New Restaurant Reviews: Soup Dumplings at Full House; Vegan at Kajitsu
Kajitsu's glass noodles
On this sunny May Day, our critics single out two new restaurants to usher in the season. In Midtown, Tejal Rao bows her head in favor of the vegan Japanese Buddhist temple cuisine at Kajitsu, while Robert Sietsema slurps up soup dumplings at Full House on the Bowery. Read on to see how the professionals rated their meals.
In Robert Sietsema's review of Full House, he writes that the Full House soup dumpling is "no ordinary lump of meat and noodle dough." This signature dish from Shanghai has developed a cult following in New York, and Sietsema says that newcomer Full House offers the best ones around, along with a "cosmopolitan mix of Sichuan, Hong Kong, Mandarin, Thai, Taiwanese, and even some American cooking, too."
"Enfolded in a translucent skin with a thinness measured in micrometers, Full House's soup dumplings are available with crab or without ($6.75 and $4.75). The former are highly recommended, featuring a nice wad of crab meat sticking out of the top, the liquid within smooth and tan. "
"Another great starter is a shared soup: More commonly called West Lake beef soup, name-checking a resort two hours southwest of Shanghai, the minced beef with coriander soup ($6.95) is paradoxically light and pungent, tasting of leafy green foliage and the cool afternoons of an early summer by the lake."
Some less traditional dishes are also worth ordering:
"The pork-and-crab meatballs ($12.95) better known as lion heads, which arrive in a thick yellow broth guaranteeing they'll remain moist, seem positively German--the country established breweries in China during the 19th century. The international "Snacks" section of the menu goes much farther afield, presenting such Western icons as french fries and buffalo chicken wings. It makes you wonder: Are these two really the most appealing American dishes? Do they belong here? Shanghai thinks so! And it must be said that those wings have indeed been improved with a touch of soy sauce. Call it fair trade."
Tejal Rao reviews Kajitsu and calls their bare and beautiful dining room "one of the finest places in the city from which to witness the planet's low-speed twirl toward the sun." After exiting the East Village, the restaurant is settling into its new digs with ease and grace -- and the kitchen follows suit.
"The kitchen knows how to coax a multitude of textures and flavors from the vegetable world, then compose a carefully structured meal of them. In short, save your vegan-phobic rant for someplace else--you won't miss animal products at Kajitsu, nor will you go hungry (in fact, it's pretty impressive how heavy things can get without meat or dairy in the picture). In a dinner filled with small, beautiful vegetables--much of them served on small, beautiful pieces of pottery--there will also be piles of thin, cold soba noodles, warm rice, soups, and bubbling stews of tofu, vegetables, and a range of jellies from jiggly vinegar to chewy seaweed."
"What makes the restaurant so special is the way Ueshima draws our attention to tiny seasons within the seasons. Right now it's all about cherry blossoms, young bamboo shoots, and fresh sansho, the peppery, lemongrass-y leaves of the Japanese prickly ash. The bamboo shoot is long and spiny and scored like a frat boy's bedpost. It's tender and delicious, too, lightly battered and fried, cut in slices over cubes of cold rice with miso and fresh wasabi, or crisped in a hot pot."
The sparse interior helps to set a serene tone for the meal:
"But inside Kajitsu, the room is quiet and full of sunlight, decorated with a single framed piece of paper and a clay pot the size of a strongman's fist. That's all. Tables are spaced far enough apart that if an ex were seated at the next one, it might not even be that awkward (but odds of this happening are low, since Kajitsu hosts even more business meetings and stylishly dressed senior-citizen couples since its move uptown)."
Time Out's pinch-critic Jordana Rothman is on the fence about Pearl & Ash, but wishes the best for the Bowery spot. She writes, " While Pearl & Ash isn't yet the boundary-pushing restaurant it wants to be, those few strokes of creativity certainly make it the kind of restaurant you root for." Earlier, our Tejal Rao wrote a review of Pearl & Ash and highlighted the joint's "elegant, colorful small plates that often whisper of faraway places."
Steve Cuozzo of the NY Post says that Macy's-located Stella 34 is a, "modern-mainstream Italian lineup that breaks no new ground." His advice? Order one of the pizzas and ignore the clamouring crowds.
The General offers a "thoughtful, precise and surprisingly well-executed menu that's better than it needs to be for its bottle-service, wanna-be crowd," writes Michael Kaminer at the Daily News. Though the portions are paltry, the critic appreciates the "generous spirit" in the kitchen's execution.
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