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Andrew Steinthal and Chris Stang started Immaculate Infatuation, their well-regarded online arbiter of the New York City dining scene, because they were both always the guys in their respective Manhattan offices who would be hit up for restaurant recommendations for client lunches and dinners. “Meals with clients before shows, or taking the artists themselves out when they’re in the city—places they’ll still be talking about the next day,” says Stang. Adds Steinthal: “Friends were always asking us too, so we figured, ‘Maybe others would want to know as well.’ And they do.”
They each dine out an average of three nights per week and make their way all over the place. Beloved on their site for a straight-talking style, the duo, who now peddle their taste via a free iPhone app, share their picks for the four most overrated and four most underrated new (or at least newish) restaurants in town.
After all the fuss that’s been made over Tertulia from the “professional” food critics—including “rave” reviews, year-end listage and general chef Seamus Mullen adoration, we expected to roll in here and be absolutely blown away by incredible, authentic Spanish food. We weren’t. This is a fine restaurant—one that you might want to check out if you’re in the ’hood and have some cash to burn—but it’s not special. The food is ordinary Spanish tapas, and the service is weird and choppy. Nothing about our dining experiences here made us want to come back again.
Bowery Diner is (unfortunately) not the second coming of Florent, but it’s also not your typical greasy spoon either. This is cool kid restaurateur Mathieu Palombino of Motorino’s new trendy diner in Nolita, which recently opened to all kinds of hype and food bloggery. We’d like to chime in and politely ask that everyone relax. It’s interesting that this place has a full raw bar, but it doesn’t really matter when your burger sucks.
The Dutch is Manhattan’s newest downtown hot spot, and went from being the most anticipated opening of last spring to being the most critically acclaimed restaurant of the year. It was both the New York Times’ & Eater’s “Restaurant Of The Year” for 2011, and it made New York’s year-end Top 10 list as well. It’s a fun place to hang out, but restaurant of the year? Come on! This is New York City. We will take Blue Ribbon Brasserie over this any day.
Being that this is the new Williamsburg restaurant from one of the guys behind Freemans (an Infatuation favorite), we had high hopes for Isa. Unfortunately, we found most everything on the menu to be either really boring or way over our heads. Ever eaten a nasturtium leaf, or sablet? Well, we did, and it didn’t impress us. The service here is good, and we’re usually down with any restaurant running things from a wood-burning oven, but we just couldn’t get into Isa.
Allswell is a special place. It’s a cozy Williamsburg gastropub with a warm ambiance and a friendly demeanor, and it’s crazy to us that the big-dog food reviewers aren’t all over it yet. Chef Nate Smith is a product of the kitchen at the Spotted Pig, and we should all be glad he left to open a place of his own. Nat’s food is simple, yet his attention to detail is what sets him apart. For example, the flap steak at Allswell is perfectly cooked and delicious, but it’s the other carefully curated elements on the plate that takes the dish to a holy-shit-this-is-incredible level.
The only reason Perla counts as underrated is because it opened about three weeks ago and no one’s written about it yet. But they will. We are officially obsessed with this place. It immediately ranks among Immaculate Infatuation’s highest regarded restaurants, because the pastas are all fresh and incredible, and they make a cocktail that has homemade “pepperoni bitters” in it. The room is the kind that you want to spend all night drinking in, and the service is super friendly even though they are probably going to have to make you leave since you just spent all night drinking there. Oh yeah, and there’s a wood burning oven that a gigantic rib eye and a whole roast chicken comes out of. Sign us up.
Salinas serves up some of the most exciting Spanish food we’ve tasted recently, and it does so in one of the coziest, most comfortable environments around. A retractable glass roof houses an insane indoor/outdoor patio that literally looks like a page out of a brochure for a Mediterranean resort. Come here with your special lady/man friend and make sure you order the Rosejat Rapida (fried noodles with chorizo, chicken and cockles) and the garlicky and delicious Langostinos Al Ajillo.
We love a good cocktail or three to go along with our food, and Prima is the perfect place to do some next-level drinking while you eat dinner. The same folks who own Summit Bar, a temple of mixology in the Far East Village, run the restaurant. Here they have brought their drink making talents to a small, laid back restaurant space, and added a full dinner menu that features mostly fish. Everything we have eaten here has been excellent, and they make the best Old Fashioned in the city.
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