Wakiya's brief flirtation with the possibility of success seems to be over, now that Frank Bruni has concurred with Adam Platt by handing the restaurant what seems to be a well-deserved bagel. How long before it goes down for the dirt nap is anybody's guess. [NYT]
Alan Richman, by the way, hates the place even worse. You don't even have to look beyond his subheads: “Preening.” “Small Portions.” “Incomprehensible Menu.” The bottom line? The place is wildly expensive and “Wakiya suffers from an absence of delights.” To say the least. [Bloomberg]
Peter Meehan, though taking care to praise Josh DeChellis's cold dishes, had what sounds like a series of awful experiences at BarFry, with terrible service issues. Talk about picking the wrong guy to leave stranded with bottles in his hands! [NYT]
What if you were a 60-year-old church congregation in North Carolina and had somehow found a pipeline to the fast-paced New York restaurant scene via your salted peanuts? And then you hear from Rob and Robin that another North Carolina church congregation was moving in on your action? Wouldn’t you feel upset? Or how about this: You meticulously design a restaurant, down to the last detail, and then have to change everything three months later. Or what if you opened a good Italian restaurant that Adam Platt liked, but he only gave you one star because, well, he’s Adam Platt? What then?
These and other hypotheticals are answered in this week’s issue of New York.
Ah, how time gets away from us! It was only one year ago that Grub Street began. How we long for those innocent days of yore! We poked through our archives, and, while we had to put a few personal favorites aside, here’s our short list of Grub Street’s Greatest Hits.
Culinary writer and BFF to the stars Michael Ruhlman has announced the Golden Clog awards, a new unofficial contest, with multiple chef categories. The winners will be announced, no doubt with much facetious fanfare, at this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The categories are as follows:
FERGUS AWARD — for best achievement in offal.
ALTON AWARD — for the food personality who can actually cook.
MARIO AWARD — for the chef-restaurateur who best multitasked, merchandised, multiplatformed and generally whored himself yet still continued to make significant and valuable contributions to the restaurant landscape.
ROCCO AWARD — for worst career move by a talented chef.
CHEF'S CHEF AWARD — for the least heralded yet most deserving working chef.
The desks at Grub Street are covered with high-heeled shoes, empty gift bags, and other detritus from Fashion Week, and only a laserlike focus could allow us to catch the disparate restaurant intelligence floating around in this week’s issue. Adam Platt visits Wakiya, the much-hyped Chinese restaurant in the Gramercy Hotel, and hands them a bagel in his restaurant review. The crown jewel of the B.R. Guest restaurant empire, Fiamma, has reopened with one of the most celebrated Italian chefs you’ve never heard of. Baby cucumbers and tomatillos get a close appreciation from Rob and Robin. Add in Gray Kunz’s secret ingredient, and you can see why the latest lines from Milan had but little effect on us.
Steve Cuozzo bucks the early bad buzz on Wakiya, praising the place but cautioning that the chef will only be around one week a month. [NYP]
Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street
Alan Richman submits a rare rave review for Soto, saying of its hot dishes “not one was less than wonderful. This is cooked food on a par with the most ingenious in New York.” Soto-san has to be pretty happy with that. [Bloomberg]
Restaurant Girl’s debut in the Daily News takes the form of a mixed review on Gemma: She liked the branzino and the atmosphere, the other dishes not so much. Nothing in the write-up suggests that they were unduly influenced by knowing who she was. [NYDN]
Related: Restaurant Girl Has a Face For Reviewing
This week brings together some disparate threads of the great suffocating quilt that is the New York food world. Modern Spanish and Latin food have almost nothing in common, other than, in the form of Suba and Rayuela, getting one star each from Adam Platt. Uptown Gael Greene rocks out Southern Hospitality. Downtown, Rob and Robin find a chef that knows all there is to know about the frying game and discover what’s happened to restaurant matchbooks in these days of the smoking ban. Plus, Kirby cucumbers are in season this week.
The lull of midsummer is already over, and new growths sprout everywhere. A young chef gives his first restaurant a go, a veteran gets his own place for the first time, and an established star gets a fresh start. We have restaurant openings, new and better lemonades, and even a baked squash blossom. Summer is starting to tire, but the food stays sharp.
The annual Cheap Eats issue arrives this week and represents, as usual, a massive compendium of low-end gastronomic wisdom. The Underground Gourmet round up some of the city’s very best cheap eats in the main section, but Adam Platt also weighs in on what passes for cheap in the city’s high-end places, some top chefs give their own picks, and three of the city’s greenmarket specialists vie to outdo each other not just in locavorism but also in “cheapavorism.” Add to that laser-focused profiles on burgers, barbecue, and Korean fried chicken, and you have a Cheap Eats supplement to put all others to shame.
Summer's end is already in sight: The All-Star Game is in the books, and another Fourth of July has passed without America being challenged by either the British or savage conquerors from another planet. All that remains are the most basic elements of summer eating: barbecue, ice cream, and fresh vegetables. And that happy trinity constitutes this week’s food section. Adam Platt finally finds barbecue happiness at Hill Country, so much so that the loquacious critic was reduced to declaring the ribs “really, really good.” Also on the subject of barbecue, Rob and Robin announce the debut of three more places, from a New Hampshire Yankee, a former boy-band star, and two ex–Blue Smoke cooks. The Robs also give the world their definitive list of the city’s top four ice-cream places (the best one rhymes with “Tom”). Finally, there's a conspicuously healthy recipe for zucchini with mint and scallions via the Slow Food haven Franny’s, in (where else?) Park Slope.
Frank Bruni inexplicably grants a star to a restaurant with zero ambience, overdone pastas, “tame entrées,” and a “loud” room that’s “dreary at night.” Which is what Adam Platt and everybody else said about Landmarc TWC, though without granting a star for the accomplishment. [NYT]
Related: Off the Mark [NYM]
Landmarc somehow coaxed three of six stars out of Randall Lane, despite comparable comments on uneven food and a room filled with rebars. The wine list seems to have been the saving grace. [TONY]
Mobbed Mercat gets the Paul Adams seal of approval, its first major positive review, which compares it favorably to Boqueria and praises it for special authenticity. Only the desserts are denied praise, and at that point in the review, it hardly matters. [NYS]
Insieme’s bid for a third star went about the same way as Anthos’: two stars from Platt, then two stars from Bruni. [NYT]
Related: Italian, Old and New [NYM]
Randall Lane gives five of Time Out New York’s six stars to P*ONG. It’s the first major review the place has gotten, and more than enough to make up for getting dissed by the Sun. [TONY]
Paul Adams, in the Sun, finds Pichet Ong’s creations irritatingly twee and precious, except for the desserts upon which the chef’s reputation is built. Adams puts his finger on the problem: “The same creativity that in the earlier courses gives rise to confusing, unsatisfying combinations is more successful when the unifying power of sugar is involved.” [NYS]
Dear Grub Street, I am e-mailing you in a last, desperate attempt to find information about brunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The Web boasts scores of reviews on the dinner menu, but I find not one mention of the merit of brunch, a menu, nothing. Cara Gouldey
The Times finds Provence beautiful, romantic, and well-intentioned, but barely worthy of a single star. A major disappointment for the Marc Meyer/Vicki Freeman team, who had been on a roll with Five Points and Cookshop. [NYT]
In the Post, Steve Cuozzo — judiciously taking the long-term view as usual — makes the case that Amalia, FR.OG, and Insieme, “the best new Italian restaurant since L’Impero,” have overcome weak starts to become some of the city’s strongest places. [NYP]
Paul Adams gives yet another admiring review to Insieme, though he found the much-praised lasagne underflavored and disappointing. His favorite dish: a chamomile farfalle. [NYS]