The Other Critics: Pete Wells Compares Filipino Restaurants; Cheshes Digs Red Gravy

Two stars for Pig & Khao. Photo: Melissa Hom

While New Yorks reviewers held their tongues this week, others were on a feeding frenzy, some even reviewing two places. Acclaimed Filipino restaurants go head-to-head, as do buzz-making barbecue joints. But while there is yet another review for the Marrow (now a requirement for critics), there are also write-ups on lesser-known spots like Cocina Economica Mexico. Find out which places were solid, which were shaky, and where you should head for your next food adventure, straight ahead.

Pete Wells visited Pig & Khao and Jeepney, two restaurants spreading Filipino flavor downtown. Though he finds Pig & Khao less authentic, dishes have enough crunch, salt, and acidity to satisfy the most curmudgeonly Top Chef judge, including sizzling sisig and a delightful pork and watermelon salad. Jeepney, on the other hand, is like parachuting into Manila itself, a treat for less-squeamish friends wholl appreciate a fascinating pork blood stew and E.T.-resembling duck embryo that tastes of duck liver mixed with duck breast. For both restaurants, two stars.

Ryan Sutton also filed a twofer about his meat rampage at Mighty Quinns and BrisketTown. At the latter, the livery beef rib is exactly what you want not the pork rib thats overly tender (a quibble, he admits). While flavor and meat supply are problems at the far-above-average Briskettown, the opposite can be found at Mighty Quinns, where gorgeous marbling and better salting make its brisket the best in town. Though chicken is bland and beef rib is overcooked, everything else at this East Village barbecue spot is mighty fine.

Robert Sietsema headed to Tribecas Lotus Blue and found its Yunnan fare unfaithful to the Chinese province. Crossing-the-bridge noodles, a Yunnan staple, were an epic disappointment. However, some dishes were good and even quasi-authentic. He enjoyed a banana blossom and mango salad, and thought artistically arranged beef shank was braised in the provinces pu-er tea to great effect. But when used in a nauseating rum cocktail, the tea was less successful.

At Cocina Economica Mexico on the Upper West Side, Tejal Rao relished Mexican food thats like a family meal on a good day hearty, satisfying, and rough around the edges. She recommends cheese quesadillas and antojitos that shine, and appreciates the use of lesser-known ingredients like cilantro-esque pipicha and broccolilike huauzontle. While some dishes scream home cooking done by an exhausted parent, she decides that hominess is part of Cocinas charm.

Steve Cuozzo digs the distinct, plush-carpeted digs at midtowns Siro, also a place to enjoy the rare luxury of amply spaced tables. Besides solid pasta, he discovers an impossibly deep flavored flank steak along with filet mignon and rib eye that are as good as any for their high prices. The kitchen can get inconsistent, though: Yellowfin tuna was like any cheap sashimi, and cocktail shrimp tasted like flotsam from the Sandy sea surge. Siro could also do without the Friday night entertainment. Still, this place is worth fighting for.

Stan Sagner tasted exquisite samples of Indias Mughlai cooking at Moti Mahal Delux, the first U.S. branch of the Dehli-based chain. At the Upper East Side restaurant, the pakoda are perfect palate-pleasers (he suggests sticking to the fritters addictive squid variant) and tandoori is among the citys best. Cocktail samosas may be undercooked and shrimp overcooked in Kadi Patta Jheenga, but an eggplant stir-fry upstages everything, especially the overly sweet desserts. Come here for complex, luxurious dishes from the humblest of ingredients."

The New Yorkers Andrea K. Scott is the latest critic to review the Marrow. She says that appetizers like the bone marrow (a one-two-three punch of umami) and duck schnitzel (grease-free perfection) are hits, but the mains are less predictable, such as a chewy wagyu culotte. Like many reviewers before her, she touts the delectable ginger stout cake as a must-order dessert.

Red Gravy, Saul Boltons high-end Italian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, is a big boon to its neighborhood, says Jay Cheshes. Octopus with escarole and pastas like the fiery calamarata are complex, nuanced and distinctive. Shaky service and entrées that push $30 dont discourage from dishes that pack on abundance and flair. Just skip the desserts a dense pistachio cake and Jell-O-like panna cotta make for a flat-out disaster.