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Craft ~ worth the wait

Despite the "friends & family" soft opening scheduled for this past weekend, we were informed by the reservations manager that there were openings. So last night at 6:30pm, we slid into a cushy booth along the length of the dining room.

For its second night, we were impressed by the attentiveness of the waitstaff and kitchen. I think the one person who did not impress us was our actual server. She hardly checked on us after our courses were served. Our saviors were two managers and one server in particular who were professional and knowledgeable in their, well, you know.

Mistakenly received a standard mojito instead of the house cocktail with raspberry and verbena, but that was swiftly replaced via manager number one. The East Meets West drink was a fruity blend of juices and intoxication. He started with a little gem salad, with cipollini onions wrapped in bacon. I was informed the fresh produce for both NY and LA (prob Dallas too) was from Santa Monica, and you could tell from the crisp leafy greens. Instead of a main, I went for a little roasted quail and some chittara spaghetti. The last time I had pasta so fresh was at SF's Quince (and before that, somewhere in Boston's Little Italy). For a modest portion, I was more than pleased. Quail was succulent and tasty.

His meal included a healthy serving of salmon. It was prepared just so. I opted for side orders of sauteed rapini and assorted mushrooms. As our courses were served, I realized the mushrooms were missing. Being so late in the meal I *had* to add on an order of gnocchi to accompany our delayed fungi. I'm glad I did, as it was an appropriate addition to our meals. The mushrooms were outstanding, and I'm sure it had to do with the variety of textures and tastes.

We went all out for dessert. There was a platter of three soft cheeses (I have a weakness for dairy) with bread and fruit. Add to that the signature donuts, glazed and fluffy. The angel food cake had his name all over it - fresh fruits and spongy cake were swallowed up. There was also the chocolate souffle, too rich for me to touch. Love the little copper pan it is baked in. We tried their gelato spread: olive oil, caramel, and ....I wish I could recall. Lastly, an exploration of pluots - which we learned were a cross between plums and apricots. They were all washed down with some wild mint tea.

While the NY outpost is dark and cozy, Century City was light and airy. Signature lightbulbs lit up the main room. Waitstaff were dressed in black slacks, black vest, light blue shirt, and striped ties. Lunch service would start in August, and patio dining was forthcoming. To top off our night, a parting gift from manager number two, a multitude of cookies (I'm all over the peanut butter ones). That was after our brief, but satisfactory, introduction to Mr. Colicchio. Dressed in his chef whites, his evening was being spent in the back, "...cooking meat". Niice.

Preparing dishes with only the best ingredients and the simplest of methods is a winning combination at Craft. It is definitely worth the 100+ mile round trip from Orange County.

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  1. Sounds great; if you don't mind my asking, how much did dinner total?

    3 Replies
    1. re: LANative

      With only two alcoholic drinks, but a total of seven desserts (one taster gelato trio and one single flavor included) we totaled $242 before tip. Two most expensive dishes were $30 salmon and $21 assorted mushrooms. Most desserts were $12, and worth EVERY cent. Next time, we'll ease up on dessert and maybe get three.

      I already miss the spaghetti and mushrooms...

      1. re: brekkie_fan

        That was 7 desserts just between the two of you?? I think you might be my new hero. Thanks for the great review.

        1. re: mollyomormon

          Yeah, I think we usually order 2-4....so we basically outdid ourselves last night.

    2. We will be there tomorrow with friends. Thanks for the report.

      2 Replies
      1. re: russkar

        Looking forward to your report, Russ. I just made a reservation for about two weeks out. We've been twice to Craftsteak in Las Vegas, enjoyed our most recent dinner there a few months ago quite a lot, and looking forward to the many more menu options here. Haven't been to Craft in N.Y. Based on Vegas, would definitely recommend the hen of the woods mushrooms if you're into funghi and I bet you are.

        1. re: Debbie W

          Nothing beats Fungi. Oh the Gramercy Tavern where it all began?
          We're going with some of our Super Foodie Friends so I'm expecting to see the "second coming of food" tomorrow. If I don't , well ? Let's not even think about that?

      2. thanks for the report.

        i wonder if the boston little italy eatery might be bricco.

        1 Reply
        1. re: modernist

          I wish I could tell you, but all I recall was some incredible ravioli. I think it was lobster filled. Mom and pop place right off a main drag. We had a nice window table.

        2. Had my Craft dinner tonight. Arrived early just to people watch a little bit prior to dinner, and enjoyed the Craft cocktail of prosecco with peach. For our starters, we ordered the sweetbreads with fennel, the hamachi and apricot, and the arugula and fig salad. We both nursed a single glass of wine (a gruner veltliner) throughout dinner.

          They served an amuse-bouche of prosciutto, melon and heart of palm.

          When they served us, they informed us that they were out of fennel but the sweetbreads were instead served with a more traditional strawberry puree/compote.

          Our mains were the Wagyu skirt steak with marrow and soy bordelaise, and also the rack of pork with rosemary. Our sides were the assorted mushrooms and the gnocchi.

          Our palate cleanser was a champagne sorbet.

          For dessert, we had the cookie sampler and the salty chocolate tart.

          To close, they served a small toffee bite as well as a lavender marshmallow.

          All dinner long, the dishes really shined. The weakest was definitely the hamachi, who was overpowered by the paired apricot. The rack of pork was pretty weak, too, but only because it sat next to the skirt steak. The surprising star was the arugula and fig. Alone, the arugula's pepperiness and the sourness of the dressing was too overpowering, but when paired with the shaved cheese or the roasted fig, the arugula worked perfectly. Known all-stars were the skirt steak and the sweetbreads. The skirt steak was served with a tiny "croquette" of marrow which is my favorite steak topping. And the sweetbreads were very enjoyable.

          Total damage: 4 glasses of wine, 3 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, 2 desserts and tax came to $250. It was a lot of food and the servings were surprisingly large. I could have eaten just the sweetbreads, maybe some rolls and I would have been done! We could have gotten away with ordering one less starter (see ya, hamachi) and even split the main (see ya, rack of pork) and it still would have been a lot of food. As it stood, I brought home a pretty hefty doggy bag.

          I really liked the ambiance, and the service was amazing, and I noted that they were really well staffed. I especially enjoyed one server meticulously measuring and remeasuring out the distance that the chair should be from the 2-top table, totally reminiscent of how much OCD I have when preparing a place setting.

          A wonderful spot. I'm going to come back in August when they start serving lunch to see what the room looks like when natural sunlight pours in through those large windows.

          24 Replies
          1. re: SauceSupreme

            glad you liked. thanks for sharing too!

            1. re: SauceSupreme

              We were at Craft last night also at a table of six all the way in the back with lots of wine flowing. We had several of the courses you mentioned and many more. Overall the food was good but not incredible. The Lamb was only OK and the Skirt Steak was very good. The Lobster was ok and the Hamachi was better than I expected.

              The 35- corkage per bottle was a real turn off and probably a good reason to take Craft off the Radar. Then again, I was at Spago for Lunch yesterday to warm up for Craft , TM of course and OMG it was fantastic.
              If I had to compare for the same $$ Spago would get a NINE and Craft would get a SIX in the scoring overall.

              1. re: russkar

                I think $35 a bottle is pretty standard..It's just nice to hear that they let you bring wine at all!

                Did they have a maximum on how many bottles you could bring?

                I cant wait to try craft out..im gonna wait til they open for lunch..i think that will be more in my budget :)

                1. re: misstastt

                  thought that 10 to 20 is standard.. 35 is very high IMHO

                  1. re: misstastt

                    Misstastt, your kidding right? 35- corkage is "pretty standard"?
                    May I ask were your dining?
                    We only dine out 6 nights a week(almost every week, year round) plus several lunches and only a few fine dining establishments are even 20- per bottle
                    Spago is 25-, Providence is 20-, La Cachette is 20-, Melisse is 30 or 35- (waived if a btl is purchased off their list, which we always do anyway), Josie 20-, Fraiche 15-, Joe's 15- , Roy's 15-, Lucques 15 or 20-, Maison Akira 15-, Parkway Grill 15-, Morton's 20- , Mako 15-, Mozza 20-, Blue Velvet 20-, Watergrill 25- , Checkers 15- , Taylor's 10-, Sasabune 15-, Jiraffe 15-, Cafe del Rey 15-, Houston's 0-, Gulfstream 0-, Bandera 0-.
                    Not to mention that many restaurants are even more flexible and generally waive all corkage if they know you. I can only think of 3 restaurants that don't allow Corkage(outside wine) in LA which is a good reason not to visit them for us.
                    1. Georgio Baldi
                    2. Ivy
                    3. La Botte
                    4. Capo (allows a btl or two but are so fussy most of my friends have dropped it from their short list)

                    1. re: russkar

                      Russ, you forget:

                      5. Via Veneto (similar to 4. )

                      1. re: RicRios

                        Thanks RIcRios, we don't want to miss anyone with ridiculious Corkage policies do we? As you can see Via Veneto was already off my radar screen.

                      2. re: russkar

                        CUT - $25

                        $35 is not at all standard and it sends a message especially when the wine list at CRAFT according to the F&B Manager is not yet fully developed. oh, and we bought a bottle and corkage was not waived for another bottle. wines we brought were not on and will likely never to be on the list. tsk, tsk.

                        1. re: russkar

                          Russkar.. FYI Taylors is now $12 brought a bottle of Bordeaux last time and they even broke out the nice stemware, only if they would purchase a decanter.. Still a nice place for a steak at reasonable prices and a good corkage policy as well. Thanks for your list of corkage policies as well..

                          1. re: Foodandwine

                            Twelve bucks for corkage and decent stemware also? NOoooooooo!
                            I might have to switch to their Canned Grapefruit Juice Grey Goose GREYHOUNDS? Well probably not?
                            Actually I take my own fresh Grapefruit Juice there when I take a Client to lunch that likes Greyhounds , true story. Have done it for years.

                      3. re: russkar

                        I found our menu from last night, so here go's: (six people)
                        Hama Hama & Kumamoto Oysters
                        Big Eye Tuna
                        Gem Salad
                        Chittara Spaghetti
                        Baby Lamb
                        Wagyu Skirt Steak
                        Potatoes Gratin
                        Asrt Mushrooms
                        Cavalo Nero Veggie
                        Baby Broccoli
                        Donuts, Fig Tart, Choc Tart, Plum Galette, 6 Ice cream tastes.
                        Oink , Oink

                        1. re: russkar

                          That wagyu skirt steak was so awesome. I'm still thinking about it. Well seasoned, awesome flavor added by the soy bordelaise as well as the marrow. Mm mm mm, great stuff.

                        2. re: russkar

                          There must be a reason the wines were selected by the beverage director to constitute that high corkage fee... even though.. I CAN'T WAIT to eat at Craft!

                          1. re: Havesom00

                            The Craft Wine List Sucks! It's unimaginative and small.
                            There is no excuse for their $35- corkage fee per bottle.
                            Once the buzz dies down it will be interesting to see if it affects them?

                            1. re: russkar

                              isnt better to be able to pay $35 per bottle and be able to bring all your own..then to have to buy one on the list to get the fee waived like other restaurants do? just a thought..but i guess its not really about the money..

                              1. re: misstastt

                                "i guess its not really about the money"

                                misstastt, you're on the right path...!

                            2. re: Havesom00

                              as i said above, the list is unfinished which is why the corkage fee is so offensive. if you have a full blown dynamite selection, fine. but if it's a work-in-progress, shame, shame.

                              1. re: revets2

                                Wine compliments the food. If i wanted to center my meal around it, I'd take a 3hr drive north. I am just really interested to see if this place can reverse the general trend in LA to over season and over sauce. I miss NY dining. We need to get back down to basics. I have my res for WED!

                                1. re: Havesom00

                                  Where does a 3 hr. drive north get you to that's famous for wine?

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    I'm guessing (wildly) French Laundry? Do I get a kewpie doll??

                                    1. re: Maxmillion

                                      To reach the FL in 3 hrs. your average speed would attract most of the CHP cars in the state. Maybe there is a new restaurant in SLO that revolves around vino?

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        lol - no prize for me! Where's SLO?

                                        OH -- San Luis Obispo. Goddit.

                                      2. re: Maxmillion

                                        last time i went to FL the corkage there was $50 each and i took 5 bottles!

                                    2. re: Havesom00

                                      i'm not really sure what that has to do with the corkage fee charged, but whatever. have a great time!

                            3. A quick aside: why in God's name would you even WANT to go to a restaurant where you have multiple servers? You even said that the actual server didn't impress you! I'm very confused. Happy you had good food, but confused by your rationale.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: amandaqtpie

                                when we ate at craftsteak in las vegas i think the servers were working in teams so that way you would have multiple servers.

                                1. re: amandaqtpie

                                  The primary server took our order and provided the dining bill (and decrumbed). However, there was one person who took care of our H20, others who would bus as they went by, and others who delivered as it was ready. It was really a team effort. And of course, the management was out in full force. If I'm going to pay good money, there better be extensive waitstaff in the wings. French Laundry or Per Se experiences come to mind.

                                  1. re: amandaqtpie

                                    Why would you not "want" team servers? It makes me feel pampered.

                                    1. re: amandaqtpie

                                      Agreed. Although I'm not sure they wanted to go there because of the multiple servers, I have heard the same thing about Per Se in NYC that the plethora of waiters hovering over you can detract from the intimate experience with the food. I've always enjoyed the gracefulness of a server who can seem to always be there when you need something, but is pretty much invicible the rest of the time.

                                      1. re: roasted138

                                        I agree about the "there when you need them, gone when you don't" mentality. Maybe I leave that for places with only one server. I guess our experiences are much different than most. We end up chatting it up with the staff, and they were some of the best company. Heck, by doing so we got to meet Mr. C at Craft. And the best one was a private tour of the entire back of the house atop Time Warner Center thanks to a dining captain at Per Se.

                                        1. re: brekkie_fan

                                          Hmm, good point. The closest I've been to Per Se's kitchen is the virtual video tour on epicurious.com. But that got me inspired!! I just read Keller was the consultant in Ratatouille for all the food shots and the info about how a fine-dining kitchen operates. I was blown away by how great the food looked in that movie.

                                    2. Awesome. Craft is one of my favorite high end meals in NYC. Glad to see the LA outpost is living up to the name.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        CraftSteak got one star from Frank Bruni of the NYT when he first reviewed the place, and his subsequent review got 1.5 stars (out of a possible four, btw), yet this is hardly the stuff of high-end high quality celebrity chefs doing what they do best, or maybe it is - that is, being a celebrity.
                                        I'll wait for a while to let the dust and the crew to settle in. Right now, too iffy at those prices.

                                        1. re: carter

                                          That makes sense -- I rarely try a place for the first month or so after it opens to give them time to work out the kinks. To clarify, however, Craft is not the same thing as Craft Steak. By all accounts, Tom learned his lesson from the Craft Steak fiasco and has redoubled efforts to make his other places live up to the name. I guessing that's why there were some delays in opening the Century City.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            If you wait very long Tom C will not be cooking in the kitchen. He is only going to be here for 3 months. Then occasionally in the future.

                                      2. My girlfriend and I just had dinner here and it was really solid. We had the pork belly which was, to me, an apex of porkly expression (crispy exterior with a thatch of skin, meltingly tender and heart-stoppingly rich interior), the braised short ribs (okay, nothing special) with the assorted mushrooms (very good) and the chitarra spaghetti carbonara (delicious).

                                        Our dessert was solid as well (raspberry pound cake with lemon verbena and olive oil gelato) although the weakest part of the dessert was actually the pound cake ... surprisingly dry and un-buttery although appropriately dense. I loved the gelato although my girlfriend wanted a more pronounced olive oil flavor from it.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: donnival

                                          i was so busy chatting it up, i forgot to ask what the gelati flavors were. i agree, i would have never guessed olive oil in a blind, but then i wonder how they got that intensely green colour.

                                          and brekkie_fan, once more, i'm most impressed with your miles and commitment to try great food! bravo!

                                        2. I went on July 14 and agree with most posted here. However, I can't believe no one has mentioned the two best things I had. 1)Corn Agnolotti & truffle butter. Everybody else thought I wasn't ordering adventurous enough, until it came and they flagged down the waiter to order a second one. and 2)we ordered the potato puree as a side...heaven. Both are pretty rich, but there was 5 of us that all agreed we could have just eaten that and been happy

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: foucha2

                                            When I went, it was Corn Agnolotti & Speck - absolutely FABULOUS! We got the Potato Gratin - it was so fantastically rich and creamy. I also got the pork belly, which although a bit well done, tasted amazing.

                                          2. Went to Craft last night for my birthday dinner and it was nothing short of fabulous. I was truly worried after reading some of the posts on this board prior to going, however, I was determined to go with an open mind (and empty stomach)! When I got there I promptly ordered a Craft Cocktail after browsing through the wine/cocktail list. They have a few interesting cocktails, but being more of a wine drinker, I selected this one considering it was made with prosecco and peach puree which sounded really refreshing (and I DID want to start my night off with something sparkling considering the occasion). After the rest of my party arrived, we were seated by a very gracious hostess and introduced to our waiters, who were equally as gracious, patient, and accommodating throughout the entire meal. We started with a couple of salads: a baby mixed green w/radish for the very picky eater that was a part of the festivities and then an arugula & black fig salad w/parmesan shavings for me and another dining companion to share. Both were as fresh as can be and absolutely delicious. Then came our roasted Veal Sweetbreads & Fennel, Japanese Hamachi & Apricot, and Chicken Egg, Lobster, and mushrooms. Another round that was quickly devoured and much appreciated. The sweetbreads were melt-in-your-mouth good, and the apricot lent a sweet (dare I say, a little TOO sweet) flavor to the mild hamachi (this might have been my least favorite dish). The egg dish I didn’t get to try, but my dining companion who ordered it considered getting another because he loved it so much.
                                            Then out came our mains: the Wagyu Ribeye and the Beef Short Rib & Root Vegetables. Our side was the assorted roasted mushrooms. Both mains were delicious and well-seasoned, however the short rib was SO incredibly fatty that it was a bit hard to cut and chew. The little bit of actual meat that I was able to taste off of it was perfect. :) The Wagyu was very rich and delicious...to be honest I didn’t need more than one slice of that to accompany our meaty, woodsy, flavorful mushrooms. For desert we ordered the assorted sorbets (NOT my choice, believe me), and the Salty Chocolate Tart. I didn’t get to taste the sorbet, but the piece of the tart I sampled was divine. Really all I needed after that amazing meal was the delicious cup of coffee I was served. It tasted like as rich and complex as the chocolate anyway. All in all, this was an amazing meal. I enjoyed it tremendously and would recommend it to anyone. What I appreciated most about every single dish was how simply prepared they were. The chef (yes...I saw Tom!) prepared everything in a way which allowed the true, natural flavor of the item come through...whether it was the beef, the mushrooms, or the figs in the salad...everything tasted the way it was “supposed” to taste. No heavy sauces masking the flavors of the produce or meats...just pure, lightly enhanced flavor. Delicious.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: foodieqt

                                              thanks for the great review.. eating there tomorrow.. and CANT WAIT.

                                            2. here is my report from saturday night...

                                              went alone. had a great table. everyone was super friendly. started with the $27 glass of pink champagne (hey, i'm worth it!) and i drank it along with the delightful amuse bouche which was blue crab nestled in a gougeres. enojoyable. Next i had the fois gras terrine with plums (and a plum foam, was marcel back there?) served with toasted brioche. It was decent, surely not the best i've had but it was pretty darn good. I had this with a glass of white which the beverage director recommended that was delish! For the main course i had the salmon (something i never order) that was really outstanding. it came with a bit of baby cucmbers and teeny tiny red onions in a very light vinagrette. i also order the side of puree which was definatley a great combo with the salmon. i even took the left over puree home and had it the next day! desert was the fresh fruit plate - so fresh (duh, this is cali) and too big to finish. what i thought was a nice touch was when you do have a 'doggy bag' - they do not make a giant foil swan or you a container to sit on your table during the rest of your meal, they give you a claim check and you pick it up as you leave the restaurant! i thought that was kinda clever. anyway, the price was not too bad for one person. i can see how it could really climb with 2 or more people with all the additional sides, bottle(s) of wine, etc. perfect for one! looking forward to my next visit!