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Insieme

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Chang Has Big Dreams for Vegas; Nobu to Cater

David Chang plans to open a Momofuku in Vegas where everyone “wants you to do well. [And] there are no government officials who go after you and none of the bull[bleep] that’s in New York City.” [NYP] Nobu heads to the Sundance Film Festival this January as the first push to establish a catering arm of the company. [NYP] Gordon Ramsay at the London, Insieme, and Toloache are some of the newer restaurants spicing up pre-theater dining. [NYT]

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‘Esquire’ to New York: Drop Dead

Dennis Foy
Are you kidding us? Only a trio of New York spots made Esquire’s “best new restaurants” list. And while the places described all sound good, if the likes of Rialto in Cambridge have all but three New York restaurants beat, then Pace is the new Harvard. The fact is this list represents a kind of trans-Hudson affirmative action for the restaurant world. Food columnist John Mariani picks good restaurants located outside New York in place of the more deserving restaurants inside the city limits, such as Insieme, Sfoglia, Ssäm Bar, Suba, Hill Country, and many others. It’s not their fault that New York has more good places than the rest of the country put together!

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Ov-er-ra-ted! (Clap-Clap-ClapClapClap)

The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.

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Bruni Finds Bar Stuzzichini Good Enough; Sietsema Worships Insieme

Frank Bruni gives Bar Stuzzichini one star, praising its small plates (which give him his obligatory Zeitgeist paragraphs at the top) and then pointing out that the room and service are basically that of a “midtown mess hall.” The moral? Aim low, price right, and execute, and the critics will give you the guarded praise you need to stay open. [NYT] Here's one we never would have predicted in a million years: Insieme getting the panegyric it deserves from Robert “horsehead soup in the Bronx” Sietsema. Interestingly, the one thing he didn't like was the lasagne, which was the place's proudest boast when it first opened. [VV] We predicted recently that it was just a matter of time before someone came down on Wakiya, but we never dreamed it would be Danyelle Freeman. She hits the place hard, mostly for the “dull” and “skimpy” food but, not a killer at heart, gives them credit for service, cocktails, and soup dumplings. But it won't be long before another, meaner critic really lets it fly. [NYND]

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Meatopia IV: A Visual Feast

Basting
Last night's Meatopia was everything we could have dreamed of and more: an unforgettable spectacle of infanticide with world-class chefs, world-class gluttons, and the beauty of the Water Taxi Beach as a setting for both. Here's some hint of its wonders, captured by society photographer Melissa Hom.

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Monkey Bar Gets Hit; Three Stars for Café Boulud

Paul Adams liked some things about Monkey Bar, but it’s never a good sign if you hire a famous Chinese chef (Patricia Yeo) and the review includes the words “My neighborhood Chinese takeout does better dumplings.” [NYS] Café Boulud, in an important rereview, gets three stars — enough to add momentum to Daniel Boulud’s empire building. [NYT] Insieme looks dull, observes Lauren Collins in The New Yorker, but “profligate flavor and spirited service” show themselves once the food starts coming. [NYer]

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Hill Country Triumphs; Perilla Gets Measured Praise, Three Times Over

Peter Meehan hails Hill Country as the barbecue to beat in New York, at least as far as beef is concerned: “[The deckle brisket] is a thing of balance and of beauty.” [NYT] As much as Meehan liked the place, Steve Cuozzo may like it even more, not hesitating to crown it New York’s best: “Lots of New York places now claim to have ‘real’ barbecue, and some truly do. But until they catch up with Hill Country, they’re just blowing smoke.” [NYP] 15 East feels the glow of two-star approval, especially for its star octopus. Ushiwakamaru, though not as good, is cheaper, and that’s worth something. [NYT]

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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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Hearth’s New Wine Bar to Be a Very Low-key Affair

Word of Terroir, Hearth’s new spin-off wine bar, got out faster than owners Marco Canora and Paul Grieco wanted, but with the genie now out of the bottle, Canora tells us he’s ready to talk about it. “We wanted to keep it low-key, because we’re low-key guys,” he explains. The place is only 500 square feet, the chef says, and they don’t even plan to pipe in gas. There will be eight seats at the bar, a communal table with twelve to sixteen chairs, and a “very minimal” menu created by Canora, who with Grieco just recently opened Insieme in midtown.

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Hearth Spawns a Wine Bar in the East Village

East Village: It looks like Hearth may spawn a wine bar. [Eater] A date with Momofuku’s David Chang is only worth $1000 at auction (Jean-Georges Vongerichten brought in $6100) but that’s not too bad for a night at a dive bar. [Snack] Greenwich Village: NYU is hosting a panel on Building a Food Professional Pedigree from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. this Thursday, with speakers including Michael Lomanaco and Florence Fabricant. [NYU] Long Island City: The Food Film Festival at Water Taxi Beach kicks off tomorrow. [The Food Section] Midtown West: Brasserie 8 1/2 will join the dessert-bar fray starting tonight by repackaging its lounge as After 8.5, and serving desserts after 8:30 p.m. — get it? [NYT] Times Square: Insieme is starting weekday lunch service between noon and 2 p.m. [NYS] Tribeca: Fresh Pie has been taken over by Ruben’s Empanadas at 149 Church Street. [Grub Street]

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Insieme Lauded (Except for Lasagne); Landmarc Squeaks By

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]

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Gramercy Keeps Its Third Star; Randall Lane Trips But Likes Insieme Anyway

Frank Bruni joins Adam Platt in giving Gramercy Tavern three stars, validating the efforts of new chef Michael Anthony and the usual Danny Meyer service level. [NYT] Related: Gramercy Rehab [NYM] Time Out’s Randall Lane likes Insieme a lot, to the tune of four (out of six) stars. Though he praises the food as most reviewers have, he also agrees with them that although it was beautifully executed, it didn’t make him swoon. Also, he tripped on the step coming in. [TONY] The Sun’s Paul Adams comes down on Landmarc, “less a dining destination and more a hearty refueling station for ravenous shoppers and tourists.” But it’s affordable and competent, and what else do you want in a mall restaurant? [NYS] Related: Will Landmarc’s Downtown Cool Play Alongside Its Ritzy New Neighbors? [Grub Street]

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A Three-Way Standoff Between Olives, Duck, and Smoky Cheese, Tonight at Insieme

Chef Marco Canora’s menu at Insieme is divided between modern dishes like uni risotto and traditional ones like spinach lasagne. But tonight’s special, black-olive fettuccine with duck ragù, falls somewhere between the two sides. “I love this as a take on a really rustic dish, but reworked,” Canora says. “The acidity of red wine goes with the richness of the duck, and both are complemented by the brininess of the olives.” The dish is topped with fiore de Sardo cheese, which Canora says he likes for its smokiness. If we were ordering it, we would start off with a cold, clean crudi appetizer, before taking on its deep, salty flavors. ($16 for an appetizer portion, $26 for entrée.)

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Cuozzo Hammers the Shake Shack; Much Hodgson Love for Insieme

Steve Cuozzo uses his bully pulpit in the Post to come down hard on the Shake Shack, calling the place out for insanely long lines and “a hamburger that’s an also-ran at best.” [NYP] Related: Kyle Dureau Wants Shake Shack to Be Open 24/7 As Much As You Do [Grub Street] Having weathered a major two-star review by Adam Platt, Insieme finally gets its first three-star one, from Moira Hodgson, who is impressed by how perfectly executed every dish is, lavishing special praise on one of the place’s more overlooked features, co-owner Paul Grieco’s wine list. [NYO] Related: Italian, Old and New [NYM] The Times gives Katz’s the full Frank Bruni treatment, and the place comes out of it with one star, much loving description, and an eerie semi-confirmation of our earlier report that the place might be sold. [NYT] Related: Mother of Mercy! Is This the End of Katz’s? [Grub Street]

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The Food War Between Old and New Continues

The attentions of New York’s food staff are divided between modernity and tradition. Gael Greene is vexed with Provence, a reopened French restaurant which was faithfully conventional even in its former incarnation. Rob and Robin, apart from their usual announcements of new places in Openings, extract from Anthos chef Michael Psilakis a comparatively novel recipe for mature dandelion greens. And Adam Platt finds himself caught in the middle of Marco Canora’s half-modern, half-classical menu at Insieme.

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Insieme’s Complicated Quartet of Lamb

Marco Canora has the reputation as a chef’s chef, a guy who knows how to take great ingredients and develop their taste with a minimum of artifice or flash. He was that way as the original chef at Craft, at Hearth, and now at Insieme, his ambitious new midtown restaurant. Lamb four ways with lavender, spring garlic, peas, morels and spicy greens is a quintessential Canora dish, intense, multilayered, but somehow humble. Mouse over each element for Marco’s description.

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Wild Salmon Starts Its Upstream Journey Strongly; Craftsteak Upgraded

Alan Richman has a few qualms about Wild Salmon – its reason for being, for example – but likes both the food (except for the sauces) and the service (when it’s not too friendly). Given how ready Richman is to knock restaurants, owner Jeffrey Chodorow has to feel pretty good about this one. [Bloomberg] Related: Wild Salmon Swims Into View. Yes, ‘Pun Intended’ [Grub Street] The newly revamped Craftsteak and Craftbar get rereviewed by Bruni, who awards the less than the white-hot former a much-needed second star, and the latter, “more or less back on track” after earlier troubles, a (borderline) single star. [NYT] Time Out’s Randall Lane lays four stars (out of six) on Gilt, finding Chris Lee’s cooking admirable all around, if less risky than that of his predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, who still keeps popping up whenever the restaurant is discussed. [TONY] Related: Gramercy Rehab [NYM]

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Vendors at Red Hook Ball Fields Postpone Opening

Brooklyn Heights: Brooklyn Pigfest, a major outdoor barbecue event at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, is slated for May 12. [The Food Section] Financial District: Front Street sees the soft opening of New Zealand gastropub Nelson Blue. [Eater] Midtown West: Haven't made it to Insieme? Jason Perlow's photo-essay chronicles, in loving and lingering detail, every course at Marco Canora's new restaurant. [Off the Broiler] Landmarc at the Time Warner Center makes a mean-looking burger. [Gothamist] Red Hook: A new stoplight at the intersection of Van Brunt and Sullivan streets should help ease traffic caused by Fairway. [The Brooklyn Paper] Opening day for the ball fields' food stands has been postponed, for one more week! [Gowanus Lounge] Flatiron: Eleven Madison Park declines to keep their trial pastry chef, Richard Bies; until they hire a permanent replacement for Nicole Kaplan, Daniel Humm himself is handling the dessert program. [Grub Street] Related: Nicole Kaplan Ditching Eleven Madison Park

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One Reluctant Star to Morandi, Big Ups to Fette Sau

Having earlier disposed of Balthazar, Bruni moves on to Morandi and asks: “Is this tribute or burlesque?” Though he doesn’t dig the menu’s “greatest-hits approach,” he concedes Jody Williams’s food is “getting a worse rap than it deserves” (seems he read the Platt review). Final word: “Morandi can simply feel tired before its time, and not quite worth the struggle to get in and stay upright in the scrum.” [NYT] Spiga, meanwhile, isn’t taking a traditional approach and suffers for it, according to Tables for Two. Chef Salvatore Corea has ideas, but “too many ideas, in some cases”— starting with the cocoa gnocchi. [NYer] Sietsema brings his own Wonder bread to publicity-starved Fette Sau and finds baseball-bat beef ribs, spectacular brisket, damn good flank steak and shredded lamb “fragrant with the odor of pasturage.” [VV] Related: Williamsburg’s Weird Barbecue Place

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