Three Stars for Matsugen; Yerba Buena Turns Out to Be Good

Frank Bruni admires Matsugen's austere, meticulous approach to Japanese food: “I was riveted by the way bitter, funky and briny notes in the dish jousted. And at the end of that same meal, I was riveted by the one-two punch in a startling dessert.” [NYT]

Vongerichten and Co. won't need much more to cheer them this morning, but Steve Cuozzo also liked the place, even though he seems to have hoped he wouldn't, admitting that “It's...one-stop shopping for dishes rarely found under a single Japanese roof, and more than enough of them are fabulous enough to stifle my crankiness.” [NYP]

Yerba Buena, it turns out, is not the random Latin restaurant it looks like, Paul Adams discovers: The chef is Julian Medina, of Toloache, and the meaty, sprightly menu and snappy service are a major find. If anything, the food is too flavorful, Adams says: “lots of salty, concentrated tastes that pound on the tongue, delicious but overstimulating.” Not that there's anything wrong with that. [NYS]

Remember when Craig Hopson took over One If by Land and it was thought that the talented young chef would revive its reputation? Well, that never happened, according to Randall Lane, who slams the place with two stars (out of six). [TONY]

The owners of Prospect Heights' James must be kicking themselves: The romantic, twee vibe of the place is right for Danyelle Freeman, she loved the cooking (“Let me say a word in praise of the shrimp”), and they obviously knew she was there, but the fact that the food didn't come out at the right temperature cost them a star. (She still gave them three out of five). [NYDN]
Related: Prospect Heights Gets Restaurant Upgrade

Robert Sietsema went to James, too, got everything at the right temperature, and liked the place just fine, even taking the extra step of calling out the burger. [VV]