Sifton Hops in the SHO Shaun Hergatt Time Machine; Sietsema, Cheshes Revisit Pies-N-Thighs

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Sam Sifton visits "the strange and occasionally terrific" SHO Shaun Hergatt, where dishes "are not so much composed as constructed, like dioramas or model airplanes." Despite dishes that taste "of beautiful excess," Sifton is turned off by a feeling of anachronism: The restaurant "is fussy and exacting in a city that has countered economic malaise with restaurants that are increasingly neither." [NYT]

Robert Sietsema visits the new iteration of Pies-N-Thighs, with its pristine dcor that, "were you set down blindfolded by a spaceship you'd think was in some North Carolina town." Thankfully, "The fabled fried chicken ... remains superlative ... so tender that it has an almost custard-like quality," and the previously limited menu has expanded, including a fried catfish "on par with the fried chicken." [VV]

Jay Cheshes is also at Pies-N-Thighs, where despite its rebirth as "full-fledged restaurant with prompt, personable waiters and beer and wine service" "The food, not the venue, is clearly the draw," and it "feels as authentic as any venerable Dixieland food shack." He's particularly taken by the chicken biscuit, "a small pounded chicken cutlet coated in an irresistibly trashy emulsion of honey-butter and hot sauce." [TONY]

Chef Jesse Schenker's small plates at Recette "make complexity look full of ease," says Andrea Thompson, noting "long lists of ingredients" that are combined "to subtle effect." Unfortunately, "the desserts feel oddly overwrought" and "the restful feel of the room is undercut by some claustrophobia." [NYer]

"The elegance of the black iron mullioned glass front" at 5 & Diamond "signals something ambitious happening here," says Gael Greene. Ordering the tasting menu la carte, she swoons for "luscious chunks of Japanese sea urchin ride on the rich fat fish belly with bits of grapefruit in citrus puddles all around," which she declares "the best thing done to a sea urchin since Jean-Georgess uni on dark bread with jalapeo." [Insatiable Critic]

Ryan Sutton visits the Mark, where he finds that Jean-Georges Vongerichten "can get you excited about unexciting food." It's "bigger, not as intimate ... slightly less ambitious if not less glamorous" than other Upper East Side haute-cuisine destinations, though there are some missteps: "The French would never condone these underseasoned, forgettable, soon-to-be soggy frites," he says of the fries that accompany a roast chicken. [Bloomberg]

Alan Richman heads to Elizabeth, New Jersey, to check out the pizza at Al Santillo's Brick Oven Pizza, a shop "attached to the house where Al grew up." Of the "thin, juicy, crispy, succulent, unmatched" fried eggplant, Richman "can say without reservation that Ive never had better," and Santillo's might be "the best pizza in a state with no shortage of great pizza." [Forked & Corked/GQ]