Merkato 55 Not Knocking Them Out; Chop Suey Chopped

Randall Lane bestows three stars of six on Merkato 55 in a decidedly middling review. The place covers too much ground, he says, “an African greatest-hits tour that works only because there are so few top-shelf regional African restaurants here in the first place.” [TONY]

It's not that Steve Cuozzo doesn't get Merkato 55 or like Marcus Samuelsson. It's just that the food was pretty uneven when he went there and the chef was seldom around. Quoth the Cuozz: "But Samuelsson is too great a talent to let Merkato 55 slide into another Meatpacking District party venue. I hope he finds the time to make his labor of love worthy of our love, too." [NYP]

Alan Richman is back at what he does best, applying his critical pen to the efforts of high-toned tablecloth restaurants, in this case South Gate. He likes the food, but finds the place a little soulless and the staff entirely too service-y. (Though since he’s not anonymous; that’s bound to be a problem in any new restaurant he dines in.) [GQ]

Richard Vines, Richman's presumptive replacement, hits Babbo and finds it as great as ever: "When it comes to Babbo, do believe the hype." [Bloomberg]

Now that he's done bashing Restaurant Girl, Robert Sietsema is back in his groove again, with an evocative write-up of Food Sing in East Chinatown. [VV]

To the surprise of no one in Queens, Restaurant Girl finds Sapori d’Ischa to produce mostly very good traditional Italian food in less than completely welcoming surroundings. [NYDN]

Chop Suey comes in under the hard-eyed gaze of Ligaya Mishan, who is less than impressed with the efforts of consulting chefs Zak Pelaccio and Will Goldfarb. [NYer]

Obscure Soho bistro La Sirene comes in for a surprise one-star review from Frank Bruni; the restaurant's high-strung proprietor gets a thumbnail sketch that alone makes the review worth reading. [NYT]

Peter Meehan comes up with Roberta's, an intriguing pizzeria in Bushwick, of all places, and almost makes it sound worth traveling to. [NYT]

Madaleine Mae may not depart from the usual southern-restaurant tropes, as Paul Adams chides, but who cares, when the food is as good as he makes it sound? One of the very first totally enthusiastic reviews for Jonathan Waxman's new place. [NYS]