Even as rents rise higher than the man-buns on many of its residents, Bushwick brims with spirited, unbridled creativity. And Kevin and Debbie Adey, who’ve lived in the buzzy neighborhood for the past six years, pulled off a stupefying feat last spring when they turned a former MoMA storage facility into Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201), their wholly refreshing New American restaurant. The airy room, decorated in a restrained, urban-chic combination of whitewashed brick and blond wood, houses just fifty seats divvied among a bar area in front, broad tables that flank the painted brick walls, and a back counter that overlooks Kevin’s open kitchen, where the former Le Bernardin and Northeast Kingdom chef tends to a custom-built wood-fired oven.
At multiple times throughout the day, Adey mills the flour and grains that form the basis for the bulk of his menu. It’s rare to come across pastas with this much character. Here all are made in-house, a fact that is immediately evident the moment you bite down on sturdy rigatoni coated in tender strands of braised lamb and abetted by slightly smoky black trumpet mushrooms, crunchy pistachios, and clouds of ricotta.
Light-brown rye spaccatelli, which look like tiny rolled-up newspapers, bear the full depth of sweet caramelized onions and shredded beef in a homey jumble that rests beneath a showering of parmesan. Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms cover golden-brown Roman gnocchi — made with semolina and bulkier than their potato-based siblings — scattered with roasted hazelnuts and bathed in parmesan cream. And one night, orbs of Florentine ricotta dumplings sat in the creamy strained yogurt known as labneh, topped by a mix of bright and vegetal Anaheim peppers and mint; the following evening they wore a crown of sweet and piquant braised-rabbit cacciatore.
The Adeys channel their building’s former tenants with artistry on the plate. In one stunning composition, succulent flakes of snowy, oil-poached skate wing tangle with chewy, jet-black strozzapreti, the noodles’ exteriors bristling with nutty pumpkinseed breadcrumbs. That recipe’s kindred spirit, a pale yin to its inky yang, is a bowl of freeform, pebblelike frascatelli, handmade pasta nubbins made by sprinkling water onto semolina flour. The kitchen loads in lardo and black garlic, yielding a lusciously saucy dish studded with sweet turnip cubes and unthinkably supple whorls of squid. Adey also puts together a bowl of rich porridge made with freshly milled emmer, corn, and oats. In the spring the chef showcased fresh morels and peas with the grains. Recently the $13 gruel included sunchokes with tangy whey and earthy Burgundy truffles.
The pastas, priced and portioned as both appetizers and entrées ($13 to $21), merit the trip all on their own, but Adey also showcases his training and experience in composed savory courses, which top out just under $30. He bakes russet-colored kuri squash in salt and lays fat slices of the charred gourd over whipped chèvre sprinkled with oat granola and sage oil. He chops pastured beef and lamb for tartares — the former with pear mustard and a spongy soft pretzel, the latter with beluga lentil hummus, meyer lemon, and crisp carta di musica flatbread. The skin on a main course of duck breast with green wheat berries and spiced caramel arrives perfectly rendered; rare lamb loin chops balance gently gamy taste with juicy golden beets and delicate, artichoke-like cardoons.
Service is efficient and attentive but not obtrusive; water is refilled and silverware replaced without fanfare. Desserts are recited at the table, and they’re comparatively simple: suitably dense panna cotta with seasonal fruit (quince, here) and marzipan toffee cake crumble, and on our visits, a somewhat dry, split-open pumpkin cake filled with marshmallow sauce. Occasional specials often boast hulking cuts of meat, like inches-thick rib eyes and pork chops sporting thick fat caps and toppings of pickled cauliflower.
Faro has found a coveted sweet spot between fine and casual dining with help from Debbie, a former Jean-Georges GM who also oversees the restaurant’s approachable, mostly European wine list. Rarely do bottles break $60, and many hover between $30 and $40. It’s a blaring announcement that the Adeys are invested in their neighborhood. The feeling, clearly, is mutual. Over the course of the past seven months, as this modern Brooklyn kitchen has steadily improved, people have taken notice. Faro fills up fast these days, but fortunately it never feels crowded.