This week, Pete Wells reviewed two restaurants that have opened within the last year: the East Village’s Cagen and the Upper East Side’s Ristorante Morini. He awarded each two stars.
Overall, Wells was impressed by the food at Cagen, a sushi spot from former Nobu chef Toshio Tomita that has been open since last summer.
“[Tomita’s] ingredients, especially the fish he brings in from Japan, are often exceptional,” he wrote. “Three broiled fillets of ayu, a Japanese trout, wore nothing but their shimmering skins, the better to show off their delicate freshwater taste.”
“Then there were two little flavor bombs of grape tomato halves barely cooked in white wine and yuzu. Were they pickles or candied fruit, or both? Either way, I wanted more.”
Wells found the atmosphere underwhelming, writing “time has not brightened the interior’s subterranean charms, which could use a fresh coat of good cheer.”
However, he concluded that if you have the cash and room in your schedule, a trip to Cagen is a worthwhile endeavor.
“It’s a question of budget and time,” he wrote “but the big splurge shows off all the things Cagen does very well.”
He was similarly impressed by the food at the Altamarea Group’s Ristorante Morini, which opened in December. Of chef Gordon Finn’s dishes, he wrote:
“You should get an excellent meal if you stick to the cured and raw crudi, like the wonderful bay scallops with bits of pink grapefruit and dots of pistachio purée.”
However, he was equally turned off by the Ristorante Morini’s interior. Wells wrote “Inside Ristorante Morini’s split-level space, the chandeliers look like grotesque experiments in stretched skin,” and concluded that due to the prevalence of similar restaurants in the area, Morini “hasn’t bestirred itself to become a unique destination.”
For Wells' full review, click here.
Adam D’Arpino is the Restaurants Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDArpino.