Sunday, February 26, 2012


For a neighborhood joint, this relatively new female-cheffed Sicilian is perfectly serviceable.  Le Zie, its quasi-landmarked neighbor, is of commensurate quality and price, but Eolo is a little fresher and more modern.  The room is slightly more attractive, but more for the absence of Zie's atrocious illuminated plastic wave than for the charm of Eolo.  That said, it has sort of a quirky quaintness; if the room was smaller, it might have worked better.  Instead it feels a little sparse and echoey, and in the absence of any audible soundtrack, my conversation (while always captivating) was unfortunately being enjoyed by all.   Tiled floors and simple wooden chairs give a somewhat rustic feel.

On to the food, which is bountiful in choice, and of what we had, very good.  The menu is written in the Sicilian dialect, which can make for amusing discourse before your Grappe lu Pititu arrive.  We began with salt-roasted beets that benefitted magnificently from a salty, zippy syrah dressing with tarragon and mint, but probably didn't need the dense, nut-crusted goat cheese smeared inextricably to the sides of the bowl.  Charred octopus was toothsome and nicely smoky, contrasting nicely with a wilted salad of bitter greens, tomatoes, snappy slivered red onions and tender chickpeas.

There is a broad selection of primi, housemade pastas that looked exceptional: perhaps worth returning for.   In particular, a black squid ink tagliolini with an array of seafood smelled divine, and a wild fennel tagliatelle with a sardine ragu sounds intriguing.  Secondi are divided into fish and meats; we tried a special of fat scallops, only two of them, but prepared with a robust sautee of cubed butternut squash and brussels sprouts leaves studded with currants- a novel take on a classic Sicilian agro-dolce.  Contorni offered up brussels sprouts as well, and they were well-cooked, but suffered from an excess vinegar that overwhelmed the smokey cubes of pancetta.

Although we certainly didn't overindulge on entrees, we still went light on dessert with a lovely coupe of zabaione with forest berries, whipped fluffy atop berries, pomegranate seeds, chunks of pineapple and juicy sections of winter citrus.

I might not travel boroughs to visit Eolo, but for the unique Sicilian focus (much rarer in the city than ubiquitous Tuscan) and proximity to casa mia, I'd say camina chi pantofuli finu a quannu non hai i scarpi.   Or something like that.

190 Seventh Avenue

(646) 225 6606

Friday, February 10, 2012


We packed in like the rest of them for friends and family, and friends of friends of friends of families seemed to be let in with zero exclusivity.  And from this, arose the only problems of the night.  Service was overwhelmed by over-capacity, hungry waiting diners, and worst of all, the place is so fun and boisterous, nobody that HAD a table was going anywhere any time soon.

The room, actually, might present another problem; while the downstairs lounge and private dining rooms are swank and sexy, the upstairs is a little sterile.  The Latin them sort of culminates in an illuminated strip of Spanish culinary offerings mounted above the bar, while the rest of the room could house any type of cuisine whatsoever.  Even suspended from the ceiling are huge Chinese lanterns.  But the food, across the board, was pretty tasty.  That is, once we finally procured any.

It being F&F, I'm hoping the service we experienced was merely first-day-of-school jitters.  It took an hour to be seated, probably another to order and yet another to finally receive our entrees.... our entrees, only, because the appetizer order we put in somehow mysteriously got lost in transit.  When we asked if they were on their way, or just late, our server pretty  much told us to forget about it.  The order was lost and the kitchen was so deep in the weeds there was no way to get it done in any reasonable time frame.  So we were happy to have encountered some mutual friends that had been seated earlier so we could taste THEIR appetizers, all of which were quite good.  Crunchy little fresh corn tostadas were bright and corny, with a squiggle of zesty mayo atop.  A brilliant green fluke ceviche was full of vim and vigor, and a hearts of palm salad tangy and refreshing,
piled with frisee and sections of citrus along with the chunks of core.  In fact, the prominent flavor in most all the food is a zippy acidity, from the chimichurri served with all the entrees, to citrusy broths and kicks of vinegar.  It's a nice change from soupy reductions and rich juices from wintery braises, but doesn't seem overtly unseasonal, either.  Case in point, the brussels sprouts we finally procured hours after we ordered them: fried to a burnished crisp, they were spiked with vinegar and strewn with spicy little rounds of sliced chili and a dusting of strong, grated cheese.  Not, perhaps, the healthiest preparation of the crucifer, but mighty tasty.

Entrees suffer a bit of monotony in plating, but all were technically very good.  Any given protein is served with a (huge) pile of arugula, a half-tomato roasted chewy on the outside and warm and richly juicy within, and a little tub of kicky chimichurri to anoint.  Big head-on shrimp come six to a plate, perfectly seasoned and of superb quality.  Same goes for the pork ribs, which were lean and flavorful, gristle-free with just the right amount of chew.

Desserts, nearing the midnight hour, were mostly exhausted by the time we got around to them, and to be honest, so was I.  But the sole remaining specimen of mixed melon soup was proferred.  A cold fruit suit with coconut gelato, wholly seasonally inappropriate, but aside from that, well-executed.  A melange of tiny cubed honeydew, watermelon and canteloupe swum about in a tangy passionfruit pool sprinkled with toasted coconut.  Light and tart, it bode well with the rest of the menu, if not with the calendar.

Overall, though, I think Super Linda will have a remarkable following.  With the cache of it's sibling, La Esquina, and Abramcyk at the helm, the food only needs to be good enough in order for it to succeed.  And quite frankly, I think it's better.


You've already read all about every conceivable iteration of duck in the Times ( so I ventured into new territory to get a better idea of the ways of Wong.   I have known and admired Simpson Wong from Jefferson of yore, and the neighborhood institution Cafe Asean, both impressive.  Wong steps in, slightly sleeker and more formal than Asean, on a lovely stretch of Cornelia Street.  The small room flanks an open kitchen, exposed brick walls and suspended lighting.  It's a tight space, and overheated the evening I visited.  But an amiable hostess corrected that immediately, and we took seats at a bar looking in on the kitchen.

A deliciously chewy naan is brought as a welcome, served with a punchy, peanutty tomato sauce with lots of umami.  We started with a market salad- a good, solid salady-salad with a gently sweet, tahini-esque dressing and lots of leaf variety, a few raw shiitakes and slivers of carrot.  Nothing momentous, but unique and satisfying.

For entrees, wreckfish, by name, was too curious not too order.  I'm hoping it's the kind of fish that is found skulking about mysterious deep waters near the Titanic or something, but regardless of the name derivation, it is an exquisite fish.  Succulent flakes of snowy white, with a pungent salty crust seared into its crisp skin.  I didn't detect any enoki as specified amongst the tangle of black noodles that had become bit matted, like a kugel.  But the noodles were chewy and flavorful, if they did require a bit of lubricating broth in order to separate them.  The broth is tasty, though, redolent of sea and salt and thickened with a bit of coconut milk.  This was by far our favorite dish, and paired with the coconut-sambal collards, would've culminated into a rewarding, though not award-winning, repast.  Unfortunately, the pork chop took a turn for the worse, unsalvageable even despite its accompanying brussels sprouts.  Perhaps if there had been more of them... but honestly two sprouts, halved, barely qualify for plural.  The Christmassy tasting sauce clashed harshly with a dice of fresh pineapple, and the lean chop itself was a little dry, tasting faintly smoked and sitting above and below ingredients that it feigned having nothing to do with.  Speaking of dry, there were some purported-to-be sunchokes, but whatever starchy little tuber they were, were dry ... and well, dry.  That's all they were and nothing else.

Our single concession to the duck hype came as a finale: the duck a la plum dessert.  A dense, unctuous orb of ice cream, faintly savory, was swathed with thin slices of spiced plum and a crisp tuile tasting of caramelly brown butter.  A plank of shortbread that tasted like my mom's (most excellent) pie crust was dusted with five spice, and then there was a little shot glass of I'm-not-sure-what, but it tasted like cherry Kool-Aid.  I mean, not that's there's anything wrong with cherry Kool-Aid (I quite enjoyed it!), but I'm not sure who invited it to the party.  At any rate, perhaps further menu exploration would unearth more treasures like the wreckfish and the dessert (some complimentary chocolate chip cookies and crumb-topped brownies were commensurately excellent), rather than the train-wreck pork.  Given Simpson's track record- and his "win" in the Times- I'd have faith in Wong.

tel 1-212-989-3399