Bruni Worried for West Branch and BarBao; Rouge Tomate Better Than Expected

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Frank Bruni offers a double-shot this week: BarBao and West Branch. Both restaurants "deserve to make it," he writes, but Bruni prefers BarBao, where the food is "more ambitious and nuanced than at the West Branch." [NYT]

Gael Greene “expected to love West Branch,” but found the space “sadly plain” and much of the food “has no oomph.” [Insatiable Critic]

If Rouge Tomate “didn’t spell out its self-conscious 'health through food' ethos on its cultish brochures, it could easily pass for a standard-issue Greenmarket restaurant,” says Jay Cheshes. “Can food this good really be healthy?” he wonders. [TONY]

The food at Shang is Susur Lee’s “admirable and elevated version of Chinese,” writes Alan Richman. [Forked/GQ]
Related: A Closer Look at Shang

The John Dory is a little like Le Bernardin in blue jeans,” says Danyelle Freeman, who professes love for the restaurant even though “it looks like a scene from a Jimmy Buffett hangover.” [NYDN]
Related: First Look: Inside the John Dory

Steve Cuozzo considers the $59, three-course lunch in the Pool Room at the Four Seasons. A bad guinea fowl is "a sure sign that the kitchen's heart isn't in its bargain menu." [NYP]

At Flex Mussels, you’ll get an education in marine biology and geography — all while drinking beer. [NYer]

Robert Sietsema hits fish-market café Asmak Taama in Bay Ridge, where one "can view the raw catch glistening in the window, then step inside and devour it." [VV]