Faun is a new restaurant in the space last occupied by R&D 606 on Vanderbilt Ave. in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The place bills itself as Italian, but it's only nominally Italian. What it really is, is Brooklyn "new American" masquerading as Italian. So there's a three-course dinner former, with antipasti, primi, and secondi, and the primi are all pasta -- but there isn't a traditional Italian dish on the menu. It's all market-driven new American, in an Italian format.
So my antipasto was watermelon, vacuum-treated in some way to intensify the flavor (which worked), with a very heavy dusting of ricotta salata and some oregano an pumpkin seeds. You might say that the cheese and the oregano were Italian elements. But you also might say, accurately, that the chef made up this dish to showcase what's at the greenmarket. None the worse for that: it was very good (and very refreshing on one of the least comfortable days I can remember).
Similarly, my secondo was squab with gooseberries. I don't ever remember seeing gooseberries used in Italy (everybody knows they're a part of Yorkshire cuisine). To be frank, I ordered this dish mainly to see how a competent chef handles an ingredient I'm enamored of but am always afraid I misuse. Here, the gooseberries were cooked whole, served alongside the squab with some sweet potatoes, adding a mild tang to a side section that otherwise risked blandness. The squab itself was almost perfect: good for this kitchen.
The pasta was perhaps the giveaway as to what they're doing here. Billed as quadrucci (pasta sheets) with tomatoes and stracciatella, it wasn't at all what you'd have expected. Rather, the tomatoes were little sungolds (I assume), served whole slightly cooked, in a bath of brown butter, the cheese beside them. A much more new American than Italian dish. But lovely and delicious. And just perfect for a too-hot summer's evening.
When I went to The Finch a couple of days before, I wondered what happened to the bartender I had spent my dinner with a few days after opening. He's running the beverage program here. The cocktail list is exceptionally appealing. The wine program is a good start -- although it needs to expand. The very reasonably priced by-the-glass list (this is getting to be a welcome Vanderbilt Ave. trend) places an odd emphasis on Greek wines -- but they're good Greek wines. Beyond that, it's telling (in terms of the restaurant's intentions in regard to cuisine) that the list trends French rather than Italian. Good, interesting stuff, though.
Faun may or may not be a destination restaurant. It's certainly worth a visit, though, by visitors who are unable to get into Olmsted down the street. While Mitchell's Soul Food will always reign supreme (as long as its owners choose to keep it open), it's odd to see my street turning into a real restaurant row.
ETA -- COMP DISCLOSURE: The bartender correctly intuited that my favorite amaro is dell'Erborista, and gave me a glass.
Also, Joe will want to know that the hostess complimented my outfit -- particularly my hat and shirt -- on my way out.