I have passed by Faustina hundreds of time, always looking over my shoulder when I continue along 300 South, and I decided – enough is enough…I’m going in!
At first I noticed the clean, crisp, vibrant interior decorations. Faustina has a polished feel to it. Then I noticed that the space was a bit empty and even overheard the staff nonchalantly jest about this. The restaurant was so empty it was somewhat eerie…but as the tables began to fill up the feeling dissipated. My guest and I were given the tough option of where to be seated: inside or outside. Outside offered a private patio which is protected from Broadway vs inside which extended an air-conditioned sharply decorated dining room. We decided to sit in the dining room next to a few big windows that certainly made the place seem larger.
We studied the one page menu and quizzed the server on a few items. Beyond the special the server gave the impression that everything is fresh and made in-house. I was ready to roll up my sleeves and see what Faustina has to offer!
We simultaneously got an in-house made amuse bouche of focaccia bread and an order of the polenta & short rib appetizer. The focaccia was outstanding. The polenta in itself was extraordinarily fluffy. No doubt it would be the best cake to have in replacement of an English muffin in an egg’s benedict. The short rib was pulled, juicy, tender and full of flavor. Yet, the sauce … what was it about the sauce? Did it have too much of a mushroom flavor to it that kinda marred the final product?
The linguini with clams highlighted the hand-made tender noodles that bathed in a delicate tomato-based sauce. There was certainly a good amount of clams in shell, but unfortunately the taste of clams waslost in the flavor of the sauce. What could be done about this? Perhaps they could have added a bit of garlic to the clams before adding them to the noodles.
The three cheese gourmet macaroni was too much for me to consume due to its significant richness. Kudos to Faustina for putting enough salt in the dish and for having an appropriate temperature, yet, this dish would be ideal as an appetizer. As an entrée I acknowledge that it was prepared with more cheese than a cheese platter. There was nothing offered to cut such a richness. What a bummer.
Even though I didn’t finish my entrée I couldn’t pass up dessert! We ordered our own individual vanilla bean panna cotta, which was perfectly creamy, but the presentation wasn’t on par with the rest of the dishes we received. It wasn’t that perfect looking dish that shouted out, “Look at my fashionable, edible cuisine!” Instead it looked like it was chilling in a ramekin for awhile. Also the tiny mint garnish was a bit annoying. If you are going to place a garnish on such a dish, please make it at least visible. However, Faustina gets points for offering the right amount, and for hooking us up with a pistachio shortbread cookie and some citrus fruit to make us feel somewhat healthy while eating dessert. Finally, a big high-five for adding avanilla bean pod, as opposed to vanilla extract…that let’s be honest – just wouldn’t cut it.
The service was good, but a bit unenthusiastic – nobody offered a smile. There was no vibe. Is this the everyday culture of this establishment? Clean, polished with no warm and fuzzy feeling? No doubt our server was doing his job, but there was no connection and there seemed like there should have been with the amount of communication we had. I also wish some plates wouldn’t have lingered on our table as long as they did.
The final verdict: the menu was safe, too safe. Nothing on the menu really made our mouths water. The chef presented the ingredients on a well polished clean plate, which made me wonder if he is using a template on every dish. The presentation matched that of the interior of the restaurant – fashionably clean. Yet, this restaurant is not so unique. They offer an American bistro cuisine that you can find anywhere in the USA. Faustina – you are not offering anything that I would go out of my way to go back to, I’m sorry to say. What’s your edge? Should I have ordered the lasagna and blueberry souffle instead? Would that change my mind? Ultimately, I would maybe look at other similar restaurants to try before I would rush back.
Rating — I would be willing to return.