the other critics

Sietsema Finds ‘the City’s Best’ Soup Dumplings at Shanghai Asian Cuisine; Sutton Likes the Proteins at La Promenade des Anglais

"La Promenade instantly ranks among the city’s better Southern French restaurants, serving the highly aromatic fare of Nice," writes Ryan Sutton in a two-and-a-half star review of Chelsea’s La Promenade des Anglais. The best part? "No dish is over 30 bucks." Sutton's favorites include pork ragu ("a chewy, meaty cloak for soft gnocchi"), blue fin tuna, striped bass, and seafood soup "that tastes like the Mediterranean boiled down with saffron, rockfish and garlic" — it's "a must." [Bloomberg]

"Tables for Two" visits the Beagle in the East Village, a spot named after Charles Darwin’s ship. "Thankfully, the theme is manifest in little ... but the tasteful, vaguely nineteenth-century décor — dark wood, dim lights, antique wallpaper — a style that has long been the mark of Portland, Oregon, the fashionably quaint home town of the Beagle’s owner, Matt Piacentini." Pairing boards are the best way to enjoy the "produce-driven" appetizers. For entrees, the dry-aged duck is "most superb," and "it was nearly impossible to keep from ravenously attacking the crispy half chicken, served with hearty chestnut spaetzle and a questionably named but unquestionably delicious ‘liver sauce.’" [NYer]

"If you want a restaurant where an earlier definition of civilized engagement holds sway, the gracious Monkey Bar at the Hotel Elysée on the East Side will do very well," writes Eric Asimov in his two-star review of Graydon Carter’s revised restaurant. This time around, there’s no "clubby" reservation line: "open seats abound, and the greeting feels warm and sincere." The food has improved, too. Parker House rolls kick things off on the right foot ("Keep ’em coming!"), Nantucket bay scallops are "sweet, rich and savory," and a round of foie gras torchon is "lavish and sumptuous." Other dishes, however, lack "internal logic," and the entrees "crowd even more elements onto a plate" — although the effect can be "amusing rather than annoying," as with the Niman Ranch beef that "works beautifully." [NYT]

"What is home cooking when home is Japan and America and Europe? Nothing so hoary as fusion, thank God," writes Ligaya Mishan in her review of Family Recipe on the Lower East Side. "This is food for how we live now, rummaging through a jumbled larder." "Still, the loveliest dishes lean toward the Japanese": a traditional "gooey" pancake that is "what your Japanese mom might serve you on a winter’s night," a "foresty" mushroom-yuzu salad, fluke accessorized by tonburi, "which have the slippery mouth feel and salty verve of caviar." [NYT]

"What a strange menu Shanghai Asian Cuisine has!" exclaims Robert Sietsema in his review of the Chinatown spot. "The don't-miss dish to be seen on every table is the celebrated Shanghai soup dumplings" — "the city’s best." Other dumplings you’ll find on the menu are "damn fine, too, making SAC one of the few places in Chinatown you can enjoy all-day dim sum." If you’re craving something other than dumplings, avoid the American-influenced "Shanghai Asian Specialties" section, and jump straight to the "Cold Dishes" portion, which "represents a particular Shanghai passion." And "the best pasta of all is illogically located among one of the soup sections: Noodles with meat sauce." Sietsema might still wonder "who is the menu aimed at?" but he learns that the lower-priced menu items are the most authentic and delicious. [VV]

"Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, the smaller, cheaper spin-off of Il Buco, is about as good a rendezvous spot as you can get," writes Lauren Shockey. "Even if your date's a dud, you'll still be charmed by the rustic-chic atmosphere." And the food’s not half-bad either. A play on panzanella is "so good you might not want to go halfsies," and, in the bruschetta, riccotta "successfully seduce[s]". For pastas, bucatini cacio e pepe is "flawless" — the only one worth ordering before your main. Spit-roasted short ribs are tender — "the meat falls easily off the long bones like your prom dress after the dance" — and the seafood brodetto’s "herb-flecked broth" is so good that you’ll want to "save some bread for sopping." [VV]

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