NYT Critics’ Picks: Restaurants

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Pasquale Jones Brings a Little Novelty to Little Italy

As a New Yorker who wants each neighborhood to be different, each block to be like a pocket with a secret tucked inside it, I have strongly mixed feelings about gentrification. As a critic confronted with shiny new restaurants in changing neighborhoods, though, I have to admit that I often end up …

Restaurants

At Dawa’s in Queens, a Fusion of Earth and Sky

The bowl of ragged-edged pork belly is a recipe from Bhutan, the meat vested with the deep sour of fermented bamboo shoots. Its flavor hints at turned earth or wood broken down by rain, a funk wonderfully, perilously close to rot.<p>Beside it is risotto, arborio rice gone cloudy and fat in white wine …

Cooking

At Mimi, French Food Is a Celebration of Appetite

It took three dinners at Mimi before I saw the restaurant that had other people so excited.<p>Mimi barely ruffled the waters of the crowded pond of New York dining when it materialized on a quiet Greenwich Village block last fall. The partners had never owned a restaurant before. The chef, Liz …

New York City

Burmese Food in New York: Hard to Find but Easy to Love

For nearly two decades, the only place to find Myo Lin Thway’s palata was the once-a-year Myanmar Baptist Church Fun Fair in Queens.<p>This is the story of Burmese food in New York City: a thwarted quest. Few restaurants here have ever fully dedicated themselves to the cuisine, and only one — Cafe …

Restaurants

At Nix, Vegetables Get a Dash of Sex

There’s a lot of heavy eye contact going on at this restaurant. One of the most strenuous competitors is a guy at the next table who’s staring down the woman across from him while giving her a ferocious, what-big-teeth-you-have grin. I’d call his expression carnivorous, but we’re at Nix, and …

Restaurants

Freek’s Mill Spins Romance Near a Superfund Site

Standing on a drawbridge one night early this month, a man and a woman stood close and kissed, blind to everything around them, even the motionless toxic porridge of the Gowanus Canal below their feet. About to cross the span, I stopped to give them their space. The Union Street Bridge in Brooklyn …

Food & Dining

The Crabby Shack, a Shrine to the Crustacean

The sign outside this low-slung storefront no longer says Tabernacle of God’s Glory Church, but the place is still a kind of temple.<p>Heads bow over plastic bags fogged with steam, cradled in blue gingham paper. Inside may be skinny marionette legs of Alaskan snow crab, looking as if they’re on the …

Crustaceans

Poultry Has a Pedigree at Le Coq Rico

I’m almost always the one who gets the chicken.<p>For review meals, I try to let my guests choose their own food. Then I pick something nobody else wants. Often, this is the chicken. I think this can be explained by a remark a friend made recently. “I never eat chicken in restaurants,” he said. “I can …

Food

At La Sirena, the Pleasures and Pitfalls of a Big Restaurant

Somebody’s always on the move at La Sirena.<p>Trotting up the steps to the entrance above Ninth Avenue. Getting up to say hi to a fellow prowler of the Chelsea galleries. Breezing across a full dining room to exit through a glass door to the terrace.<p>Descending from a room in the Maritime Hotel …

Tiny Titans: Mr. Donahue’s and Ruffian Wine Bar

Keeping good small restaurants to myself is not what I’m paid for. Sure, I’ve enjoyed finding empty seats every night I’ve eaten at Mr. Donahue’s and Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table. Yes, I worry that both places would capsize under the strain of a party of six, let alone a full crew of hungry New …

West Africa Enlivens the South Bronx, at Nabaya

Although the restaurant is open, the blinds are barely turned, the gold-seamed curtains drawn. It’s been like this since 2008, when Aissata Kaba, a native of Guinea, took over this corner storefront across from an overgrown lot in the South Bronx that is still waiting for the city to make it a park.<p>…

Indian Accent Has a Cosmopolitan Twang

The emails from New Delhi began last spring.<p>A new one arrived every few months, informing me that a branch of a restaurant in that city named Indian Accent was about to open in Midtown, and urging me to check it out.<p>“Dear and Most Revered Mr. Pete,” one began. “Just wanted to let you know about the …

At King of Falafel, the Crown Jewels Are Chickpeas

King of Falafel & Shawarma is a bold, throw-down-the-gauntlet title for what started out as a lone street cart in the shadow of the elevated train in Astoria, Queens. It might suggest hubris if it weren’t so well earned.<p>The magnanimous monarch and chef is Fares Zeideia, known as Freddy, who for 14 …

A Meal (and History) in a Box at Taiwan Bear House

Pell Street these days is two quiet blocks, no more, but Chinatown was born here, where Doyers Street dead-ends into Pell, where tour guides still talk of tongs and mah-jongg.<p>At night, on Pell’s eastern end, pilgrims queue for soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai. They may not notice Taiwan Bear House, …

Looks Aren’t Everything at Café Altro Paradiso

Over the 11 or so weeks Café Altro Paradiso has been open, I’ve taken some photographs that are as awful as the food is good.<p>The restaurant’s carpaccio is simple and marvelous, a single piece of raw bison pounded so thin that when it is laid over small, newly fried potato chips and a mound of …

Angela’s Takes a Return Trip to the Caribbean

The bread is called bake, although it is fried and never sees the inside of an oven. Angela Pellew-Whyte, a native of Guyana and the chef at Angela’s in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, boosts the traditionally simple dough with a fingertip’s worth of sugar, nutmeg and yeast so it puffs up on the …

A World of Flavor, Stuffed Into Tacos at El Molcajete

At El Molcajete, the tacos look like bouquets, brimming with cilantro, loosely bundled in paper sleeves twisted tight at one end and gaping at the mouth. They are heavy with meat: hanks of shredded barbacoa, dark and caramelly cecina, cabeza more a stage of melt than flesh.<p>Then there is suadero, a …

Tacos

The Best Comes in a Bun at Salvation Burger and Spotted Pig

April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s newest restaurant, inside the Pod 51 Hotel on East 51st Street, is called Salvation Burger. I can’t say that the first word of the name filled me with hope. The last time this chef and her business partner offered us salvation in a Pod hotel, they gave us …

Food & Dining

Bite of Hong Kong Requires More Than a Few Nibbles

The fish rise and fall in their wall of tanks. The crabs crouch like linebackers and tap their Morse code. “Choose,” you are told.<p>At Bite of Hong Kong, a Cantonese restaurant that opened in Chinatown last spring, the trappings are classic: great round banquet tables draped in red tablecloths, lazy …

Hong Kong

The Laws of Tuscan Eating at I Sodi in the West Village

Medium-rare is how I ordered my tagliata, a grilled sirloin that is, like almost everything else at I Sodi, prepared the way it would be in Tuscany. Right away I changed my mind and asked for it rare. I wanted the sliding smoothness of nearly raw beef.<p>The server thought I had it right the first …

West Village

A Midas of Meat at BK Jani in Bushwick

Here comes rack of lamb, fat chops in a ring with the bones jutting off the plate like sun rays. It is luxury, this great wheel of shining meat, crazed with its own juices and tasting of smoke made flesh.<p>Never mind that it’s served on a paper plate, without a knife or fork. Remember your animal …

Meat

At Lilia in Brooklyn, Missy Robbins Is Cooking Pasta Again

My one-sentence review of Lilia for the too-long-didn’t-read crowd: Missy Robbins is cooking pasta again.<p>That is all you need to know before you begin plotting a night at this casual Brooklyn restaurant with Manhattan-level underpinnings. Lilia’s menu has many other very good things, but pasta made …

Food

Insa Brings Korean Cooking to Industrial Brooklyn

From the first soft bite of blood sausage, I knew I would like Insa.<p>Just seeing the word “soondae” on the menu of this new Korean restaurant had been enough to get my hopes up. Purplish links of coagulated pigs’ blood bound by rice and an arterial network of springy, skinny cellophane noodles, …

Mimi’s Hummus, Spreading Its Middle Eastern Influence

For six years, the Jerusalem-born chef Mimi Kitani resisted putting falafel on the menu at Mimi’s Hummus, her namesake restaurant on Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She wanted people to try other dishes, drawn from her family’s roots in Morocco and Iraq, and to stop thinking of falafel as …

Hummus

At High Street on Hudson, Prime Time Starts Early in the West Village

High Street on Hudson is an adventurous and often exciting restaurant trying extremely hard to pass for an ordinary West Village cafe. “Philly spinoff providing house-made breads & pastries, elevated sandwiches, coffee & cocktails,” is Google’s capsule summary. The description is factual to the …

Sauerkraut Rolls and Other Shanghai Surprises at Yaso Tangbao

Here it is, a little soup dumpling in its swirled debutante skirt, looking so innocent, until you bite its neck and the steam roils out.<p>Let it rage. It’s a last gasp, before you suck up the broth within.<p>Nearly everything on the menu at Yaso Tangbao in Downtown Brooklyn summons up the streets of …

Bouley in TriBeCa Still Goes Its Own Way, Seductively

Yes, the apples are still there. Hundreds of them, lining shelf after shelf in Bouley’s first room, the small one with the coat closet. Going soft under the skin, ripening, giving up the yeasty cider-mash smell you meet in orchard barns. As far back as 1987, when he opened the original Bouley on …

Little Pepper Packs More Than Heat in College Point

Little Pepper began life a dozen years ago in the competitive Chinese nucleus of downtown Flushing, Queens. Five years ago, Cheng Ying Wu and her husband, Gui Ping Huang, the owners, moved it northwest to College Point, where its nearest rival is a graffiti-scrawled storefront across the street …

Pizza Moto Comes to Rest in Brooklyn

David Sclarow built his first wood-burning pizza oven so he could feed guests at the wedding of two cheesemakers. They were getting married some distance from Brooklyn, where he lived, so he layered the bricks and concrete on top of a flatbed trailer that he could hitch to the back of his …

Pizza