If you’re a Columbia student, it’s worthwhile to take a little walk down Amsterdam Avenue and visit Warique Peruvian Kitchen. Order half a rotisserie chicken—at $6, you won’t find a much better bang for your buck in Morningside Heights. The restaurant opened earlier this April, and hopefully it’ll survive the first few months of operation.
Tag Archives: Restaurant Reviews
I listed Sushi Yasuda as number ten on my 2010 bottom ten list. Why? In January 2011, the restaurant’s namesake chef, Naomichi Yasuda, is leaving to open a small sushi bar in Japan. Just a few weeks after I arrived at Columbia as a freshman, I turned 19. Without my family and closest friends, I felt alone on my birthday. In order to celebrate, I went to Sushi Yasuda, seeking an education in nigiri from one of New York’s most acclaimed practitioners. Notorious for enforcing a set of sushi-eating rules and his uncompromising fish, Yasuda ruled the sushi bar with authoritarian precision. With his smiling eyes and deft hands, however, he made even the most inexperienced diners feel welcome. I wrote about my dinner for the Columbia Daily Spectator’s now defunct blog, Spectacle. My birthday blues obliterated, I left Sushi Yasuda confident that I could return in the future after visiting New York’s other noteworthy sushi spots
Fish Tag is worth the (reasonable) price tag.
Mocked on Eater New York for his confrontational twittering and “flightiness,” Ryan Skeen has been lambasted for moving from one restaurant gig to another all too quickly. Known for boldly seasoned, meat centric food, Skeen’s aggressive culinary style matches his media persona. Before joining Michael Psilakis at Fish Tag, Skeen held the head chef position at 5 & Diamond. After reviewing 5 & Diamond for the Columbia Daily Spectator, I concluded that Skeen’s status as chef-pariah was undeserved. Although a public relations nightmare, Skeen is a competent technician, a creative force in the kitchen, and unabashedly showcases his style. In short, Skeen is a far better chef than the vast majority in New York. Grub Street tried to provoke Skeen into responding to my (not particularly negative) review, hoping that he would take to twitter and let loose a Tom Colicchio worthy rant. Instead, Skeen sent me a message telling me that he respected my writing and my review. When I found myself out of a job this summer, I reached out to Skeen for help. To preface this review, I think that Ryan Skeen is a stand-up guy and a chef worthy of recognition beyond the public relations war room. I was known to the house, and received three complimentary dishes (which are marked with an asterisk * where discussed). Despite my pro-Skeen bias, I believe this review remains as objective as possible. I enjoyed Fish Tag, and hope that Columbians will take the short trip down to 222 West 79th Street for a student friendly meal. Continue reading
Marc P., Princeton University
Take short walk north from the intersection of Nassau Street and Chambers and you’ll pass a sketchy stairwell leading down to a small sushi restaurant called Ajihei. Though it doesn’t seat many and the line was rather long, my dinner companions and I decided to try our chances and attempt to get one of the few tables that seats more than two. After a substantial wait, we were seated and treated to piping hot mugs of green tea.
At first, Aldea and Laut seem on equal footing: barely a block separates the two, and both received one star in the 2010 New York City Michelin Guide. Last Friday night, I ate at Laut, and last Saturday, at Aldea. If the little red book’s ratings prove accurate, then one star restaurants ought to revolve around a common axis of quality. Realistically, the Michelin Guide should not be expected to produce exact parity within star groups; after all, the resolution of a one to three star system is poor, resulting in a spectrum within each class. Theoretically, however, that spectrum should not range so wildly as to render predictions of quality from a restaurant’s star(s) meaningless.
Note: This review, as the headline suggests, is based on a soft opening. Just because Lotus of Siam made certain impressions on me at the soft opening doesn’t mean you have to take them as universal truths.
Unfortunately, meeting legends in person usually leads to considerable disappointment. I rarely actually meet legends—I encounter them from afar. For example, last year I saw Uma Thurman—or a woman who looked strangely similar to Uma Thurman—walking across Columbia’s campus. This brush with celebrity failed to fulfill my variously unrealistic expectations for such a dramatic incident. I never actually met Uma (though her father Robert Thurman teaches in Columbia’s religion department, so hope springs eternal). And perhaps it’s best that I never meet celebrities. That way, all my preconceived notions of their lives and personalities can remain uncontaminated. When I heard on somewhat specious online message boards that Lotus of Siam, a Las Vegas based Thai restaurant, is widely considered the best Thai institution in the nation, I shrugged—my next visit to Las Vegas would unlikely include a special trip to a quasi-obscure Thai spot. Then, when I heard that a Lotus of Siam was opening in Cru’s old space at 24 5th Avenue, a quiver of hope ran through my gullet. An opportunity to meet a true legend, albeit one born in the nebulous realm of Internet food forums. Most importantly, visiting Lotus of Siam’s New York location would require little effort, just a few moments on OpenTable and a 30 minute trek to the location. Regrettably, Lotus of Siam barely edges out numerous other Thai restaurants I frequented in St. Louis and visited in Washington D.C.; while I have not yet dined at every Thai restaurant in America, I seriously doubt that Lotus of Siam claims the title of absolute best, especially considering its relatively narrow margin over its more mundane relatives. Continue reading
My first time going undercover, I felt like a teenager going to his junior prom: a little sweaty, definitely nervous, and anxious to make the right impression. But instead of asking the girl out and meeting the parents, I was making a dinner reservation and meeting the hostess. On the phone, I played it cool, used my especially endearing and seductively honest voice—what could this young man have to hide? “I’d like a table for four on October 16th at 7:00 p.m.” I said confidently. “Can I have your name please?” “Radfurd,” I answered, a name I randomly invented hours before. “Can I have your first name as well?” “Aaron.” Also part of the original plan. “And may I ask who you’re affiliated with?”
Time stopped, and adrenaline poured into my bloodstream, heartbeat quickening, breathing shallow, alert and ready for attack from some primordial beast. Where did I go wrong? With what blundering phrase did I tip off this reservationist that I intended much more than a relaxed Friday night on the town with friends? “No one, I’m just a private citizen,” I stammered, taken completely by surprise. She told me to hold, and I waited for her verdict. “I’m sorry, we’re doing preview dinners through the 14th and I was confused,” she said. Disaster averted, I gave the woman one of my friend’s cellphone numbers for confirmation and hung up, utterly relieved.
Last spring, I wrote a decidedly a negative review of Tom Colicchio’s then new restaurant, Colicchio & Sons. Following a smidgen of media coverage and a tongue-in-cheek tweet from Insatiable Critic Gael Greene, Colicchio responded to my review. His vituperative message seemed clear enough: college students, college critics for that matter, have no inkling about food or restaurant reviewing. For more details about this escapade, click here, here, and here.
After the Tom Colicchio debacle, I assumed that the doors of any Colicchio restaurant would remain shuttered to me in perpetuum. I avoided ‘wichcraft, stayed away from Craft, and made joking excuses to escape return visits to Colicchio & Sons. This October, however, Colicchio opened a new spot, Riverpark. I knew that I needed to visit, both to see whether Colicchio’s latest creation might surpass his disastrous last and to resolve a nagging tension in my psyche. Entering the lair of the beast, I might do battle with the (imagined) monster within and unmask him to my mind’s eye. I also might enjoy a delicious dinner. Continue reading
Marc P., Princeton University
On July 4, 1776, John Witherspoon, President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) became the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, the restaurant bearing his name, the Witherspoon Grill, sits on aptly named Witherspoon Street (East of Palmer Square and right next to the Princeton Public Library). Befitting the lofty position of its namesake, the restaurant offers classy and sumptuous, albeit pricey food. The restaurant bills itself as a steakhouse, and indeed steak comprises most of the entrees on the menu, but the Grill also offers a wide range of seafood dishes via its sister business, the Nassau Street Seafood and Produce Company. Continue reading
Josh B., University of Virginia
Although a clique of twenty drunken freshman could easily fill it to capacity, The White Spot Restaurant near the University of Virginia’s campus sacrifices only space for its perfectly satisfying food. A 24 hour breakfast joint on “The Corner” with a diner feel, The White Spot serves as a delectable and unique food hub in Charlottesville.
Nathan S., Macalester College
With the departure of my parents looming, my family and I needed one more “family dinner” together before we parted ways. We were in Mac Groveland, a neighborhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota that plays host to Macalester College. Situated three blocks away from Macalester lies the restaurant that claims to have the “tallest taste in the Twin Cities.” Everest on Grand, which serves up traditional Himalayan cuisine, seemed like the perfect choice for my last family dinner for more than two months. Continue reading