Sifton Swoons for Empellón; Ed Levine Hits Up Mable’s Smokehouse

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Despite the "Genesis-era rock" and  "shouty office party" scene, Sam Sifton gives some love to Alex Stupak's Empelln, awarding one star to, "one of the more captivating restaurants to open in recent months, with food that outstrips an atmosphere that is more frat-like than fine." [NYT]

Robert Sietsema's "mind was blown" by the Sichuan peppercorns in the dofu khatse ngoen ma, and the "major [Sichuan] presence in Phayul's menu." He also praises the restaurant's strength in "Tibet's most traditional cooking," with "an amazing blood sausage called gyuma colored the deepest shade of gray-purple, and ensconced in a sheep's intestine of exceedingly large caliber." [VV]

Ryan Sutton calls The Dutch, "[Andrew] Carmellinis return to form, a proper stage to show off his clever flavor combinations." He's impressed by the $45 strip steak, "charred and salted, with a hint of minerality and just a touch of juice." Then notes that while it tastes no different from the excellent steak at Minetta Tavern, its $9 cheaper at the Dutch. "So forget Minetta and its doorman," he writes. "The Dutch is for us." [Bloomberg]

Lauren Shockey heads to Long Island City to check out the Astor Room, a subterranean space that "borders on depressing." The retro menu, meanwhile, can go either way. Oysters Rockefeller "make a case for totally pass eats," but other dishes are "unmemorable," and the baked Alaska is "too sugary and futzes with garnish." Nevertheless, she concludes that "a visit won't be a total bust." [VV]

Ed Levine calls the "short but classic 'cue menu" at Mable's Smokehouse "homey, sweet, and reverential; absolutely satisfying in that barbecue joint way," though he "wonder[s] about how much of the pitmaster's craft the chef still has to learn." [Serious Eats NY]