265 Lafayette Street, off Prince
$50 for two, BYOB for now, with tip
I remember loving Falai when I visited two years ago. A panetteria has opened down the block since then, and now a cafe on the west side. Cafe Falai is BYOB and closes at 8pm while they wait for their liquor license. The waiter entertained me while I waited for my two dining companions. They were so late he lent me his cell phone so that I can play Boggle. He told me he had only been working there for three days, but as soon as my group showed up, it seemed it was his first stint as a waiter, ever.
The menu is not much different from the original Falai. Our beautiful bowl of caramelized onions came with a dot of yolk. Before we finished raving about how it looked, the waiter grabbed a spoon, stirred the yolk and scooped up the onions to distribute in our small bowls. He left and returned with a small pot of consommÃ© and poured the broth in our bowls and then left again to take everything away. Our delicate onion soup looked abused. It looked like we were eating chunky tea, but the waiter obviously thought he was giving us extra love. Fortunately, he left us mostly to ourselves the rest of the night. (We tried to laugh with him when he burped while giving us our check.) The breaded and fried mozarella was incredibly light and the balsamic dressing over the frisÃ© was exceptional. I was just a tad disappointed that it came with only five small golden beets. The pappardelle with mushrooms was good, served with buttered sauce and sage. The branzino was perfectly cooked. Its crisp skin gave way to the tender white meat. I loved that it soaked in soupy pesto with mini Brussel sprouts and grape tomatoes. The veal meatballs were less adventurous, however, and the octopus, I thought, was undersalted and too soft. Because chef Iacopo Falai was a pastry chef at Le Cirque 2000 back in the days, we didn’t want to skip the cafe’s dessert offerings. We ordered a citrus tart which I loved because of its gingery taste, but my companions preferred the light and flaky apple pastry. I would like to go back for their baked goods and cup of illy coffee the next time I visit. I just hope that the waiter is not there before dinner service.
Iacopo Falai’s first restaurant