more pan time as well. The medium-rare order came nearly as raw as the tartare. Grilled chicken ($29) gets gussied up with Mediterranean souvenirs, but the decorative stripes of sumac-spiked yogurt and charred eggplant puree can't mask its soggy skin or the bed of undercooked lentil salad that crunches like little pebbles. Achingly tender local halibut ($32) amid a mini garden of roasted vegetables reminds diners that, sometimes, there's no place like home." [NYDN]
Joshua David Stein is puzzled by The Elm's location, but he loves the food from chef Paul Liebrandt: "At every step, Mr. Liebrandt drops glitter bombs of mad genius. The gnudi ($20), which is something I once surrendered the best execution of to The Spotted Pig, takes the five-borough crown. Not only are they perfectly formed clouds of ricotta, but they float around a benevolent, gently cooked scallop in an ethereal coconut-milk sauce, with hints of galangal and lemongrass, that Mr. Liebrandt calls 'Tom Yum.' Scallop, ricotta, coconut milk. Jackpot." [The Observer]
[The Elm by Krieger]
Meanwhile, Ms. Gael Greene likes many of the dishes at The Elm, but a few of Liebrandt's creations leave her wanting more. On the chicken Kiev: "A server brings two plates and a busser brings the deconstructed bird in a dark casserole. There is one broccoli floret per person. And a puddle of green. In a separate bowl, gossamer potato froth with crème fraiche and cantal cheese has to be the most refined (and delicious) aligot ever. But there is more than enough satiny chicken roulade, oozing garlicky lemon-parsley butter. The dark meat, tricked into not-enough crispy fried chunks, is marvelous. As are garlic aioli croquettes shaped like tater tots." [Insatiable]
THE ELSEWHERE: Shauna Lyon of Tables for Two has a great time at Estela in Nolita, Ligaya Mishan finds some hits and misses at Feast in the East Village, and Restaurant Girl also likes the food and the vibe at Estela.
THE BLOGS: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt likes the quirky menu at Maiden Lane in the East Village, Immaculate Infatuation's Chris Stang gives Brucie an 8.4 rating, the Pink Pig checks out a few new Greenpoint hot spots, NYC Foodie loves the service and the food at Charlie Bird, Joe DiStefano tries the Yunnanese pork face salad at Crazy Crab, the Food Doc wishes that ZZ's Clam Bar would step up its game, Eat Big Apple is slightly disappointed by Zutto, Goodies First has a solid steak dinner at Costata, Checkmarks Eats loves the anelloni with veal ragu at Charlie Bird, and NY Journal has a great lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar.
· All Coverage of Reviews [~ENY~]