Factory Kitchen this week (longish!)
After hearing several recommendations from chow-y friends in the wine biz, especially specifically comparing it favorably to Bestia, we packed up and headed off to Factory Kitchen on a whim this week.
Corkage is $20/per, and though their wine list is small it has several intestine bottles on it (Gewurtz from Alto Adige, anyone?), and is fairly reasonable with the markup- I saw a Barolo I'd be glad to drink about $100.
With no res at 9:15 there was a slight wait, but they managed to seat us in the (full and VERY loud) dining room within a few minutes.
The servers are enthusiastic, if slightly overly so- this might be me, but I always get a bit annoyed at the whole "this is how you use our menu" schtick. Especially when the menu is separated in sections titled "to begin… to continue… for the table…," etc.
For 3 people we ordered something off each section except the baked stuffed focaccia (sounded too heavy with that much food coming).
Peperu (off the "to begin" section)- this was peppadews stuffed with a mild goat cheese (labelled as "soft cheese" on the menu) with arugula and a mild herb oil or pesto as plate dressing. Good, but not earth-shattering.
Frittura ("to continue")- thin leeks coated in a chickpea flour batter and deep fried. Delicious, if a bit greasy, and while I know the Italian aversion to dipping sauces, I felt they could use a side of something slightly acidic or pungent to cut through, even if it was just a slice of lemon on the side.
Mandilli ("to begin, Italian style")- this was the one dish I knew I had to try, given all the talk of it. I really think I had heard too much hype before trying it ("here's my first bite of Jonathan Gold's best dish of 2013…"), because while it was very good, we are still just talking about pasta with pesto here, people. I like the "handkerchief" pasta, and the pesto was an especially creamy version made w/ almonds instead of pine nuts (an economic decision, perhaps?), but at the end of the day it was good pasta that I had to cut with a knife. And I'm not sure how large I was expecting a $19 portion to be, certainly not Buca di Beppo sizes, but it came to about 3-4 bites for 3 people. Is that enough? You decide.
Porchetta- Ok, this was delicious, but it wasn't porchetta. This was a rolled, braised, pork belly, served over mirepoix. The $25 portion is 4 slices just under 1/4 inch thick, maybe 5-6 inches long. I was expecting more heft to the only pork entree on the menu, and when I tasted how good it was I was almost sad. Fortunately my SO isn't a huge pork fan.
Sea Robin- First time trying this fish. This my have been my favorite of the night. Firm, rich, almost mackerel-oily fish, served with a nice acidic puttensca-esque tomato sauce as a foil and grilled bread underneath to soak it up. Delicious. I'd order this every time.
The contorni of cippollini in agrodolce was delicious, as was the dessert of, well, I forget. I'm not a huge dessert guy.
My one issue with the dinner was the timing. We had initially only ordered a few items, and asked to keep one menu and order more in a moment, but the server cautioned that the kitchen would not be as adept at timing out the meal in that case. We tried to put the rest of the meal in as soon as possible due to that warning, and as a result the whole thing felt a bit rushed. The first two dished came almost simultaneously (which is fine for apps), and the pasta landed a few minutes later when we had just gotten about halfway through the first dishes. Likewise on the entrees- the pork arrived first (we ordered the fish dish a few minutes after the pork, but not that late into the meal) while we were still eating pasta and leeks.
All in all I think it is a promising place, maybe not as exciting as my beloved Bestia to me, but if they can work out a couple kinks I'd be happy to spend a night there...
I really like this place. Personally I like it better than Bestia. The food is good at both, I give a slight edge to FK, and Bestia (esp the chairs) is not as comfortable. Though I must say that I do have a bit of an in at FK.
Three things about it. It is not necessarily novel or complex. It is not inexpensive. It is VERY popular right now.
I posted elsewhere that I love the Mandilli. I think the "we are just talking about pasta with pesto" criticism is telling. Italian food can be simple. In fact much of the best imo is simple. I was skeptical when I first ordered it and now have had it each of the 4-5 times since. It almost adds to its appeal that such simplicity can be so delicious. Mentioning the price is fair, but to me it tastes great. I don't understand the "cut with a knife" comment? To me the texture is perfect and it has nevr been rough or overly chewy to me.
The prosicutto with burrata is quite good. The octopus is good. The sliced beef again is not inexpensive but the flavor is excellent. The porchetta is indeed a little different, and might be better with a slightly better outer crust. But it is really tasty to me. Disappointingly I have yet to go when they have the modenesi.
I think the winelist is decent and seems to have expanded a little. It certainly is not really over-priced like some lists. All in all, as a wino, I like F.K's winelist better. But I am admittedly not into orange wine and don't care if wine is natural.
I definitely think that with the popularity it is better to not go on a peak Fri or Sat. I also think that while a diner should consider it benefit to order piece-meal, the reality is that the place is super busy and popular. I go with that and do try to just compose my entire order to give in one shot.
re: john gonzales
Re the mandilli, it was well made, not chewy or tough. I just felt that the shape was "fad-ish".
I am a huge fan of Italian food, and have travelled fairly extensively through Italy, and I do appreciate the simplicity of good ingredients treated right.
But I just feel that, given the mantra of "right shape to right sauce," what's the point of saucing something I then have to cut into bits?
What a disappointment! After hearing so many great things about Factory Kitchen, we went last night. It was Saturday night and the restaurant was very busy. Indeed it was so loud that it was very difficult to communicate with either the staff or each other. To me even just eating in this noise is painful...forget about dining. Furthermore, many of the staff were running about in a somewhat controlled chaos...hardly an environment for a relaxing meal.
If all of the food was spectacular, perhaps I could tolerate the noise and chaos. Most of the food was quite good, but certainly not outstanding. The martinis were carefully measured (small) and not cheap. The handkerchief pasta with pesto that everyone is raving about is very good, but not special...and at $19 ($26 with t/t) it's outrageously expensive. My duck entree was just good, not at all special. Indeed it was sort of tasteless, more like chicken. My partner's fish and the broccoli side were good, but also not special. The dessert cannoli were excellent!
Another thing, we felt rushed from the moment we were seated. Everything we ordered to begin with came instantly, and the staff were hovering over us waiting to grab away our plates as soon as they were emptied. We were whisked through a complete dinner in an hour. But...if truth be told, the noise was so horrific we were relieved to get out.
With cocktails, a shared starter, 2 entrees, one side, and a shared dessert...and a bottle of very inexpensive wine our tab was $230. This was not money well spent for good but not great food, unpleasant atmosphere and rushed service.
I thought the handkerchief pasta with almond pesto was very good, but do you truly think it was worth $25-26 (with tax/tip)? I'm a good home cook, but by no means a trained chef, and I'm quite certain that using store bought fresh pasta and making an almond pesto at home, I can produce a very close replica for very little money and minimal effort.
I make my pasta by hand at home, and can make the sauce if needed, too. That's not my problem with the dish. It is admittedly quite good, if not one of their best dishes. My issue is that it is about 3 pasta sheets on a plate for 20 bucks.
I mean, I already suspect the reason they are touting the sauce as "almond pesto" is the sky-high price of pine nuts these days, and the pasta itself is by nature a cheap ingredient, so why couldn't they pile up some more on my (pricey) plate?