Jules eats world.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


(Note: I'm abandoning my cutesy-creative titles so posts on specific restaurants are easier to find.)

I walked into Falai on a beautiful Saturday night around 8pm, never expecting to actually score a table in the back garden, yet alone anywhere in the restaurant. The host/sommelier, an Italian guy wearing (surprise!) hip glasses with heavy black frames, was standing behind the counter. He eyed me. "How many will you be?" he asked. "Two," I said. "Two girls...?" he asked hopefully. Alas for him, no. Fortunately, he found it in his heart to offer us a table in the back garden, until a 9:15 reservation came in. It was a perfect arrangement, since my friend Hong Kong Hefner (it's his DJ name, no kidding) had to leave at that time to catch a movie.

Falai is a striking restaurant, design-wise, and its most prominent feature is the lack of color. The walls are white, the chairs are white, the floors are white -- you get the idea. In another restaurant, the sterility would be oppressive, but here, since the tables are close together and the service is warm, the feeling of intimacy survives. The back garden is lovely, though it's easy to forget you're actually outside; large, white umbrellas block all but a glimpse of the tenements above.

The look of the place is a clue that you're not in for a rustic Italian experience -- or even a now-typical, more refined New York Italian experience. Falai, in other words, is a less challenging companion to the adventurous cuisine of wd-50, less than a block away. My perfectly tender-chewy-crisp octopus starter was accompanied by candied celery and fried sage. Hong Kong Hef had a delicious pasta starter whose details I can't exactly remember, since I can't find a menu posted online anywhere. His main course was more memorable -- a special of seared tuna with walnut-citrus paste and fennel cream. The walnut paste reminded me, strangely enough, of a more delicious version of the Sabra-brand vegetarian "chopped liver" I buy at the supermarket. My branzino was good, but not quite to the level of the tuna. It was served atop a fava bean puree.

The meal wasn't cheap, about $65 pp with two glasses of wine and after tax and tip. But it seems to me that next time, when giving up the table isn't necessary, when I can linger over my a bottle of vino instead of a glass, on another cool evening in the garden -- it'll be even more worth it. Even if the Italiano didn't so much as wink at me on my way out.


Anonymous The Dermanator said...

Tell that fiancee of yours to take you to Il Mulino already! I want to hear you describe the antipasta!!!

10:22 AM


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