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A ‘Top Chef’ Surprise and Other Summer Treats

The lull of midsummer is already over, and new growths sprout everywhere. A young chef gives his first restaurant a go, a veteran gets his own place for the first time, and an established star gets a fresh start. We have restaurant openings, new and better lemonades, and even a baked squash blossom. Summer is starting to tire, but the food stays sharp.

Perilla Found to be Basically Okay; Richman Loves Balthazar Even More Than The Good Fork

Perilla tried to be sober and sane, and what was the result? One star from Frank Bruni. But that’s still pretty good for a first-time effort, even by a ‘Top Chef.’ [NYT] It’s no surprise Alan Richman approves of Balthazar, given his fondness for insouciance in restaurants. He all but opens the floodgates of his enthusiasm for Keith McNally’s flagship. [Bloomberg] Related: Why Is Alan Richman So in Love With Brooklyn? In an apparent effort to differentiate the two once and for all, Andrea Thompson considers both the Farm on Adderley and Flatbush Farm in one column. But read closer, and only one entrée is mentioned at each place, a disservice to both. [NYer]

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]