The Next Sam Sifton

Ricky Van Veen, Restaurant Critic

van veen for doc Ricky Van Veen, Restaurant Critic

Mr. Van Veen.

Food52 and Eater.com are in the middle of a guerrilla restaurant run-off where a group of “mavens of pop culture” sample and judge 16 New York eateries in a series of head-to-head match-ups. In today’s installment, Ricky Van Veen of CollegeHumor and the studio Notional, which is behind the new cooking show Rocco’s Dinner Party, reviews two Asian restaurants in a conversational style, complete with suggestions for Zagat. Did you know Mr. Van Veen once considered opening a chain of Kaoh Soi restaurants? “In addition to being a food novice, I’m also a racist,” Mr. Van Veen writes in an early caveat.

On Takashi, Japanese in the West Village:

Part of the fun is certainly grilling your own food right in front of you. Though watching somebody else do it is almost as much fun. Somebody once told me that Tracy Morgan eats at Benihana three nights a week. How fucking great is that? You can just imagine him being impressed by the onion volcano night after night. Anyway, fanfare food pretty much rocks (dipping things, passing courses around, eating next to a hot grill, etc). Zagat should list Fanfare as its own type of cuisine.

The beef steak tartare with egg was great, as was the more basic stuff like the spicy cucumber. Overall, a fun experience. And a little bit of danger lurking in every corner in the form of, “Hey bro, do you think I cooked this raw meat enough? Really? You sure?”

And Kin Shop, contemporary Thai in the West Village:

We got the crispy soft shell crab, pan roasted trigger fish and the spicy duck laab salad (Josh assured us this was a “must have,” and it lived up to the hype). On the more adventurous side, we tried the massaman (braised goat), which wasn’t bad, though it was the only thing that didn’t get completely eaten by the end of the meal. Maybe because goat is perhaps THE least delicious sounding animal. I mean, don’t they eat cans?

The verdict? “Kin Shop for the win.” We’re eager to read what fellow hipster entrepreneur Dennis, also one of the judges, has to say about his dining experience, as well as how many Foursquare references he can sneak in.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com