Faustina small plates menu

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Decisions, decisions, decisions. It’s the season of decisions. What to buy. What to serve. How to cook a mostly bland fowl. Hint: all the recipes add more butter than bird for good reason. Should I sit crazy aunt Edna next to drunk uncle Bob, and do I have enough medical supplies for the ensuing carnage? It’s enough to turn even the most disciplined of minds into a bowl of wobbly green jello.

A break is in order, and a timely restaurant visit is the perfect excuse to escape the “festivities”. But wait. Yet more decisions unfurl before you on a menu that’s longer than a Peter Jackson movie and about as much fun to decipher as a Rubik’s cube at gunpoint. No doubt, it’s why many a server is asked day in, day out: “What do you like”, in that moment of bewildered exasperation.

Is it any wonder then that small plate menus have exploded across Wasatch front restaurants the past decade. There’s no need to commit to a single, possibly erroneous decision – pick a bunch of things and have at it. Faustina* in downtown Salt Lake City is one of the newest members to the small plate club and I recently had the pleasure to eat gorge my way through most of their offerings.

As my Christmas gift to you dear reader, I’ll guide you through a range of Faustina’s small plates, and make the call on what dishes you should order along the way. When the holiday chaos inevitably reaches a crescendo, head on over to Faustina this holiday season, and follow this simple guide to holiday happiness.

Before diving into the menu proper I’d suggest a cocktail. Under the direction of new GM and La Salle Group partner Tyler Jolley, great strides have been made in this part of Faustina’s menu. Options run around $8.50 to $10 and in addition to regular classics there are a range of winter wonders available now too: Hot Buttered Rum with Kraken dark run, house-whipped cream and spiced butter; Negroni with Tanqueray, Campari, sweet vermouth and an orange peel; Dark & Stormy with Kraken dark rum, Cock & Bull Ginger Brew and Angostura bitters with lime.

Bonus tip: Faustina’s wine list is excellent too. Crafted during the tenure of now departed GM Hillary Merrill, it has excellent options by the glass – and should you give the nod, the exemplary Faustina staff will help select you the perfect pairing.

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Getting started requires no decision making at all. As at Oasis Cafe (another La Salle restaurant) meals at Faustina always begin with a hefty hunk of foccacia style bread, olive oil and vinegar. It surprises me how few, newer higher end joints eschew this free nibble starter these days; surely arresting diners low blood sugar ASAP makes for happier clients, willing to ponder the menu longer and order more. I digress, Faustina’s bread is as excellent as you remember, and yes, ask and ye shall receive more.

faustina cocktails
Faustina: Cocktails
faustina bread and oil
Faustina: Bread and oil

Goat cheese kicks off proceedings proper in a couple of guises. First as deep fried, golden orbs – served with apples, honey and citrus ($6); secondly as a vibrant beet salad with orange segments and arugula ($8). A Burrata Mozzarella ($8) tomato salad with herb pesto-crostini rounds out the lighter beginnings to the small plates menu.

Each was more than enjoyable, and hey, if deep fried cheese is your thing, don’t let me dissuade you. My pick for the indecisive though would be the beet carpaccio. I’m always a sucker for that mineral-earthiness of beets and trust me, you’re going to need those nutrients when you see where my selections take you next.

faustina fried goat cheese
Faustina: Fried goat cheese
faustina beet carpaccio
Faustina: Beet carpaccio
faustina bacon wrapped dates
Faustina: Bacon wrapped dates

Bacon Wrapped Dates ($7) with almond, sweet soy and balsamic are what is next. Sweet, fruity, crunchy, fatty – every bite causing a sideways glancing look of guilt. This is the kind of dish that makes me recommend starting with the relatively saintly beets. This plate is downright devilish. I joked with chef Joe Kemp I needed two dozen of these to take home to snack on while watching TV. I bet he did just that after we left – you’re welcome for the idea chef.

No decision making is needed here at all, if its the only thing you order, order these. In fact bring a group of strangers with you if needs be, so you can justify ordering a bunch more.

faustina burrata mozzarella
Faustina: Burrata mozzarella

Next up, an oceanic quandary. Crab or calamari? Born in Iceland and raised in Florida, it’s no surprise chef Kemp has a certain affinity for the seas and their stock. Calamari ($8) comes with a tangy house made cocktail aioli and Lump Crab Cakes ($12) are plated with with roasted corn, tomato, avocado and dill aioli. Kemp’s calamari is as good as any in town but the crab cakes are even better, which is to say they’re excellent. Go with the crab cakes.

faustina crab cakes
Faustina: Lump crab cakes
faustina calamari
Faustina: Calamari

And finally, the heartier options, the first decision of which is a no brainer. Faustina’s lamb chops ($10) are easily some of the best in SLC. Cooked to a glorious ruby red interior this is killer cooking; what’s more they’re a steal at this price in my opinion.

faustina lamb chops
Faustina: Lamb chops

Two steak options round out the menu, and in truth, it’s impossible to go wrong with either selection. Filet Oscar ($14) or Filet Au Poivre ($14) are both fabulous, and again, the kitchen at Faustina cooks to a perfect temperature (see: not a charcoal briquette). My selection here goes to the peppercorn resplendence preparation, purely because I recommended crab earlier. It’s a good dish to ask your server for a recommendation of something deep, rich and red too. You will be glad you did.

faustina filet au poivre
Faustina: Filet au poivre
faustina oscar filet
Faustina: Oscar filet

Joking aside, it’s hard to choose anything incorrect from the new Faustina small plates menu – I didn’t experience a single let down. I didn’t manage to eat the whole array mind you – I missed the Chicken Pillow Pastry, Three Cheese Macaroni and Polenta with short Rib – not that they don’t read equally delicious. Also, I couldn’t even look a dessert menu in the eye by the end of the meal; if you do, be sure to order up one of Faustina’s renowned souffles and maybe a final splosh of something festive.

So this holiday season keep Faustina, their cocktails and small plates in the back of your mind. When drunk uncle Bob keels falls face down into his mashed potatoes and aunt Edna announces her plans to begin life as an alpaca farmer – you know where to go…

* Gastronomic SLC is a proud local partner of Faustina – who graciously hosted and comped this meal.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Long-time lurker here… The husband and I tried Faustina last night. It was very good, but not amazing.

    *The focaccia, olive oil, and balsamic were delicious nibbles
    *Cocktail – I got a Josh’s Old Fashioned. It’s one of the better cocktails I’ve gotten in Utah (I’m a transplant from Florida)
    *Husband got a caesar salad (it was pretty good but nothing special) and the seafood scampi (he didn’t like the sauce that much but the dish still made his little seafood-loving heart happy – large, succulent shrimp and perfectly cooked scallop are two of his favorite things in life)

    I went with three small plates, because why choose?
    *Fried goat cheese – delicious flavors, but I’m not a big fan of the grainy texture
    *Chicken pillow – perfectly executed and tasty, but the balsamic on top added too much sweetness
    *Short rib and polenta – the polenta was fine but that short rib… Perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned. I wish I had gotten a second one instead of the chicken pillow

    Since we’re both gluttons, we got dessert too.
    *He got white chocolate budino. It’s like a rich, white chocolate pudding with lemon curd. So good.
    *I got the flourless chocolate torte, because chocolate. Alongside the short rib, it was my favorite part of the meal. With whipped creme fraiche, raspberry drizzle, and honeycomb as garnish, it was the perfect end to a meal – rich, delicious, amazing.

    I would definitely go back, I would just pick something other than the fried goat cheese and the chicken pillow. I’m always hesitant to try seafood in Utah because I’m such a seafood snob and I’ve had more bad than good since moving out here, but with my husband’s testimony and your review I think I will try some of the seafood next time. 🙂

  2. Oh, and I have to mention the service. We went on a Sunday night and it was pretty busy – we had to wait for a few minutes for a table, and there was a steady stream of people coming through there all night. There was only one waitress on the floor – Amy – and she handled it like a pro. She was rushing around to stay caught up, but once she got to a table she was relaxed and friendly and attentive. The manager, the host, and the busser were helping as much as they could, but she was handling the bulk of it on her own. Service probably took longer than usual, but because they were honest and told us when we walked in that there was only one server and it might be a bit, we were content with waiting a bit longer to get our food. Even with just one hard-working server, the service was better than a lot of other places I’ve been to.

  3. Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful feedback Sara, always love to read it 🙂 Definitely try their seafood, it’s true we live in a place that would suggest otherwise – but there are some people sourcing great seafood here. Also, La Salle who own Faustina just opened Current Oyster And Fish House down the road. We will have more info on that soon but definitely worth checking out.

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