Eaters Journal 4/10/09: Craft, Shake Shack, More

Re-introducing you to the Eaters' Journal, in which we opine on meals of the week past, now with some help from Friends of Eater.


Rye and Vutera: Williamsburg neighbors Rye and Vutera are both are about three weeks old, both are beautiful, and while my party wasn't totally wowed by either, both show definite potential. The intentionally dirty windows, lack of signage, and the constant protestations that they are not officially open at Rye is a bit much—if you've been charging $25 an entree for two weeks, you're open—but I love the space. It's pricey for the nabe, so it's more a "night out" than a casual dinner spot, but the drinks, and the gorgeous bar they're served on, merit the $10.

Vutera, located in the basement of the live music venue Rose, looks like a Williamsburg Il Buco. There's room for improvement in the kitchen, but most everything was well cooked, the price was right, and service was fine.— Kludt

Craft: My friend¹s 13-year-old twin nephews were visiting from California. When asked where they wanted to eat, they chose Colicchio's flagship. Oh, the power of TV. I tagged along—it had been several months since my last visit and I was curious to see how it was holding up amidst an ever-expanding empire. Only half full by 7, the restaurant was never packed and I didn't see one table turned. Any guesses as to why they charged a whopping $17.50 for my Plymouth martini, a dollar more than my friend's Belvedere one? Oysters, a mix of West and East Coast varieties, were as they should be—fresh and cold. Apps lacked attention to detail. A heavy hand with a mayo-like sauce killed raw hamachi. Suckling pig ballotine, while executed with skill, lacked porky depth. A deep fried egg atop escargot was overcooked—alas no runny yolk.

Entrees and sides faired better. Muscovy duck was perfectly pink with crunchy skin. Four Story Hill Farm 30-day dry-aged Côte du Boeuf (for two) served with bone marrow is as good as any steak in the city. It should be at $130. Unfortunately, the $50 28-day dry-aged sirloin was tough and, surprisingly, lacked beefy-ness. My first favas (sautéed) and ramps (roasted) of the season (both $12 as a side) were a welcome change to winter's ubiquitous Brussels and root vegetables. Desserts— ice creams and sorbets, roasted lady apples, doughnuts—were solid but standard. Hostess and a few of the servers seemed green—rather long wait-time between apps and entrees was never addressed. One expects more from a restaurant with these prices and reputation. One of the 13-year-olds, a critic-in-training, summed it up nicely: "Good but not great. I liked Blue Hill at Stone Barns better." —Andrew Knowlton

Shake Shack UWS: No, I didn't brave the new spring hours at Shake Shack Madison Square Park. I went to the Shack on the Upper West Side—twice in two days. I know, Shackaddiction is nothing new. But there should be a warning that the double stack causes dependency. In case you haven't had it, it's a panko-crusted portobello mushroom burger oozing melted cheddar and muenster PLUS a cheese-covered beef patty. I also find it impossible to visit without ordering an Arnold Palmer—half iced tea, half lemonade, all good—crunchy fries coated in delicious synthetic cheese, and a concrete of some variety (thinking of the reader only, I sampled three and enjoyed them all). While I arrived after 9pm both times and am sure that weekends are a zoo, the wait was almost nil. Just one thing—there's confusion with the hot/cold lines. Maybe take those signs down when the queues are too short for it to matter? Otherwise, a fan is born again.—Gabriella Gershenson

Keste and Robertas: Both of these pizza places have their charms, but I'd pick Motorino or Co. over a revisit to either. I like that Roberta's has such a good roster of entrees now, but their crust doesn't do it for me. At Keste, the cheese often comes off in one bite, but the dough is killer.— Kludt

Blue Ribbon Sushi: Some people at my table ordered the Restaurant Week $28 special. The others went a la carte. A la carte sushi: fresh, delicious, excellent. The RW sushi: not so great. It's nice to get that salad and miso soup, but when they give you the subpar sashimi, you just feel like a cheap idiot. But anyone familiar with Restaurant Weeks has learned this lesson again and again.— Kludt

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