Klong - 7 St. Mark's Pl., East Village
Chicken Tum Yum Soup, Chicken Kee Mao (extra spicy), two Thai Iced Teas
I had to come back after so many good meals here. In fact, I liked my lunch special so much last time (see Jan. 2) that I couldn't resist ordering it again. The lemongrass soup was again a nice starter, providing just the right amount of kick. Still, I was caught off guard when I got to the main course. As good as the kee mao was before, it was incredible this time around. The spices were dead on, creating an intense and complex series of flavors. The noodles, chicken, tomatoes, carrots and basil leaves were delicious. I am quite lucky to have Klong as my neighborhood Thai place and I will certainly be back again. 8/10
Franny's - 295 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Broccoli Rabe with Pecorino Primo Sale Crostini, Wood-Roasted Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs and Olives, Tomato and Mozzarella with House-Cured Garlic Sausage Pizza, Tomato and Mozzarella with Mushrooms Pizza, a pint of Whale's Tail Pale Ale, a cappuccino
For admirably fulfilling the bet payoff (see Special Feature, Mar. 13) Vince got his choice of dinner spot. I was more than happy to go along with his pick of Franny’s in Brooklyn, eager to see how it stacked up to Fornino (see Mar. 7) and Una Pizza Napoletana (see Jan. 6, Feb. 6). So we hopped the N out to the murky neighborhood between Prospect Heights and Park Slope that I think I’ll christen Prospect Slope.
Even at seven, there was a short wait at Franny’s, the fairly spacious restaurant seemingly filled with a mix of neighborhood residents and imported Manhattanites. (I like how lately we citydwellers, in the name of new options, have been sucking it up and reversing the bridge-and-tunnel paradigm.) But soon enough, a friendly waitress seated us and took to explaining the menu. In her estimation, everything rated as simply amazing, from the crostini to the appetizers to the pizza to the calzone. It may well have been true, but it didn’t give us much guidance.
“For this sausage pizza,” Vince asked, “could we also get mushrooms on it or would that be a no-no?” Our waitress smiled gingerly and leaned in. “Mmm… that would be a no-no.” After the two recent Times articles about formerly-of-Savoy chef Andrew Feinberg, in which he refused to serve pasta and he stopped serving diners’ favorites when he got bored making them, I knew we weren’t dealing with your typical pizzaiolo. It’s also clear from the Franny’s web site, which visibly touts the restaurant’s philosophy of sustainable agriculture. It’s clear in their house-cured meats and their revolving door of a menu. And if you’re still not convinced, have a peek at the Italian wine list and attempt to find a bottle under thirty dollars. (In contrast, try to find a bottle at Fornino over twenty.)
After some negotiation, we opted to start with the Pecorino-topped broccoli rabe crostini (no longer available, replaced by beef tongue and horseradish). For all of her hype, our waitress turned out to be right: it was a pretty great dish. The bread crunchy and laced with olive oil, the greens bold and unapologetically slimy, the cheese mild and smooth, every ingredient worked together like a championship basketball team. The three pieces disappeared with minimal effort on our part.
Next up was the wood-roasted cauliflower. It came layered with a finely chopped, buttery coat of black olives, shredded cheese and bread crumbs. It seemed like a good representation of Franny’s intentions, especially since I couldn’t think of another pizzeria that would serve something like this. As for the taste, it was very good though my least favorite of the night. The olive, cheese and crumb combination dominated the cauliflower taste just as it outnumbered and visually overwhelmed the four or five florets. The couple next to us raved about it though and since then, I’ve heard it garner other lofty praise.
Finally, the main attractions arrived, one pie topped with Shiitake mushrooms and the other with house-cured garlic sausage. Thick crumbs of parmesan and streaks of olive oil adorned both, but interestingly, the two pizzas were different shapes. The vegetarian was longer and more ovoid while the meat was closer to a circle. The pie the people next to us received was practically in the shape of a pizza slice. Many have also taken issue with Franny’s refusal to pre-slice the pies, leaving that surgery up to the customers. However, I found all of these idiosyncrasies to be fun and part of the restaurant’s bull-headed charm.
It’s also easy to get away with diva tendencies when your pizza tastes this superb. Both of them were just about perfect, with great dough, great sauce, great cheese and outstanding toppings. And while choosing a favorite element feels a bit like choosing a favorite child, I’d say it was the garlic sausage that deserves the most praise. The fact that it was prepared in-house and that its flavor was so thoroughly delectable makes me hope that Feinberg lets it tempt and inspire other diners for a long time.
Still, if the garlic sausage or the mushroom ever do get the boot, I’ll take solace in knowing that they’ll be replaced by something equally great. And for the flak Feinberg and Franny’s might get for being difficult and single-minded, they should get a lot of respect too. It’s heartening to see a kitchen that’s as committed to challenging itself as its customers, and it's even more heartening to see them pulling it off. 9/10
From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out
- Name: Lonesome Hero
Sunday, March 13, 2005