Long B-DAY eats (Ouest,Craftbar,Breadbar)
I was fortunate to be treated to three meals out this birthday.
I'm not sure Craftbar would be getting as much hype if Collichio's name wasn't associated with it but the food is good, if a bit skimpy. I guess serving "perfect" versions of foods served simply is a novel concept these days(It seems almost egotistical to me, oh you want meatballs, here's three without pasta because ours are perfect museum quality meatballs). The farro/bean soup was dissapointing as I was expecting a chunky soup, thick with beans and hearty grains. The farro was more like soft barley though and the beans were just a grey puree. The whole thing was tasty but more for the oil content than balanced flavors. The pressed duck ham pannini with taleggio was very nice, much less salty than I expected though the filling was slim. Risotto balls were hot, breaded mozzarella bombs and quite irresistable but lacked any more flavor than an above average rice ball just fried with a bit more care.
My parents had a penne bolognese that they loved for it's simplicity of course. Service was good, and when I asked the waiter for non-alchoholic beverages I was brought a complete list. Got an imported Ginger Beer that was sweeter than I'd liked but a nice option at least. They also have (Boylston's, I think) Root Beer.
The Service at Ouest is less than polished. Complete with sneering and eye rolling when my wife questioned whether she had been brought the right order. Portions vary WILDLY from the hunger inducing to the "dare you to finish." There's no apparent logic to it though they seem to be most generous with Meat entrees here for sure. My 9 dollar butternut squash with duck gizzard pasta was a total rip. Two small ravioli, no gizzard flavor, luckily I have a Huge softspot for squash so I at least loved the filling. For my entree I ordered the tripe with the chef's reccomended Polenta. The tripe was excellent, with a thick roasted tomato sauce and studded with carrots. Polenta was rich and just right but a bit heavy to go with the tripe. I should have gotten some sauteed spinach and just enjoyed the excellent toasted baguettes that came with it. Desserts like my coffee Ice Cream Sunday with malt balls, and my wife's chocolate tart with hazelnut gelato were all very good. Overall the inconsistent service rubbed me the wrong way. In any other town this would be THE place, but as long as I'm in NYC I'd rather head to Union Square Cafe for solid French/Italian influenced American Food.
Breadbar was suprisingly good but not for the bread as I expected. The cheese nan was more like a low rent quesadilla. It lacked any character or much kick until I quickly ordered a matching roast tomato chutney which was a heavenly marriage of flavors. It went from a Taco Bell castoff to a fusion pizza of untold deliciousness. Still the great flavor didn't make up for the lack of good texture. A roasted cauliflower and potato nan was better on it's own but still nothing that special.
The standouts were the chicken with toasted coconut and chiles(sorry I didn't get the name.) Also the green papaya salad with toasted rice had flavors that really sang. Sour notes, sweet tones, and salty pappadum for scooping.
The fingerling potato and eggplant appetizer was delicious but not worth the price of admission at 14 dollars. Overall it was a delicious meal and I'd love to have another round with them and even try the desserts next time(they had a giant frozen peanut butter cup special that looked amazing)
Everything was much more informal than I'd imagined. Service was friendly and helpful though on the meter it reads closer to Applebees than Gramercy Tavern or even Tabla proper.