Sutton Unimpressed by Brasserie Pushkin; Sietsema Calls Sao Mai’s Vietnamese the Best in NYC

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Hakkasan. Photo: Michelle Feffer/New York Magazine

This week, London Chinese chain-import Hakkasan (a.k.a. "Ruby Foo's for rich people") got no star love from Adam Platt. What did New York’s crop of professional eaters think about the rest of the city’s restaurants this week? See their reviews, straight ahead.

The waiters at Brasserie Pushkin are awkward, the risotto “mealy,” veal blintzes like a “tuna fish sandwich that’s been microwaved,” the pojarasky cutlet like a chicken McNugget, and the pirozhki “as tasty as a $1 McDonald’s hamburger.” The good stuff — including a beefy borscht or Siberian dumplings — comes cheaper at Veselka. Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg’s Ryan Sutton awards only one star.

Tejal Rao can’t get enough of Prima, whose dishes remind her why “fish cookery is one of the most highly valued skills of the classic French kitchen.” The whelks are plump, poached for half an hour and chilled in their shells. Mussels “bob” in a creamy broth with rustic parsley. Sardines, though, are hit or miss — sometimes they're too underseasoned to eat.

Robert Sietsema calls Sao Mai on First Avenue possibly the best Vietnamese restaurant in town. Separated from the Vietnamese restaurants of the Chinatown variety, the menu is short and refreshingly, well, Vietnamese. He recommends the papaya salad and pho soup as “light as a stray sunbeam.” But stay away from the kho stews, whose waterlogged textures stray from what he says should be a thicker gravy.

While Pete Wells says Back Forty West isn’t a clone of — and in many ways is better than — it’s “fraternal twin” in the East Village, he says the menu’s setup according to utensil isn’t for him. He awards the friendly Soho eatery two stars.

Like the Times, Time Out's
Jay Cheshes agrees that Andy Ricker is an outsider who knows how to do Thai right. At the new Brooklyn Pok Pok Ny outpost, Cheshes suggests ordering the barbecued hen (a Pok Pok staple), some house-cured pork sausage, and of course, fish-sauce wings. He awards four stars.

The New Yorker writes that the fare at Gwynnett Street
in Williamsburg is meant to challenge you, with unexpected combinations like a wagyu steak hidden under watercress and fiddlehead ferns outdone by simple old spinach stalks. The food is plated like art. But perhaps the most appreciated art is their five-dollar loaf of whiskey bread.