Notoriously fussy Upper West Siders did not hesitate to chew out star chef Jonathan Waxman’s uneven southern-Creole efforts early on at Madaleine Mae. But on this recent second visit, the impressively juicy roast chicken and splendid Arctic-char meunière with roasted hazelnuts and dirty rice suggest that Waxman and Texas-raised chef Andrew Curren are definitely working on it. I’ve had lighter biscuits, but I love these chewy heavyweights, especially under the gravy that smothers shaved smoked ham. Everyone’s hitting on my mac-and-cheese side (as an appetizer). Big boiled Carolina shrimp in the shell, ideal for sharing, are served on the New York Post—a sly suggestion for recycling this tabloid. And the cheeseburger on its idiosyncratic square roll with first-rate fries is more carefully cooked tonight—plump and rare, a triumph. Our fussy meat-eaters, me among them, also have raves for garlicky hanger steak with creamed spinach. Curren, fresh from several years as Waxman’s right hand at Barbuto, has been fussing with the maligned jambalaya. Grilled Berkshire-pork loin with parsnip purée is his latest gesture to pork-chop critics. Big portions and lowish prices, plus breakfast hours, seem crucial to me in this seesaw affair. Soon the chef’s pastry-cook fiancée, Catherine James—he proposed two weeks ago at Le Bernardin—will be coming on to redo the desserts most everyone hates. “We want to be neighborhood- and user-friendly” is Waxman’s mantra.
461 Columbus Ave., at 82nd St.; 212-496-3000