The Perfect “Cigar” Review. . .

 

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For those of us who review cigars, please take note.  Below is The Perfect Cigar Review.  It’s short, concise, and above all – interesting.  As I have changed my reviews to reflect my impatience, I still have work to do.  But this is absolutely perfect.  (Read between the lines and this review becomes as clear as Baccarat crystal.)  – Irv CigarBroker

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For almost fifty years, as the home of the Whitney Museum, Marcel Breuer’s inverted ziggurat on Madison Avenue was a place to take in the American avant-garde—and the basement cafeteria a place to fortify oneself with starchy staples. The kitchen was run early on by Daka, a purveyor of the cheese-and-fruit-platter variety; the nineties brought Sarabeth’s and its Goldie Lox plate; and in 2011, at Untitled, Danny Meyer introduced his banana-hazelnut French toast. Now that the Whitney has moved to the meatpacking district and the Met is staging contemporary exhibitions at the Breuer, the eatery has again been recast, with a downtown gaze.

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The chef is the Uruguayan-born Ignacio Mattos, who, four years ago, joined with the restaurateur Thomas Carter to open Estela, a Houston Street hideaway beloved by the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama for its imaginative Mediterranean small plates. Last year, Mattos and Carter débuted the nearby Café Altro Paradiso, a petite-portioned take on the Italian bistro. In Flora Bar, the pair faces its steepest challenge yet: museum café by day, neighborhood restaurant by night, Mediterranean-Pacific tapas menu at all times—think olives, yogurt, and jamón ibérico, plus daikon, yellowfin, and Szechuan peppercorns.

On a recent Tuesday evening, with the galleries dark, the food was the focus, and deservedly so. A seafood platter seemed the work more of a sushi chef than of a lobsterman, the snow-crab legs split carefully, the morsel-size blue shrimp sweet and crunchingly fresh. Eating a stracciatella dish recalled spelunking, its glopping texture giving way to sharper, brighter edges: cubes of fennel and Meyer-lemon rind. Some victories were simple, like a Caesar dressing that replaced anchovy with fermented rye berry, whose clean acid left room for the romaine. Others were grand, like the seafood dumplings; involving a mixture of lobster, scallop, and crab, they somehow tasted of each one individually, but also of bitter sorrel, in a gentle yuzu broth.

Rich food, lightly rendered—this is Mattos’s art. Yet it could not quite stand up to the demands of the brunch hour. The maître d’ had no space at one o’clock the other Sunday, but the online-reservations system did. The service, which ranges from forgetful to chilly and is always slow, upset both art-viewing plans and basic motor function: More coffee, pretty please? Even the chef seemed to have been caught flat-footed with his savory truffled tart, which had lost, among other ingredients, its toothsome dinnertime topping—slender disks of rutabaga—and gained a slimy fried egg. Mr. Mattos, don’t forget your root vegetables, and send those surly servers back downtown. (Dishes $9-$120.)

♦ 

(This article appears in The New Yorker May 1, 2017, issue, with the headline “Flora Bar.” Written by Daniel Wenger.)

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