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Craft: Is it worth it?

A friend of mine (and fellow Chowhound) is dying to go to Craft and wants me to go with her. She's a Top Chef fan, and, after reading the Eater LA interview, she wants to get there before Tom Colicchio leaves when the season ends. We're both finally making enough to where we can afford to go to a restaurant of Craft's level (read: price tag), but I have a long list of restaurants I've been wanting to visit for a long time. I have long lusted for meals at Providence, Spago, and La Cachette, and, were I left to my own crapulence, I could easily let a meal at Craft wait on the back burner until I've eaten at Osteria Mozza five or six dozen more times.

But I don't want to be myopic. Just as I don't want to drop $100+ on a meal because the chef is famous on TV (says the guy who loves Molto Mario's joint), I don't want to miss out on something really wonderful because I haven't made it through my unwritten to-do list. My friend and I have read the review posts, and she's still resolutely in favor of going, while I remain on the fence, especially after accidentally running across this thread:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/210206

The line "Well executed upper airline food" would be particularly enjoyable if I didn't have an invitation to go in less than two weeks.

I'm seeking out your advice. I'm not guessing anyone will say it's bad, but is it something I should be rushing to? Can it stand with shoulder-to-shoulder with other restaurants in the city charging that kind of tag? Or should I pass on Craft and work on narrowing down my long-lingering list instead?

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  1. It's not perfect, but I think it's much better than what the general consensus seems to be. We went as a party of 5 and shared everything family style. We ordered the pork belly, the pork terrine, the sardines, 2 orders of the duck eggs with mushrooms, the gnocchi, and the pork chop.

    I must say, all the pork was exceptional. We opted to stay away from the beef, the cheapest of which was $50. The prices on the beef entrees are all really, really outrageous, but we had a great dinner sticker to the cheaper red meat.

    With dessert, a cheese plate, a bottle of wine and a cocktail each for 5, we got out of there spending only $70pp. Then again, it was really late, and none of us ate that much.

    But, with that said, the food is pretty rich and will leave you feeling full even without eating much (and, believe me, we all have healthy appetites). The next time I go with just my SO, we would order one each of a salad, an app, a main, a side, and a cheese plate (which was extraordinary, BTW), and would probably leave there feeling totally sated while still only paying about $70pp.

    They are currently holding back on taking too many reservations, so as to allow the kitchen to get up to speed on the menu, which I think is a very wise move. The service is one of the best I've encountered in LA and the space is quite lovely.

    I liked it a lot and would definitely return.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ninja

      The general consensus is really hard to read right now. There seem to be lots of hits, misses, and question marks; Craft seems to be a big "TBD." With Osteria Mozza, everything is in exclamation marks, both the positive and the negative, making it one of those places where, if one is fairly knowledgeable about one's own likes and temperament, one can judge the response and get a good feel for how one might like or dislike the place. With the Craft postings, though, everything is just all periods. The response seems more muted, and it's harder to tell. Actually, maybe that lack of fervid emotion, positive or negative, really is the best measurement.

      And I've seen the outrageous Wagyu beef prices on the online menu. But I'm a big pork fan, anyway. I've made note that the pork belly starter seems to be almost unanimously praised and will be ordered if I go. (After Mozza's excellent guinea fowl, I'm curious about Craft's take, but no one has posted about it.)

      1. re: Woolsey

        I had dinner there with a friend last week and found the meal to be very good on the whole albeit I was much more impressed by my meal at Osteria Mozza.

        As an amuse, we were served delicious white anchovies on bruschetta; for appetizers, we split a nice hamachi with apricots and the outstanding chitarra spaghetti carbonara (!)--so good that my friend almost reneged on splitting it with me (fortunately, a large portion); for mains I had the wagyu ribeye, which was delicious but, at $88, a bit of a whim; my friend had the prawns which, while good (and only $28), were not up to the caliber of those at Osteria Mozza; sides were the assorted mushrooms (disappointing) and terrific gnocchi (!). A dessert amuse of sorbet with persimmon soup was quite nice and was a good contrast with the salty chocolate tart with hazelnut gelato (!). As others have noted, the service at Craft is excellent. I would definitely go back.

        All things being equal, Providence and Spago would get my nod ahead of Craft. However, if your friend has her heart set on trying it (or even just has the reservation already), you will not be disappointed having indulged her there.

        1. re: Woolsey

          I've been to Craft 3 times now. After the 4th I'll put a review up on CH. I personally believe that you've got to go a few times before you get a real feel for restaurants that fall in the mid to high-end range and especially newly opened restaurants.

          So far I've went early-week/early evening/outside dining; mid week, late, inside dining; walk-in lounge/bar meal... my next dinner will be a friday/saturday evening dinner when most restaurants are in the weeds. Quick take of Craft so far: great service, great bartender and martinis/negronis/scotch prices -- though not impressed with the specialty cocktails, not a very large or varied wine menu but appropriately priced and served properly and as I asked, the first courses are definitely the highlight of the meal, desserts are good, and expect a lot of amuse bouche courses (pre-meal and dessert at least.) Disappointments were the pork belly (wasn't impressed with the grade of cut and felt overcooked each time), the fowl (both the chicken and hen) overcooked and pretty boring, the waygu very overcooked.

          Some things I suggest when going is being specific on the pace of your meal to your waiter so that they aren't starting your courses too early (I don't think they are intentionally rushing; it just feels as if the kitchen is a bit nervous and trying to knock through as many orders as fast as they can to prevent getting in the weeds), getting the duck egg, peruvian octopus, the vegetables, the cheese plate.

          The actual menu when you go seems to be a subset of the online craft los angeles menu. The prices are _actually_ pretty reasonable (insane but true); the first meal I had there was a blowout for the hell of it ($600 total for 2 w/1 mid-priced bottle of wine and tip -- but that was 5 hour meal with an unreasonable amount of courses) but since it's been closer to 70pp to 100pp for a 2-2.5 hr meal total. I could probably do a late dinner in the lounge/bar for $50pp with drinks and tip.

          Of note is that they do take walk-ins which is great since unless you work at CAA/ICM which is right there, the destination factor of its location makes it easy to get a table since they lack foot traffic. Also, the outdoor lounge/cabanas in the summer and late fall make a great hangout as the sun is going down. It really fills a great niche for the area (X-bar is awful and is the closest to a winebar/lounge in the area.)

          1. re: ninja

            Nancy has been doing the simply prepared, top-notch ingredient thing here in LA long before Tom arrived—and to my mind her preparations are still more thoughtful and better executed. (Plus at Nancy’s, you can park in the ‘hood for free and save yourself the $28 valet parking fee.)

          2. CRAFT is good. really good. we're a little put off by their corkage policy. we have two reservations over the next two weeks.

            but if you haven't been to O' MOZZA, PROVIDENCE, or SPAGO, and you're only going because a friend is a TC fan, perhaps you might regret that.

            to make it easier on the wallet, think about eating at PROVIDENCE on a monday. there's no corkage, however, drew's pairings are killer. or eat at SPAGO for lunch which is slightly easier on the wallet. the tasting menu here is usually the way to go. O'MOZZA is very good, especially at the bar. but i'm not sure i'd pass on a meal at CRAFT to go to LA CACHETTE (we make it here about once or twice a year). other friends swear by jean-francois when they work directly with him on a tasting menu.

            enjoy and buen provecho!

            2 Replies
            1. re: revets2

              I have been to Osteria Mozza, and I could go there again and again and again and again. I love the place:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/423500

              1. re: Woolsey

                i see it. nice review. thanks for the link.

            2. We went this last weekend to both Osteria Mozza and Craft (weekend night prime-time reservations at 7pm and 8pm respectively) and I would say that Craft's service didn't feel like it had everything running on all cylinders yet. Not sure if it was where our table was placed, but the waitstaff would just glance past our table as they went to serve others. A few times we had problems flagging down servers as they were passing our table. They seemed to be distracted and aloof.

              Our party of six, at the end of the evening, felt collectively that just due to service and ambiance they would head back to OM first. I think the kitchens at both are turning out some good food, and it was fun to see Nancy and Tom in their native environments, but OM seems to have the whole package currently.

              1. I haven't been to LA Craft, but the NY branch is in my top three favorite high-end meals in NYC. It has it's detractors but many, many fans, as well. Just keep in mind that the focus is on simpler preparations that showcase the ingredients more than the chef's cleverness.

                1. I confess. I am the one that wants to go to CRAFT in order to catch Mr. Colicchio. To me, the opportunity to experience his artistry while he is in town is an opportunity that should not be missed.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jocey

                    It's her! It's her fault! ;)

                    I have a feeling we'll still be debating this at Pizzeria Mozza next week...

                    1. re: Woolsey

                      LOL! Just remember, to paraphrase Gordon Ramsey, it's still an Armani even if he didn't sew it himself.

                      1. re: banquisha

                        According to the Eater LA interview, he'll be in town until the season finale, which will be done live:

                        http://la.eater.com/archives/2007/07/...

                      2. re: jocey

                        i'm a big 'top chef' fan too, and i was SO excited to see tom colicchio last sunday, surfing right next to me! i couldn't muster the words to say anything, but it was very cool.
                        i'm looking forward to going to CRAFT too,

                        1. re: luvgrub

                          Is there anyone that is sincerely passionate about what CRAFT serves? Or has anyone you know given Colicchio's food a "by any means the best meal I've had" stamp. I want to go because of my love for the show. On the other hand, I am having a hard time convincing my friend that the food will be worth it as well.