I wandered in for dinner at Faun on that first cold, drizzly night last week when it became clear winter wouldn’t, in fact, be coming. This may be cause for celebration to some, but I was in need of some comforting, and this turned out to be the place for it.
The Prospect Heights restaurant has been quietly making a name for itself as a standout neighborhood spot, even in the shadow of 2016 breakout star Olmsted located just across the street. There’s the requisite earnestness you want in a Brooklyn restaurant, with reclaimed fixtures and a backyard that’s just waiting for a little sunshine to bloom, and a level of care in the presentation (not to mention service is included) that’s unusual for a restaurant that can easily be your new local but also impressive enough for a date.
My meal began with The Bothan ($15), a tequila cocktail that drinks like a whiskey sour, bright from a twist of lemon with a calming note from chamomile, a perfect cleanser to my foul mood. That gave way to the compact menu, where most dishes are exactly what you want to see — pumpkin tortellini and a boar shank make cameos for winter — but when former Vinegar Hill House chef Brian Leth veers off the beaten path, the fun starts. Has anyone ever paired scallops with sauerkraut before? The giant, pillowy mollusks are accented with crumbles of rye bread, fresh caraway and smoked onion puree ($19), creating the most un-kosher version of a pastrami sandwich. It would be a sin not to order it, though.
Housemade pastas are all the rage on New York’s dining scene, a trend that makes for better dishes because chefs know exactly what they’re working with. This is the kind of calculated alchemy that results in a completely addictive dish like Faun’s spaccatelli ($22) — it’s sweet, a combination of the caramelized Brussels sprouts and Meyer lemon, with pine nuts rounding off the flavor. Eating the airy tubes of pasta was like digging my hand into a bag of Doritos, each bite a little faster and more delicious than the last, and genuine surprise when I went to stab an empty plate. It was not a small portion.
A little chagrined about the dining companions who had to watch my carb frenzy, I let them have the first bites of the darkest chocolate cake whose sweetness comes not from a cloying syrup, but off-season slices of fresh blood orange. Like most things at Faun, it’s just a little surprising while still being exactly what you wanted.
Faun is located at 606 Vanderbilt Ave., open for dinner and weekend brunch. Closed Mondays.