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...