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108 Food Dried Hot Pot
Gary He

NYC’s Three- and Four-Star Restaurants From Robert Sietsema

Everything from tea-smoked duck to the city’s best hummus

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108 Food Dried Hot Pot
| Gary He

Eater readers are familiar with New York treasure-slash-international cuisine expert Robert Sietsema, who before becoming a full-time critic for Eater in April 2014, wrote neighborhood guides, first looks, rants, and raves for Village Voice.

Here now are Sietsema’s three- and four-star reviews, which include everything from three-star duck in Little Neck, NY to the city’s best hummus inside Chelsea Market.

For every other review, cheap eats guide, greasy spoons, and much more from Sietsema, head here. And for more three- and four-star restaurants, check out Ryan Sutton’s map.

Note: Restaurants are listed based on geography, starting north to south. This list was originally published in May 2017, and updated in October 2017.

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108 Food Dried Hot Pot

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“108 Food Dried Hot Pot offers the city’s latest Chinese food fad: the dry hot pot, a craze renowned for its spiciness that began in Beijing and first appeared here in Flushing food courts. Here’s how it works at 108: You step up to a lavish display of raw ingredients deposited in metal tubs at the rear of the restaurant. An attendant with a sense of humor, her baseball cap turned askew, will assemble the ingredients you point to, putting the meat, poultry, and fish in one metal bowl ($10.99 per pound), and the vegetable matter in another ($9.99 per pound). I’d put the food quality at 108 Food up against that of any Chinese restaurant in town at a similar price.” Four stars.

Grain House

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“The bill of fare's most prominent section is Sichuan. In fact, you've never had a better tea-smoked duck. As if this were a farm-to-table bistro in Williamsburg, special ingredients and methods of preparation are flaunted: ‘salted duckling smoked with Lauraceae tea’ ($17.95) is the way the menu puts it. With its dark, moist flesh redolent of burning autumn leaves, half a mallard of good size arrives fully articulated, with a thin layer of fat quaking (if not quacking) beneath the supremely crisp skin. God, is it good! A plummy hoisin sauce on the side stands as a warning that you don't really need any sauce.” Three stars.

Mapo BBQ

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“You can almost hear a drum roll as the barbecue accoutrements arrive — a guy dashes up to the table and stops abruptly, holding with tongs a blackened metal vessel glowing with lump charcoal. Everyone pulls back apprehensively as he thrusts the smudge pot into a depression in the middle of the table, shooting up sparks into the overhead hood. Another employee installs a stainless steel grill over the live charcoal. Next the waitress appears with your meat. She ostentatiously displays the well-marbled meat, then shows us the bones it was cut from, picked clean, to demonstrate we weren't being cheated. We hadn't mistrusted her for a moment.” Three stars.

Daxi Sichuan

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“A new phase in the development of Sichuan food is underway. New, more expensive places catering mainly to Chinese customers are popping up in Flushing. Not content with earlier versions of the cuisine and its collection of recognizable dishes, these menus explore Sichuan cooking as never before: including up-to-the-minute innovations occurring contemporarily in Sichuan restaurants in China. DaXi is one of the newest. [It] is currently producing some of the city’s best Sichuan food.” Four stars.

Szechuan House

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“While the menu may not seem as wild or comprehensive as that of many of its younger counterparts, Szechuan House offers a well-polished version of the cuisine utilizing superior ingredients, with a level of presentation and service that verges on the elegant. The classic dishes are all in evidence. The playfully nicknamed "ants on a log" — here called "clear noodles with meat spicy sauce" ($9.95), and paradoxically included in the Vegetables section — is a morass of clear mung-bean threads in a thick soup tasting pungently of fermented bean paste, reminding us how fermentation has become a fad in modern culinary praxis.” Three stars.

WangXiangLou Restaurant

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“Like several of the new restaurants on this row — which seems to be creeping upscale — the outside is unprepossessing, almost ramshackle, while the inside is sumptuous. Presaged by red-ribboned bamboo plants and a smiling ceramic lucky cat with a fist raised in greeting, the front room of the restaurant is spare and straight-chaired. But pass through a bottleneck to find an area of comfy booths penned in by black brick walls surmounted by white lattice fences. Bring a crowd, because each booth can accommodate an army.” Three stars.

“Other Silk Road flourishes are rife — in the sesame-dotted flatbreads that are preferred to rice at Fu Ran, and in the so-called ‘Muslim lamb chops.’ At $25.95, it's the most expensive thing on the menu, but well worth it. When the dish arrives, it looks like nothing but a heap of cumin seeds, but underneath lies an entire rack of lamb chops, partly battered, roasted to perfection, and sporting rib bones dyed bright red for no apparent reason. Perhaps it's a warning against overindulgence. No better lamb chops are to be found anywhere in town.” Four stars.

Via Brasil

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“With entrees in the $18 to $29 range, the place looks as expensive as a typical bistro-level restaurant, but instead of small servings devoid of sides, that price gets you massive plates of food with all the trimmings, so that you can barely contemplate apps or desserts. The single serving of feijoada ($27) feeds two, while the portion for two ($34), would do fine for three. Dating from the days when there were no churrascarias in town, Via Brasil also provides a menu of grilled meats, of which the assortment called Rio Grande delivers chicken pieces, a thick pork chop, a sirloin steak, and a smoke-laced sausage.” Three stars.

Hyderabadi Biryani & Chat

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“The biryani is some of the best in town, available in eight varieties. Rather than sitting on the steam table and drying out, it is assembled to order with freshly cooked morsels of meat and vegetables. Two of the choices are vegetarian, one also vegan. The rice is kept exceedingly fluffy, delicately flavored with ginger, garlic, and cardamom. The shards of meat, poultry, or seafood are tender, pleasantly fatty, and cut in pieces smaller than usual, the better to hide among the tan, yellow, and orange grains of rice. Deeply brown caramelized onions and bright green chopped cilantro and scallions are heaped on top; a lime wedge is provided on the side to further irrigate and sour the rice. By all means, squeeze it!” Four stars.

Deng Ji Restaurant

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“Deng Ji is one of the first places in Manhattan’s Chinatown to offer mixian, and it does so in a more traditional fashion. Originating in Yunnan, mixian is a type of rice noodle that’s strikingly white and slender like spaghetti. Try to pick them up with chopsticks and they may fall away before reaching your mouth, since the noodles are mega-slippery. At Deng Ji, look for noodles in the Guo Qiao (“bridge”) section of the menu. One selection called the classic ($21.99) most resembles the dish in the Chinese fable. Though it’s listed as dinner for two, it easily feeds three. Man, this soup is great!” Three stars.

Kitchen 79

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“Typical of southern Thai food at Kitchen 79 is gaeng tai pla ($13), a dark and brooding fish curry heavily accented with chiles. Distributed throughout are nicely cleaned shrimp and little shreds of mackerel, which impart a powerful fishy flavor, while tart tamarind turns the broth brownish. The stew is also vegetable heavy, bobbing with pumpkins, bamboo shoots, and string beans. What are those striped globes that look like miniature watermelons? Thai eggplants. This strange and salty curry demands to be consumed with plenty of rice. One bite and you'll wrinkle up your nose; by the second you may or may not love it.” Three stars.

Bundu Khan

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“This being a self-described kebab house, there are kebabs you've probably never heard of. Tenderest is gola kebab ($10), associated in a menu side note with Karachi, Pakistan's Burns Road, named after Dr. James Burns, an early 19th century British colonial physician. Gola means ‘hand grenade,’ which this kebab resembles in shape, if not texture. In fact, finely minced with papaya, yogurt, and spices, the beef is so soft it must be laced together with thread like a girdle. The first thing you should do upon receiving it is carefully remove the thread, which can be quite annoying. Though the gola kebab won't look like a grenade anymore after being unthreaded, it will still explode in your mouth with flavor.” Four stars.

Photo: Robert Sietsema

Taste of Cochin

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“It’s in Eastern Queens right on Union Turnpike where you’ll find a less common cuisine represented at Taste of Cochin, serving dishes from the palm-shaded state of Kerala on India’s rainy southwestern coast. The cuisine showcases seafood, palm products, curry leaves, coconuts, black mustard seed, black peppercorns, and beef — the latter an ingredient rarely seen elsewhere in India due to the cow’s sacred nature to many Hindus. Defect from the buffet and even the bound menu, and seek out the paper menu found in a stack by the front door. Don’t miss the beef dishes on the Keralan menu, many of which are the subject of yearly festivals in Kochi, the modern-day name for the city of Cochin. Beef ularthiyathu ($12.95) features a sauceless dice of tender meat that’s mildly spiced so the flavor of the beef shines.” Three stars.

“Engagingly, Sahib plays fast and loose with several wazwan components. Hare mutter ki shikanpuri is often a grilled patty made with ground lamb, but here green peas and fresh paneer cheese are substituted for the meat, and the fritter is pan fried. Delicious! Other regional dishes are similarly transformed. In palak paneer, a Punjab staple, a slurry of flavorful spinach is surmounted by browned balls of ricotta, suggesting a nascent Indo-Italian cuisine. Similarly, Banarasi eggplant, from the northeastern Indian city of Varanasi on the Ganges River (famous for its burning ghats), is improved by loading the familiar vegetable curry into a smoked eggplant skin. This is cooking genius — reverent toward the original recipe, but willing to alter it in a way that is both contemporary and scrumptious.” Four stars.

Photo: Liz Barclay


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“How is the hummus? Elemental might be the best description. The flavor is limited to a single strong and lingering note: cumin. The texture is fluffy; almost unbelievably so. In fact, as you sit mopping it from the inside of your black plastic container with a torn fragment of pita, it threatens to detach itself and ascend to the ceiling. Yes, it’s the best hummus in town.” Three stars.

Thai Diva Cuisine

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“The new crop includes Thai Diva, a remarkable spot with an operatic name on a side street in Sunnyside. The interior is square and compact, with only four tables, but the décor explodes with color. A checkerboard of orange and gray squares spreads across one wall, as a sky-blue coffered ceiling draws the eye upward. With Isan food as the base, the menu draws its inspiration from all regions of Thailand, featuring many dishes rarely seen on Siamese menus.” Three stars.

Photo: Robert Sietsema

Happy Stony Noodle

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“The menu showcases organ meats like pig bowel, pig’s ears, and pork and beef stomachs, along with other surprising ingredients like pickled mustard greens paired with oblong rice cakes. Many dishes have playful names, often not listed on the English menu. One is fly heads ($11.95), listed in English as as minced pork with black beans. ‘Aw shucks,’ you may say, ‘No real fly heads?’ Well, no, but the taste of ground pork, fermented black beans, and bales of garlic chives is awfully good, insects or not.” Three stars.

Photo: Robert Sietsema


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“But what Chutneys does with dosas pales in comparison to its wizardry with idli – the white dumplings shaped like flying saucers. Named after a region of the Tamil Nadu state, Chettinad idli ($6.99) betokens deep-friend spongy fingers heaped with a chunky lentil-tamarind sauce, a good choice if you’ve got a sweet tooth. ‘Mini ghee idli’ turns out to be darling little baby idli bobbing in a brown gravy, while most unusual of all is the so-called gongura sandwich — two humongous idlis cut like Kaiser rolls and smeared with a gritty filling that will set your mouth on fire, made from a leafy plant essential to Telugu cuisine.” Three stars.

Golconda Chimney

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“If you're a goat lover, Golconda Chimney is for you. On its sprawling 18-page menu, 17 selections incorporating the horned and sure-footed beast are listed. There's a goat biryani ($13.99), of course, featuring succulent boneless pieces among the spice-scented grains, with a boiled egg perched like a bulbous white bird on top. It comes sided with thick yogurt raita. Also worth trying is goat sukha, a bony mass in an oily chile bath that makes it seem almost Sichuan. Gnaw away!” Three stars.

Le Baratin

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“You could do worse than order that old warhorse, steak frites ($32). Instead of slinging a rubbery and inexpensive hanger as bistros traditionally have done, Le Baratin fires up a New York strip, consciously treading on steakhouse turf. Well-marbled and tender, the thing comes smothered in a green peppercorn sauce with a bit of piquancy to it. Welcome back, sauces! The accompanying french fries are superb — scraggly, salty, and slightly greasy. Once the steak has been demolished, there’s nothing better than sopping up the last of your sauce with these unruly fries.” Three stars.

Via Carota

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“One outlook the chefs have in common is a belief in simple and powerfully flavorful preparations, proving simplicity can be startling. One of the dishes that seemed as though it might not work was the juxtaposition of creamy and oozy Apulian burrata with delicate spring strawberries. Faintly scented with basil, the fruit proved as good as ripe tomatoes in cutting the cheese's creaminess with their acid, an effect accentuated by a red-wine reduction. This is daring seasonal cooking at its most aggressive...and most successful.” Four stars.

Hunan Bistro

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“Open nearly three months on the same block as the mediocre-but-wildly-popular Philly import Han Dynasty, Hunan Bistro languishes half-full on most evenings. The interior is a comfortable mish-mash, with nautical lamps hanging from the ceiling, prim beige banquettes lining the walls, a private room visible through vertical slats, and a few cartoon figures pasted haphazardly on the dark wood paneling, in a half-hearted attempt to jolly the place up. Which should be totally unnecessary given the excellence of its offerings and uniqueness of Hunan food in the East Village.” Three stars.

Kiin Thai Eatery

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“Like Pok Pok, which it more than a little resembles in outlook, Kiin Thai fearlessly features dishes from other Southeast Asian countries, especially when they fill in perceived gaps in the Thai menu. Grilled summer shrimp ($10) constitutes a cunning variation on Vietnamese summer rolls. Colorfully served in a series of four shot glasses, each roll features pickled carrots, cucumbers, and good-size shrimp tumbled inside an oak-lettuce leaf, which is further wrapped in sticky rice paper. A dose of fermented fish sauce finishes the accompanying tamarind dip, which is so good you’ll grab it back from the busboy as he tries to remove it from the table.” Three stars.

Chez Ma Tante

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“If you were a fan of Greenpoint in the days when it was a bucolic Brooklyn backwater — before entire streets became paved with trendsetting boutiques and noisy cocktail bars — Chez Ma Tante (“My Aunt’s House”) may be your serene place. In its emphasis on organ meat pates and terrines, it’s reminiscent of Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon. Dishes are on another level, offal-wise, particularly with the pig head terrine. While the starters come charging out of the gate like a bull at a bullfight, the entrees, modestly priced at $17 to $25, are a little more laid back.” Three stars.

“Another highlight of the menu is the pressed sushi called hako (‘box’) sushi, a variety made popular in Osaka that predates Tokyo-style nigiri sushi, and was once regarded as a form of preservation. The vinegared rice is pushed into a box called a battera, with the fish carefully planked on top like wooden floorboards. Sometimes gelatin is added to help the sushi set. The lid is put in place and pressure applied. After it achieves firmness, the solid block is removed and cut like a cake into bite-size pieces. This sushi doesn't strive for the lightness of nigiri sushi, but flaunts its rich density. Of the three types offered, best is orange sea trout ($18), with skin that glistens a rainbow of colors. Covered with a haystack of fried burdock shreds, the conger eel (anago) is also worth trying.” Three stars.


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“The function of a real tapas bar? It's a place to have a drink or two in the evening and a handful of snacks selected for their sharp flavor and eye-appeal. The food represents a hunger-deterrer, not a meal. The same implied advice pertains to Donostia: Have a drink or two, but don't try to eat dinner, because if you do, you'll be disappointed. But as a place to snack and explore the alcoholic beverages of Spain, Donostia is unparalleled.” Three stars.

Fiaschetteria "Pistoia"

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“Real Tuscan restaurants in the city have remained rare. Now we have another: Fiaschetteria Pistoia. This improbably located spot was founded by Emanuele Bugiani, whose family owns Fiaschetteria La Pace in Pistoia, a trattoria 30 kilometers northwest of Florence. The most purely Tuscan pasta is a broad noodle here called by its generic name of maccheroni in a chunky wild-boar sauce. All are quite fantastic, but make sure you examine the brief specials menu before ordering a second course.” Three stars.

Fiaschetteria Pistoia’s dining room has posters of canned goods on the wall and a wooden table in the middle Fiaschetteria Pistoia

“The menu is a mercifully brief document, allowing the small kitchen staff to concentrate on perfect execution. Other apps, two cold and four warm, include deviled eggs ($8) in which the whites have been panko-crumbed and deep fried, a moist scoop of chicken liver mousse sided with crisp chicken skin, and a soft-shell crab illogically but deliciously presented with burrata, proving that burrata goes with nearly everything.” Four stars.


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“Fried to perfection, served in pairs, and poked with a toothpick that hoists green cocktail olives like a battle flag, the empanadas ($8) at Charrua are among the best in town. Your choices run to tuna, ground beef and egg, and best of all, corn kernels shot with pimento, making the filling sweet and salty and tasting like a summer day. As with nearly everything else on the menu, the empanadas come with a salad dressed a little too heavily with vinaigrette. Ask for no dressing, and use instead some of the excellent olive oil that comes with the table bread, rife with such tart, house-pickled vegetables as mushrooms, carrots, and onions that delicately flavor the oil.” Three stars.

Lan Larb Soho

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“Ratchanee Sumpatboon brought Isan food to Manhattan, initially at Zabb Elee in the East Village and later at her own place in Hell's Kitchen called Larb Ubol. Now, this ambitious and talented chef has just opened another pair of restaurants, both named Lan Larb. One is east of Soho on Centre Street, the other on First Avenue in Kip's Bay. The menu at Lan Larb Soho overlaps that of its forerunner Larb Ubol by about 80 percent, but the food tends to be arranged on the plate with more attention to appearance — long a feature of Manhattan Thai dining establishments — and the entrees average a dollar or two more apiece. The balance of the menu concentrates mainly on the food of Isan, where sharp flavors like fish sauce, hot chiles, tamarind, lime juice, kaffir lime, and coriander abound, minus the mellowing influence of coconut milk.” Four stars.

Pho Vietnam

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“In visits with different groups of Vietnamese food fans, much of the menu was explored with a particular emphasis on rarely seen dishes. Bot chien is a delicious heap of starchy, boxcar-shaped rice cakes scrambled with eggs — it would make an excellent brunch, if the city's mimosa mills only knew about it. So nuoc dua is a lovely ceramic bowl of gargantuan two-bite mussels immersed in a thick coconut-milk curry, which glistens a dreamy shade of green. But what about the pho? From among two dozen permutations, one is well advised to order the deluxe xe lua, which contains the full catalog of beef additions in a complex broth with cinnamon and star anise accents.” Three stars.

Pho Vietnam 87 Khushbu Shah

Flaming Kitchen 蜀客

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“The menu at Flaming Kitchen concentrates on ‘Szechuan Cuisine and Hot Pots.’ Yet when you flip it open, much of the Shanghai food remains, along with Sichuan cold dishes and hot pots, all-day dim sum, and Cantonese and Chinese-American stir fries, plus a smattering of northern Chinese, Taiwanese, and plain American fare, like french fries and chicken wings, all washed down with fruit shakes and bubble tea. Will this strange mix become the standard Chinese menu of the future? You could really stay within the Chef's Special section for your entire meal, especially since it contains desirable standards from Shanghai (braised pork elbow), Taiwan (basil chicken), Xinjiang (grilled lamb chop with cumin), and Dongbei (pork with preserved cabbage). There's a wealth of wonderful dishes from all over China, but the menu doesn't go into much depth where Sichuan is concerned.” Three stars.

Kings County Imperial

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“Welcome to a new category in the evolution of the Chinese restaurant in America, the Chinese restaurant not predominantly run by people whose ancestors lived in China. While the food at Kings County has been described as "classic Central Chinese cuisine" (whatever that means), the menu is a canny accumulation of regional recipes that have succeeded in America — mainly from Guangdong, Sichuan, Shanghai, and Northern China — only styled for modern bistro tastes. The flavors everywhere on the bill of fare have not been dialed down, to the restaurant’s credit. The best thing on the menu is ‘crispy garlic chicken’ ($24), a half bird with skin like a copper-colored potato chip that seems to float above the tender flesh. It rests in a generous pool of the restaurant’s soy sauce, which has been laced with honey. The marriage of East and West is subtle and terrific.” Three stars.

Garlic chicken Daniel Krieger

“The low-key diversity of breakfast and lunch at micro-eatery Dimes won't prepare you for the tour-de-force of dinner, when the gals get serious with their menu and its modern obsessions. Composed salads and grains dominate the culinary landscape. A dish with the discouraging name of spicy quinoa is anything but disappointing, featuring a miniature mountain of the putative miracle grain topped with a wad of beet relish, with a gorgeous array of fruit and vegetables radiating from it: bright red roasted peppers, wrinkly green asparagus, scattered yellow corn, and purple eggplant singed to a pleasant mush. Even carnivores are likely to writhe in pleasure at the lushness of the culinary landscape.” Four stars.


Kings Kitchen 金煌煲煲好

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“In the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge amidst queues of cheap Chinatown buses is Cantonese teashop King’s Kitchen. Chinese charcuterie is served in the conventional style over a mountain of perfect white rice, and there is also now a more Hong Kong-style alternative to these over-rice Cantonese barbecued meats called bo zai fan, designated on the menu as Rice Casseroles. Other big feeds at budget prices include congee (try the stomach-soothing sliced-fish version), the usual assortment of wonton and noodle soups (which you should skip as being fundamentally boring), and a catalog of noodle stir-fries, the best being beef chow fun (get the kind with the gravy) and soy sauce fried noodle — a rudimentary vegetarian conglomeration that’s a Hong Kong favorite. Some of the best dishes at King’s Kitchen are the soul of simplicity.” Three stars.

A clay pot filled with rice and eel.
King's Kitchen Soup
Paul Crispin Quitoriano

“Faro’s unusual formula emphasizes heirloom grains; a wood-burning oven; seasonal produce, boutique meats, and local seafood cooked in that oven; and a supreme dominance of pastas. Let’s call it an Italo-hipster hybrid. The eight pastas are the heart and soul of Faro. While many of them evoke Italian models, they are unique things onto themselves. The squid ink calamarati ($17) sees the chef playing a little joke. The recipe deploys a pasta shaped like squid rings, and actual squid ink generates its glossy midnight hue. But it uses no actual squid. The ink makes the pasta richer, an effect that’s goosed up by a sauce of curried coconut milk.” Three stars.