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Andrea Thompson

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Critics Like Chop Suey Despite Themselves; One Star for Ilili

Frank Bruni awards one star to Ilili, establishing the restaurant’s critical reception as generally admiring but far from ardent. Bruni uses it as an occasion to discourse on the current trend of highlighting previously low-rent genres, but he seems to have liked all the food and not found the prices or noise too distracting. [NYT] Steve Cuozzo wanted to hate Chop Suey, he really did. The name was dumb, and he was skeptical of consulting chef Zak Pelaccio, whose “résumé of short-lived eatery associations … is as long as his list of bona fide accomplishments is short.” But he loved the food and its “bold, explosive” flavors. [NYP] Ryan Sutton also plays the “better than it has any right to be” card with Chop Suey, declaring the place as “jolting, gorgeous, frightening” and reluctantly praising its Korean-themed food. [Bloomberg]

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Primehouse's Steak Saves Its Star; BarFry Blasted

The best steaks at Primehouse NY are good enough to earn a single star from Frank Bruni — which is saying something, given that he had problems with service, didn't like the other entrées, and even found the rib eyes to be less than they ought to be. But the Creekstone strips carried the day, as they always do. [NYT] The small, porky tapas at Jason Neroni's Cantina seem to impress Robert Sietsema, but his review leaves you with the sense that, croquettes aside, the place is still a work-in-progress. [VV] Paul Adams dines at Smith's and praises the rich, possibly too rich, appetizers, while frowning over some of the mains. But on the whole he likes the place: “Some dishes are excessive by design, others poorly executed in the heat of the dinner rush, and a few, like the pasta, remarkably good and worthy of a return visit — perhaps after the first wave of crowds has moved on.” [NYS]

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Fiamma Earns Its Third Star; Love for Kenny Shopsin

Fiamma hits the three-star jackpot, tickling Frank Bruni in his sweet spot and earning itself the critical credibility Steve Hanson wanted when he hired Fabio Trabocchi. Bruni admits the place isn't Italian, but he is in love with the ultrarich, ultracomposed food. [NYT] Market Table took over the space that was Shopsin's, and this gave the Randall Lane the good idea of reviewing both restaurants at the same time. Market Table earns four stars (out of six, mind you) for its solid food and gracious service. Kenny, in his new digs at Essex Street Market, gets three for his still terrific food and his not-so-gracious service. [TONY] The Fiamma review should wash away any melancholy caused by Alan Richman's lukewarm number on Primehouse, Fiamma's sister. Richman likes the steaks pretty well and singles out crab cake for enthusiastic praise, but he casts a skeptical eye on pretty much everything else, from its resident bull-god to the Himalayan salt aging room. [Bloomberg]

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A Star Swap for Alto & L’Impero; No Amore for Richman at Fiamma

The Times’ verdict is in on Alto and L’Impero, and it’s the expected three and two stars, respectively. Lost in the Alto upgrade is the hard fact that L’Impero now enters the dreaded two-star limbo into which Frank Bruni puts any place neither transcendent nor mediocre. Personally, we would have had it at four and three. [NYT] Alan Richman admires the new Fiamma (former home to Mike White) in a cool and distant way, finding the food busy and not at all Italian, although not exactly lousy by any means. No one will read this review and want to spend money to eat at Fiamma. [Bloomberg] On the other hand, Restaurant Girl’s three-star review reads like a perfume ad, it’s so loving: “Like an artist, he paints deeply flavored ragu onto a pappardelle canvas, finished with tender ribbons of venison.” Ew! But Steve Hanson must be happy. [NYDN]

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Wakiya Earns a Second Bagel; Meehan Mistreated at BarFry

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]

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P*ONG Found to Be Small and Uneven; Monkey Bar Gets Hammered

Frank Bruni appreciates Pichet Ong’s skill and creativity but finds his restaurant, P*ONG, in what will probably be a defining review, unequal to his talent: “Mr. Ong is an enterprising cook, but he doesn’t seem to be a seasoned restaurateur, and P*ong points out the difference.” [NYT] Similarly, Paul Adams grants that FR.OG chef Didier Virot has “has a virtuosic ability with flavors,” but was less than thrilled with the restaurant. That’s about in keeping with most other reviews the place has had, which call out a few dishes but give it an “eh” otherwise. [NYS] Randall Lane disliked the Monkey Bar so much that it’s amazing that he gave it two stars (out of six). “More often, though, the dishes were so unsuccessful that I had difficulty finishing them.” Eek. Not what you want to hear after a huge, expensive relaunch.[TONY]

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Insieme Just Misses; One Big Up and One ‘Eh’ for P*ONG

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]

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Love and Hate for the Inn LW12; Esca Pulls Even With Babbo

The Sun’s Paul Adams considers the Inn LW12 an out-and-out Canadian restaurant, to a greater extent than anyone else has, and praises the poutine, a Québécois version of disco fries, along with the rest of the menu. [NYS] Poutine aside, Randall Lane thinks the Inn LW12 is a snobby “poseur sanctuary” still carrying the taint of Lotus, owner Jeffrey Jah’s other place. [TONY] Esca gets a third star from the Times, moving it even with Babbo, and reminding everybody that David Pasternack is not just Mario’s fish guy, but one of the city’s great chefs. [Esca]

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Anthos Gets a Rave; More Knocks for Morandi

Randall Lane gives Anthos its first full-out rave, granting the restaurant five of six stars and writing about it in adoring terms. It's a rare move for Lane, and a good omen for the more powerful critics still to come. [TONY] At times, Alan Richman likes the food at Morandi a lot, but when it's late and the place gets busy, he considers it to be a kind of restaurant hell. He won’t be going back after 9 p.m. “any time in my life.” [Bloomberg] Paul Adams felt much the same about Morandi, calling out its fine fried foods but dissing its heavy pastas, “theme park” atmosphere, and lousy entrées. It’s unanimous: The critics all dislike Morandi. Meanwhile, Keith McNally is crying all the way to the bank. [NYS] Related: Not So Bene [NYM]

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More Reasons for Ramsay to Worry; Could Use Some ‘Time Out’ Love

Frank Bruni wants to dislike Mai House but just can’t quite bring himself to do it. [NYT] Meehan has no reason to like Pardo’s … so he doesn’t. [NYT] Paul Adams tepid on Gordon Ramsay, citing his “great competence and little sparkle.” [NYS] Alan Richman awards Ramsay one big “ouch”; he’s reminded of “the French-international cuisine that British chefs turn out whenever they ply their trade aboard cruise ships.” [Bloomberg] Klee Brasserie apparently finds its way into Randall Lane’s heart, though thoughts like “it’s a bit of a mishmash, but a good mishmash” don’t fully convey the apparent chemistry they share. What with all the positive mini-reviews of Café Pierre, Guadalupe, and Benjamin Steak House, it’s a veritable lovefest over at Time Out. [TONY] Brooklyn spot NoNO Kitchen charms Andrea Thompson, who rather drily observes that it’s “quite good, if not exactly phenomenal.” [NYer]

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