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Reviews for Mr. Donahue's, Chaiwali, Covina, and More

Ryan Sutton gives zero stars to Vandal, one of New York's most popular new restaurants, in his latest review. Here's a roundup of the rest of this week's big reviews:

Mr. Donahue's
Nick Solares

As mentioned earlier this week, a dinner at Chaiwali in Harlem feels like dining in chef Anita Trehan's home, according the Pete Wells. The Times critic notes that the decor and menu feel personal: "I could imagine being invited to a dinner party where Chaiwali’s smoked eggplant dip, full of garlic and juicy black olives, was put out with hot sheets of flatbread while everybody limbered up over cocktails." Wells adds: "Ms. Trehan seems to have built the restaurant on the belief that the things she likes will make the rest of us happy, too." One star.

— Seating can feel squished, and some dishes miss the mark, but Tejal Rao enjoys most of what she tries at Mr. Donahue's: "The tiny, tender 'Swedish-American' meatballs are a great place to start. The dramatically craggy chicken-fried pork cheek is a beauty as well, the meat sticky and tender under a great, crisp bulk. If you go for this, honey mustard sauce is the way and the light." Ultimately, she writes, you tend to leave happy: "Taste matters, above all, but the secret of a good restaurant is also in the way it makes you feel. Mr. Donahue's makes you feel, just for an hour or two, as if the world is a kind, uncomplicated place." One star.

Photo by Nick Solares

— Tearooms may not be known for food, but The Robs file on two tea shops that are squashing that belief: Té Company and Archestratus Books & Foods. The Robs award four stars out of five to the former: "Its owners say that Té Company is no restaurant, but that doesn’t stop Ribeiro from stalking the farmers’ market and changing his small posted menu accordingly, or garnishing each intricate plate at his minuscule station behind the counter as if he were still a ninja sous-chef at Per Se." They add: "It should be a destination for anyone who loves food, serenity, and neighborly spirit, even if a cup of tea isn’t his or her cup of tea."

— At Archestratus Books & Foods in Greenpoint, The Robs enjoy Paige Lipari's homey Sicilian cooking and the cookies inside a bookstore: "All that perusing can work up an appetite. During the day, you can satisfy it with one of Lipari’s excellent baked goods (try the mortadella biscuit, or a pistachio-lace cookie). But on Thursday nights, Lipari goes all out and hosts her Sicilian 'blue-plate special' dinners in the café space opposite the open kitchen at the back of the store." Two stars out of five.

— In the Bronx, Ligaya Mishan finds wonderful tacos at El Molcajete: "There is suadero, a cut of beef often likened to brisket but closer to the udder, almost as fatty as pork belly and, when braised just shy of eternity, just as yielding. The first mouthful is like biting into a peach in July. It tastes of peak ripeness, of juices that can’t wait to run, of it-couldn’t-get-better-than-this." Mishan adds: "A meal at El Molcajete could happily begin and end with tacos."

— Gael Greene is impressed after dining at Tim and Nancy Cushman's Covina: "It takes a certain confidence and experience to insist on extracting the ultimate kick from spices by cooking them in hot oil. And to smash and smoke marble potatoes, then flavor them with charred spring garlic. I’m realizing the pizza dough is too intense to be just a hand-me-down from an Italian childhood. There’s a serious chef here."

Photo by Nick Solares

— The satay is remarkable, and the seafood curry is a perfect start, but Zachary Feldman is particularly taken by the dessert at Angkor: "Dessert is transcendent. Try the pumpkin custard: The flan is baked inside a hollowed-out gourd and served as slices with the rind attached. It's a family recipe, as is 'old-fashioned pudding,' sticky rice and fresh corn drowned in sugary condensed coconut milk, proving that men of all ages should listen to their mothers."

— A Brooklyn native, Steve Cuozzo is thrilled to find MacDonough Café, a new delicious and healthy option in Ocean Hill: "Amid a sea of greasy Chinese and Caribbean takeout and grungy bodegas, MacDonough Café popped up like a miracle. It boasts healthier and tastier food than the district’s hardworking African-American and Caribbean-American families might otherwise be able to easily find — like organic bread, fresh greens, antibiotic-free ham and GMO-free oatmeal."

— A visit to La Sirena in Chelsea has nothing to do with the food, according to Christina Izzo of TONY: "A fat coil of 'old-school' braised beef braciole doesn’t ignite lust the way your corner trattoria’s might, and juicy grilled lamb chops are handicapped by sluggish chickpea fritters. But nobody notices the sog of those fritters—they’re too busy smoothing out their Diane von Furstenberg shifts, clinking $16 house Negronis and scouting out which A-lister flounces in next." Three out of five stars.

Photo by Nick Solares

— Jiayang Fan samples the hot pots at Málà Project in the East Village: "Cumin, ginger, cardamom, licorice, and twenty other spices are tossed in, but all you’ll feel is that signature mouth-tingling that renders self-control futile and makes consumption an exercise in stamina. To cool the tongue, you might land on the Xiangxi Fried Rice, an innocuous-seeming staple that packs an incendiary punch, with Chinese bacon and bird’s-eye chilies. Better to go for 'candy garlic,' a grain-liquor chaser that doubles as a temporary palate emollient."

The Blogs: Restaurant Girl files on John Fraser's Nix, the Pink Pig tries the chicken at Le Coq Rico, and Goodies First heads to Elmhurst for Thai food.

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