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Moira Hodgson

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Praise for 2nd Avenue Deli and Dovetail; Southgate Suffers

Frank Bruni can't help but make a one-act play out of his one-star 2nd Avenue Deli review: Sholom Aleichem by way of Oscar Wilde. A classic review, even if you don't come out of it knowing much about the food at 2nd Avenue Deli. [NYT] Reviewing on his blog, Alan Richman delivers a less colorful, but more accurate and knowing account, of the place, which is even more admiring. [GQ] Ryan Sutton isn't impressed one bit by Southgate — he thinks it's expensive and uninspired, broadly speaking. Not a whit of enthusiasm here. [Bloomberg]

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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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Chicken to the Rescue at Blue Ribbon Sushi; The Smith Hit Hard

The latest Blue Ribbon Sushi gets a whopping two stars from Frank Bruni, despite its titular sushi being not that great. No, it’s the souped-up fried chicken that added a star, making this two weeks in a row that poultry has saved the day. [NYT] Paul Adams hits new East Village comfort-food zone the Smith with one of his rare bad reviews — generally, he finds the food clumsy and gross: “A main course of lamb schnitzel ($17) shows what the kitchen can do at its best: not particularly much.” Ouch! [NYS] Nor was Danyelle Freeman especially enthralled with Brasserie 44, which got one and a half stars out of four. Her recollections of its food seem highly detailed, suggesting that she didn’t leave her notebook behind. [NYDN] Related: So the Critic Left Her (?) Notes. So What?

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Allen & Delancey Gets Its Two-Star Due; Irving Mill Continues to Uninspire

In spite of lousy desserts and a misstep in the fish department there, Frank Bruni couldn't avoid giving Allen and Delancey's complex, accomplished food two stars. [NYT] Alan Richman, no pushover, was also very impressed by Allen & Delancey, though he noted that the chef's strength clearly lies in the realm of turf, rather than surf. Still, the respect is there: “The visceral satisfaction is high. He piles on flavors, and he does so with assurance.” [Bloomberg] Irving Mill: tired concept, spotty execution. Restaurant Girl joins the chorus. [NYDN]

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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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Pamplona Given a New Lease on Life; Bobo Hit Hard

Alex Ureña's somewhat mainstreamed restaurant, Pamplona, earns the catchall two-star rating from Frank Bruni — a great victory for them, since it legitimizes the restaurant and puts it on the solid footing it desperately needed. Bruni doesn't sound especially impressed, however: “His best dishes are more than memorable enough to redeem Pamplona’s shortcomings.” Well, that's good! [NYT] Critics tend to like writing about restaurants that fail badly in one way (such as the food) while succeeding in another, less important way (such as the room). That disjunction gives Danyelle Freeman free rein to jump with both feet onto Bobo. [NYDN] Randall Lane checks in on the two newly opened Mexican restaurants, Toloache and Los Dados and likes them both okay, but he has changed his ways and is now throwing around stars like they were manhole covers: three (of six) for Toloache, home of the famous grasshopper taco, and two for meatpacking trendhole Los Dados. [TONY]

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Three Versions of Tailor; Paul Adams Bugs Out

Danyelle Freeman hits Tailor and finds its tiny menu and weird food ill-fitting the talents involved. “Mason glimpses at genius…” Restaurant Girl says, but “[y]ou leave Tailor still craving dessert.” Ouch! [NYDN] Moira Hodgson likes Tailor a little, giving the place two stars and only bemoaning the fact that there wasn't more of the food. “But the tastes were so tantalizing I came back another night to try everything again,” she says. [NYO] And then there's Randall Lane, who gives Tailor a four-star review. (Of course, that's out of six.) Still, it's a lot, but it seems to be mostly for Eben Freeman's cocktails. Lane found the food, especially the “sweet” half of the menu, to be a pretty mixed bag. [TONY]

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Kudos to Park Avenue Autumn; Jeers to the Five Guys

Park Avenue Autumn's gimmicky concept might have turned Frank Bruni catty but for the fact that Craig Konketsu's cooking is so flawlessly brilliant. The place got two stars, and the review reads like three. [NYT] Paul Adams must be a happy man today just for the headline he came up with for his positive review of the cheese-centric newcomer Casellula: “The Cheese Stands Alone.” It sounds like it does, too, with what might be the best macaroni and cheese going. [NYS] Peter Meehan puts the Five Guys, and their deliberately dried-out, overrated burger, in their place; Julia Moskin gives Market Table its first praise, a measured and thoughtful mini-review. [NYT]

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Gemma Rewarded for Its Calculations; Tailor Makes a Fan

Frank Bruni, surprisingly grants Gemma a single star. Bruni sees the place as a slicker, less technically accomplished Morandi — an insta-enoteca calculated to the nth degree to please modern middlebrows. Which, we guess, is worth a single star these days. [NYT] Ryan Sutton is, as usual, the first to review Tailor, which he finds a molecular wonderland of trippy but delicious foods: exactly what a certain kind of restaurantgoer needs to hear to get the buzz going. [Bloomberg] Moira Hodgson thinks that Alex Ureña's new direction at Pamplona — modern, imaginative Spanish cookery minus the bells and whistles — is exactly what he needed and rewards him with two stars. “So this is bistro food? I don’t care what he calls it, it’s great.” [NYO]

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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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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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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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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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Anthos Misses Its Mark; Provence’s First Rave

Unlike Adam Platt, who thought Anthos inferior to Dona, Frank Bruni likes it better; he seems almost pained to have to deny the place a third star. But the drab room and overwhelmed fish keep Michael Psilakis’s dream of a three-star Greek restaurant from coming true — yet. [NYT] Related: Greek Revival [NYM] Time Out’s Randall Lane hits Williamsburg BBQ Fette Sau and is struck by how good some of the meats are, and how unbelievably bad the sauce is. That’s pretty much in keeping with what everybody else has said, but Lane is the first to make much-needed points about the effect of keeping pulled pork exposed in a chafing tray, and how ill-fit pork belly is for the smoke treatment. [TONY] Related: Fette Sau's Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace [Grub Street] Moira Hodgson’s rave makes the relaunched Provence sound really, really good — a great omen for their future critical reception. The old Provence was good, but neither the service nor the food was on a level you would want to face a battery of critics with. [NYO]

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Fette Sau and 15 East Get Strong Endorsements From the Experts

Peter Meehan gives a highly thought-out, admiring review (probably the most knowledgeable one so far) of Fette Sau, taking pain to mention the place’s few but significant shortcomings. [NYT] Related: Fette Sau’s Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace [Grub Street] Alan Richman, a person with highly developed opinions about sushi, thinks 15 East a great find: “If you have pricey seafood cravings without the wherewithal to finance them, I don't believe you can do better than 15 East,” he says. [Bloomberg] Frank Bruni inexplicably reviews Max Brenner: Chocolates by the Bald Man, a place that no one would ever expect to be good. Unsurprisingly, he hands them a bagel. [NYT] Related: Milking It [NYM]

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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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