Noho Star

330 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10012(212) 925-0070nohostar.com

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I haven’t actually been there. Only ordered delivery. But of the three things I had, two were a solid good, and one was flimsy miss.

First, the good. I enjoyed the Santa Fe crab cakes, although they didn’t have much crab in them. Mostly filler. But flavorful filler, fortunately. Guess they know their filler down in Santa Fe.

The other good thing I had was the 14 ingredient chopped salad. Similar to many a beet and walnut based salad, but chopped to all hell, not unlike something you’d get at a Chop’t, only a touch nicer.

And last but not least, the one that I had the highest hopes for, the tuna sashimi served on a potato pancake with wasabi crème fraiche. Sounds awesome, right? Sort of like a variation on hanabi. Well, one of the main problems is that they don’t know what sashimi means. They give you a chunk of tuna as thick as a ream of paper. It should be much, much thinner, because as a result, it’s too chewy and overwhelms the dish.  The other big issue, is the crème fraiche comes off tasting a lot more like mayo. Maybe because they put too much on. And while they heavied up on the créme, they skimped on the wasabi. Could barely even taste it. Plus, they also put seaweed salad in between the concoction, which only made the dish soggier still.

Nothing “amazeballs” as a friend of mine would say. But a nice big menu that delivers in the area should you need it. That said, so does Five Points right around the corner, so I’d go there first.

2 teeth

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il Buco

47 Bond St. New York, NY 10012(212) 533-1932 • ilbuco.com

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I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the problem, and all of these 4 star restaurants on Yelp really are great and my taste buds are just old and crotchety. That, or maybe the value of the star has fallen drastically against the knife in the foreign currency exchange? Well, I might’ve felt this way had it not been for the fact that the three other people who dined with me were equally underwhelmed.

Dare I say it, but I honestly think NYC Italian restaurants are more often than not, not all that. I know that’s a confusing double negative, so to clarify, they suck more than they sing. I’ve had better Italian in Westchester for Christ’s sake! Seriously. I challenge anyone to eat at Il Buco and then at The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry or Fortina in Armonk and tell me Buco is better.

L.A. also has SEVERAL Italian restaurants that blow this away. C’mon New York! WTF?!? Get your Italian shit together.

As for our meal, we started with the croquettes, which proved to be nothing I would ever recommend ordering. Not cringe-worthy however, unless you consider how much money they cost, without returning to you an ounce of joy on your investment.

The kale salad came next and was painfully overrated. It’s like no one has ever had a kale salad before on the Il Buco review thread. Please people… go to The Fat Radish on the Lower East Side or to Yardbird in Miami. Both of their kale salads puts this one to shame.

The octopus was the only thing I would actually say was great. But if you truly want your eight-legged world rocked, try Pera near Grand Central, Gato in Noho or Pearl & Ash on Bowery.

As for entrees, the penne was overpowered by the cheese, so much so that you couldn’t even taste the other ingredients in the dish, such as Brussels sprouts, which aren’t exactly an easy flavor to drown.

The rabbit pappardelle was good. But a mere shadow compared to the glowing praise it receives on the Interwebs. And the homemade sorbets for dessert were so flavorless, we couldn’t even decipher what flavors they were, basically all tasting like balls of ice.

Fortunately the service was good. And the decor is quaint. But sadly, you can’t eat either of those. Unless you’re a cannibal, I suppose. Which might bode well for you, because the servers probably have more flavor than most of the dishes.

2 teeth

Gato

324 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10012(212) 334-6400gatonyc.com

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Being that he is a millionaire several times over, it’s not like Bobby Flay needs my approval, but after Mesa Grill closed down in New York and Bar Americain should’ve never opened, I thought he lost it. Spread too thin between Throwdown, Iron Chef and Beat Bobby Flay. Well, apparently he found it again. In spades. Gato is purrrfect!

The décor walks that line between cool and casual, inviting and elegant, topped with great energy and phenomenal service. Not a morsel of attitude from host, to bartender to waiter. And very spot on with the recommendations, lining up three Ultimates and not a single miss amongst six plates and two drinks.

So let’s kick it off with the booze and an interesting wintery twist on sangria. Called Sangree, it’s made with Gamay, which is a black wine grape similar to Beaujolais, rye, orgeat (orangeflower water) and nutmeg. The other was a simple ole glass of red, but it was excellent. Ya gotta love it when the by-the-glass selections aren’t a consolation prize.

And while we’re on the subject of love, the roasted octopus with bacon, oregano and tangerine vinaigrette was so delicious I wanted to curl up in its tentacles and declare myself its bitch. But, the scrambled eggs with almond romesco, boucheron cheese and tomato confit toast were equally deft at sweeping me off my feet. So, suffice it to say that things began with an Ultimate love triangle.

Fortunately for me though, things started to taper off a hair from Ultimates-ville, otherwise my head might’ve exploded from bliss overload, like the guy in the movie Scanners. So on the merely fantastic side was the charred beef with blue cheese and broccoli rabe followed by the paella, which was very different from most, due to the absence of seafood, chicken or sausage. But even though it was entirely void of the usual suspects, this vegetarian version still managed to please. Especially as a nice complement next to the charred beef.

Perhaps the greatest reco of the night came next, the walnut brown butter cake, something I would’ve never ordered otherwise, especially with things like the tart tatin in contention (pictured). But I’m so glad I listened (for once), because head-to-head, the walnut easily reigned supreme and would be an ultimate if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever had a walnut cake before, so it seems a bit unfair to crown it from a sampling of one. So TBD on that for now. What isn’t yet to be determined, however, is that Gato is the cat’s meow.

5 teeth

Bohemian

57 Great Jones St. New York, NY 10012 •  playearth.jp

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Similar to RAO’s, Bohemian enjoys a frustrating, yet cool exclusivity. You can’t just make a reservation. First you need to have already been here. But how is that possible? It’s like the chicken and egg quandary.

Simply put, you have to be invited by someone who was once invited themselves. So, now the big question is whether or not it’s worth all of the cavorting to get in.

Maybe. If you get off on feeling special and in the know, Bohemian easily checks that box as you walk down its long, nondescript hallway, past the butcher shop that faces the street, only to arrive upon a frosted glass door with a buzzer on it. You ring it and wait. Then, someone answers and asks if you have a reservation, and only after confirming the name will they buzz you in. It’s like the restaurant version of an underground sex dungeon. Not that I would know anything about that, but now I’m probably going to have quite the time convincing the wife of that.

Unfortunately, if you are going for the food, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Especially when you compare it to other elusive Asian-American fusion hotspots like Momofuku Ko or Pearl & Ash.

We started with the array of garden vegetables and fondue, served in a purposefully rustic bucket of ice next to a flaming ramekin of fondue. It seemed reminiscent of the way a meal starts at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, only Blue Hill actually manages to pull it off. These veggies were nothing of the sort. Quite tasteless actually. Thankfully the fondue resuscitated them as they were in desperate need of the due.

The oysters were good, but raw oysters are more a dimension of sourcing than they are culinary cred.

The “mini” burgers (pictured), while not all that mini were perfectly cooked and among the highs. But not anywhere near an Ultimate.

Another strong player was the bacon served with a gigantic honey, raisin crostini, which was key. Because once you put that salty bacon on that sweet crostini you know happiness is the truth.

And last but not least, the branzino. Probably the best thing of the night, but specifically VERY familiar to me as it is prepared in an extremely similar manner as a Jamie Oliver recipe that we make at home all the time, which I love. It’s baked with a medley of vegetables and in Bohemian’s case, with roasted garlic as well. It’s very good, but because I have it all the time at home, it was hard for me to get too excited about it.

I wish I had more jubilant praise to report, but when you are pulling in 4.5 knives on Yelp and closing your door to the masses, I think you have to be held to a higher standard. And currently, that standard is too high for Bohemian.

3 teeth

BONDST

6 Bond St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 777-2500 • bondstrestaurant.com
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I went here after hearing so much hype and, as always, hype is a dangerous thing, because Bond didn’t even come close. Sure, they talk the talk, from the pretentious service to the sleek décor- but the prices are just obnoxious (as if they were shaved truffles as opposed to raw fish) and the sushi is nothing special. Nothing you couldn’t just get at Mottsu down the street, but at a third the price. Oh, and Mottsu would have bigger pieces.

That said, Bond did excel at one thing. The sushi pieces might win the award for the smallest I have ever seen (Hatsuhana coming in a distant second). So small, you might actually question whether or not you accidentally ordered of the children’s menu. So small the picture above was probably taken with a macro lens. I have several more small jokes, but I’ll spare you.

The place isn’t bad, mind you, and if you have money to blow and simply want to be “seen,” then Bondst should do the trick.

2 teeth

Lafayette

380 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10003(212) 533-3000 • lafayetteny.com
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Unfortunately the third time was not a charm for this location. I loved it back when it was Time Cafe (RIP). And liked it very much as the Asian restaurant that came after, Chinatown Brasserie (RIP). But it saddens me to say that Lafayette is by far the weakest culinary tenant yet.

I strongly disagree with anyone who touts this bakery. I’ve had better pastries at scores of places all over the city and the country. And I’ve had better eclairs on airplanes!

Beyond that, the eggs benny was blahy, regardless of it’s interesting skillet-style presentation. And the special juice concoction wasn’t all that special. In fact, my wife’s Coqnac oatmeal was the only thing truly worthy of note, and maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to get too excited about oatmeal outside of the cookie form.

The decor and service were fine, but the nominal plusses are not enough to bring me back. Hopefully the fourth time will be a charm again.

2 teeth

il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

53 Great Jones St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 837-2622 • ilbucovineria.com

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This is a tough review for me to write, because I was treated by a dear friend and fellow foodie. But, if I start letting things like that influence me, then I wouldn’t exactly be a Ferocious Foodie, now would I? So, hopefully he understands, but I’m guessing next time will be my treat. 😉

So, here it goes… Not unlike its sibling Alimentari is a great looker. Quaint and charming. But as we all know, looks aren’t everything. And once again I found myself wondering why so many other reviewers keep touting this franchise. Maybe it’s me?

This is not to say that we are in diametrically opposed camps. I mean, it’s not like the place is terrible by any stretch. But it’s not exactly amazing either.

For starters, we had the crispy artichokes, which are good. Served crispy, just like the description says. But yet something held them back from amazing. Under-seasoned would be my main guess. That, or simply not the freshest, most incredible ingredient to start with, enough that it could stand on its own.

As for the bucatini, this was a bit more obvious. It was blatantly undercooked. Not al dente. More like Undercookede. That said, I very much enjoyed the peppery prep. But because it was so hard and chewy I couldn’t get on board the love train.

Next came the sandwiches of which we split two, the short rib and the porchetta. The short rib was the clear winner. A very solid good with its caramelized onions and tender beefiness. But it pales in comparison to the steak sammy at BLT Steak.

And speaking of paling, the porchetta is so far beneath my Ultimate (Rocket Pig) I wouldn’t even bother. That said, the kale sandwich passed by our table and I found myself wishing we had gotten that instead. Not a very good sign for porchetta, either that or a great sign for kale.

Anyways, the point is still the point and that point is Alimentari is very elementary. Meaning basic. Meaning basically skip it.

2 teeth