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Paul Adams

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Bar Boulud, Loved at Last; Cuozzo Not on the Dovetail Bandwagon

“It's a new era, and Bar Boulud belongs to it.” That's why, even though the hot items are mostly “snoozers,” the restaurant deserves two stars. Another Zeitgeist review from Frank Bruni. [NYT] Steve Cuozzo doesn't give out stars, but if he did, he wouldn't be giving three to Dovetail, whose stellar critical reception he recapitulates in a forceful, acerbic review. “The Times' Frank Bruni, who found 'drab' décor at Anthos a reason to deny that truly original, forward-Greek place three stars, overlooked Dovetail's butt-ugly brown palette to exult over the likes of — holy cow! — monkfish and lobster on the same plate.” [NYP] Writing on his GQ blog, Alan Richman obliterates Brasserie Les Halles, but why? Who was thinking about it, anyway? And who thought it was good? The review seems conceived as a blow against Tony Bourdain, but it does him no harm. [GQ]

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Wylie Wins Respect for Molecular Gastronomy With a Third Star; Bar Boulud Finally Gets a Good Review

In a landmark for molecular gastronomy in America, the movement’s top proponent, Wylie Dufresne, gets his third star for wd-50. A historic review, especially as Frank Bruni expresses the usual reservations about overly cerebral cooking. [NYT] Bar Boulud finally gets some respect from Alan Richman, who praises its blue-ribbon charcuterie and says of its much-maligned mains, “The worst that can be said…is that the recipes are relentlessly conventional — lamb stew, roasted chicken, boudin blanc. The best is that such a style of cooking is terribly missed.” [GQ] Restaurant Girl seems to have been distinctly unimpressed with about half of the dishes she tried at Adour, resulting in a lukewarm, two-and-a-half-star review. Ducasse’s latest is not getting off to a great start. [NYDN]

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Bar Blanc Draws Its Deuce; Mia Dona Welcomed by Richman

Frank Bruni finds Bar Blanc fussy, mannered, overly fastidious — and very, very good. The two stars should take the sting out of his review for the place's owners. [NYT] Related: Raising the Bar Restaurant Girl hits Williamsburg’s Zenkichi and, between the room, the food, and the sake selection, seems to have a real find on her hands. [NYDN] Randall Lane joins in the general enthusiasm for Dovetail , but now he seems unwilling to go back to his five-star-granting ways and so ends up giving them only four — the equivalent, in traditional star terms, to a two-star review, which is not what this reads as. [TONY]

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Another Triumph for Dovetail; Another Disappointment for Bar Boulud

Citing cleverness, finesse and his own “hugely positive” experiences eating there, Frank Bruni gives Dovetail three stars to go along with Adam Platt’s. [NYT] Related: This Dove Flies Poor Bar Boulud, on the other hand, continues to get pilloried. Randall Lane gives it only three stars (of six), and no doubt it would be a lot worse if not for the world-class charcuterie. [TONY] Related: Daniel Disappoints Restaurant Girl, too, got her licks in on BB, giving it two stars (of four) for Syrah-heavy sauces, unreliable service, and mishandled snails and tartare. This has got to be killing Boulud. [NYDN]

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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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Le Cirque Back in the Three-Star Club; It’s La Belle Epoque Again at Adour

Who says Frank Bruni has no heart? After demoting Le Cirque last year, Bruni restores the third star, courtesy largely to new chef Christophe Bellanca’s masterly handling of ultraluxe ingredients and, of course, the Maccioni family’s trademark feudal service. [NYT] Maybe you don’t consider the salmon at Dovetail “a religious experience,” the way Restaurant Girl does, but everyone seems to agree with Adam Platt that it’s a very fine restaurant and outrageously good for the Upper West Side. [NYDN] Related: This Dove Flies Ryan Sutton has filed the first review of Adour, and he makes it sound, at least to anachronistically minded readers, truly awesome. Did you know Adour is serving lobster thermidor? Lobster thermidor! In this day and age! Sutton is also impressed by the virtual wine list, as most other visitors have been. [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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Mesa Grill Keeps One Star, Barely; Richman Rejuvenated by Dovetail

Mesa Grill loses a star, but this is one of the worst one-star reviews you'll ever read, even going so far as to compare it to gulag gourmet: “During one dinner the three slivers of chicken in the appetizer tacos were among the most shriveled, desiccated pieces of meat I’ve seen outside a bodega buffet at 3 a.m.” [NYT] Related: Salute the Gulag Gourmet Movement Now this is something cheering: Alan Richman found a tablecloth restaurant that got him genuinely excited. Dovetail's food, he says approvingly, is “exuberant and shocking” — in a good way. [Bloomberg] Paul Adams hits Cooper Tavern, a not particularly ambitious hotel restaurant recently given a "meh" review by Frank Bruni, and likes it a little better, although the fries are “pathetically poor” and the pork chop is “hardly going to be the talk of the city's pork chop grapevine.” We can testify that that part is true. [NYS]

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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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Barbuto Saved by a Chicken; Fiamma Comes Up Short

The wildly uneven Barbuto earns a single star from Frank Bruni, almost entirely on the strength of a well-roasted Bell & Evans chicken. To quote Winston Churchill, “Some chicken!” [NYT] Alan Richman was appalled by how small the portions were at Grayz, how much they cost, and how shady most of them were, except for the magnificent, world-beating short rib: “In complexity and satisfaction, this dish reminded me most of the Gray Kunz of Lespinasse, the chef we miss so much.” [Bloomberg] Randall Lane gets that Fiamma’s Fabio Trachocchi is cooking in a grand, Continental style and doesn’t hold that against him, but the food is too rich and the service too sloppy to give him the five or six stars the place would have liked And so they have to settle for four. [TONY]

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One Star Seals the Deal for Irving Mill; Ilili Surprises in a Good Way

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]

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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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Ilili Makes An Enemy in Steve Cuozzo; Bruni Picks on Grayz

Though the food sounded pretty good at Ilili, the place treated Steve Cuozzo so badly that the Cuozz was forced to pay them back with an atomic review — one that sounds richly deserved. [NYP] In one of his silliest reviews, Frank Bruni goes on for half the article complaining that restaurants don't always fit in neat categories, then punishes Grayz for it with a blistering one-star review. Odd. [NYT] Bruni's mini-review in Dining Briefs is much more logical and succinct: “That’s Belcourt: the predictable made surprising; comfort with a wink.” Meanwhile, on the undercard, Peter Meehan was mostly pleased with Graffiti, despite its minute size, and Marian Burros not so happy with Lucy of Gramercy. [NYT]

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Bruni Closes the Book on Tailor; Allen & Delancey Gets Good, Not Great, Notices

Bruni waited to be the last one to pronounce on Tailor, and his review pretty much recapitulates, albeit in wittier prose and with some much-appreciated Grub Street love, what everyone else has said: erratic brilliance, wee portions, and a killer cocktail program. The result: one star. [NYT] Allen & Delancey keeps impressing the critics, at least with chef Neil Ferguson's meat mastery. His fish, though, is strictly from hunger, according to Restaurant Girl. [NYDN] Randall Lane offers one of his most thoughtful and precise reviews of Allen & Delancey, finding fault only in flavor balances and the fact that the place has to close up at midnight. [TONY]

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Cipriani Charged With ‘Highway Robbery’; Market Table Gets a Big Kiss From RG

Frank Bruni pens one of his best zero-star reviews ever in putting down Harry Cipriani, hard: “The crime that comes to mind first when I think of the Ciprianis is highway robbery. Based on my recent experience, that’s what happens almost any time Harry Cipriani on Fifth Avenue serves lunch or dinner.” Brillo-like potatoes? $23 for asparagus? Bruni makes 'em pay. [NYT] Market Table gets two and a half stars from Restaurant Girl, who praises the solid American cooking and buys into the overall concept. We wondered if MT wouldn't be the restaurant that absorbed the Haute Barnyard backlash, but it seems to have dodged it so far. [NYDN] Paul Adams hits Tailor and delivers the most intelligently rendered version of what seems to be the verdict on the place: The food is brilliant but spotty, and the drinks are great. [NYS]

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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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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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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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