On February 5th, Scott Conant's Faustina opened in the Cooper Square Hotel, taking the place of Govind Armstrong's awkward, noisy transplant, Table 8. Of course with any big opening, the bloggers, Yelpers, and Chowhounders, came early and they came often in week one. Although Conant is a virtuoso of high Italian cuisine, Faustina's menu diverges from Scarpetta's, featuring some surprising dishes that don't necessarily fit neatly into the genre (egg custard with king crab, fried chicken). In true opening week fashion, there have been some hits and a few clunkers.
The Mostly Ecstatic News: Yelpers have given consistently positive reviews of the place so far, stating that "the awful bar scene [of Table 8] and even worse service in the bar area are a thing of the past." Among the hits are many of the pasta dishes, namely the Mushroom Ravioli and Tajarin (pasta with sea urchin + tomato sauce). According to one yelper, "Both were spectacular and delicious." The all around star of the show, however, is the Grilled Ciabatta with Duck Egg and Fonduta: "Home run, no doubt about it...four generous pieces of ciabatta and its perfectly poached duck egg floating in the middle of a small pool of ridiculously rich fondue, in about ten seconds." The misses? Both fried items. The Crispy Rock Shrimp ("The meal's clunker") and Fried Chicken ("This was the most interesting dish, that did not leave such an impression.") The raw bar items were "well conceived": The Chu-Toro with Sea Urchin was "One of my favorites for the night...absolutely delicate, heavenly devine," and the Kampachi with Garlic Puree and Porcini was "a match made in some sort of fish-root-fungus heaven" according to one reviewer. [Yelp]
The "Haunting Sea Urchin Pasta" News: Opentable reviewers have given the food and service a thumbs up so far: "Small dishes, every one scored. The pasta with sea urchin was haunting, the short ribs with Spetzle was great, each crudo was absolutely fresh and interesting. Well priced wine list, great service. This is one to watch." However, the ambiance fell shorter than the former two categories. [OT]
The Good, If Too Much News: Jazz In Strange Places weighs in on Faustina with a disclaimer that the recommended 3-5 plates per person "considering the mix of dishes we had, it was too much." Among the small plates, the Orata stood out: "so buttery, cut with just bit of bite from the pepper." The Tajarin with Tomato and Ricci Di Mare "was awesome. Savory and kind of creamy without being too heavy." Regarding the pasta: "his sauces aren't too wet which means they really cling to the noodle. Here's where i'll mention that the pasta sizes were a bit larger than had been described." In terms of entrees, the Pork Belly was surprising: "tad dry and much less fatty than i'm used to," but the Short Ribs with Spaetzle stole the show. [JISP]
The Mostly Good News: Chowhounders tossed around their recommendations. Among them: The Ciabatta and Poached Duck Egg (although one reviewer cites that the bread was "too toasted,") and "the scallop carpaccio (really a ceviche) was also damned tasty." The underwhelming (with a nudge to Marea)? "The hyped-up tajarin with 'ricci de mare' was good, but I don't know, it didn't really make me sigh with pleasure or anything. Guess I'll have to wait to visit Marea for sea urchin pasta heaven." However, it seems that each reviewer has a very different appetite, because one recommended the 3-5 plates per person: "expect to order 3 or 4 items to get full." [CH]
The Mixed Bag: The Food Doc summed up the pros and cons succinctly. As for the service: "Our server was cheerful, attentive and helpful, but I could not help but notice that some members of the front of the house carried this haughty air about them." While the Orata Rossa had "clean flavors with a little kick from the peppercorns," the Sardines came out "overcooked and mushy." The Burrata in Carrozza was "a very elegant take on the grilled cheese sandwich," but the Fried Chicken "was big letdown...it tasted like chicken made with Shake N' Bake, and the white meat came out a tad dry." However, the "kitchen redeemed itself" with the Black Truffle Risotto, Egg and Ricci Di Mare. [The Food Doc]
The Good News: Urbanspoon commenters gave two distinctly different takes. One: "Excellent service. Extremely attentive staff. Am vegetarian, so choices were limited. But both the server and his supervisor made sure that the kitchen accomodated my requests. That's paramount for me. Definitely have the cabbage in truffle oil."
The Twitterific News: Per @TrufflesNYC: "The Faustina quik n' dirty: Black truffle urchin risotto and king crab egg custard. Conceptual, sensual, earthy. Stroke of Conant genius." @wildedge: "get the pork belly or the black truffle/urchin risotto - Yum. Faustina is a step in the right direction." @MarisaPizarro: "Just left dinner at Faustina. Super average. Not a recommendation." [Twitter]