Craft lacking the human touch
Got a 9:30 reservation at the last minute. I love Top Chef and I've never had a chance yet to go to Colicchio's NY restaurants, so I was excited about the opening of this one. We were taken to a banquette where a sleazy looking guy was perched next to an elderly couple - I had to wait a few moments for him to realize that I wanted to sit down on the banquette. Sleazy guy stood next to my husband's chair and continued talking to the couple. He was offering them dessert - maybe's he's the GM. Meanwhile, no one offers us menus, water, nothing. To go all Larry David about it - it's nice that the sleazy GM is taking such good care of the elderly couple, but I'm 40 and I've got decades more dining ahead of me, so maybe somebody could acknowledge my existence here so I'll want to come back? We asked a busboy to get our waiter - nothing. Finally we flag someone down to bring us menus, but he never returns. We asked the hostess to find our waiter - at this point we had sat for 10 minutes. Nobody comes. A few more minutes later, we grab another waitress to use as pinch hitter - our is apparently too busy with other tables (and was someone we had never seen at all, not the one the gave us menus). We tell her we haven't looked at the menu because we were seriously thinikng about leaving and going to try Pink Taco. What was really annoying is that the waiter's station was right behind us, so we could hear people standing around gabbing, not paying any attention to us.
The food was good but very rich. We started with the pork - huge portion, glad we only got one appetizer. They suggest one starter, one main, and one or two sides per person. We decided to share on main -the short ribs, and 4 sides. It was a lot of food. The waitress steered us away from the gratins and suggested the grits - which were terrific. We also had the gnocchi, brussel sprouts, and peas. If you love mushrooms, they have a huge selection in the sides.
I expected more from Colicchio. When you judge others, you better walk the talk. He would have reamed them on the show for the service we got. I think Mario does the best job of all the celebrity chefs - I've never had a bad time at his places.
When we left, sleazy GM was sitting next to two cute girls at the bar. I don't know if he is actually the GM, but he's definitely managerial staff, he looks like a drug dealer, and he obviously doesn't care about good service. A real turn-off.
I love it when one or more servers have their backs to the room and are engaged in deep conversation with each other. It's intentional: they will not look around at the room because they know that you will signal them. It's a chronic problem at Kate Mantellini's. I haven't been to Craft yet, but will get there eventually. I hope the sleazy GM is still there when we get there - your description cracks me up. Glad to hear that the food was good, though.
Mmmm... I also had the grits last night. Fantastic. Paired with the short ribs, it was a great match. Sadly my one and only other run in with grits was at a roadside Cracker Barrel in Colorado. This was, ahem, a big step up. We also had the sable with bacon sabayon. Quite good fish. It seemed like bacon (or other derivations of salty porkiness) was a theme. Endive salad with bacon, octopus with chorizo.... I can't complain. It was delicious.
I think the negative responses to the original post are off base, though certainly entitled to their opinion. Nothing wrong with a manager taking the time to talk to a previously seated, let alone elderly couple, (or even cute girls at the bar -- the job has some perks) but the problem identified by the OP (at least with the previously seated couple) was that this continued while they sat their with numerous service problems. Chatting up diners is great, but the job of the manager is to monitor service. And the OP was pretty upbeat about the food, and even complimentary to the waitress about steering them towards the grits, so I discount the notion that this was post was from some sort of competitor. Unfortunately, the service problems identified by the OP do not seem uncommon at Craft -- posts here and on other boards, and several reviews have noted that the service is spotty, which is surprising in some respects given that Colicchio often does emphasize that dining is not just about food, but also making a guest feel welcome, though perhaps not surprising given that in general, service standards in LA are fairly low, even at high-end spots. (But that is something for another topic....) I agree that characterizing the manager as "sleazy" or like a "drug-dealer" may be a bit over the top, but I think the reaction was prompted by what sound like valid concerns echoed by others -- the front of the house is not hitting on all cylinders, and that is the responsibility of the manager, who might better spend time watching the floor than chatting up diners. I still want to try Craft, but between this post and others raising questions about service, and still other posts and reviews that have been, to be charitable, tepid about the food, I find myself more inclined to return to Jar, AOC or Spago, where I know I'll get an excellent meal for what I would pay (or in some cases less than I would pay) at Craft -- and with efficient service to boot. Colicchio spent a couple of months here getting Craft launched, but most of the posts and reviews I've suggest that he, or someone with a strong hand needs to really be on site and supervising food and service. Right now Craft is "Flavor of the Month" and certainly helped by its proximity to CAA and the relatively few high-end dining/entertaining options for corporate folk in the very immediate area. But over the long haul, as even Colicchio has admitted, LA is in some respects a tougher market than New York, and based on this, other posts and reviews, Craft really needs to be more consistent food and service wise, if it is going to stay in business here.
I'm sorry and surprised you put up with that service. I would've been long gone half way through your ordeal! And since you mentioned the Pink Taco, I would've been there in a heartbeat with the amazing homemade cihps and salsa over there!! In any case, thanks for posting this review... it'll save me another restaurant disappointment that I don't need.
Was just there last Monday night for an impromptu dinner with my gf and the service was quite good. We were seated promptly and the found waiter to be spot on in his attentiveness. He paid attention when he was supposed to and went away when he wasn't needed. He was charming and was able to interact in a charming and approachable way and spared us the "are we....." type statements that have become way to common.
Maybe it was just a slower night or maybe they've settled in, but the restaruant is quite enjoyable for a special occasion.