We went there last Friday and had very mixed results. We were very early and had the place to ourselves initially but it was pretty full by the time we left. Where we sat it didn't feel too close, though.
The food was all over the map. I was really looking forward to trying the hiramasa. With the combination of rhubarb and strawberries I was expecting a combination of sweet and tart but it was only sweet. The flavor of the rhubarb was missing and all I could taste was strawberries and some kind of mint. It also completely masked the flavor of the fish.
For my second course I had the quail which was fantastic. I actually ended up picking up the wing and leg with my fingers to make sure I got every morsel. Great stuffing in it and I could have eaten ten (or twenty) of them!
For my third course I got the ribeye steak and it was not a good pick. No flavor in the meat. I'd ordered it medium rare and I guess it came that way but the outside was a pale brown with no char or browning at all. It just wasn't red or pink anymore. The plate also came with fresh peas that were unevenly cooked. Some were mushy and some were hard and crunchy. But they did have a great pea flavor. The dish seemed to missing some essential kick. When the same dish came out about 10 later to the table next to mine I found out that they something on theirs that was missing from mine - thick slabs of beautiful tomatoes with a vinaigrette. I think that would have helped overall but the steak would have still been a disappointment. When I pointed the missing side from my plate to the waitperson they apologized and gave us a free dessert. So we ordered two desserts instead of the one we normally get. One of them was the cheese plate that had 3 cheeses that were very similar on it. Again, I wouldn't recommend it.
If we go again I'll just stick with the first two courses and skip the entree entirely. The smaller plates were visually stunning. In fact, when the entree came out we joked "where were the flower petals?". My husband was happy with the first two courses but his entree was also just so-so.
All in all, very expensive for what you get.
I think that Josh is still finding his way and creating his own style. What I liked about the beet dish was in addition to it being terrific as a stand alone dish, it demonstrates a logical progression of the style of cooking he did when he was working for Dan Barber. Give Josh another 6-9 months and he will probably come up with other good dishes innthe same vein. If you are up in New Jersey horse country, the cuisine Juan Cuevos at the Pluckemin Inn has many of the same attributes as Josh's cuisine. But that's because he was the executive chef at Blue Hill in Manhattan.
The Pluckemin Inn
359 US Highway 202, Bedminster, NJ 07921
I tried this place recently and wasn't crazy about it. First, immediately upon entering I caught a not-so-nice whiff of raw fish that is slightly past its prime. I read in Laban's review that "There is no walk-in fridge or freezer, requiring that all ingredients be used quickly and efficiently". That sounds nice, but if they don't want the place to smell like a fishmonger maybe they should get one and keep their fish in it?
We had the beet steak, after reading all the raves about it I was expecting something more than a well-roasted beet, which is what I got. It was decent but nothing exciting. The hiramasa dish was just poorly conceived, way too sweet and there was a minty element that made the dish reminiscent of mouthwash. The main courses were perfectly cooked but again, not terribly interesting, and inexplicably plated: the beans with the pork were cut so small that it was very hard to get them in the same bite as the pork, and like sltr's chicken dish it just looked like something you'd get for dinner at a conference at a big hotel (better, though, thanks to the better ingredients and like I said, they were cooked perfectly). The lamb dish was probably my favorite thing we had, perfectly cooked like the pork but it also had some of the same problems, like the elements being scattered about with no good way to integrate them into bites.
The general impression I got was that the chef has talent (really, I've rarely had pork cooked so perfectly) but that the dishes we had need some re-thinking, some desperately (the hiramasa). The best things we had were the simplest, although serving a roasted beet and calling it "beet steak" is a bit *too* simple for a $10 dish.
Also, sltr must have sat in a different section than I did, because when I was there the next table was 8 inches away from ours. Two parties actually refused to be seated there before the restaurant was finally full and someone was forced to sit there.
I finally ate here last night. I'm afraid I have to agree with Buckethead - impeccable ingredients and flawless cooking, but dull and uninspired flavors.
I had: 1) Bloody beet steak. 2) Softshell crab. 3) Squab leg & breast. and 4) Chocolate napoleon.
I had to order the bloody beet steak because it's apparently what they're known for. It was two thick slabs of nicely roasted beet set atop a smear of yogurt, garnished with pea tendrils. As Buckethead said, decent but not really exciting.
The second course, softshell crab (actually half of a softshell crab), was pan-roasted and served with a not very flavorful creamy sauce with pieces of lump crabmeat and a drizzle of lemon oil. The crab was perfectly cooked, but not a very memorable dish. And who serves *half* a softshell crab anyway? I'd rather have the whole crab and omit the lump crabmeat in the sauce.
The main course, squab leg and breast (*half* of a squab, by the way, for a $29 main course), was served with baby carrots, duck confit, and pan drippings. Again cooked perfectly, but ultimately forgettable.
The dessert, a chocolate napoleon, was chocolate mousse layered with salted fried phyllo and chantilly. This was actually a wonderful dessert, but did not redeem the rest of the meal.
Other than the dessert, the flavors throughout the meal really failed to pop. Given the prices and apparent ambition of the place, it is a fail. I also think it's weird that the softshell crab and squab were served in half-portions. I definitely didn't leave hungry, but the way the menu is laid out you are basically ordering an extra course. By comparison, the similarly-priced (but much better) squab entree at Babbo is served whole, and even at Vetri the softshell crab appetizer is whole.
Nothing I had at F&F was *bad* per se, but I was just not impressed and I can't recommend it. The place always seems packed and it's pretty difficult to get in. To me it's just not worth the trouble, so I probably won't be back.
It is good to agree to disagree. Perhaps l like the idea of simplicity so the flavor of the item shows through and others find this boring. no matter l really liked this place. Have been there a few times and everything has been perfect. Granted for me was not thrilled with the softshell, a whole one. as it was fried not sauteed ,but that is my preference.
The plat on my trips has been the chicken in hay and we got all thighs as requested, one of best chicken dishes ever, the lamb loin and shoulder, was perfection, and a strange huge pork chop that may be my fav pork chop ever.
l always order the beet and look forward to it every time. l have found the beet to be crispy on the edges and cooked more thus l assume a saute process for the slices goes on somewhere in the process.
Skip desserts as l do always everywhere so cannot comment.
Maybe I was there on an off night, but based on the other reports here I don't think so. It might have been interesting if the beet was crispy on the edges, but that's not how mine came out. It was a simple roasted beet.
I am ok with the idea of elevating an ingredient with simple techniques, but in the case of F&F don't think they achieved that. This is a problem when a meal can easily top $60 per person before tax, tip, and beverage. And I realize you save money by bringing your own wine, but I don't view that as a feature. I would be much more forgiving if F&F achieved excellence, but they merely achieve ok-ness.
Right around the corner you have Amis, a restaurant with a similar "less is more" philosphy to F&F, but for the most part successfully executed (I know Buckethead would disagree, but I like Amis) and cheaper. Why is Amis more successful? The difference is that the chef at Amis understands more the importance of textural contrasts, salt, and carbohydrates (which are almost completely absent from the menu at F&F). The techniques at Amis are simple, but in many cases are much more labor-intensive or time-consuming than anything done at F&F. They make their own pasta and salumi. Some items are brined for days and/or braised for hours, ie the lamb and the ragus. I don't see that kind of love in the food at F&F. It felt more like the chef can cook, but he was mailing it in.
My partner and I went there a couple weeks ago and thought the service was great, but were mixed on the food. I just read the unfortunate yelp reviews which were pretty surprising to me and not what we experienced. The menu was tweaked, even from diners several days before us, so it's perhaps not so helpful to comment on any one dish. I'm not sure if this is due to fine-tuning of dishes or availability of ingredients, but it's something to keep in mind if you go. If you're like me and like to do a little research before dining at new restaurants, it can be a little disappointing to not see something that sounded really good on the menu. No less than half the "sample menu" on their website was different than what was actually available, although some were minor adjustments such as changes in accompaniments.
The overall theme to me felt like simplicity and letting ingredients shine through. A good example was their "bloody beet steak", which was essentially that... and not a whole lot more. I enjoyed the pure beet flavor, but after an entire steak-sized portion, it did get a little one-note towards the end. Two stand-outs were the pork belly which was perfectly executed with an interesting mingling of flavors to balance the fat, and I also really enjoyed the fish of the day, which was simple, yet very well seasoned. I was disappointed to find that the interestingly-worded chicken with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms looked like what one might expect for a large and anonymous hotel-catered event. Each element carefully partitioned and independent. Much better prepared than a hotel chicken yet still a little... boring?
One thing that I really enjoyed about the restaurant was the ambiance. It is a small place, but unlike other restaurants that practically sit you next to strangers, there is SPACE between parties, which is nice. The decor is fairly basic - I don't remember much on the walls but I thought it had a warming feel. It definitely added to my experience there.
Overall, knowing what I know now, I would still go at least once. With my limited months left here in Philly, I'm not sure if it will win a repeat trip, however.