Today the Brunz gets on the recession beat, filing brief reports on four upscale restaurants that have recently launched more casual dining rooms in whatever lounge, PDR, or broom closet they have empty. Per Se's salon has the best food but is deemed "utterly ridiculous" due to the furniture (coffee tables) and the price ($6 a bite). Meanwhile Halfsteak, the reclaimed lounge in the front of Craftsteak, is "semantically cuter" than the others but features "half service" and only so-so meals. However Anthos Upstairs, in the private dining room of Anthos, and DFF, in the PDR of Craft, earn better marks. On the former:
"The menu simply lists more than a dozen small- and medium-size dishes, most $10 to $13, none above $15...these dishes underscore Mr. Psilakis’s determination to move beyond the tropes of Greek cooking...
On the subtle-to-blunt spectrum of Anthos to Kefi, the food here falls almost smack in the middle...hilopites, a Greek pasta combining braised pork belly and calamari to wickedly flavorful effect. Upstairs, downstairs or out on the sidewalk, I’d happily eat bowl after bowl of this."
"With its frantic pace — the food zooms out of the kitchen — DFF reminds you that one of the trade-offs for cheaper eats is often less time at the table, less of an ability to turn a meal into the prolonged main event of a night out...The dozens of menu items, including miniature pizzas and jarred rillettes, target a spirit of sophisticated fun....Call it filigreed finger food."
Unlike the Bruni, Alan Richman is enamored with the salon at Per Se: "This isn’t Per Se Light. This is dignified. In fact, Per Se’s style of service works better in the bar...It’s actually—I’ve never used this word before for Per Se—fun." [GQ]
Ryan Sutton is one of three critics this week to file a qualified rave on Keith McNally's Minetta Tavern: "If you want the taste of a high-end cut of meat, get a high-end cut of meat, not a $26 patty. The $36 dry-aged strip was a thing of beauty: a blackened exterior, a crimson interior, with a gorgeous livery tang...Ethereal gnocchi were paired with favas, ramps and crayfish sauce. Spring on a plate." [Bloomberg]
The RG hits up Keith McNally's Minetta Tavern, loves almost everything (skip the dorade), gives it three stars, and has this to say about the burgers: "It was a heated debate, but my vote went to the Minetta burger. It had more flavor, more give, more juice on my chin." [NYDN]
Mr. Adam Platt files a rave on Keith McNally's "Speakeasy Chic" Minetta Tavern, but only gives it two stars: "...McNally misfires now and then, but he has a genius for gathering disparate notions and designs from the collective ether, distilling them down to their essences, then reconstituting them for his loyal public, in a professional, popular, often palatable way." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: The menu is a bit too fatty but Julia Moskin enjoys herself at 'inotaca (3rd Ave.), Robert Sietsema tries Astorian Afghani fare at Balkh Shush Kabab House, Jay Cheshes gives three out of six stars to Armani Ristorante, Sarah DiGregorio deems Inakaya expensive but fun, and Tables for Two decides the prices make up for the pretension at Vinegar Hill House.
THE BLOGS: Gotham Gal finally has a meal at En Brasserie and loves it, The Hungry Roach decides Rouge Tomate is just what the neighborhood, city, and country ordered, after five years in Carroll Gardens, Goodies First stops in at Marco Polo, NYC Food Guy is not so impressed by Bedford Cheese Shop and Marlow & Sons, Easy Ed gives an A- to the sandwiches at Num Pang, and Writing with my Mouth Full indulges at Centovini.