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Setagaya

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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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Richman Flings Feces at Monkey Bar; Soto Drops the Sushi Ball

Alan Richman gives it to Monkey Bar, and means it to stick. He gets that the place is supposed to be fun, but the bottom line is that the food sucks: “The dishes are incoherent and the food is thuddingly heavy. No focus. No finesse. Lots of salt.” [Bloomberg] Soto seems to have shot itself in the foot, dazzling Frank Bruni with its composed dishes, “vibrantly seasoned and intricately composed works of culinary and visual art,” but disappointing with the sushi, and screwing up the service (proof that lack of anonymity doesn’t matter). Now they have to settle for the same catchall two-star rating as Franny’s. [NYT] Randall Lane seems to have bestowed four (of six) stars on Wakiya more out of a sense of duty than anything else — the restaurant described in his review sounds infuriatingly stuck-up, and the food, by his account, spotty at best. Wakiya is still getting the benefit of the doubt, but it can’t hold up for long. Something tells us that a slam is coming. [TONY] Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street

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Summer Ends and Life Begins Again, In Restaurant World

Ducasse and Boulud
Forget Openings. Forget Openings. Forget reviews. Forget the Short List (more or less). The summer and its indolent desolation is over at last. The restaurant world prepares for its yearly rebirth, and its nocturnal flower is set to blossom. Fall Preview is here. And any New Yorker not currently in an intensive care unit should hasten to read every word.

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Cuozzo Likes Wakiya; Bruni, Platt Agree on Rayuela

Steve Cuozzo bucks the early bad buzz on Wakiya, praising the place but cautioning that the chef will only be around one week a month. [NYP] Related: We Catch Wakiya’s First Guests on the Street Alan Richman submits a rare rave review for Soto, saying of its hot dishes “not one was less than wonderful. This is cooked food on a par with the most ingenious in New York.” Soto-san has to be pretty happy with that. [Bloomberg] Restaurant Girl’s debut in the Daily News takes the form of a mixed review on Gemma: She liked the branzino and the atmosphere, the other dishes not so much. Nothing in the write-up suggests that they were unduly influenced by knowing who she was. [NYDN] Related: Restaurant Girl Has a Face For Reviewing

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Bourdain Lays Into ‘Top Chef’ Hung; Restaurant to Open in Back of Setagaya

Anthony Bourdain jumps on Top Chef’s Hung even harder than he laid into Marcel last season: “‘Flavor’ counts for very little in a competition for ‘Top Chef.’” [Amuse Biatch] Related: ‘Top Chef’ Biases Finally Out on the Table ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner Lia on What Went Wrong Kanye West is a soul-food connoisseur, when he’s not eating out in haute Asian eateries like Spice Market and Philippe. [WSJ] An unrelated restaurant will open Thursday in the back room of Setagaya and will feature Thai, Japanese, and Malaysian food. [Eat for Victory/VV] Related: New East Village Ramen Spot Insists It’s More Authentic Than Momofuku

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Blue Ribbon to Conquer Columbus Circle by Mid-August

Brooklyn Heights: Montero’s earned “duty watch bar” status from the British Royal Navy when its seamen passed through Brooklyn last week. [NYT] Columbus Circle: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill should open simultaneously with Thompson Hotel’s new Six Columbus by the middle of August. [Down by the Hipster] Elmhurst: Always wanted your tacos open-face, deep-fried, and splattered with crema? Try the memelitas from Taqueria Coatzingo at 40-18 82 Street. [Gothamist] Flatiron: Tabla and Tamarind are only a few of the restaurants extending their Summer Restaurant Week menus through Labor Day. [GoNYC via NewYorkology] Fort Greene: Former Top Chef contestant Josie Smith-Malave has left Island restaurant to prepare for a fall opening of her next project, the Speakeasy. [Eater] Harlem: Gentrification is apparently a lesser evil than filth: A Taste of Seafood restaurant relocates from dingy to spiffy new digs. [Uptown Flavor] Midtown East: Two sake masters from Japan will host a tasting that also features shochu and snacks at Sakagura next Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m. [Eat for Victory/VV] West Village: Centro Vinoteca won’t be opening until the 20th or 21st at the earliest, the restaurant’s representatives say. [Grub Street]

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Is Setagaya the Romulus of Ramen?

When we announced the opening of Setagaya, the new ramen spot’s manager Charlie Huh insisted his product was more authentic than that of nearby Momofuku, prompting David Chang to post a snarky sign bragging that his noodles were made with 90 percent American ingredients. The joke, however, may be on Chang: Last Saturday at 9:45 p.m., we were told the wait at Setagaya was 30 minutes, with fifteen people (almost all of them of the Asian persuasion) lined up at the door. At Momofuku, the wait was only 20 to 25 minutes, and there were a measly eight gaijin milling about. We’ll continue to check in throughout the week, though only time will tell whether Setagaya is truly top ramen — after all, you don’t see people lining up at Beard Papa anymore. Earlier: New East Village Ramen Spot Insists It’s More Authentic Than Momofuku Related: Ramen War Brewing in East Village: Momofuku 1, Setagaya 1 [Eater]

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Ramen Rivalry About to Boil Over in the East Village?

Astoria: All pints of Lagunitas beer will be $4 tonight at Sunswick on 35th Avenue at 35th Street. The bar food is supposedly pretty good, too. [Joey in Astoria] Clinton Hill: Don’t get too excited over that fancy new organic market going up on Lexington Avenue near Grand Avenue; it’s part of a set for a Steve Martin flick. [Clinton Hill Blog] East Village: Momofuku responds to Setagaya’s claims that its ramen is more authentic… [Eater] And the Tokyo-based chain has already lured crowds of diners — and impressed them. [Eat for Victory/VV] The Sunday Greenmarket now has a Hamptons-based fishmonger. [Gothamist] Harlem: Fishers of Men has expanded to 125th Street, and rather than oust Papaya King from the space, the seafood restaurant has opted to share it. [Uptown Flavor] McCarren Park: JellyNYC’s summer pool parties kicked off the series this weekend with dodgeball, Slip 'n Slide, Brooklyn Beer, and grilled grub (and we have video). [Down by the Hipster] Midwood: DiFara is once again up and running. [Slice] Park Slope: Union Market will bring its fresh produce to a long-empty storefront on Seventh Avenue, but there’s concern over nearby mom-and-pop grocers. [The Brooklyn Paper] Ridgewood: Butcher Karl Ehmer inspired such love of meat in a young girl that she now sells meat-inspired pillows to “hipsters, artists and Western Europeans.” [The Food Section]

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New East Village Ramen Spot Insists It’s More Authentic Than Momofuku

Aside from David Cross’s favorite, Minca, Momofuku pretty much has the lock on the ramen market. But this Wednesday Setagaya, the first U.S. outpost of a beloved Tokyo chain (more of them will pop up here and in Boston) will go up against the Goliath with what manager Charlie Huh insists is 100 percent natural ramen made from 90 percent Japanese ingredients. Asked about Momofuku, Huh says, “They get mostly American customers. Japanese people do not go to that place. They’re pretty good — but we can do much, much better.”

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