There is a little something for everybody in the Providence dining scene these days. A new look at worldwide cuisines is taking shape in several neighborhoods. In Downcity, Faust is leading the way. Housed in The Dean Hotel, this small restaurant transports its guests into the culture, atmosphere and cuisine of central Europe. We met up with co-owner and chef, Michael Lingwall, to get a closer look into the Bavarian journeys he cooks up in the kitchen.
What’s been your journey as a chef?
I’m a graduate of the Johnson & Wales culinary program. I started at Gracie’s and the Red Fez before eventually becoming the overnight baker at Seven Stars. After that, my business partners and I opened up Foremost Bakery, and then immediately started negotiations to open Faust. I realized after a while that I missed cooking, so instead of hiring someone else to do it, I decided to jump into the chef role myself.
What’s your mentality in the kitchen?
The philosophy at Gracie’s imbedded the fundamentals that I use in the kitchen today and the Red Fez was a time of experimentation for me. Both of my experiences at those restaurants directly influence how I run the kitchen here.
Above all, I’ve learned that if it tastes good, and it looks good, it works. It’s a simple philosophy of cooking. When we come up with an idea, we ask ourselves, can we pick it up easily? Can our cooks understand how it works? Is it approachable for the guest?
What are some food experiences your guests can look forward to?
We offer flavors from Poland, Germany, Hungary and Austria that you won’t find at many other restaurants in Providence. We have lot of heavy dishes on the menu, so we focus on different preservation techniques to counter those flavors. The sausages and schnitzels are very full and robust, so we use our pickled items to cut through that dense flavor. When you hit both sides of the spectrum in a good way, it balances out the dishes.
What are some favorite dishes guests keep coming back for?
Definitely our pierogis. That’s easily one of the most popular dishes on the menu. They’re filled with smoked onion and potato and garnished with a house-made cheese. And we use preserved Maitaki mushrooms from the RI Mushroom Company.
Of course, the sausages and schnitzels are very popular, too. All of our sausages are made in-house. We’ve done that since the beginning, we have a DIY mentality here.
Are there any dishes that stand out for you personally?
We toyed around with the Paprikash for a long time. It involved many incarnations. And after a few different tries, we decided to do it with a chicken leg. It’s very spicy with a lot of paprika, charred chippolini onions and preserved button mushrooms served over a house-made egg noodle.
Is there a particular cooking technique or process you specialize in?
Preservation is a mainstay in this restaurant. We pickle, brine and smoke all the time. We smoke a lot of vegetables, nuts and meats. Sometimes we smoke different things to see how they will taste. We use preserved items to add different flavors to simple dishes, like beets or winter grits. Our specials menu gets that sort of extra attention.
What are a few unexpected qualities of Bavarian cuisine you admire?
Bavarian food usually gets pigeon holed. Many people feel that the flavors are bludgeoning. But I’ve learned that this type of cuisine is not as restrictive as many people think it is. When you look at it as a whole, central Europe is surrounded and imbedded in different cultures. Every country’s cuisine is influenced by its neighbors. Austria, for instance, has a lot of pastas. So it’s been fun learning about flavors, and we’re still learning as we go along.
How have your European guests responded to your take on their native cuisine?
It’s usually very positive and that’s one of the things that make me happiest. We’ve been well received from the German community and travelers in general. That’s a fantastic compliment. There was this one couple that came in when we first opened. They traveled and once lived in Eastern Europe. They kept asking where we import the sausages from. When we told them the sausages are all made in-house, they couldn’t believe it. That was eye opening for me.
Faust at The Dean Hotel
122 Fountain Street