Astoria: Named for the spongy Latin cheese bread, Pao de Queijo has opened at 31-90 30th Street, between Broadway and 31st Avenue, and is serving a Brazilian mix of snacks and batidos. [Time Out]
Flatiron: Irving Mill might be Gramercy Tavern lite, but the owners are ready to expand with an Italian wine bar. Who will be the next nearby inspiration? Bar Stuzzichini? [Eater]
Tribeca: Brandy Library is hosting a New York whiskey tasting on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Upper West Side: Magnolia Bakery North officially opens on Monday, but eager cupcake fiends might want to try stopping by Saturday to see if there's a soft opening. [Cupcakes Take the Cake]
West Village: Josh DeChellis will make you a "naughty doggie-bag" of after-dinner treats from BarFry for Valentine's Day, but, don't worry, no fried hot dogs, just good old-fashioned strawberries and squirt-bottle chocolate. [Eat for Victory/VV]
The story on Irving Mill was written before Frank Bruni delivered the coup de grâce — an ambivalent one-star review that pointed out the restaurant's odd inconsistencies. At this point, a one star was probably a best-case scenario for the place. [NYT]
Speaking of best-case scenarios, we bet that Gordon Ramsay had higher hopes for Bruni's rereview of his big restaurant than the one that runs in Dining Briefs. Bruni finds Gordon Ramsay at the London still excellent but boring, and Peter Meehan isn't too crazy about Bun. [NYT]
We heard that Ilili was a disaster, with bad service and worse food. So did Paul Adams, who was surprised to find that the word on the street was dead wrong. Adams even calls the food was “far, far better than it needs to be.” [NYS]
Has the blogosphere made a New Year’s resolution to be kinder and gentler to restaurateurs? Apparently not if we’re to judge by the newish site the Grim Eater, which promises to expose tough steaks, overdone burgers, and limp salads. So it’s not exactly Shameless Restaurants and there are only four posts so far (gasp cockroaches at Sushi-a-go-go?), but the site has already taught us this: According to a snubbed diner, Irving Mill has a “beautiful people” standard! We’re sure the place is giving Senor Swanky’s Celebrity Hangout a run for its money
The Grim Eater [Official site]
In this week's magazine, the long-shanked Adam Platt takes his appetite to Irving Mill, a new haute barnyard venue that seems to take more than a few pages from Danny Meyer’s book. Platt doesn’t outright dismiss the place for lack of originality, but he’s keenly aware of the joint’s “carefully calculated” vibe, with a menu that’s “worthy and competent without being particularly daring or new.” In the end, he single-stars the Mill, noting that the “stolid cooking and the warm and cozy atmosphere” make up for the uninspired menu.
Not a glowing review, but not a total rip, either. You might think only the most feverish members of the Greenmarket cult would find any real offense in Platt’s assessment — that is, until you check out the lively comments section, where something becomes very clear: The flacks hath been offended! To wit, a sampler of telltale phrases:
This week, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld herald the impending return of the Second Avenue Deli with a peppery interview with owner Jeremy Lebewohl. Expect deep-fried chicken skins at every table, he says. Beats a bread basket. Irving Mill managed to extract a grudging single star out of the Haute Barnyard–phobic Adam Platt, and the Smith, despite a business plan dedicated to filling NYU students with “almost burnt” macaroni and cheese, was able to sway Gael Greene, no sucker for comfort food. Will the new restaurants be so lucky? The Robs introduce us to a high-concept townhouse restaurant, a grass-fed-burger joint, and a progressive Italian spot. And when you get cold from running around outside trying new restaurants, you can sip a nice hot chocolate. The Underground Gourmet found the best cups in the city.
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]
For your next birthday party, why not dine at a table that’s 300 to 500 years old? You can find just that at Irving Mill, thanks to the determination of owner-designer Sergio Riva. At a trade show he met the owner of Blue Ocean Traders and — sight unseen — purchased one of the 3,000-pound, six-feet-in-diameter millstones (used to grind flour, wheat, and the like) that the company sometimes receives from Egypt. How much does such a behemoth cost? Just $700 plus $2,000 for shipping, it turns out. “They must be giving these things away in Egypt,” Riva laughs. Actually, Riva’s particular stone came from western China. When he got it after weeks of nagging his supplier, he asked a friend to build (for $2,000) a 42-inch-high base made from steel plates so that patrons can use the artifact as a bar table. And boy if that doesn’t make us appreciate the wheat in our Spaten much more.
“The doctrine of seasonal correctness is as ingrained in the collective restaurant psyche, these day, as linen napkins, pre-dinner cocktails, and superfluous baskets of bread,” Adam Platt writes in his review of Park Avenue Autumn, and who are we to argue? The combined efforts of Platt, the Robs, and Gael Greene all point to the triumph of the seasonal aesthetic. But that’s not to say they aren’t fun. Platt gives two stars to Park Avenue Autumn, Gael seems fairly pleased with Irving Mill, and the Robs introduce three restaurants (Lunetta, Bacaro, and Smith's) that are all about fresh ingredients, as well as a recipe for Bosc pears that is, of course, in season. Meanwhile, back at the Greenmarket, a long-overdue crusade against plastic bags is at work. And, though not an expression of the Haute Barnyard mystique, it's very much a sign of the times: PDT has named a hot dog for David Chang — proof that the Original Soupman has made it to the big time at last.
The above will be a vaguely familiar site to anyone who was at Irving Mill’s opening party last night unless of course you were busy rubbernecking at Benjamin Bratt or trying to snag one of the chicken-liver crostini that were in high demand. When the place opens next Monday, you’ll have less of an issue fighting off Shaggy and Steve Sands for former Gramercy Tavern chef John Schaefer’s Greenmarket-inspired veal-and-ricotta meatballs or his rabbit ragout. Still, on the off chance that competition gets fierce again, you might want to consult the dinner, lunch, and tasting menus beforehand.
Irving Mill, 116 E. 16th St., nr. Irving Pl.; 212-254-1600.Irving Mill menuFall Preview