We decided to venture out of our 5 block radius this Saturday and after much searching, scored a 9pm reservation at Caffe Falai. Both of us have dined at the now closed and higher end Falai that used to be located on Clinton Street but we had never tried Caffe Falai. To be honest, I thought it was more of a lunch and pannini spot so never care to have dinner there.
The interior is alot bigger (and fancier) than I thought it would be. This isn’t just a sandwich shop! There is a white theme with crystal chandeliers running through the restaurant – to be honest? It reminded me of a cheesy club you might find in South Beach but it’s not about that…it’s about the food for me.
We decided to share an appetizer, get a pasta plate and main course each.
Deciding between the veal meatballs, the bufalo mozz and octopus, we decided that the octopus would probably be the most unique option.
Very tender morsels of baby octopus are served with black squid ink, sliced and roasted fingerling potatoes, fried capers and what tasted like parsnip puree. It was very well done. Not a trace of chewiness.
For pasta, Cookie Monster got the agnolotti pasta stuffed with goat cheese and topped with wild mushrooms ragù:
The pasta at Caffe Falai is all home made. This plate was plentiful (unlike mine) and I loved the contrast of the tangy goat cheese filling against the earthier more richer notes of the mushroom ragu. That ragu really made it for me – it was so full of flavor and meaty.
I got the ravioli stuffed with scallops in a fennel saffron puree and topped with thyme butter sauce:
This dish is actually alot lighter than you think. The scallop filling is very very delicate and the fennel saffron puree seemed to only accentuate this light as air, melt in your mouth texture.
Main course, Cookie Monster got the Falai hamburger (so to speak) – it’s florence meat veal with bufala, caramelized onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, tabasco, and mayo all on brioche. It’s served with homemade potato chips.
Interior shot of the burger:
This was a thick juicy burger that somehow managed to be delicate because it was made with ground veal. It was delicious and interesting but I have to say, I was REALLY too obsessed with my main course to be bothered with a burger.
I got the branzino with porcini mushrooms, napa cabbage, roasted red onion and red wine reduction:
Side note: alot of reviews had mentioned that the portions at Caffe Falai were really small for the price. I must disagree. Look at this portion, it was two large filets of branzino…perfectly cooked and moist branzino might I add. I tried the porcini mushroom and cabbage laying beneath the fish first and was BLOWN AWAY. I did not expect such delicious flavors. I love the texture of cooked cabbage and porcini is one of my favorite type of mushrooms for it’s excellent umami flavors. The comination just did it for me. I must add that I’m almost very certain that Falai uses kimchi in this dish. There were pieces of cabbage sliced exactly the way you find in a jar of kimchi and the flavors were almost identical. It tasted like kimchi that has been rinsed off of the spicy fermenting liquid and maybe even steeped in water to reduce the strong spicy garlic flavors kimchi has right out of the bottle. If I am correct, I think this was quite clever because the kimchi added the right amount of seasoning and acid this dish needed. This was one amazing dish.
For dessert Cookie Monster got the tiramisu (good but nothing special)
I got the crepe cake. (This is why I read reviews prior to a restaurant visit – I had read this was a must have)
Ok this cake is ridiculous. I love custard and creamy desserts and this nails both. It’s several layers of soft crepe interspersed with layers of creamy custard like filling. The top was carmelized very similar to creme brulee. It was amazing. The velvety layers of crepe….and it wasn’t super sweet. Cookie Monster had dessert envy. We just found our “go to” cake for future birthdays and celebrations. They apparently sell a small individual portion and a larger version at the bakery next door. Definitely getting for an upcoming birthday celebration!
Caffe Falai…I have no idea why I waited so long. The meal was delicious: start to finish.
Caffe Falai, 265 Lafayette, New York, NY