Fl. 2: Where the Culinary Magic Happens
When the Fairmont Pittsburgh decided to close their restaurant, Habitat, which opened at the time of the hotel’s opening in 2010, I was surprised but understanding. I was told by the Fairmont’s director of operations, Meghan Earnshaw, that 7 years for a luxury hotel restaurant concept is a long time, and that a new restaurant is necessary to stay competitive and profitable. I find this to be especially true in a market like Pittsburgh, where competition in the Pittsburgh restaurant scene has been fierce over the past few years after dozens of new openings throughout the city.
With the closing of Habitat in June, the Fairmont spared no time or expense in getting their next concept up and running. The entire space closed from June to late October, and all hands were on deck to get “fl. 2” (pronounced “floor two”, the location of the restaurant on the second floor of the hotel) up and running. The result is a beautifully sophisticated space with a delicious menu to match and a lot of local collaboration. I’m glad I could share the experience of fl. 2 with veteran reviewer Camila Kauer Garcia.
The atmosphere of fl.2 is both gorgeous and at the same time a little confusing. The space has a lot of simplicity and modernity in its fixtures, with lights, mirrors, and soft colors like beige and cream that don’t distract yet from the experience. However, some choices like the floral-patterned plating and the color of the upholstery reminded me more of my grandmother’s house than a luxury restaurant. That being said, there was obvious intention in these choices, I just wish the story that fl.2 was trying to tell would have been a little clearer.
The service at fl. 2 was of course excellent, and even with the high expectations that I had set for the Fairmont, they managed to meet and exceed them. Our server was prompt and pleasant, engaging us in conversation and entertaining our questions effortlessly. I also need to do a huge shout-out to Meghan again for being an excellent host and channeling true hospitalitarian vibes in the style of Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality. Top marks!
Once again, top marks for quality on pretty much every level. There is a fairly robust raw bar available and on the whole, everything was tasty. I probably went a little overboard with the raw bar, but I did want to try a variety of dishes. The beef tartare was good, but you definitely have to be in the mood for it. I also really enjoyed the flavors of the cured kampachi.
In my mind, the stars of the show lie in the main courses, and between pork belly and the chickpea fricassee, they were both packed with flavor and extremely pretty to look at. The weakest of the bunch was the pork terrine, but I suspect that was due to overloading on the raw bar items. It was just a little bland in my mind, despite the pesto and mustard sauce, which instead of adding flavor, made the dish a tad salty.
In addition, I would like to say that there were several dishes I wish I could have tried, including the cast-iron ribeye, which has been praised as one of the best items on the menu, and some of the desserts like the Japanese cheesecake. Overall the menu is eclectic enough to have variety but not so broad that it doesn’t communicate a modern flavor palate.
Dining at the Fairmont isn’t a cheap experience, but the value is pretty impeccable: superb service, quality food at fair portions, and in a setting that exudes luxury without the hoity-toity attitude.
Once again, for a new restaurant with certain kinks to work out, this is a great score. Advice from me would be to work on the story that fl. 2 is trying to tell, and once the themes of that story are established, weave them into the “plot” (the specific dishes and interactions with guests which create their experience). Fl.2 can only get better in my opinion.
Best part of the experience?
I absolutely loved the attention we received. From the minute we walked in and the staff took our coats, to the waiter being super personable and speaking Spanish to me, to the staff walking over to our table to check in and see how we were doing, it was all fantastic.
What needs the most improvement?
Nothing stood out to me as needing improvement!
What kind of place is this (who would you bring here, for what purpose, etc.)?
Fl. 2 is a posh place. This is the kind of place you take people who appreciate food and are willing to spend a little more for the attention in service and culinary innovation that you experience and taste.
It was here that I tried beef tartare for the first time. It was excellent. I tried it with a kind of cheese and crackers which was a type of appetizer I could see myself coming here for regularly. I also had a hummus dish and I was blown away that I was tasting garbanzo beans in a whole new way. They were the best chickpeas I had in my life and its creamy and smoky flavor my favorite dish that night. I also had the pork belly, which is a dish for people who don’t think twice about eating a layer of pork fat. Unfortunately, this wasn’t entirely for me, and I wasn’t able to enjoy the flavors that the pork fat provided because there was simply too much of it.
Camila is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh who hopes to learn as much as she can in the business school. Once she graduates, Camila wants to work in the nonprofit sector to make this world a better place…one delicious meal at a time of course!
fl.2 is one of the newest and hottest restaurants in Pittsburgh, taking residence in the Fairmont hotel in downtown. A local, seasonal menu is the focus, combining the best of the region with bold deviations that reinvent traditional American fare. Check out fl.2’s menu and make reservations here: http://www.fl2pgh.com/