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Reviews for Mr. Donahue's, American Cut, Ruffian Wine Bar, and More

Here's a roundup of this week's big reviews

Mr. Donahue's
Nick Solares

In a rare Pete Wells twofer, the Times critic files on Mr. Donahue's and Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef's Table this week, two "tiny titans." At Mr. Donahue's, Wells is a fan of the simplicity of the space and menu, vowing to return for the banana pudding dessert. Here is the critic on some other favorites: "The beef cheeks were more tender and juicy than chicken-fried steak ever is. I ate them with a fine sauce of button mushrooms and Marsala, not too sweet. The romesco sauce was very good with a whole porgy or the broiled steak of steelhead trout that replaced it. Honest-to-goodness gravy, rounded and meaty-tasting, is what you want with the heroic slab of roast beef." As mentioned yesterday, he gives the Nolita restaurant two stars.

Photo by Nick Solares

Photo by Nick Solares

— Meanwhile, at Ruffian Wine Bar, Wells like most of what he tries: "The cheese soufflé, almost like a tower of soft scrambled eggs, makes a lush spread for toast darkened with a swirl of balsamic vinegar. The last time I went, it had been replaced by an equally good one with crab." One star.

Tejal Rao finds that meat isn't necessarily the star at Marc Forgione's steakhouse American Cut: "While it’s usually advisable to skip heavy appetizers at a steakhouse and focus your attention on the main event, the chili lobster at American Cut is worth your time. It’s not a new dish; Forgione has been serving it in Tribeca for years. The dish is vaguely informed by chili crab, which is, inexplicably, sometimes served warm, sometimes cold. The sauce gets its kick from Sriracha, thinned out with plenty of butter and lobster stock. And instead of those buns, you’re offered crisp, thick slices of white toast to rip and dunk." One star.

Photo by Nick Solares

At Nebaya in the South Bronx, Ligaya Mishan is a big fan of Aissata Kaba's West African fare, from lunch to dinner: "Larger, more single-minded plates of meat are saved for dinner. All are excellent: lamb shank ready to shear off the bone; guinea hen with skin just shy of wholly blackened, needled with Scotch bonnets; a whole tilapia mobbed with ginger; chicken slapped with spices until it turns the color of sunset. Never mind the repetition in sauces, with both lamb and guinea hen anointed in onions alchemized with mustard, a version of yassa from Senegal."

Zachary Feldman sings the praises of Grandchamps, a year-old Haitian restaurant in Brooklyn: "At Grandchamps, the appearance of side dishes can prompt moments of silence. There are vinaigrette-laced watercress salads and shatter-crisp fried plantains. For $4, you can fill up comfortably on mayi moulin and sos pwa — buttery cornmeal grits accompanied by a cup of velvety black-bean sauce. The latter also does a fine job perking up plain white rice." He adds: "Shawn's dessert, a riff on bananas Foster that finds rum-flambéed sweet plantains under scoops of Bed-Stuy's own Lady Moo-Moo ice cream, is plenty sweet. What he and Sabrina have done with Grandchamps in the past year is sweeter still."

After a previous unfavorable visit, Gael Greene is pleasantly surprised after revisiting Daniel. The bread basket is the perfect start, and the soft shell crab is just one of the several dishes at Daniel Gael Greene raves about: "Then I taste one brilliant little sea creature. Something crisp crackles in my mouth and a gust of organic pea takes over. Flavor wins. I decide to forgive Daniel Boulud and the house’s long time executive chef Jean-Francois Bruel. Yes, it’s the school of fuss but I won’t say fussy, I’ll call them designer touches."

Tables for Two writer Jiayang Fan enjoys herself at K-Town hotspot Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong: "One recent evening, three friends first chose the beef combo, which includes brisket, seasoned short rib, and prime rib eye, and, for good measure, an added order of beef tongue. The joy of Korean barbecue lies in part in its performance: watching ruby-red curls of brisket caramelize while translucent slices of Pringle-shaped tongue sizzle, crisp-edged and glinting. Facing the multiplying mosaic of bowls and plates, one friend moaned, "The increasing quantity of food seems to necessitate greater speed of consumption, as if all the plates will disappear the second I stop eating!"

The Blogs: Joe DiStefano files on the smoked chicken at Harry & Ida's.

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