Today Sam Sifton files on Scott Conant's restaurant at the Cooper Square Hotel, Faustina, awarding it one star. Sifton's main thesis here: the food is excellent, the restaurant, not so much. It's actually a strong onespot, with raves for the pork chop, the raw bar, the pastas. But it just doesn't have a sense of place, something that is important to the Siftonator:
Mr. Conant has shown himself to be one of the city’s most inventive practitioners of Italian-American top-dollar cooking. He is a chef of great skill and intelligence. He knows how to fight for flavor, for intensity, for the art of good food.Still, the restaurant has "what may be the city's best" pork chop and "one of the better meal starters in the city," the poached egg fonduta, "a pure example of what the chef Jimmy Bradley calls stoner food."
But while his kitchen is exciting, Faustina is not.
...no matter the meal, you will eat it uncomfortably, in a tough concrete dining room that juts off a large bar crowded with tall tables, in what is unmistakably an institutional setting, down to the space on the check where you can sign the bill to your room.
And on the oft-critiqued small plates/share plates format that the restaurant has since changed: "You will invariably order either too much or too little at Faustina, and thus leave feeling either cheated or dazed — and in either case a little unclear what has just happened." At least he adds, "Of the two avenues to take, though, gorging offers the more pleasurable ride." [NYT]
Sifty's not the only one on the Faustina beat today. Jay Cheshes give the restaurant three out of five stars: "The restaurant...serves food that’s often delicious in a bland, informal dining room...individual dishes are terrifically executed, the side-by-side clash of hot and cold, refined and rustic, benefited none of them. Now that the menu is slightly more straightforward, with starters and mains in their rightful place, it might be easier to construct a more successful feast." [TONY]
Ryan Sutton, not a Conant fan, isn't as forgiving: "Pedigreed chefs like Thomas Keller can get away with leaving the kitchen to expand their empires. Conant isn’t quite ready...Taleggio gives a pleasant stink to the dense, dry aged, overcooked burger patty. Salsa verde adds a nice Italian tang to underseasoned fried shrimp. Mushrooms in chicken sauce add finger-sticking goop to forgettable, over-breaded fried chicken." [Bloomberg]
Cuozzo calls Colicchio & Sons too fussy and gives it two stars: "The overwrought ego trip that is Colicchio & Sons illustrates the risk of straying too far from one’s core business for too long...I had some marvelous dishes, especially on the tasting menu, and several “Omigod” moments...But high-priced restaurants are obliged to respect certain time-honored rules. The first is that all items be cooked correctly." [NYP]
Adam Platt files a twofer this week on charming neighborhood spot Bistro de la Gare and the much improved Alain Ducasse bistro, Benoit. Each gets one star. At Benoit, the latest chef Pierre Schaedelin has revamped the menu, "instilling it with some much-needed professional zip," while Bistro de la Gare offers hits, misses, some overpriced items, and a dining room "filled with a friendly buzz." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Pulino's is too loud to Gael Greene, but she approves of the pie, Oliver Strand offers a round up on Iris Cafe, Bakeri, and Culture Espresso Bar, places to get great coffee and decent food, Sarah DiGregorio deems Istanbul Cafe a boon to its part of Midtown, Tables for Two figures one could never get bored (nor particularly excited) at Fort Greene's re-do on Bonita, Roman's, Alan Richman likes the snacks at Despana, and Sietsema heads to Jamaica to try the Portuguese fare at O Lavrador.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats gives a B+ to No. 7 Sub, Buttermilk Channel exceeds the expectations of Immaculate Infatuation, The Food Doc has a rave for Convivio, and Feisty Foodie would like to go back to Harlem's Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken when she's considerably more hungry.