The Other Critics

The Other Critics: Stein and Richman Flock to Charlie Bird; Wells Goes Medium-Rare on Costata

The Elm, home of precision flavors and the best duck ever.
The Elm, home of precision flavors and the best duck ever. Photo: Melissa Hom

This week, Adam Platt admired Ignacio Mattos’s food at Estela and Matt Lambert’s menu at the Musket Room in the pages of New York, awarding each restaurant two stars. Meanwhile, three out of seven other critics scrutinized the Soho “hip-hop fueled eatery” Charlie Bird, and new reviews came in for the Elm and Chelsea Market’s new restaurants. Read it all, straight ahead.

Pete Wells visits memory lane but trips at Michael White’s Costata, the chef’s Italian steakhouse in the old Fiamma space. He’s wooed again by the “old flame” that reappears in the garganelli with pancetta and truffle cream, and also the spaghetti with clams with a “powerful oceanic undertow that pulls the sweet shrimp and sepia along in the current.” Other dishes impress less: Raw branzino is “obliterated” under an olive mash, and the $49 lamb chops have a “generic red-meat flavor.” Yet the costata itself, “a 44-ounce rib-eye on the end of a theatrical curve of roasted bone,” is alone “reason for the restaurant that it’s named after to exist.” Two stars.

Daniel S. Meyer admires the “vino nerdism with downtown cool” at Charlie Bird, and Ryan Hardy’s dining room is filled with young professionals and brims with a farm-to-table ethos, Italian flavors, and early “90s hip-hop” that plays just about everywhere else these days. The summer-picnic salad has a balance that takes “serious chops” to achieve, and the skate “pulls away from its wing like the tenderest shreds of pulled pork.” But the suckling pig hunks “aren’t moist enough,” and the minty fava puree that comes with fried bread dipped in chicken liver mousse “vexes a palate primed for rosemary and sage” and the “Thanksgiving-rich” chicken. Two stars.

Alan Richman also tries the chicken at Charlie Bird but calls it exceptional, noting it’s the kind of dish you eat and “misery disappears.” The wine is “well-chosen, well-priced,” and the plancha shrimp were so knockout that he goes nuts. “I didn’t just suck the heads,” Richman writes, “I ate them.” Less impressive are some vegetable dishes, but in any event, all is redeemed by the time the critic finds the individually-wrapped Life Savers in the restrooms: “I am a man of simple needs, and I come from a generation of children that treasured Life Savers.” Two stars.

The Observer’s Joshua David Stein had a dismal time, however, at Charlie Bird, a place of “99 problems.” The hip-hop vibe is “heavy-handed and troubling” and the food is “wanting.” Stein says the $24 duck egg spaghetti is the best thing on the menu, but so many other items wither from over-salting. Most of all, the combination of crisp decor, tableware, and overall polish bristles the critic: “If Charlie Bird means New York, New York is a room full of affluent white people listening to hip-hop, watching other affluent white people listen to hip-hop, congratulating themselves on being both tolerant and transgressive.” In all, it’s the “restaurant version of Miley Cyrus twerking.”

Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post isn’t at all happy with Elizabeth Falkner’s work at Corvo Bianco on the UWS. The cocktails are great, but three of eight entrees are missing from the lineup, the bread basket is conspicuously barren, and the menu is replete with poor descriptors, like the dish of favas he writes are actually a “misspelling of ‘95 percent corn niblets.’” The branzino is sad and “gray,” lobster Campidanese is cold and uncooked, and a dessert called “In the City” is really just “a confusion of mascarpone cheesecake, blueberries and graham crumble” and more like a sign it’s time to leave town. Half a star.

Stan Sagner of the Daily News find the prices high at the Elm and the room a little bit strange, but is happy to report that Paul Liebrandt’s cooking is on point. The amberjack is ornate and arrives nestled with “impossibly ripe” tomatoes; the swoon-worthy agnolotti will “make you consider selling your grandmother for a second helping.” A guest remarks that the rare duck with crispy skin, smoked honey, and subtly pickled plum shines with “flawless technique” and is pretty much the best duck ever, and the critic gives the place four stars.

The Other Critics: Stein and Richman Flock to Charlie Bird; Wells Goes