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Reviews for Avant Garden, Tempura Matsui, Virginia's, and More

Robert Sietsema gives two stars to Haitian holdout Le Soleil in Hell's Kitchen. Here's a roundup of the rest of this week's big reviews:

[Tempura Matsui]
[Tempura Matsui]
Nick Solares

Many of the fried fish and vegetable dishes at Tempura Matsui are terrific, but Pete Wells is particularly enamored with the tofu: "The server said that what came next was a bowl of tofu. My tongue said it was my destiny, the fulfillment of my earthly desires, or at least all the ones that can conceivably be fulfilled by bean curd. Eating it was like spooning up the densest top layer from the neck of a bottle of pure cream. For a few minutes, everything else went away and we were alone, the tofu and I, floating together in a void somewhere." Two stars.

[Avant Garden by Robert Sietsema]

Josh Stein isn't impressed by everything at Avant Garden, but he digs a lot of the dishes on the "hot" section of Andrew D'Ambrosi's menu: "Doubling down on mushrooms, Mr. D’Ambrosi goes ham with oysters and maitakes ($18) presenting a dish as meaty as any you’ll find at a Peter Luger but as delicate as anything from Dan Kluger. As he did with the carrots, Mr. D’Ambrosi manifests his mushrooms in manifold manipulations until the mushroomness mushrooms. He fortifies his oysters with spiced brine and unleashes the umami of the maitake into something just ferocious. " Three stars out of five.

[Shuko by Daniel Krieger]

Gael Greene lists her favorite dishes of the year: "A thick cut of Tasmanian sea trout in a soupy mix of trout roe, ponzu, and grated raw nagaimo stands out from the Kaiseki opening at Shuko. Trout and trout roe on crisp trout skin with a few grains of seaweed salt is another genius whim I remember. I’m not sure what was in my cognac cocktail but that — and the sideshow of watching Jimmy Lau organizing beds of Santa Barbara sea urchin — definitely turned up my sensory focus."

[Virginia's by Krieger]

Silvia Killingsworth of Tables for Two notes that chef Christian Ramos loves using acid in his dishes at Virginia's: "One way to mute acidity is with fat, a tactic Ramos puts to beautiful use in duck rillettes, which play nicely with pickled pole beans and Concord-grape compote. Recently, vinaigrettes factored into a small plate of caramelized romanesco as well as a salad of red-oak lettuces, and were unnecessary and excessive, respectively. Seared cuttlefish with braised kale was leavened with Moroccan olives and chunks of sourdough bread, lest we get a taste of the ocean creature."

Ligaya Mishan digs the Haitian fare at Grandchamps in Bed-Stuy: "Akra, plump fingers of fritters with creamy interiors, are made with malanga, a taro-like root vegetable, and stoked by Scotch bonnets. Ragged rounds of unripe plantains are fried, flattened and fried again to make crispy banan peze, whose pique comes from a dunk, between bouts of frying, in Tabasco. Rice is cooked in liquid left over from boiling dried djon-djon mushrooms and emerges almost ashy in color, its loamy flavor like a conflagration of balsamic vinegar, soy and truffles."

A high-ceilinged dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows Nick Solares/Eater NY

The Blogs: Restaurant Girl recommends the burrata with fresh truffles at L'Amico, Joe DiStefano likes the bunghal goat at Caribbean-Chinese restaurant Nest in Richmond Hill, Sarah Ventiera recommends the momos at Cafe Himalaya in the East Village, and Andrew Steinthal gives an 8.3 rating to Mountain Bird in East Harlem.

Tempura Matsui

222 East 39th Street, New York, NY 212-986-8885 Visit Website

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