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On Value at Falai

[Photo by Eater photographic correspondent Noah Kalina]

Among our mantras at Eater: value. Not value, mind you, in that Zagat Survey bang-for-the-buck, oh-those-$1-hotdogs-at-Grays-Papaya-do-delight kind of way (although, at times, to be clear: they do), but rather in the sense of value in the midrange of a night on the town. We'll gladly drop $40 or more for an entrée, with the expectation the restaurant will, in every way, live up to the promise. But here's the thing: on other nights, when the stakes are lower (but not low), the solid $16 entrée is our dish of choice. (Hint: think Spotted Pig, where nothing on the menu tops $20.)

Which brings us, naturally, to Clinton Street, the Lower East Side's haute dining thoroughfare. Once a street bathed in value?from 71 Clinton Fresh Food at the higher end (worth every penny) to AKA Café at the low end (back when they managed to keep the steak slider on the menu every night: ditto)?it's now a thoroughfare that ignores, at its peril, the fact that Supper is just mere blocks away. We dined at Clinton Street newcomer Falai (recipient of two Bruni stars) last month, and although the space delights, the portion sizes?value?did not. We're not the only ones. Writes New York Press food critic Gabriella Gershenson of her recent Falai experience:

"Am I supposed to suck on these?" I asked, pointing to the tangle of faces and feelers. "Some people do," he said. "But there's really nothing in there." A notoriously slow eater, I finished my meal in a record five minutes. My answer to the waitress? I looked her squarely in the eye and said, "This meal was not a good value."
Would we have had the courage to say so ourselves.
· Plates of Pittance [NYPress]