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Pete Wells Smiles at How Smart the Chefs Were at Fowler & Wells

The Times critic files on Tom Colicchio’s FiDi restaurant

The dining room at Fowler & Wells
Nick Solares

Some visitors of Tom Colicchio’s FiDi restaurant Fowler & Wells leave feeling a little confused, according to Pete Wells. While the menus offer wonderful and inspired dishes, the Times critic finds disconnect within the restaurant’s atmosphere, theme, and even within menus. He notes that while the $135 tasting menu can take diners through several “robber-baron dishes,” historical references are difficult to spot in the a la carte menu. Wells explains:

With Fowler & Wells, Mr. Colicchio tries to extend the atrium’s Gilded Age exuberance. He never quite gets there. The problem isn’t quality or effort: The cooking is spotlessly correct, the ingredients shimmer on the plate, the flavors all make sense, and the dining room is dignified in a way that makes you realize how undervalued that trait has become in restaurants. But the central vision tying it all together is fuzzy. The restaurant is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

Still, Wells does gush about a lot of the dishes on the menu, some even make him smile:

Duck à l’orange was reworked, wonderfully, with kumquats. I smiled at how smart the chefs were to add a rippling charge to the sweetened citrus with ginger, mustard seed and vinegar made from oranges.

No matter the disconnect, Wells’ meals at Fowler & Wells ended on a positive notes thanks to chef Abby Swain’s desserts. “ She has a nimble mind and a sensible palate,” he writes. “A great combination that results in desserts like a baked Alaska based on the flavors of Black Forest cake, or the panna cotta with poached quince and maple syrup.” Two stars.

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