[DFW] Dallas - Craft, W Hotel (Contemporary Cuisine)
Visited: 9/16/06, Saturday @ 7:00pm, Dinner w/Boyfriend
Ambience: Loud, loud, loud. The lighting was a little strange...I guess it was a very white, intense light instead of a soft, yellow. The restaurant is on the bottom floor of the W Hotel and you can watch the street traffic going by as you eat through a full bay of windows that are floor to ceiling. This is a relatively new restaurant, and the table where we sat had chairs on one side, and a bench on the other. Unfortunately, the bench was already VERY food stained and kind of grossy.
Service: Shane served us, and was unusual and quirky. He was very efficient but it was hard to get a smile out of him. I was surprised that in a restaurant of this size/caliber that there was not a sommelier. There was someone pretending to be one, but he definitely had little knowledge and no pride in his wine list. In fact, the wine we ordered (Qupe Syrah) came out with the wrong vintage. I find this practice prevalent in the Dallas area and very questionable and unsettling. I’m sorry, but vintages are important to wine.
Price: Not worth the cost (~$360 for 2)
We started with two glasses of Rodez Brut Rose, which we liked. Let me add here that I am SOOO disappointed with Texas. My favorite champagne... Billecart Salmon Brut Rose, can no longer be distributed here because of poor wine/champagne handling. Ranting, sorry. The Rodez was a decent substitute. A nice, dry champagne, but not a lot of fruit in the mouth of it.
Next, to pick the wine. The wine list was not impressive. In fact, I was in the mood for a nice, heavy zin, and the list only had two. TWO. Wow. So, that didn’t happen and we ended up with a Qupe Syrah, which was a decent wine. For ~$70, the wrong vintage came out and we were a little disappointed. I have had much, much better wines for the price. But hey... we went with something new. I do have to say I am upset with the deceptive practice of putting a great vintage on the menu and substituting a lesser vintage in actual practice. Sometimes I am sure it is just a “mistake” by not updating a wine list, but VINTAGES ARE IMPORTANT. I don’t know if at Craft it was a one time “mistake” or a habit.
Everything on the menu is ala carte, which is a great concept. You can make your own unique dinner each and every time you visit.
(Oysters on the Half shell) – Three Wellfleet and three Osprey oysters served with a mignonette sauce and the tiniest, weeniest Tabasco sauce I have ever seen (Very cool), on a bed of ice. The W Hotel has a certain reputation, so I was not too concerned about the freshness of the oysters here, but still glad they came out cold and odorless. They were wonderful with the champagne.
(Hamachi) – Nice pieces of Hamachi, left pretty much un-messed with. No real zip, or stand out features, but at least it was fresh.
(Tomato Salad) – Nothing to rave about here. The tomatoes were not that tasty, and when you are doing a purely tomato salad, they should really shine.
(Oregon Red King Salmon) – Again, nothing special. It was a good size piece of Salmon, but a little over cooked. King Salmon is so yummy, it was really too bad the preparation was off.
(Skate Wing) – The one stand out item of our dinner. It was lightly, and I mean really lightly, breaded with a fantastic coating and the fish just fell apart. Cooked to perfection, seasoned to perfection...Just a wonderful piece of skate. Highly Recommend.
(Swiss Chard) – We ordered a few side dishes and the chard was one of these. It was just Swiss Chard. Nothing special, nothing zippy, nothing to write about.
(Roasted Mushroom Assortment) - Now these mushrooms were great. What a lovely way to prepare mushrooms. I couldn’t get enough. Lightly roasted in olive oil, they were a tad crispy on the outside, but still springy on the inside. Lovely dish. Recommend.
We ended with our two favorite beverages and dessert:
Sauterne (Chateau Coutet Sauternes) – By the glass, 2002. A decent representation of a Sauterne.
Frangelico – lovely as always, even if a small sampling.
(Three Cheese Selection) -
1. Roncal, (sheep) Navarre, Spain
2. Fresh Chevre, (goat) Dallas, TX
3. Can’t remember
They were all ok, nothing standout.
Overall, I would have to say I was not enchanted with this restaurant. It seemed more about the see and be seen than about the food. For the price we paid, I expected more. For a high-end restaurant, I would have to give it a lowly 2 of 5 stars. Sorry.
I went to Craft back in August. It was nothing to write home about-especially for the price. Service was fine. Wine list is not great. As for your mention about the wrong vintage...I have had this happen to me many times in many different cities. Most recently, in Washington DC, I had this happen 3 times at 3 different restaurants no less! Funny how they never offer to discount the price when they sub a crappy vintage for a good one.
I have not written my review of Michael Anthony's (Southlake)here yet, but they DO have a sommelier and he DOES take pride in his wines. We had the bait and switch here once, and when he found out, he appologized profusely and offered a discount. Stay tuned for this review... as it was a better than average experience.
I agree with soapgirl's assessment. On my visit, the service was slow and unresponsive, and while the food was good, I've had better meals that didn't cost nearly as much. I know some folks think Craft is fantastic, but it didn't impress me.
I've eaten at Craft three or four times now and my expereince has been a bit better than soapgirls, but far from flawless.
First as to my biggest area of agreement, I am not a fan of their wine list. I can't testify as to any issues with bait and switch from personal expereince. However, they do list a Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir "Rozak Ranch" -- mispelled "Rozark" -- 2004.. I believe that B-C quit making this wine in 2003. Also, it has always been the weakest of the B-C single vinyard lineup by a wine margin. Why have that on the list at a top restaurant.
Overall, I think the list has lots of C to B- wines and very few B+ to A wines. The whites are a bit better than the reds, and the overseas wines are a bit stronger than the domestics. But it is not a wine list befitting the quality of restaurant that Craft is, much less the quality that it aspires to be. (Also, it is not anywhere close to being as good a wine list as they have in their New York restaurant.)
On to the food. I've had better luck than soapgirl. Of the several times I've eaten there, the weakest meal we had was the one where we stuck to seafood. Not sure if that explains the problem that soapgirl had or not. But on various visits, the heirloom rack of pork, the short ribs, quail, and lamb were all very good or better. The pork to die for. Duck breast was good, but nothing to write home about. Oysters have been uniformly good to spectacular. Vegtable sides have been highly variable. The best I had were the lady cream peas -- wonderfully spiced with pico de gaello and pancetta. Others were good to slightly below average.
I like the interior enough and the service was low key but professional. I like the restaurant enough to put up with the wine list for the occasional visit. The food is good, very well prepared, with minimal intervention, which is much to my liking.
By the way soapgirl, I'm a wine nut (as if you couldn't tell). I applaud your tast in champagne, by the way. But if you love good wine, you absolutely must check of the restaurant with the best wine list in town, bar none -- Lola. The list on their web site is not quite up to date but it's close. The prices are amazingly reasonable, and the selection is very, very deep. The food is quite good, too. www.lola4dinner.com
re: Mike C. Miller
Mike, I'm researching a trip to Dallas, so thanks for the post on Lola, especially the winelist. Pricing for the 2001 Quilceda Creek is remarkable as we have trouble getting the wine locally (Pacific Northwest) and it often retails for that price range at local wine shops! The 2001 St. Innocent Brickhouse is another hard to find gem. Whoever does their buying is doing a terrific job. (And it's nice to see reasonable mark ups on a thoughtful wine list.)
And to top it off, Van actually knows his wine list very well. One of the unique things about the wine list is that it is very well thought out at all price points. If you want to drop $350 on a great fully mature red Burgundy, you can do so -- personally the Dujac 1985 Charmes Chambertin is on the best red Burgs I've ever had. But if your budget (or your mood) calls for something more modest, Van has a selction on the list called Twenty$omething where he works very hard to have a nice selection of very good wines for under $30. And he is knowlegable about both the high and low end of the list. In fact, I think he gets a bigger kick out of finding you a bargain that he does in selling a high priced bottle (probably because he had plans for drinking the high priced bottle himself one day). Great restaurant and wonderful folks to deal with. A real gem for those of us who are in Dallas frequently.