I live in the Church and Wellesley area and not once did I notice Fabarnak (look at picture above. Do you see it?) It was only after skimming through the restaurant options near me on Foodspotting that my friend and I discovered Fabarnak. The food pictures looked enticing and their bento box seemed interesting being that it was not a sushi restaurant. It was decided, we were going to Fabarnak for dinner. We walked approximately 5 minutes to the restaurant and we found it to be deserted. This can’t be good. We walked to the back of the restaurant and asked the person at the cash register if they were serving dinner. “No”, he said, “we only serve dinner on Friday nights, and offer lunch until 3:30pm from Monday to Friday and on Saturday we offer brunch. We are closed on Sundays.” Well that blows. Today was Wednesday and it was approximately 7pm. So I guess no, we were not having dinner at Fabarnak tonight after all.
Several months later I wanted to treat myself to lunch and since I was off for the day I figured it was time to visit this elusive Fabarnak. The day I chose was freezing. The 5 minute walk to the restaurant felt like half an hour. As soon as I walked in I surveyed the room to see what the sitting options were. I was not sure if I was supposed to sit myself or wait for someone to escort me. After a few minutes of awkwardly standing there, I decided to sit myself. A minute later the waiter brought me a menu and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I inquired about their coffee refills, and he said that you had to pay $1 to get a refill. Not happy with that answer, so I stuck to water which I was able to refill myself since you get a bottle filled with it.
The menu was printed on orange paper. Nothing special. But the options were quite interesting. For starters their lunch and dinner menus are the same, though dinner is only offered one night a week (Friday). The menu is split between “small plates”, “sandwiches”, “specials (where you find the square peg/bento box–choice between a square peg or a veg peg)”, “soups”, “salads”, “something more” and “drinks.” You can follow Fabarnak on twitter (@FABARNAKresto) to find out what’s featured in their daily square pegs. The prices range from $2-$14.
On this afternoon I was on my own, and because I wanted to try several dishes, I ignored the dishes under “something more” because these were the heavier dishes and I did not want to get full on one dish alone. Although I do plan to come back and try their ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce and basil for $10.
What I chose instead were the following:
1) House-made ricotta served on toast with arugula, pickled zucchini and fleur de sel. $2.00
Each piece of toast is $2.00, but because the chef felt that the slices of bread were too small, he gave me two. I just loved this. The ricotta cheese was creamy with a hint of salt, the zucchini was fresh and not soggy, and the toast was not tough or over toasted. In fact, I liked the bread so much that I asked them where they buy their bread. I learned that they buy their bread daily from Ace Bakery. This was a definite winner. Will order it again without a doubt.
2) Crispy cauliflower, pork belly and kale with a coconut curry sauce. $6.00
I am partial to curries, so I felt inclined to try this dish. Plus deep-fried cauliflower? Sure, why not. The cauliflower was perfectly cooked, not too tough and not too soft, and the batter was not oily. Big plus. The curry was flavorful but not spicy. There was a lot of kale which I found difficult to eat because it was so chewy, but the pork belly and the curry itself was delicious. I thought I was eating oyster mushrooms with bacon, when in fact I was eating pork belly. The pork belly melted in your mouth. I would order this dish again, but I am not sure about the kale.
3) BBQ beef brisket, house-smoked, hot sauce and a jalapeño-ginger coleslaw. $7.00
I knew I wanted to try one of their meat sandwiches but I could not decide on which one, so I asked the waiter what he recommended. He told me that the most popular one is the beef brisket because the meat takes 72 hours to prepare. I was skeptical about the 72 hours, but why not give it a shot. By the time the sandwich arrived, I was pretty full. So I took a few bites and then asked for it to be wrapped to go.
Here is the thing. When it comes to BBQ, the sauce has to be just right. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too smoky, not too “chipotle” tasting. I know, it seems like I am asking for too much, but you need the right balance of flavors. So not only does the meat have to be tender and melt in your mouth, but the sauce needs to adhere to the same high standards. So, what did I think of this sauce? All I tasted was chipotle. It was not bad, but I was not blown away. The coleslaw was okay, but I would have liked it a bit more tangy rather than creamy. A tangy coleslaw could have cut through the overpowering chipotle taste. Another negative was the ratio of meat to fat. It was just about 50/50. I know many people who love fat in their beef brisket. I don’t. It was not a bad burger by all means, but compared to the first 2 dishes I had, this one was my least favorite.
4) Yes I got dessert, but only because I noticed that they had my favorite donut. Sugar and cinnamon donut for $1.25. I did not eat it at the restaurant because the donut was cold, instead I brought it home and heated it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Mmmm now that is how you eat a donut.
Below are some pictures I took of the pastries they offer. This is a cafe after all, so when there is no lunch, dinner or brunch, it becomes a simple coffee shop with an array of drinks and pastries.
I was taking pictures of the cakes, when one of the staff members was eager to show me a cake that had just arrived. He told me that it is their most popular cake and it sells out within a couple of hours. This cake is a carrot cake with lots of other delicious toppings that I forgot the name of. It did not have dried fruits. I do not like dried fruits in cakes, so I had to ask.
****I have returned to Fabarnak several times since this review and each visit was more disappointing than the last. Also, the menu is constantly changing, so if you enjoyed a dish in the past, do not expect it to still be available the next time you visit. Today I visited them one last time and I ordered their ricotta gnocchi and I disliked it so much that I put it aside after 3 bites. The texture was unappealing and the flavor unappetizing. I offered my friend some to try and he also could not have more than one bite, and he eats everything! Arghh $12 down the drain.