July 19, 2004 | Ask Gael

Is there life after green-apple-wasabi sorbet?

         Chef Paul Liebrandt’s ride from three stars for his shockingly rude food at ill-fated Atlas to unemployment has now skidded to One Little West 12th. Here he feeds the motley rabble that crowds this sprawling, shabbily unchic Meat Market gym, subtly tweaking smallish plates for a clientele that will never notice and doesn’t care. His crispy squid with hazelnut-and-yuzu dressing nests in sprouts and pea greens on a plate wavy as the ocean, streaked with a smart green slash of sauce. That’s a very complex red chutney on the black cod. The menu reads “fluffy tempura shrimp,” with no hint of the spiky rice-noodle crust or the sauce’s sophisticated complexity. Clearly Liebrandt is doing his time till some princely investor bails him out. (He’ll do a special tasting dinner if an old fan requests.) If I wanted to linger in this crush, I’d be perfectly content at a sidewalk table with an exotic cocktail, the sensational “Bad Ass” twin burgers, and splendid fries (but hotter, please).

1 Little West 12th Street 212 255 9717