Critic Roundup: Nico 'Brings Out the Best In a Bistro'

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"The gleaming white kitchen is in back — it's peripheral, but still makes the statement that Nico is all about the food," says Michael Bauer of San Francisco's Nico.

This week in restaurant news, the San Francisco Chronicle's restaurant critic Michael Bauer reviews San Francisco's Nico, which he says answers the question, "What does a 'bistro' look like in one of San Francisco's wealthiest neighborhoods?" "The dark-glass-fronted exterior, which for decades was the Pierre Deux shop, introduces a civilized but casual 44-seat dining room. There's a six-seat pewter bar in front, rustic wood tables and handsome gray walls. The gleaming white kitchen is in back — it's peripheral, but still makes the statement that Nico is all about the food." Nico's menu changes nightly and starts with three "bites" such as trout rillettes: "two quenelles of chopped, seasoned fish with croutons so light and airy they seem to float above the fish, balanced on a few dressed greens." This is followed by four starters, four main courses, a cheese selection, and three desserts. Each item on the menu is paired with a wine, available in two sizes of pours. 

In New York, Bloomberg's restaurant critic Richard Vines says East Harlem's Ricardo "isn’t your average steak house. It’s party central," with a DJ in the dining room. "While the noise is penetrating, it’s joyful. It’s not often you see so many children enjoying themselves in a grown-up restaurant at night. They’re a reminder that restaurants should be fun and don’t always have to take themselves seriously." Along with the music, Vines says the food and service at Ricardo is great, too. "The meat had more flavor than I’ve experienced in fancy Midtown joints and the service was warmer. Our East European waitress looked as happy to be there as we were." 

And the New York Times' restaurant critic Pete Wells reviews two restaurants, East Village’s Han Dynasty, which draws 45-minute lines, and SoHo’s Hirohisa, which has no lines but takes reservations. While Han Dynasty boasts long lines, Wells struggles to understand why. “…I’m mystified by the popularity of Han Dynasty in Manhattan, where there are far better Sichuan restaurants," he says. "Han Dynasty’s translation of the cuisine has a thick American accent. Many main courses are heavy on sugar, bell peppers and especially MSG, which is often used in great, slashing doses." Hirohisa, on the other hand, has no lines, and reservations are not hard to come by, according to Wells. He describes dining at Hirohisa as “if a friend had invited you over for dinner.” “There are two kitchen islands floating at the edge of the serene white dining room, one for cold dishes like sashimi and another where the cooking takes place,” he says. “You watch the action and relax, drink in hand…”

 

Restaurant Critic Roundup: 1/22/2014

 

Critic Publication Restaurant Rating
Richard Vines Bloomberg Ricardo 2 stars
Brad A. Johnson Orange County Register Vine  
William Porter Denver Post The Plimoth 3 stars
Michael Bauer San Francisco Chronicle Nico 3.5 stars
Pete Wells New York Times Han Dynasty, Hirohisa 'Satisfactory' 1 star
Jonathan Gold Los Angeles TImes Maccheroni Republic  
Scott Reitz Dallas Observer El Come Taco  

Click here for The Daily Meal's "Top Chefs Review — and Rate — America's Food Critics."

 

Haley Willard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter at @haleywillrd

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