Posted 30 August 2015 - 09:16 PM
I think I'm going to do a dual Faro/Fritzl's write-up, and post it in the threads for each of those restaurants and the "Bushwick" thread as well. Because, taken together, they really do exemplify the state of the current Bushwick dining scene -- and also, as Wilfrid has already noted, raise similar issues about the "destination" designation.
Eating here gave me no insight into the intentionality of the spelling of this restaurants' name.
I was slightly disappointed only because of the high expectations I had developed. This is that kind of restaurant: if you just sort of happen upon it, you're very impressed (especially given its seemingly remote location) -- but if you go out of your way for it, you're apt to be a little bit disappointed (especially because of its inconvenient [to most] location).
Let's start with the interior. Many reviews laud it for its basic, inelaborate decor, paired with a high ceiling that gives a sense of luxurious spaciousness. Well, yeah. But my first impression on walking in is that it looked like every other undecorated Brooklyn restaurant. Which is fine: I like undecorated Brooklyn restaurants. But that's because decor then becomes a neutral element (in sharp contrast to the grotesque build-outs that have virtually killed a certain kind of Manhattan dining -- or at least made those Manhattan restaurants more about theater than dining) -- not something to be praised, as has been done here.
The food was very good, no denying that. I was confused by the menu, where the pastas cost about the same as the plates, but the prices are all well south of $30 and even $20: was it the standard Italian three-savory-course? Or were the pastas meant to be the equivalent of main dishes? If I had reread Wilfrid's Pink Pig review carefully before going, I'd have known -- but I hadn't. As Wilfrid correctly states (and the bartender didn't), this is indeed a three-savory-course set-up (and is fairly priced for it). (The bartender, OTOH, made it seem like eating a pasta as well as a plate would be feat attainable only if you carefully ordered lighter dishes -- forget the small starters. But that may be why the bartender is slender and I'm gigantic.) I didn't leave hungry -- but I could've eaten more. I'm making a big deal of this only for the benefit of readers who will go there in the future.
Anyway, as you all know, in typical Brooklyn fashion, this restaurant was opened by a chef who had made his name at someone else's restaurant (in this case, Northern Kingdom around the corner -- Bushwick's first "real" restaurant) and his wife ("mom and pop" is prevalent in BK). The conceit is that the food is as local as possible -- including the pasta, which is all made in-house from upstate grains (apparently in a lighthouse, hence the restaurant's name). Also, as is often the case this year, they have a big oven.
So the squid-ink calameretti with huge hunks of lobster were beautiful to behold, and extremely flavorful. And, from that oven, the octopus with potatoes was perfectly cooked (does anyone remember how to fuck up octopus anymore?).
Decent wine selection. Very good cocktails.
This is all very good food, in other words. But neighborhood. Despite the seeming uniqueness of the housemade pasta from New York State grains, it was just very good pasta. The food from the oven is just very good food from an oven. I'm not complaining; I enjoyed this dinner very much. I'd love to return. But in this Golden Age Of Upper-Mid-Priced Dining in New York, we can get food this good almost everywhere now.
So what to do with a restaurant like this? Damned if I know. If you go, I'm sure you'll enjoy. But I'm not sure I'm gonna tell you to get onto a train to get there.
Fritzl's Lunch Box
I've been promising to walk to Fritzl's for dinner for three summers now. I've finally done it.
Fritzl's is, in a way, even more confounding than Faro. Because -- as Wilfrid has already pointed out -- on the one hand it's more interesting, but on the other hand, it's much more modest. In fact, Fritzl's is in a way the paradigmatic example of the new kind of restaurant (you can't even call it NBC any more), that does only a few seemingly modest things, but does them very very well.
Fritzl's presents itself as a sandwich shop, and indeed about a third of the menu consists of (a total of three) sandwiches. There are also a (very) few small plates, and a (very) few platters. But the level of imagination and (especially) execution is astonishingly high for a place like this. There's no way this food should be anywhere near this good.
I started with a sweet corn and shrimp cake. What is there to say? It was flawlessly fried. It was surrounded by unidentifiable but interesting subsidiary bits that complemented it perfectly. There was a very spicy glob of green-chili condiment on the side to add kick. A beautifully conceived and executed plate.
Disappointingly -- this is the story of my life -- they did not offer any of their famous specials the evening I was there. So I was sort of relegated to the pork belly (I'll bet I'm the only MFFer who's had pork belly in 2015). No surprise that it was very well made, that the beans and other stuff served with it were interesting, tasty, and perfectly judged, etc.
So, as Wilfrid has said, Fritzl's may be a destination for food people because the cooking is so surprisingly good. If you told a "normal" person to go out of their way to go there, they'd think you were crazy. Even for me, I'll happily return when I'm in Bushwick, but I don't see myself traveling to go here in its own right. Nevertheless -- and here's the contradiction -- I highly recommend it to anyone reading this.
In a way, this new "destination" problem really results from an embarrassment of riches. Who could complain about that?