Today's review roundup includes: Azalea, La Palapa Rockola, La Marmite, Chestnut, Asiate
NYTimes Restaurants William Grimes gives Azalea one star (224 West 51st Street; (212) 262-0105):
. . .The kitchen really hits its stride with pastas, which are convincing across the board. Wild boar braised in Barolo wine may be the richest, most deeply flavored meat sauce I've come across at an Italian restaurant. It's served with broad, flat pappardelle, and cherry tomatoes have been deployed strategically to give off intense bursts of fruity acidity. Stubby rigatoni stuffed with seasoned ground veal, topped with crushed roasted walnuts and covered with an oozy white-truffle cream are downright dangerous. Each sublime bite gives rise to uneasy thoughts about the entree to follow. Most appetites will stop dead in their tracks with this one. A somewhat lighter alternative, equally appealing, is ravioli stuffed with veal and red cabbage in a concentrated veal sauce, but even the fish pastas tend to be rich, especially the ravioli stuffed with lobster and buffalo ricotta in a Prosecco and lobster broth.
The pastas can make the main courses seem anticlimactic, satisfying for the most part but not nearly as impassioned, or as complex. Jumbo shrimp sautéed with fresh herbs is what it says it is, and no more. A sizable tuna fillet, rolled in sesame seeds, is plain, served in a light tomato sauce with cannellini beans and fried onions. It was ordered medium-rare and came out on the far side of medium, but under no circumstances was it ever going to be an exciting dish. Pork fillet sautéed with apple purée sounds dull but isn't, thanks in part to tender, flavorful pork, and a nice-sized potato cake on the side. Baby lamb chops get the royal treatment. They're cooked in a potent reduction sauce of Amarone wine, then served with a heap of spinach sprinkled with pine nuts and raisins.
. . . The waiters are a colorful bunch. They seem to be working from a playbook not yet available in English-speaking countries, in which diners are regarded as hopeful applicants rather than customers with the power of the dollar behind them.
RECOMMENDED DISHES Duck sausage with barlotti beans; fennel and shrimp in Parmesan crust; pappardelle with boar; veal-stuffed rigatoni; lamb chops with Amarone sauce; veal in white wine and truffle cream; chocolate-banana cake; fruit tart.