Catch Up With Our Food Critics: Rao Enjoys "New York Nordic" and Sietsema Finds "Perfect Jerk"

Categories: Under Review

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Dominic Perri
Aska

This week, our restaurant critics ventured beyond the Manhattan dining scene, with Robert Sietsema on the hunt for authentic Jamaican jerk all over Flatbush, and Tejal Rao sampling new Nordic dishes at Williamsburg's Aska.

How did their Brooklyn choices stack up? Read on to find out.

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Catch Up with Our Food Critics: Rao Pans Tribeca Canvas; Sietsema Feasts at The Marrow

Categories: Under Review

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Village Voice
Tribeca Canvas

This week, Tejal Rao and Robert Sietsema dine at two of the city's buzziest new restaurants, Tribeca Canvas and The Marrow.

How did our critics rate Morimoto's "fancy fast food" concept and Harold Dieterle's family-inspired spot? Find out after the break.


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Under Review: Sietsema is in Spicy Heaven at Sweet Yummy House; Rao Devours "Fresh-Killed" Chicken at Hanjan

Categories: Under Review

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Victoria Wasik
Sweet Yummy House
For our own Robert Sietsema, hearing the name Sweet Yummy House "conjured up gingerbread dwellings deep in the woods made by witches." In reality, the Elmhurst restaurant is one of the city's newest Sichuan restaurants, specializing in "delicious peculiarities resulting from fusion with other cuisines" -- in this case, Taiwanese. Sietsema suggests ordering the Chinese celery and Sichuan-peppercorn-laced black lamb, as well as the salad of garlicky cucumbers in sesame oil. He adds that "those who go for Sichuan peppercorns like a junkie reaching for his dime bag" will get hooked on the cold jelly Chengdu-style -- a bowl of gooey, translucent noodles sheathed in "lip-numbing" spices.

Tejal Rao visits the Flatiron's Hanjan, "a wee, rackety tavern where you can rip hot chicken hearts off a stick and drink, drink, drink." Hooni Kim (who also owns the always-bustling Hell's Kitchen restaurant Danji) has crafted a group-friendly menu of traditional and modern Korean dishes. The structure of the meal is as thoughtful as the food itself: All cold dishes (first smaller plates, then bigger ones) are served before any hot dishes (again, little courses before larger ones) are brought to the table. Rao favors the "fresh-killed" chicken, which is "slaughtered in Brooklyn" before it's "delivered straight to the kitchen, still warm." Dabbed with a spicy and addictive house-made ssamjang (a traditional Korean condiment), the bird should be picked at between gulps of makgeolli, a gently carbonated "alcoholic brew" of yeast and rice. If you visit after 10 o'clock, order the 12-hour ramyun -- a "muscular soup" -- and slurp until closing time.

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Unavoidable and Tasty Rye Bread at Aamanns-Copenhagen; All About Love for Hanjan

Categories: Under Review

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David Penner for the Village Voice
Aamanns-Copenhagen
Our own Robert Sietsema finds himself in a sea of small, Danish plates at Aamanns-Copenhagen. The restaurant that once opened for a single day to celebrate the New York arrival of Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark has now officially started service in the same Tribeca location. Specializing in smørrebrød (that's Danish for "bread and butter"), Aaamanns puts out plate after plate of "Scandinavian tapas." Sietsema writes, "Standard toppings include pickled fish, chicken salad, and thin slices of roast meat, but Aamanns embroiders on a beloved Danish tradition by mixing startling ingredients with traditional ones." The bites are "stunning" but small, so hungry diners should not expect a royal feast.

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Dine with Descartes at Le Philosophe; Lots of Tongue at Bar Corvo

Categories: Under Review

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Village Voice
Bar Corvo
Our own Robert Sietsema stumbles upon the new and under publicized Noho bistro, Le Philosophe, and finds that it's a "wonderful place." He writes in his review of Le Philosophe that a slightly grayish "mural depicting dozens of philosophers" looms behind diners in the candlelit space. But he barely notices the other people as he feasts on "roast chicken your mom would be proud of," "fois gras tourchon," and other excellent French standards. "Call it haute cuisine lite," Sietsema suggests.

Also at The Voice, Tejal Rao checks in at Bar Corvo, a year-old sleeper in Crown Heights. She writes in her review of Bar Corvo that the charming, neighborhood spot is "no clone" of sister restaurant Al Di La, but rather, "it's a funny little place" that specializes in intelligent Italian food. "Rich, hefty batons of beef tongue battered and fried...arrive with a creamy horseradish dip," Rao writes, noting that the satisfying dish is a "whole lot of tongue." She also notes that waiting nearly 45 minutes for the "salty, golden [roast chicken] lounging on a bed of braised onions and garlic," is worth it.

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A Look at New 'Cue around NYC; Pigs Ears Amidst Chaos at Salvation Taco

Categories: Under Review

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Salvation Taco
Our own Robert Sietsema surveys the latest barbecue offerings from "the East Village to Gowanus," and finds worthwhile rib-stickers throughout the boroughs. His saucy list of favorites includes Daniel Delany's BrisketTown, "which obsesses on beef brisket smoked in a trailer located just off Flushing Avenue," the "barnlike" Mighty Quinn's in the East Village, and Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue (word to the wise: order the coleslaw).

Also at the Voice, Tejal Rao visits Salvation Taco, the new Mexican restaurant in Midtown's Pod Hotel. The "tchotchke-fileld" spot from April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman offers "casual drinking food, small plates to keep ordering until you're full or ready to move on to the next place." Rao advises bringing friends and ordering a whole lot of tacos. She also notes that the "nonlinear service we were experiencing might work as a model for chaos theory, at least at a TED talk." But the clamor is not a dealbreaker; rather it's part of the restaurant's charm.

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Crisp and Chewy Pizza at Juliana's; Spectacular Japanese Food at Chez Sardine

Categories: Under Review

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Vicky Wasick
Chez Sardine
Tejal Rao visited pizza legend Patsy Grimaldi's new outpost, Juliana's, where the pies are made with an old-fashioned touch -- cheese first, sauce last. The method allows the "tomato sauce [to] protect the cheese like sunblock," Rao writes in her review of Juliana's." The benefits of such care are clear in the final product, as Rao notes, "the pies are milky white on top, the cheese in thick, Rubenesque proportion, smudged with a clean, bright red sauce and a few wilted basil leaves. The bottoms are brown as if the char were painted on in watercolors, and each bite carries the flavor of the oven without being scarred by it--the crust has a thin shell of crispness, but it's soft and chewy inside." Sounds like there's a new thin crust in town.

Also at The Voice, Robert Sietsema checks in at the latest restaurant in Gabe Stulman's Little Wisco mini-empire, Chez Sardine, where the name is a nod to "the crowdedness of the room." While the place is labeled an izakaya, Sietsema writes in his review of Chez Sardine that the theme is "somewhat confused." However, that's not much of a concern considering that the restaurant "often diddles spectacularly with Japanese food," as well as other culinary styles.

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Experience Derby Days at Maysville; Egghead Heaven at Chennai Flavors

Categories: Under Review

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Maysville
Our own Tejal Rao appreciates the refined elegance amidst the southern hospitality at Maysville, the new Flatiron restaurant from chef Kyle Knall. The Gramercy Tavern alum shows his roots at his new spot. Rao writes, "Knall has [GT chef Michael] Anthony's reverence for local vegetables, always accompanying moderate portions of meat with several kinds of beans, greens, mushrooms, and tubers, and often pickling whatever is growing at the moment to elevate and brighten a dish." Maysville is a "restaurant to visit and enjoy immediately."

Also at The Voice, Robert Sietsema checks in at Chennai Flavors, the South Indian cafe in Jersey City. The egg-centric menu is not for the faint of heart (or breath) as the "Chennai egg masala ($6.99) deposits the hard-boiled article in a creamy beige sauce with enough garlic to get you booted off OkCupid." The dosas are worth trying as well.

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Olive Oil on Tap at Le Midi; Not Everything's Awful at Bill's Food and Drink

Categories: Under Review

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Liz Barclay
Le Midi
Tejal Rao took a break from professional eating this week, but our own Robert Sietsema kept at it by checking in at Le Midi Bistro. Located in a former East Village Woolworth's building and karaoke den, Sietsema notes in his review of Le Midi that the restaurant "is one of those old-school bistros where the food skews rich and salty, olive oil flows like tap water, and the portions make you think twice about ordering dessert." And while some dishes at the Provençal restaurant appear "positively Alsatian," geographic confusion aside, much of Sietsema's meal was "utterly delicious."

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Carry a Big Steak at Midtown's Bill's Food and Drink; Wave Goodbye to Lesbians and Hello to Pork at the West Village's Swine

Categories: Under Review

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Our own Tejal Rao reviews Bill's Food and Drink, a "flashy John DeLucie joint." Bill's Food and Drink is the recently revamped former speakeasy that once held Bill's Gay Nineties. The Midtown restaurant is "cluttered with maps, Victorian portraits, and taxidermied animal heads... it can feel like the wedding reception of a wealthy, well-connected acquaintance." The partygoers in this crowd "come to the new Bill's for a piece of protein and to take in the scene." If that's all you're looking for, you won't be disappointed.

Also at the Voice, Robert Sietsema bids lesbians adieu at Swine, in the West Village. The space, once belonging to the girl-bar Rubyfruit, lives up to its moniker. In his review of Swine, he writes that "one would assume that, consistent with the name, it would be mainly pork products, with belly and bacon scattered around like Easter eggs on the White House lawn come springtime," but the "expansive menu" features "plenty more to love" in case you're more concerned with looking like a babe than eating one.

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