I know there have been countering opinions about Craft on the board--one either appreciates it for its craft of simplicity or one finds it overrated and overpriced for items that you can cook "equally well at home." I've kept an open mind and listened to both sides of the argument but in the end, I realized the only way I would know what answer fit me best was to try it myself. So I did.
The evening was raining and cold but the moment we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a beautiful warmth. The restaurant is so lovely, lit faintly with multitude of light bulbs, individually dangling from the ceiling. The amber leather-lined walls, the large vases of fresh cut flowers, and huge tables were perfectly complimentary. There was indeed an understated sexiness about the place. Maybe it was the lighting. Then again, isn't it always about the lighting? :oP
The three of us settled on three proteins: Soft-Shelled Crabs, Braised Short Ribs, and Grilled Quail. Sides were: Gnocchi, Soft Polenta, English Peas, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms. Before the meal proceeded on, we were given Amuse Bouche of Mini Pate Choux filled with Lobster. Tasty little things. The dishes came out soon after. Everything was served in their individual cooking vessels, which created a very charming table setting. Of course, not to be outdone by the food, which was in my humble opinion, amazing in its purity. I absolutely fell in love with the quail, gnocchi, and mushrooms. The quail was seared to perfection--caramelized on the outside yet retaining sublime moistness. The gnocchi, wow. They were so tender, they exploded with flavors of Parmagiano and butter before melting in your mouth. No mastication needed. As for these mushrooms which I've never eaten before, I was very pleased with the end result. The mushoom is huge and resembles an acorn in appearance. Here, it was cut into wedges and seared in butter until the edges were crispy and caramelized. Hearty and with such of depth of flavor, they were so good. The English Peas cooked in a touch of cream and butter were also superb. Undoubtedly the freshest peas I've ever tasted--vibrant and crisp in texture like an edamame, it hardly resembled the dull mealy peas we remember from our youth.
Everything else was great, though a little slight alteration was needed. The short ribs were meltingly tender, though a touch underseasoned. Same with the Polenta. The crabs were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, but on the other hand, they were a little overseasoned. Those were the only quibbles I had.
As you all can gather from my review, I ended up loving the restaurant. Indeed, the prices may be steep and the items, stripped down and bare. But sometimes, after having meals focused on reforming themselves and/or masked in layers of complexity, you need a meal that will bring you back to the roots of comfort through its devotion to purity and simplicity. Indeed, I can go to the greenmarket and bring back produce to recreate these items, but then again, I can say that about a lot of things in life. Sometimes, we just want to be pampered and have a meal cooked by others who know their food and can exemplify them in the way they think highlights the food best. But in the end, eating out is about the experience as a whole...sharing a meal in a beautiful setting with great friends is often enough to pay for the meal itself. And indeed, this was one of those moments.
Thank you for your wonderful reviews! I have been enjoying all your posts, and I particularly enjoyed your sharing of feelings in the end.
I am one of the pro-Craft people here, and I admire your courage and open mind to try it out despite the mixed reviews. I had very familiar feeling when I dined in Craft. The freshness of the food was the highlight itself, and IMO being able to accentuate the real flavor of the food was probably more difficult than using sauces or strong flavor to add to the flavors. (but I am no chef so it just how I feel...) The ending you put above was so spot-on and beautifully written that I may just start reading you instead of NYM ;D
I also agree with you that Craft is a place for sharing food and fun, like a family or friend gathering meal (though a very expensive one ;D). The portion to me was a bit large to be consumed by one person, and hence solo dining may make your taste bud tired before you hit the next dish. When I tried their tasting menu (they don't publish it, but you can order tasting and the chef will decide all the dishes, usually none of them on the a la carte menu), the dishes were also served in family style and we shared at the table.
Once again, thank you so much for such a beautifully written review. I also read the ones you wrote about Stanton Social and Acquvit today. While Stanton Social wasn't my favorite for dinner, your review made me decide to go for their brunch, which other hounds have also gave positive feedbacks.
I look forward to reading more your reviews again!
Hi BW and Nux,
Thanks for reading my posts. I admit, I'm an amateur Craft eater. This was my first time there so I have no basis to compare this experience to. It's very likely that the cooking was more refined back then when TC was more focused on his flagship. If that was the case, then I wish I had the chance to try his food then. Alas, I didn't. But I did enjoy what I tried. Again, my palate may differ from everybody else and admittingly, probably not as refined because my experiences have been limited, so there may be people that won't agree with me. I'm hoping that's not the case cuz then that means my palate is totally outta whack. Oh the horror! :oP
Again, thanks for the feedback! Always love to hear everybody's opinions.
Before I continue, I just wanted to say that I've read many of your postings and have gotten lots of information from you. So thanks for all the informative details. It has enriched my mind with lots of tidbits on NYC dining. BTW, you're so lucky to be living there. Food is so respected and appreciated up there. If only, if only I could be there too...well, keep up the wonderful reviews and I shall enjoy living vicariously through you and everybody else. I don't know how I survived without chowhound for all these years :oD.
To proceed, I'm honored by your kind words. Heck, just the fact that you read my posts makes me happy. I never think anybody reads my postings. I just like to write and I love food so put the two together and you get my ramblings. You think I can get a job at the NYM? :oD
I agree with you that Craft is best experienced with a group of friends, not alone. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to try the various dishes on the menu. That's no fun. It'd be neat to do the tasting the next time. I'll definitely ask about it.
I read up on The Stanton on here and found that it was almost unanimous across the board that dinner was not the time to visit the restaurant. So that's why I didn't even bother considering that as an option. I found some mixed reviews on brunch as well, but after checking out the menu online, I just liked the way it sounded. So in the end, I went with my gut (literally!) and it fortunately turned out well. Of couse my palate may differ from everybody else, so others may not agree with me. But I hope they do cuz then they'll have a good time. Here's to hoping!
Anyhow, thanks again for responding to my posts!