Daring to Be FAB
Does the new steak frites spot in Mount Kisco deliver?
The room at F.A.B. combines equal parts elegant Parisian bistro and convivial pub.
Bistros are thick on the ground in Westchester. We have large, glitzy bistros like Irvington’s Red Hat on the River, breakfast-through-midnight-snack bistros like Chappaqua’s Le Jardin de Roi, new bistros like Pelham’s Bistro Rollin, and veteran bistros like Encore Bistro Français in Larchmont. Up-county, down-county, bistro, bistro, bistro—how can a new bistro set itself apart?
Wisely, the owners of Mount Kisco’s F.A.B. (French American Bistro), who also own New York City’s Village Bistro East, are exploring the overlap between French and American foods. Sure, fries/frites work in both cuisines, but in their most basic form, bistros are the French equivalent to American diners. They offer reasonably priced comfort foods to customers who know exactly what to expect. At F.A.B., the Franco-American mash-up brings supersized portions of some classic bistro dishes, plus massive American burgers and mac ’n cheese “Napoleons,” spun in a tin-ceilinged space that feels pubby yet tinged with lamp-lit elegance.
Don’t go to F.A.B. without an appetite…or a thirst. On one visit, a dining partner was charmed to befuddlement when his modest drink order was supersized to a triple (or quadruple) neat bourbon, while pours from F.A.B.’s modest, gently priced wine list are uniformly generous. While large portions are crowd-pleasers, F.A.B.’s waiters should warn ordering diners. Our tasty starter of salad Niçoise with seared ahi tuna was scaled for a main and seriously lessened our enthusiasm for the entrée to follow. Others in the starters list felt similarly over-rich or over-large—like appetizers of short ribs or that mac ’n cheese Napoleon.
Yet deep bowls of plump, ocean-smelling mussels—basking in a buttery/winey broth—were hard to resist, especially when paired with chewy lengths of Balthazar baguette. We eagerly plowed through the whole pile, though their broth, unfortunately, was seriously over-salted. Also missing the mark were three bready tuna tartare sliders, in which the subtle flavor and texture of fish was suppressed by heavy-handed mustard. The star among the appetizers was a velvet cream of parsnip soup, a fragrant, warming winner hiding behind the words “soup du jour.”
Mains were equally hit-or-miss and included a yummy (and at $26.95, proportionately expensive) lamb shank whose bony, Henry VIII heft yielded a perfectly sane portion of melting, slow-braised flesh. Less successful was hanger steak, which arrived pre-sliced, jumbled in an unappealing pile. If I’m paying $23.95 for a steak, I’d like to see it—plus the prominently grained steak was sliced along (and not across) the grain, making the slices tough to chew.
F.A.B. veers back to Americana with its “Cadillac Burger,” a titanic two- (or three-) fister piled on brioche with cheddar, bacon, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, and a soft fried egg. We know lots of customers for whom vastness is a sign of value, but the burger’s wan flavor and meat-loafy texture was unrewarding—and trying to eat this sucker is like attempting to bite into a soccer ball. Yet, as with the mussels and steak, the burger comes with a standing cone of frites, which are dredged in a light coating before frying and retain their salty snap ’til the bottom.
Desserts include a damp-crusted crème brûlée. Better was a Nutella crêpe—but then, like bacon and butter, Nutella makes everything better. (I am ashamed of my weakness for the—albeit Italian—kiddie spread; it’s like admitting that I fall for the meretricious charms of Fluffernutter.) F.A.B.’s top dessert pick was a warming bread pudding.
One of F.A.B.’s most appealing aspects is that, just like a diner, it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (F.A.B. opens on weekdays at 9 am; Sunday brunch starts at 11.) That means that you can bivouac Paris-style in the large, cozy space with delicious house-made croissants, café au lait, and the newspaper, or indulge in roomy Franco-American breakfasts of build-your-own omelets or eggs-any-style. Given its welcoming, casual vibe (plus those croissants and Balthazar baguettes), the day shift at F.A.B. feels like a civilized alternative to shrill Starbucks or a greasy spoon.
But night has its own rewards at F.A.B., like that parsnip soup or dreamy lamb shank with polenta and Brussels sprouts. Add a cheery, bustling bar scene, genial staff, and a democratic menu, and you get a welcome spin on culinary fusion.
French American Bistro ★★
222 E Main St, Mount Kisco
Hours: breakfast, Mon to Fri 9 am–11 am; lunch, Mon to Sat 11 am–4 pm; dinner Mon to Thurs 4 pm–10 pm, Fri and Sat 4 pm–11 pm, Sun 4 pm–9 pm, brunch, Sun 11 am–3:30 pm.
Appetizers: $7.95-$18.95; entrées: $11.95-$28.95; desserts: $8
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good