I went to the original outpost of the now three-chain franchise of this popular high-end Italian restaurant recently. My impressions of it were of a kind of high-end, casual with an glinting edge bistro that gave me an impression of Europe. Mostly middle-aged couples sat at tables and enjoyed the food. Somehow they struck me as the types of people who had heard Falai was "a good restaurant" and were going there for that reason than for the food per se. Though I could just be projecting.
Anyhow, the service was excellent, if slightly fawning. I ordered a buffalo ricotta flan, with pine nuts, cauliflower, and a candied apple to start. This was bland and unsatisfying, and the ingredients did not mesh into a coherent dish.
My second course, a papardelle with trumpet royale mushroom ragu, was considerably better. A nice, hearty, slightly nutty taste to that made me want to keep eating. A side of fig puree provided a touch of sweetness that cut the savor of the ragu and added a tasty complexity to the dish. The presentation of the dish was fairly plain, though, and I couldn't help but think that though I enjoyed this dish, it is not a dish that showed culinary magnificence.
Dessert, though, was something else. Falai's passionfruit souffle is ultralight, airty, subtly fruity, and has sugar coating the walls of the souffle that remind me of candyshops and childhood. This was a really topnotch souffle, no question about it.
Overall, except for that souffle, though, Falai strikes a note of indifference in me, and while it certainly isn't bad, it didn't win a place in my heart.
The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/