The Other Critics

Sietsema Declares Birreria’s Food ‘Superb’; Gael Greene Finds Le Bernardin’s Makeover ‘Remarkable’

Skeptics of Bed-Stuy’s super-hip Do or Dine, with its “36 types of cuisine on offer,” should read Ligaya Mishan’s verdict of “charming.” The food is “good, suspiciously so” given the chefs’ lack of professional cooking experience. But the result is “demented,” “unaccountably delicious” dishes that seem to be “born of cravings at midnight”: “thrilling” deep-fried deviled eggs, nachos “constructed from gyoza bought frozen” and topped with cheese and roe, “delicate” cold-smoked corn soup garnished with Crunch ‘n Munch. Although dessert — most notably, a “Snickers ice cream bar” that “is just that, quartered, with the wrapper still on” — is “a work in progress,” she still gives the “dudes” in the kitchen “props” for a menu that is fun, tasty, and creatively wrought. [NYT]

Lauren Shockey gives a “meh” review to West Village French eatery Left Bank, where the “culinary creativity is, well, lacking” and the “short menu … reads like hundreds that have come before it.” The “austere” dining room doesn’t help to distract from the “blah” assortment of “pastas and proteins.” Your best bet, she says, is to go with the heirloom bean appetizer, which “puts to shame” other legumes you might have experienced, the pesto-laced gnocchi, the “golden-skinned” chicken, or the “fat” pork chop. [VV]

Sam Sifton awards one star to Hospoda, a Czech birreria where “everything is prepared delicately” and “stylishly” — cuisine in tune with an elegant dining room that “suggests a beautifully renovated Prague apartment.” He recommends the “chewy excellent” rye bread, the “rosy” lamb, and the “pretty” strawberry dumplings. Although the “chic, even beautiful” food is ambitious and tasty, the “amateurish” service and tiny portions — “tapas in the style of the Eastern Bloc” — left him wanting more, literally. “Too bad, then, that the service cannot yet match the quality of the food, and that the food itself might be served at a dollhouse restaurant.” [NYT]

Robert Sietsema visits Eataly’s “unpronounceable” rooftop beer garden Birreria; although the view is “only so-so,” he declares the food “superb.” The menu here “is nobody’s idea of pub grub” — chef Alex Pilas’ salads are “magnificent” and “scintillatingly fresh,” the pork chop is “outstanding,” and the mushrooms are the most “interesting fungi … in town.” Although the obscure beer list might leave “normal” beer drinkers “flummoxed,” lovers of “quirky locavoric” brews will be pleased. After all, this is “a great restaurant masquerading as a beer garden.” [VV]

“Tables for Two” visits the “unbeatable,” “inventive,” and “unfussy” new “taco-and-tequila joint” Empellon in the West Village. A dish of octopus and parsnip is “impossible not to finish,” the messy quso fundido is “best enjoyed with forgiving friends,” and the tacos are a mix of creative proteins, like sweetbreads and duck confit, and “authentic regional flavors.” She recommends starting your meal with a sip from the selection of tequila-inspired drinks, of which the por que no? is most “intriguing,” and finishing it off with the “ethereal” chocolate flan or the “pillowy” tres leches cake. Chef Alex Stupak, formerly of wd~50, “has gone in search of complexity in Mexican cuisine, and he has found it in amalgams of spice and depth.” [NYer]

Gael Greene takes a “first look at Le Bernardin’s new look,” a “dramatic makeover” courtesy of design team Bentel & Bentel. No more “corporate stodge” — the new restaurant is all “twisted steel and aluminum,” “remarkable” and “different.” But the menu is mostly untouched, “almost exactly the same as the menu at closing,” with the exception of a dish of rare tuna with “distressingly salty spiced dashi gel that I had to send back.” Skip the average bread and the “too creamy” desserts; the winners are the raw scallops with scorched lemon (a plate of “slightly sticky, satin sweetness”), the “voluptuous” seared langoustines, and the “elegant” salmon. [Insatiable Critic]

Sietsema Declares Birreria’s Food ‘Superb’; Gael Greene Finds