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Mar 19, 2010 07:09 PM

Colicchio & Sons NOT 3-star [moved from Manhattan board]

Had dinner tonight at Colicchio & Sons and was very disappointed. While I confess to liking Craft Steak and eating there often, the new incarnation isn't nearly as good. Our ravioli app with morels was full of grit, and while they were good about replacing it, nothing really wowed. Service is good, but this is a 1-star restaurant. Anyone else loosing faith in the new NY Times food critic??

Colicchio & Sons
85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

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  1. "losing" faith? i'm not sure it was there in the first place! but i'm sorry you had a disappointing meal. despite my skepticism about Sifton's reviews, i was hoping this one really was a winner for Colicchio.

    6 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Have to agree with you - and unfortunately, I don't think this one is going to change your opinion. I really wanted to like Colicchio & Sons, but this is nowhere near the level of something like Corton.

      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

      Colicchio & Sons
      85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Also not a fan of Sifton's. I miss Bruni :(

        I've heard a few mediocre reviews about Colicchio & Sons. I have a friend who's a huge fan of Craft (and Craftsteak when it was open) and he said he wouldn't return to Colicchio & Sons.

        1. re: uwsister

          i think we ALL miss Bruni.

          i also thought it was pretty interesting that no one batted an eye - or edited it out - when he let it slip that Top Chef 7 is definitely in DC. yes, the rumor mill has been buzzing about it, but as far as i know it hadn't officially been confirmed or announced yet by Bravo. oops.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I remember when Bruni and Hesser weren't very popular either when they first started out as the NYT restaurant critic. Five years from now when there's a new critic, we'll probably be bemoaning how much we missed Sifton.

            1. re: hobbess

              I'm still recovering from Hesser and her cloying reviews that told me more than I ever needed to know about her love life.

              To this day, I shudder whenever I see her name in a byline.

              1. re: hobbess

                i liked Bruni from Day One. Hesser, however, never grew on me.

        2. Sounds like it's hit or miss with this place. I have to say that my husband and I had a 3-star experience there last month, and he's even fussier than I am. Excellent service, and I had the best venison that I've ever had. His fish was wonderful. Every single thing that we ate was exceptionally done and flavorful, and we would definitely go back.

          Reading the review I'd have to say that it was "spot on" and matched our experience.

          That said, there are apparently enough people who have had less than stellar experiences to wonder about the inconsistency there, and understandably, the review would seem like a case of cognitive dissonance.

          2 Replies
          1. re: j. marie

            Reviewers have their "faves/buddies" to whom they grant too much praise.
            The only redeeming part of Sifton seemed to be that his stars were not so profuse. I think he is mostly a dope and his writing is not exactly the greatest.
            Of course, the places he has reviewed, too often, are not even worthwhile if there is only one review per week. You do not need to review every new spot that comes out. Rather have more frequent reviews of the better spots in town with more specifics. Keep them on their toes(well, in theory).
            This seems to be a case of Top Chef love. There cannot be such a large gap that is explained by anything other than a bit of favoritism and/or chef making sure reviewer received a top notch meal. This is neither the first nor the last instance of this. Judge the reviewer. Very much like this board. A few people are worth listening to, not everyone.

            1. re: dietndesire

              Thank you for stating this so well, diet. I really don't get Sifton.

          2. I read this part this morning and nearly did a spit-take with my coffee:

            "Then lobster, a slash of red and white claw meat in a lobster bordelaise so deeply flavored as to recall both veal stock and opium smoke, with cabbage to bind them together."

            Opium smoke? That's so over-the-top weird. Is it me?

            9 Replies
            1. re: shaogo

              It's definitely not you. It's all very what-the-hell?

              1. re: shaogo

                I had the same reaction to the "opium smoke" line - on the other hand, the review certainly read like someone was blowing smoke somewhere....

                The New Yorker's review sounds closer to the OP's experience.


                1. re: shaogo

                  opium smoke has a very very distinct flavor - it's very descriptive and intriguing and makes me want to try this sauce

                  1. re: thew

                    Well, that's all well and good if you have experience with opium smoke, but I bet many of us do not.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      no doubt. but it's still a perfectly legit description

                      1. re: uwsister

                        no. it has a sickly sweet smell with almost citrus or maybe tamarind overtones

                        1. re: thew

                          "it has a sickly sweet smell with almost citrus or maybe tamarind overtones"

                          Then why not just say that instead (with maybe the "sickly" deleted)? That's my problem with Sifton; the references he makes are probably lost on many people. I'm an intelligent person and I don't get his references half the time. No need to show off in a restaurant review. One can be literate in one's writing and appeal to the masses at the same time. Opium smoke...hah! lol

                  2. I totally agree that Colicchio & Sons is not NY Times three-star level, at least not yet.

                    Had a super-professional and really excellent waiter there last night, but the front of the house staff seemed confused. I really like the decor of the room and the heft of the menus; the presentation of the food was correspondingly top-notch. Even little details, like art in the bathroom was there. The busboys and other waitstaff could not have been more gracious.

                    However, the raw tuna with green apple and horseradish gelée appetizer was atricious. The tuna was poor quality, the green apple was way too sharp, and the gelée was not horseradish and also not complementary to the fish. That should not have been served in any restaurant.

                    However, the mains redeemed the restaurant --- excellent turbot (one of my favorite white fishes) with nice capers, and beautifully cooked venison. My Chinese DC, who is used to eating whole fish with bones, was put off by the numerous bones left in the turbot. That didn't bother me, but I was surprised by it.

                    Desserts were okay, especially good was the the sour apple granita. Nantou Oolong tea was also quite good, although brewed with water that was too hot (a common error) and I found it amusing that the waiter tried to correct our pronunication of "Nantou" to "Næntoo".

                    Bread was unremarkable (looked cute, but tasted like white bread), but the lobster-salad topped panna cotta amuse-bouche was rich, flavorful and deep, despite being only a bite.

                    I had fun, but no way was my experience nearly commensurate with his review. To be fair, another friend, who lives near by and I trust, has been three times and deems it "perfect", which is rare praise from her. So perhaps they are just very inconsistent.

                    As for Sifton, maybe give him a chance to settle into the role? =) I'd enjoy his job for sure, but it is not an easy one!

                    Colicchio & Sons
                    85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                    1. Ok, we've now been for a small plate meal in the Tap Room, pizza night, and then a full dinner there (though not the tasting menu) a couple nights ago.

                      Our best experience was our first one at the bar in the tap room. We had the octopus salad, a potato pizza and a their pretzel dessert. There are a couple other small plates in there too but it was a couple weeks ago and I can't remember. The octopus salad was nearly perfect. For me, that's the dish that got me thinking that perhaps this would be the place for simple, very well prepared dishes without paying Craft prices. The potato pizza similarly was satisfying and perfect with one of the dark beers on tap (try to Motor Oil which is really well balanced despite its name!). The pretzel dessert was remarkable and something we would go back for even after eating dinner at home. Much like the popcorn dessert at EMP and the pine nut crostata at Babbo, it's sweetness and saltiness is so well balanced that I wondered why more desserts didn't find a way to incorporate salty little morsels of something.

                      The pizza night was less impressive. Their ricotta was good but the pizza I felt needed either something a bit acidic or else maybe even some chili flakes on top. It felt bland but again, decent for bar food.

                      Lastly, we went for our full dinner in the main room. The hamachi appetizer is very good and I think the most complex dish we ate. The beets were unusual with a mild fish I thought but it worked and in a really interesting way. We also had this white bean pasta with octopus which was the least well executed dish of the night. The pasta was thin an might have been cooked a minute too long. Not the end of the world, but we're talking about whether the restaurant deserves the same star rating as Babbo so it's ok to be picky. We then moved on to the venison and the lamb. Both proteins were cooked perfectly and the parsnip accompaniment to the venison was spectacular. The plates are also beautifully composed as others have mentioned. For me, the proteins themselves were elegant but not richly or boldly flavored (if that makes sense). The lamb looked like a textbook photo of a perfect medium rare lamb loin but I'm not sure it needed to be wrapped in fat with an awkward merguez between the meat and the fat. It was tasty to be sure, but not that daring I don't think. The desserts again were amazing. We had donuts with coconut cream as well as a raisin brioche that tasted like French Toast from the Gods. There was also a rosemary ice cream that really blew me away. Dessert has been the high point every time we've been.

                      Maybe I need to go to Craft as I love when the ingredients are showcased simply. I also love the complex flavors at higher end places like EMP and Le Bernardin but this fell in between. The savory dishes are busy enough so that the ingredients don't shine that strongly but not so complex that you are wowed by the chef's complex and brilliant combinations.

                      I suggest having some great, simple small plates at the bar and enjoying their beers on tap and desserts. As far as Sifton goes, I am one of the few on this board who really didn't like Bruni very much. I found many of his reviews annoying and remember some of them containing long rants about a light that he didn't like near the bathroom or something else that for me is inconsequential. I also thought he had a poor handle on Asian flavors which are some of my favorites. Essentially, I couldn't tell after reading any of his reviews whether or not I wanted to eat at the restaurant so I stopped taking them too seriously. Except for Ninja. I knew immediately I didn't want to eat there. : ) I like that Sifton has been exploring more interesting ethnic foods and even going to the outer boroughs! Wow! What a trek for a NY Times writer! There are ethnic foods all over NYC that many times readers (both from NYC and beyond) might be interested in and I've never thought of the food section as a place for only the highest end restaurants. So I'm glad that Sifton seems to be broadening the column at least a little. As far as opium smoke goes? I'm not sure that was intended as a literal comparison. I assumed he meant a dark and dense smoky flavor, like a pipe on steroids, but I'm enjoying reading the responses of those with more experience.

                      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      Le Bernardin
                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JeremyEG

                        I was a big fan of Craftsteak - especially after they got the steak right. And it's clear that Tom Colicchio is still trying to find his way with this restaurant, as evidenced by his frquent changes of the concept since opening. As I said, the service was quite gracious, if maybe a bit over-eager. But my real issue is with the food. The amuses were good, as was the oyster appetizer. But my pasta with morels was inedible, due to the poor cleaning of the morels. They were very quick to replace it, when I complained. It was replaced with the sea urchin and crab fondue (which I requested), which I was a bit baffled by. I'm supposed to eat fondue with a spoon??

                        The chicken - which had been one of the best dishes at Craftsteak - has become merely mediocre here. And the monkfish wrapped in pancetta was fine, but nothing memorable.

                        The desserts were fine - an upside down banana thing and something else I can't remember. But the whole meal really was very unmemorable. Not bad - just not particularly good.

                        And that's why the 3-star review is wrong. On a good day, I see this being a solid 2-star, even though my experience was probably 1-star. And given how seldom NY restaurants are reviewed, I don't think we can give Sifton the benefit of time to settle into his job. Giving Coliccholio & Sons 3 stars demeans all the other restaurants that really have earned that level, and cheats diners out of precious, hard-earned dollars in this economy.

                        1. re: JeremyEG

                          Jeremy, I just wanted to concur with your impressions. The parsnip that accompanied the vension may have been mostly butter, but it was definitely spectacular, and a creative riff off something usually done with potatoes but improved with parsnips.

                          I enjoy a restaurant that's trying new and sopisticated things --- striving for something, and while that kind of restaurant isn't right for every occaison, I find it more exciting than a restaurant that has definitively arrived, and is reproducing its signature dishes, even if those are outstanding. (Not that I mind the latter either, but it's less exciting than a restaurant where you don't know what you are going to get but sometimes find flashes of new brillance). Still, as imperfect as a "star" system is, there's no way I'd give this one more than two stars. Sure, I should visit it more often before passing judgement, and if the NYT wants to send me there four more times, I'm game. I think I will enjoy returning after some time has passed and see what they have become.

                          As for Bruni vs Sifton . . . I do like Bruni's writing very much, but I completely agree about his poor handle on Asian flavors. So I eventually learned to ignore him on that topic. I think everyone is learning when to trust and when to ignore Sifton, which is probably a bit different for each reader.