Under Review: Sietsema is in Spicy Heaven at Sweet Yummy House; Rao Devours "Fresh-Killed" Chicken at Hanjan
For our own Robert Sietsema, hearing the name Sweet Yummy House "conjured up gingerbread dwellings deep in the woods made by witches." In reality, the Elmhurst restaurant is one of the city's newest Sichuan restaurants, specializing in "delicious peculiarities resulting from fusion with other cuisines" -- in this case, Taiwanese. Sietsema suggests ordering the Chinese celery and Sichuan-peppercorn-laced black lamb, as well as the salad of garlicky cucumbers in sesame oil. He adds that "those who go for Sichuan peppercorns like a junkie reaching for his dime bag" will get hooked on the cold jelly Chengdu-style -- a bowl of gooey, translucent noodles sheathed in "lip-numbing" spices.
Tejal Rao visits the Flatiron's Hanjan, "a wee, rackety tavern where you can rip hot chicken hearts off a stick and drink, drink, drink." Hooni Kim (who also owns the always-bustling Hell's Kitchen restaurant Danji) has crafted a group-friendly menu of traditional and modern Korean dishes. The structure of the meal is as thoughtful as the food itself: All cold dishes (first smaller plates, then bigger ones) are served before any hot dishes (again, little courses before larger ones) are brought to the table. Rao favors the "fresh-killed" chicken, which is "slaughtered in Brooklyn" before it's "delivered straight to the kitchen, still warm." Dabbed with a spicy and addictive house-made ssamjang (a traditional Korean condiment), the bird should be picked at between gulps of makgeolli, a gently carbonated "alcoholic brew" of yeast and rice. If you visit after 10 o'clock, order the 12-hour ramyun -- a "muscular soup" -- and slurp until closing time.
At the Times, Pete Wells whispers that the secret is out: Louro has the best piri-piri shrimp he's ever tasted. The menu at the new Greenwich Village restaurant from chef David Santos (formerly of the hush-hush Roosevelt Island supper club Um Segredo) allows you to travel by plate from Japan to Germany, all before entrees are served. The chef finds his stride, however, in his family's native Portuguese cuisine and it shows in dishes like "improbably light" fish fritters. Visit on Mondays for the BYOB $75 tasting menu that Wells deems "a party" for both chef and diners. He awards the restaurant one star.
Does the power lunch still exist? Michael Kaminer isn't sure. The Daily News critic heads to the former media-crowd midday hotspot Michael's to check out its updated small-plates menu. Kaminer is not impressed with the restaurant's new format -- "it got Botox when it really needs an organ transplant" -- but was particularly disheartened by a $20 oily mess of "overcooked flora." He asks, "If the self-appointed temple of California cuisine can't do a decent vegetable plate, who can?" Kaminer gives the restaurant one star.
The final addition to the Time Warner Center's mini food empire, the "bland-sounding" Center Bar, is anything but boring, says the NY Post's Steve Cuozzo. While it's "not quite a full-scale restaurant," the elegant spot serves "killer, uptown-classy small plates." Which should come as no surprise, as it's the brainchild of Porter House's Michael Lomonaco. Cuozzo recommends making a meal out of porcini-and-prosciutto-stuffed Sicilian arancini, a few Mayan prawns, and a Colony cocktail (made with Beefeater gin, grapefruit juice, and maraschino). And while a Saturday-night concert in the upstairs Allen Room can make the floor tremble like an "earthquake," most evenings are soundtracked by only "live tunes from a baby grand."
Ryan Sutton spends $33 on "a few slices of very good rare meat with a clean, Sunday-style roast beast flavor," a.k.a. the Wagyu entree at The Marrow. The Bloomberg critic is satisfied in both stomach and wallet, writing that "the dish harkens back to an era of bistro beef, a forgotten time where you could get a human portioned cut of meat for a reasonable price." Half-German, half-Italian, the restaurant is 100 percent Harold Dieterle (Perilla, Kin Shop). The first-season Top Chef winner "has a thing for bone marrow" and serves it hot alongside cold (and identically textured) uni. Like so many Dieterle combinations, Sutton writes, the dish is "perfect." He gives the restaurant three stars.
The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten declares Jones Wood Foundry "a welcome addition to [the] bar-scene wilderness" of the Upper East Side. Chef Jason Hicks turns out the kind of pub-style plates that downtown "cool kids" have been feasting on for years. Maybe so, but winter is the ideal season for gorging on bangers and mash -- particularly when the bangers are Myers of Keswick sausage and the mash is "pillows of mashed potatoes with caramelized-onion gravy and a bit of veal stock." This grub is not for waistline warriors, nor is it for warmer weather. Paumgarten's advice: go now.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.