The Significant Eater and I took advantage of canceled reservations caused by this winter's latest snowstorm and booked a same day reservation at Faustina, Scott Conant's recently opened restaurant in the Cooper Square Hotel that has replaced the short-lived Table 8. I adored Conant's other restaurant, Scarpetta-- I have been dreaming of its duck and foie gras ravioli ever since my visit-- and had high hopes for Faustina, imagining it to be Scarpetta in trendier clothing. As it turns out, Faustina is nothing like Scarpetta in concept, looks, and from what we were served, quality.
Following the small plates trend, Faustina's menu is a collection of "tapas-style" dishes that are meant for sharing. There are sections for bread and olives, cheese and charcuterie, salads, raw bar selections, hot small plates, pastas and risottos, and side dishes. There are also two pricier large plates, a seared sirloin and a veal "porterhouse." If anything, the menu can be faulted for trying too hard to please the trendsetters who no doubt will descend upon the restaurant the moment the its PR flack pings the press release to Urban Daddy. Take note of all the buzzwords on the menu: there are three "truffled" dishes, a dish with duck egg (which was terrific), oysters in a mojito gelee, the ubiquitous pork belly, and, of course, a fried chicken dish lest anyone forget about Faustina in these fried chicken-obsessed times. Simply put, the menu is a fashionista's wet dream (and all in small plates!). In all fairness, I'm very much a truffle hound, I admire Conant's cooking, and I imagine most of these dishes are very nicely executed, but menu did make me chuckle as I read it.
The dishes that the Significant Eater and I tried were hit or miss. The restaurant is very new and its lack of publicity tells me that it is still working out its kinks before it ramps up its PR. My hope is that it will fix some of its faults because Scott Conant can do much better that what we were served at Faustina. Here is what we ate:
Grilled Ciabatta with Poached Duck Egg and Fonduta: It's hard to screw up a dish like this, but this was an excellent starter to satiate our appetites as we perused the rest of the menu. As I dipped a toast point into the creamy duck egg and cheese, I couldn't help but think of how great a finger food it would be if I was sitting on my couch watching a ballgame.
Black Truffle Risotto with Egg and Sea Urchin: This dish reads so well on paper. Unfortunately, it let me down. The risotto is soupy rather than creamy; it felt as if the kitchen took an ill-fated shortcut so as to not have to stir the risotto continuously. A huge disappointment.
Oxtail with Semolina Dumplings and Bone Marrow: This was the clear winner of the night. The hearty braised oxtail set atop bite-size pillows of semolina was pure comfort to eat during a snowstorm. As if it the rich oxtail was not enough, each dumpling was topped with a dollop of heavenly bone marrow.
Slow Roasted Escolar and Saba: The kitchen may want to rethink their method of slow roasting. The fish might as well have been a wool sweater as it was overcooked to the point of being dry and stringy. The slightly sweet saba (a condiment made of reduced grape must) was nice, but could not redeem the failure of the overcooked fish.
25 Cooper Square (at The Cooper Square Hotel)
New York, NY