It is August and with so few big new openings of late can you blame restaurant critics for not having much to criticize? Still, they aren't all off loafing. The Times's Sam Sifton, for instance, is on this week, bringing the world his two-star take on Daniel Boulud's latest, Boulud Sud.
Like his peers, Sifton finds Boulud's Mediterranean foray "terrific" (and the space, he thinks, would be great for a romantic comedy starring Justin Timberlake. Don't ask). The credit, he says, should go to executive chef Aaron Chambers who "cooks with a silken French-trained style" that produces foods with "roots in the coastal beauty and casual quayside culture of the Mediterranean" and "looks divine, court-ready." Also like his peers, Sifton recommends taking a long look at the small plates menu and a much shorter look at the entrees. Finally, "be sure to leave room for Ghaya Oliveira’s desserts" Specifically the "her grapefruit givré, in which a hollowed-out frozen grapefruit is filled with grapefruit sorbet, grapefruit compote, sesame mousse and Turkish delight, then topped with a tuile hat and spun sesame halvah, as if straight from a cookbook co-written by Escoffier and Ferran Adrià. That is for the win."
Meanwhile Time Out's Jay Cheshes gives out three stars to the Chelsea Spanish tapas restaurant Salinas, a "hot Iberian number" from chef Luis Bollo. Yes, the "place feels like a party most nights" but so what? "The best stuff on the menu captures the boisterous spirit of authentic tapas-style dining. The small plates here are boldly flavored and actually portioned to share." This isn't minimalist Spanish cuisine and it isn't cutting-edge. But it is creative. See the salt-crusted striped bass "caught in a tasty tempest of pine nuts, chorizo, asparagus, raisins, spinach and confited potato." In the end the food "is more impressive than the loungey setting suggests."
Finally, over at The New Yorker, Tables For Two drops by The Castello Plan in Brooklyn, a restaurant named for an early map of Lower Manhattan. And though the twice-weekly live music is a bit much and it "may not be a culinary destination" it still boasts "straightforward and tasty, if a bit heavy" food (think beer-battered shrimp and rib eyes with pureed yam). Of course that is only true for some dishes. Others "smack, endearingly but unfortunately, of a freegan potluck, marked by wildly incongruous combinations." Still, the wine list is fun and if you really want a good dinner in the area, Mimi's down the block has "hummus so fresh and flavorful it might change your life."
Of course, just because the critics weren't out criticizing big name restaurants doesn't mean they weren't doing something. Steve Cuozzo at the Post today files a story explaining why he hasn't been very mean in his reviews of late (the gist: blame the recession for killing the really bad spots for they open), Robert Sietsema at the Voice went food mall dining at the "Moby Dick among Chinese food courts" in Queens, and Bloomberg's Ryan Sutton offered up 22 fine dining options worth the money.