Faustina – NYC
Faustina opened last Friday. My husband and I were each given a complimentary glass of prosecco for being its first diners.
The last time we were at a restaurant on opening day was at Bun Soho several years back. We sat at the counter and gamely watched as mayhem ensued. The kitchen was overloaded and harried barmen/waiters rushed back and forth in a frenzy trying to appease hungry guests. As a result, we got complimentary dishes. Not by design, mind you, but because the diners who’d ordered them had already left. At the same time, some of the dishes we requested never materialized. I can only guess that some lucky diner after us got them as freebies. Oh well, easy come, easy go.
Luckily, there was none of that chaos here at Faustina, Scott Conant’s (of L’Impero fame) latest restaurant at the Cooper Square Hotel in trendy Noho. The servers seemed quite relaxed and the kitchen paced the food at reasonable intervals. In short, it was like they were open for months.
Faustina’s menu is small plates Italian style (of course!) and our very knowledgeable waiter advised us to share 3-5 dishes per person. We settle on seven, two too much actually.
Egg Custard, King Crab Salad & Black Truffle. My favorite. The egg is mixed with lobster stock, dashi and soy so it’s light, silky and smooth. Even though threads of black truffle are spread on top, for me, the flavors are more reminiscent of Asia than Italy.
Lardo Wrapped Prawns, rosemary lentils. A thin slice of lardo encases the shrimp, protecting it from being overcooked as it is fried.
Tajarin, Tomato & Ricci di Mare. Chewy homemade tajarin noodles in a tomato sauce blended with sea urchin. Very creamy, unctuous and delicious.
Spaghetti tangled in a spicy tomato paste with small chunks of octopus. Strong and assertive flavors.
Trippa & Fresh Borlotti Beans. Thrice boiled tripe and beans, somewhat like a cassoulet. Hearty and very filling.
Slow Roasted Escolar & Saba. I’m told escolar is similar to white tuna. Looking it up in wikipedia, it’s official name is Snake Mackerel. Of all the dishes, this is the one we liked the least. Although it was fully cooked, inside the fish was clammy on the tongue.
Fried Chicken, Porcini & Potato Stufato. Two pieces, one with white, the other with dark meat. Both cooked perfectly and accompanied with roasted porcini mushrooms and potatoes.
For dessert, we shared a Torrone Panna Cotta with nougat honey, caramel and pistachio meringue paired with Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria, a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes.
Overall, I’d say this was a strong showing for an opening night. I was a fan of L’Impero and I think I will be of Faustina.