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Falai


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A Parmesan fondue was the bath in which broad, cup-shaped tortelli, some filled with goat cheese and others with apple compote, reclined. A latticed Asiago tuile of sorts sloped over medallions of beef tenderloin, which were pan-seared to a beautiful medium rare and caressed by a Brunello di Montalcino sauce that edged up on being too sweet but pulled back at the last pivotal moment.
I had a slightly overcooked chicken entree and a bland risotto, the basil pesto in it lacking any nutty, minty or salty charge.

Falai (Frank Bruni)

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i guess that would make me a pastry chef leashed

as usual sort of good review

i guess new yorkers will have to remember to use chicken livers generally, and always serve "italian" food, even if bruni's number one complaint is that there are too many italian restaurants.

I am perplexed by the review.

It is good to see a pastry chef recognized, like Heather at Lassi, as actually being able to prepare something.

I am looking forward to trying Falai.

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I find that there is a lack of chicken livers in New York Italian restaurants.. I will go to almost any Italian place solely for them having crositini toscana.. I know this isnt the best of indicators, but it shows me they are at least trying to be authentic..This certainly doesnt mean a restaurant needs to have this to be authentic.. My favorite variation recently has been livers in sage butter with balsamic reduction at Celeste.

Edit to add.. Oh yeah in terms of Falai, that polenta with chicken livers sounds great.. I would eat that for breakast right now.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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My one visit (so far) to Falai a few weeks ago was quite rewarding. Portion size is more in line with what you might see in Italy, so that a couple of primos and maybe a shared secondo (or two) are easily devoured, even leaving room for some dessert. Food was really good; and I especially remember the pastas as being wonderful. And the breads; we had a hard time trying to stop eating those!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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i guess that would make me a pastry chef leashed

as usual sort of good review

i guess new yorkers will have to remember to use chicken livers generally, and always serve "italian" food, even if bruni's number one complaint is that there are too many italian restaurants.

I am perplexed by the review.

It is good to see a pastry chef recognized, like Heather at Lassi, as actually being able to prepare something.

I am looking forward to trying Falai.

so am I....maybe this weekend.

despite the substantial anti-Bruni sentiment on this forum I'll defend him -- at least on Italian restaurants -- he seems to get these right (and catch some overlooked gems such as Petrosino)

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  • 2 months later...

agree he was right about both Falai and Petrosino, both very different but excellent and reasonable Italian, among the best in the city IMO. Had a fish special at Falai a few weeks back (alas, I cannot remember much about it or the name of the fish) that was about as perfectly cooked piece of fish as I have ever had. In general, Bruni seems to have good instincts on the LES, is this his populist streak or is Frank just a hipster at heart...?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wonderfully surprised by this place last weekend. For the price, I've not met anything like it in a while.

We started with an amuse of cantaloupe soup, which was uninteresting but worked to pique the pallate. Immediately after we were offered from the selection of bread that comes routinely out of the oven. No oil, butter, accoutrements, just the bread-- a very nice way to shift the focus on to the product itself. They were great little loaves, so good that I couldn't deny at least a piece each time the nice bread-fellow came round throughout the meal. Perfect crusts and interesting seasonings (one memorabe was a square-inch loaf of black cabbage foccacia).

We shared an appetizer of Buffalo Ricotta that beautifully airy and melty and went perfectly with the Ribolla Gialla I selected.

For entrees I had a special: duck breast with white asparagus and turnip puree.

My partner had the pork miale seasoned by fennel and those ever-present cocoa nibs, with potato puree.

I would go back for both, particularly the duck, which was perfectly cooked and sauced.

The flavors and visual presentation point to a real focus in the kitchen. I was amazed by the subteties in flavor in each dish, especially for the price ($20-$24 entrees).

Dessert was unbelivable. A panna cotta with superflavored dried strawberries, and a commendable assortment of petit-fours. When a restaurant gets those touches right--really good petit-fours, with care put into their making-- that's what keeps me coming back.

Dessert wine was a Soave Recioto with nice acid to cut the panna cotta.

Wine service was good, but our server(s) were spacey, unorganized and totally unhelpful regarding the menu. Nothing too horrible, but food that good should be better served.

The wine list is small, and pricier than the menu would dictate, but the selections are fine and appropriate to the food.

Edited by raxelita (log)

Drink maker, heart taker!

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But what is "pork miale"? A Yahoo search produced no results.

Why, it's "pig pork" of course. :smile: As opposed to other kinds of pork, one assumes. Kinds of like "shrimp scampi" in that respect. Maiale (my-AH-leh, for the record) is Italian for "pig," and is often used to mean "pork" ("carne di maiale).

It's an easy misunderstanding to make given Falai's menu layout, which looks like this:

Pollo chicken cooked in the pot,cipollini baby potatoes and fresh herbs

Maiale pork filet with fennel seeds, cocoa nibs and potatoes purea

Manzo Beef medallions with sautéed spinach, raisin Brunello di Montalcino sauce

It would be very easy for a non-Italian-speaker to interpret "Pollo," "Maiale" and "Manzo" as the names of dishes rather than "chicken," "pork" and "beef." We are much more used to seeing things like this, where the name in bold would be the name of the preparation:

Risotto fresh peas, vialone nano rice and chicken stock

In that case, one would rightly call it "fresh pea risotto."

--

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  • 4 months later...

Had a terrific evening @ Falai last week. They had just been reviewed in NY magazine - so we really didn't know what kind of scene we might encounter - but it was delightful and special and totally unpretentious.

Everyone there was so accomodating and nice, i had to write about it here. The food was delicious and inventive - but the experience was made even better thanx to a dynamite service staff.

Some examples: a sommelier/manager (Alberto, i believe) who walked us through the wine list and selected a terrific wine for us that no one had ever tried before. Right in our price range, too.

Their panetteria had just opened across the street, and as we were leaving the restaurant, in walked the panetteria's new manager, a woman named Alisha. It was late but we asked her, are you still open? We want to check it out. She replied, i'm here for just a second; c'mon over after you're done here and i'll show you around.

Well ... wow. She was not only gracious & friendly, but she pressed us to take extra loaves of bread home (as a gift!) and cut up pieces of a pineapple pastry (not a danish but you get the picture) and 2-3 other items for us to sample. She said, hey, it's late and we're closing anyhow; why should we waste this? Enjoy it, it's on the house. Needless to say, we stuck a lot of $$ in the tip jar.

Hospitality like that is rare. We will definitely be back.

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I've enjoyed my one meal (so far) at the panetteria - and got to take home a loaf of black cabbage bread, also on the house as we were evidently the last customers of the evening. This is another great addition to the neighborhood...the pastries are so good, I'm worried about starting to go there on a more regular basis!

Edited by weinoo (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 5 months later...

Great Expectations New York City Entry #104 Falai

My night's quest for the perfect Italian restaurant continues. Halfway through a recent dinner at Falai, I thought that the contest might have reached its finale, but, alas, not quite yet. Paradise requires astonishing entrees, not only bravura performances in the preliminaries.

Falai is a small, vest-pocket restaurant, owned and operated by Iacopo (YA-capo) Falai on the Lower East Side's rendition of restaurant row along Clinton Street, near Rivington. The restaurant is compact although not precisely jammed, and is nicely decorated in shades of white, gray, and brown. The space feels more open than it has any right to be architecturally, although the noise level from neighborly yolps is challenging. Falai's service is cordial, the staff comely, and the atmosphere a cross between Downtown and Milan. The space does not feel luxe, so much as energized, and on a Thursday evening the small restaurant was packed and somewhat humid. Falai has become a destination. (It is a destination with a nearby bakery - Panetteria at 79 Clinton. If my roll with flavorful black kale was typical, the bakery is a destination, too).

Our meals began with confidence and brilliance. Chef Falai presented one of the most startling amuses around. We were served a small cup filled with white: a danger of judging a cook by his cover. Here was apple mousse, mascarpone cheese, bits of red onion, and black caviar. It was splendid. The apple and mascarpone transformed what might otherwise have been a tired caviar cliche into magic. Fruit and caviar are no longer an unheard of pair.

My antipasto matched the amuse in style and zing: Polenta Bianca with Chicken Liver, Dried Dates and Chanterelles. What insight into the possibilities of food! Let no man fear chicken livers. The dates and chanterelles added a rich and startling fruitiness to the crisp polenta and pillowy liver. A companion's Polipo (Octopus) with Cannellini Bean Puree, Candied Celery, Olive Oil, and Fried Sage was evocative as well.

As pasta I selected Foiade: short strips of pasta, wild mushrooms with beef jus, and baby spinach (with a few fig slivers). Here was another admirable dish that was less startling in its flavor combination - although the strips of fig added surprise - but no less sturdy for that. The al dente pasta had the rich, buttery flour that one expects in such a creation, and the mushrooms - a theme of Chef Falai's cuisine - were a dusky plus.

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But then we reached the Carne course, that moment in the evening when chefs from Batali on down seem to lose their map. My Manzo - Short Ribs with Chanterelles, Parsnips, and Scallion Brulee - was unfortunately dry. I admired the bravery of a scallion brulee, which, if it was not a true brulee, made a nice pudding. Yet, the ribs lacked a distinct flavor. This was not entirely a failed dish, yet not an ethereal one, and a fair distance from what had appeared previously. There seemed no flair in technique to balance the heavy solidity of the beef. The consensus of my dinner partners was that their courses - pesce and carne - added no "extra" to the ordinary.

gallery_26747_3173_368787.jpg

Dolci are classed as "Classici" and "Non Classici." Celery Cake with Strawberry and Rhubarb with Milk Gelato was among the latter. The dish was strongly reminiscent of Strawberry Shortcake; any celery taste had been muted. This was not a dessert that showed the same spark of the antipasti, although it was conventionally sweet and fruity.

gallery_26747_3173_451215.jpg

Does Falai's early courses reveal the true vision of a grandly small restaurant or whether the final courses better depicted an establishment that belongs in the solid middle of the tangle of Italian joints on this tempestuous Isle.

Falai Cucina Italiana

68 Clinton Street (near Rivington)

Manhattan (Lower East Side)

212-253-1960

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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But then we reached the Carne course, that moment in the evening when chefs from Batali on down seem to lose their map.

Putting aside whatever I might think of Babbo and Del Posto, this is certainly what I (and my friends) think of Falai.

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  • 7 months later...

Could've been the fact that neither of us ordered a secondo, but a meal last Sunday night at Falai was pretty phenomenal. We had:

Bread -- Raisin, Onion-Rye, Baguette, Black Cabbage

Amuse Bouche -- Sweet Potato Soup with Five Spice Creme Fraiche

Buffalo Ricotta Flan -- pine nuts, wilted green salad, wild mushroom, smoked raisins

Polenta Bianca -- chicken liver, dried dates and wild mushrooms 'vellutata'

Fegato Grasso -- pan seared foie gras, braised lentils, marsala glazed chestnut, cauliflower mostarda

Insalata di Funghi -- seared, pickled and pan fried wild mushrooms, morell dusted slow poached egg, sesame puff pastry, parmesan fonduta

Tortelli -- 3 types, ricotta, butternut squash, pear tortelli, almond soup

Passion Fruit Souffle -- with passion fruit reduction

The items I ordered (the flan, the polenta, the tortelli and the souffle) were particularly good. The texture of the flan was flat out perfect, evidence of what was no doubt some very fresh ricotta. The flavors of the polenta dish worked remarkably well together, the rich chicken liver and the dried dates creating a very harmonious salty-sweet contrast, and the mushrooms adding an earthier element. The tortelli were clearly very fresh and cooked to a nice al dente. The almond soup provided an interesting "sauce" of sorts without at all masking or overwhelming the flavors of the three fillings. The souffle was wonderful, easily as good as the best I've ever had (at Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, fwiw). I will be back sometime, for sure.

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Had dinner at Falai last weekend..

Amuse of sweet potato soup with pickled cronses, five spice creme fraiche was excellent. Octopus salad was good, with a puree of chickpeas. The three mushroom salad with soft poached egg was good, texture on the porcini was interesting in a good way (might have been coated with cornmeal). Risotto with sausage and broccoli rabe was not up to snuff, with the broccoli rabe being a puree with sugar added to hopefully attenuate the bitterness. The gnudi were great, simple, tasty... Entree of cod cooked in the style of brandade was not good. This dish needs to be moved to the first course section, and be given some attention. Duck entree was ok, but the skin was not rendered at all. Dessert of passion fruit souffle was phenomenal!!! Drop dead gorgeous!!!

The various breads were very good, and the service and hospitality was extremely attentive! Overall, a good experience, but would opt for pasta instead of the entrees.

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Had dinner at Falai last weekend..

Amuse of sweet potato soup with pickled cronses, five spice creme fraiche was excellent.  Octopus salad was good, with a puree of chickpeas.  The three mushroom salad with soft poached egg was good, texture on the porcini was interesting in a good way (might have been coated with cornmeal).  Risotto with sausage and broccoli rabe was not up to snuff, with the broccoli rabe being a puree with sugar added to hopefully attenuate the bitterness.  The gnudi were great, simple, tasty... Entree of cod cooked in the style of brandade was not good.  This dish needs to be moved to the first course section, and be given some attention.  Duck entree was ok, but the skin was not rendered at all.  Dessert of passion fruit souffle was phenomenal!!! Drop dead gorgeous!!!

The various breads were very good, and the service and hospitality was extremely attentive!  Overall, a good experience, but would opt for pasta instead of the entrees.

Good call on the pickled crosnes in the amuse bouche. I'd forgotten about that.

And it sounds like your assessment of the souffle was much the same as mine. Phenomenal, indeed.

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The cronses were such a good shot of taste it made me laugh....who uses cronses anyway??? I love the usual response to whole cronses, "What the ____ is that?" Pickling them was a great prep...I am going to try to get some this week.

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