Red Rooster

310 Lenox AveNew York, NY 10027 • (212) 792-9001 • redroosterharlem.com
 

While I applaud and appreciate Marcus Samuelson’s mission to make world-class cuisine more accessible, I wasn’t quite blown away. Especially in light of the fact that that others out there are also doing it and doing it better. Such as Danny Meyer with Shake Shack or David Chang with Momofuku Ko to name just a few. Also, having been to Aquavit back in the day, when Marcus was there, this is nothing by comparison. Granted it’s a bit like comparing apples to cured fish, but even quality to quality for what it’s supposed to be, things weren’t even in the same league. Aquavit was an experience. This was a meal.

Now for the deets. Starting with the vibe when you walk in, which is absolutely electric. Probably my single favorite thing about the place. Everything is jumping. From the people to the sounds and smells. Even the walls have a life of their own. In fact, the most docile things in the joint are the flavors.

For starters, I found the cornbread to be a big whatevs. Sure, it’s cut that they’re shaped like mandolins, but they a bland and worthless without a slathering of the honey butter and/or the tomato jam. But at that point you have to ask, what wouldn’t taste good with butter and jam on top?

The chopped salad was also pretty basic by all modern-day standards. And not even executed that well as the roasted pears were not very roasted. The spiced walnuts were not all that spiced. The ricotta salata was either not creamy enough or balanced enough in the dish to have any effect. Leaving the apples, Swiss chard and frisee to fend for itself.

The crab fritters and the meatballs were the only starters I would ever reconsider getting. The meatballs being the better of the two, made thrice as nice with a trio of veal, beef and pork. The fritters are also good, though, made with a blue crab base, which is then twisted by some “bird funk” (I’m guessing either chicken fat or fried chicken batter or both) and fermented lime aioli. It was unique but not amazing.

For my main I had to go with the Hot Honey Yardbird, having heard all about his incredible fried chicken, and while it is by all accounts delicious, it is nowhere near the best I have ever had. In fact, from Florida to New York I’ve had better at Highball & Harvest and ABC Kitchen. That said, the collard greens beneath the chicken were beneath nothing else I have ever had. Absolutely delectable and the show-stealers of that dish by a country mile.

For sides, Marcus had another duo of smash hits, but ironically neither of them were the smashed potatoes. Instead, I much preferred the brussels sprouts and the signature mac and greens. The former has almost become a given these days now that everyone but Panera is now serving killer sprouts, but latter is quite interesting because I’ve read a few polarizing dings on Yelp about the mac and I have to blatantly disagree. Okay, so not entirely. I do have to admit they are mega-loaded with calories and cream. But the value prop is still very much in check if you ask me, because arteries be damned is it good!

Come dessert I was pretty certain this was a strong three knives and I was really hoping for Marcus to pull out all the stops and show me some of that Ethiopian-Scandinavian-French Culinary Institute-Chopped jury magic, but alas I found both the chocolate mousse and the sweet potato donuts to be more filler than fabulous. I’d rather have another bit of that mac.

So, Marcus, let’s look in the basket and see what I have for you today. Three knives, lots of hype, a great vibe and a bushel of hit and miss.

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Macchialina

820 Alton Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 534-2124 macchialina.com

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We heard about this place from the waiter at Yardbird, who seemed so spot-on with his recommendations that we asked for some on other menus. Very emphatically he proclaimed that only one other restaurant in Miami that truly impressed him was Macchialina. So, without hesitation we booked a table.

But those hesitations we forewent on the front end, crept up with a vengeance the moment we arrived. The location is in the middle of nowhere and the décor doesn’t help much in terms of making up for that. In fact, the setting was so uninspired we opted to sit outside, which is right on the sidewalk of a busy road filled with buses and fire engines. Now, I realize how hypocritical this is, being that I come from New York City where this is the norm, but in Miami it just seems worse.

Once the food came our hesitations were abated for a spell, with dishes like their creamy polenta topped with sausage ragu. The polenta was stick to your ribs creamy, and the ragu was morta bene. But sadly they skimped on the ragu, throwing the dish off balance after the first few bites. Regardless it was still the best thing of the night.

After that came the grilled Octopus, which was also good, but needed something more as well. And that was the general theme here. Everything was missing that one extra element to make the dish truly great. For example, even the escarole salad needed more salt.

But the biggest infraction of the night came from the highly acclaimed short rib tallegio lasagna. Sounds unbelievable, right? In fact I think it was this dish and the bread pudding that sealed the deal on our changing reservations just to go here. Well, it saddens me to say it, but the legend far exceeds the lasagna. It is way too much of one note, in dire need of crushed red pepper to help liven things up. And with the added kick it is most certainly good, but “best lasagna ever” it ain’t.

And as for the other reason we came, the bread pudding, it was every bit as disappointing as the lasagna. Not only is it not the best bread pudding ever, I don’t think it would even crack my top 100. Hell, there are two places in Westchester, New York that would put this pudding’s head in the sand. The Cookery and Fortina– but here’s the kicker, not even those, as much as I love them, make my Ultimates list. That’s how far Maccialina’s bread pudding is from being worthy of its praise.

Suffice it to say that if you’re staying on the other side of the island, this place is most definitely not worth the trip. However, if it’s close by, you could most certainly do worse. Like at Yuca for example.

3 teeth

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