Quite Possibly a Perfect Meal at Craft- Review
My SO's parents had reservation for dinner at Craft last Thursday and invited us to join them. We always love going out with his folks and had been doing pretty well on our budget so we decided to tag-along.
First of all, I have to say that while I have always been interested in trying out Craft, it has never been on the top of my list.
Why? Well I have heard so many mixed reviews about this place over the years. There are people on here that absolutely hate it.
On the other hand, there are also people on here that sing it's praises-even calling it the best restaurant they've ever been to!
I guess I was just always scared to take the chance that I might be one of those "haters". Working for a non-profit agency I'm not exactly raking in the big bucks! Part of the reason I started reading blogs was so I wouldn't be disppointed spending the little cash I had on a bad meal.
Well anyways- when Thursday night came I was honestly just excited to be spending some quality time with family out of the apartment. Budgets are good like that! They remind you what's really important in life! Okay- enough preaching- back to the place.
The first thing you notice upon walking into Craft is the beautiful lights hanging from the ceiling and the walls. I wouldn't call the layout romantic, I would describe it as comforting.
The hostess sat us down at a huge wooden table. I really loved the whole feel of the place. It was rustic and sophisticated at the same time.
The waiter came over and described the menu to us in detail. It's split up into first course, main course and sides. To me it sounded just like every other restaurant, but it's really not at all. I'll explain why a little later on.
The first thing to arrive at our table was the bread. I tried a peice of the whole wheat bread and it was quite tasty but nothing special. As I was contemplating trying out the white bread they brought over an amuse bouche for everyone.
This was a rock shrimp with olive oil and a little sprig of carrot and parsly on top. The olive oil was wonderful..... Again the amuse itself wasn't anything phenomanal but it was a solid start.
We were all kind of settling in and really enjoying the warmth of the place when our first courses arrived. At Craft all of the dishes are put in the middle of the table and everyone shares family style.
The first thing I tried? For some reason I went for the Foie Gras.
Now I know I don't like Foie Gras. It's just too rich for me but I still try the different variations everywhere we go.
I took a bite with some of the sauce and was really surpised. Rather than the overly rich taste I usually hate- It was actually quite smooth. The sauce really balanced out the flavor. Our waiter told us the sauce was actually just some Golden Raisins. Wow! Probably my favorite spin on a Foie Gras dish.
Next the Wagyu Carpaccio with Honshimeji. Honshimeji are tiny little Asian mushrooms that were atop the meat along with some arugula salad and some oil. I loved this dish!! Wagyu meat is so good on it's own it doesn't need anything fancy to go with it. The tiny mushrooms and salad really just enhanced the flavor and texture of the meat.
I had actually ordered the Quail as my first course for the table and it was also very good. I think the Quail at Irving Mill had a slighly better char to the outside which I enjoyed but this was well prepared and very tasty.
The last course we got were the Sweetbreads whch didn't come out in the picture. OMG though- they were really really good!! I never thought I liked sweetbreads but here they had so much flavor...and the portion was huge!! These were a big hit!
I ordered another glass of wine and our sides and entrees started to arrive. I had heard the Gnocchi was great but I didn't think it was that special- a little too heavy for me.
The Diver Scallops were enourmous and had a great crunch on the outside. I think they were finished off with a little melted butter and that's about it. Fantastic!
The Chathom Cod was grilled and came with a lemon butter sauce on the side. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauce really helped to enhance the dish.
Then a big old pot of braised short ribs. We actually ordered two so they just brought out this huge thing. If there is a better example of a perfect wintery comfort food dish- I don't know what it is. Tender beef and veggies in a sweet, brown sugar sauce. Sweet & Savory at the same time...Yum! One of the best I've had to date.
One of the greatest things about the meal though came in the form of our other sides. The duck confit and the Jerusalum Artichokes were both amazing. What are Jerusalum Artichokes? Don't ask just order!! I was so full yet I kept going back to those damn artichokes.
When I finally put down my fork from all the great food our plates were whisked away and we were each given a Meyer Lemon spritzer as a palate cleanser. Now I was ready to burst about 2 minutes before but for some reason that spritzer perked me right back up. So we decided to get one more round and some dessert.
I ordered a fantastic glass of Cabernet while the rest of the group got some port. There were a lot of great looking desserts on the menu it was hard to chose. In the end though I think I chose the winner.
I got the Toffe Steamed Pudding with a side of Coffee Crunch ice cream. The bread pudding came out more like a souffle and was pretty light for a usually heavy dish. It came with a side of toffee sauce and creme fraiche. I hate creme frachie but the ice cream I ordered more than balanced out the dish!
Wow this dessert was awesome. The ice cream was rich and creamy with chunks of coffee mixed in. It tasted like it was homemade. Next time I think I would get their ice cream sampler to check out all of the other flavors.
At this point I really was ready to burst. They brought out some dark chocolate and peanut butter candies for the end and I could barely finish one tiny peice (although I did).
With the check they brought out a muffin for you to take home for your breakfast the next morning just like Gramercy Tavern & Eleven Madison do.
I've always thought this was such a nice touch and a good marketing tool as well. When you wake up in the morning you're immediately reminded of the great meal you had. Chances are you'll enjoy your breakfast and go to work happy and excited to tell co-workers about your meal!
Well breakfast in the morning was delicious. The entire muffin was surprisingly moist and tasted like it had just been baked.
So to sum it all up, I really enjoyed my experience at Craft. First of all, our waiter was always available to answer any questions we had and accomodate our last minute changes BUT he wasn't intrusive. Sometimes I feel that the wait staff are hovering over my table and it's really off-putting. Here the staff seemed as relaxed as we were and things just flowed smoothly.
The food as I described was spectacular. Each dish was delicious and executed perfectly. I understand the concept now in a better way. Many times I think the sides make a dish good. Here each main ingredient really stands on its own. The Jerusalum Artichokes were all about artichokes not helping out a fish dish. The butter on the Scallops was only about enhancing the natural flavor of the Scallop. It's all very complicated in it's simple little way.
Anyway I am so happy to have gone to Craft and am now even more excited to use our CraftSteak gift certificate than I was before. I can't wait to see what they can do with a huge cut of beef!!
Great food, Relaxing Atmosphere, Attentive Service and Fabulous people to share it with- quite possibly a perfect meal!
Hey- I guess I'm one of the Craft lovers!
Huh! See I would put the Tavern room at gramercy tavern as my favorite place of all time but I think craft was somewhat similar. The food was just as good, service was friendly and while the decor was different (nothing beats GT in this department) I still loved it!
I'm curious as to what you see is so different. Especially since we both seem to love the other two :)
Thanks for your very detailed review. I've not tried Craft, but after reading your review, I definitely do want to try it.
Thanks for that lovely review. I think you perfectly captured the spirit and philosophy of Craft. I've always been a big fan of Craft. Which is surprising, given that I always thought Gramercy Tavern was way overrated. But from my very first meal at Craft, soon after it opened, I realized it deserved all the lavish praise I got. The finest ingredients, simply yet perfectly prepared. What's not to like about that?
I just got back from lunch at Craft and your post inspired my order. Quail and scallops. It was as good as you say. The quail was slightly more charred than you describe, so maybe they read your post and took your suggestion to heart!
re: Brian S
Hi Brian S,
Read your post on Craft and absolutely agreed with you. I have also been a long time Craft fan, and even though it kept getting very mixed reviews, my experience told me that I should not stop going there! Of all these times I had only been to Craft for dinners and the RW lunch was my first lunch (after they started lunch service back in October?). I was glad that they didn't skimp on food or service. I will surely go back for more lunch and dinner as one of my favorite dishes there - the sweetbreads - was not offered during RW.
Having that said, I still think that dinner is a better time for experiencing Craft because there are some dishes that are meant to be shared and not available at lunch. I think roze took an excellent approach which was to order a lot of dishes and had a little of everything! That's how I like it.
I also realized that they now put the tasting menu out rather than having you to ask for it. I have also visited the private dinning room (the former Craftbar location) and it was beautifully decorated, perfect for private events!
Anyway, to be fair, there were some nay about Craft, more on the service side. My entree came before I even finished my appetizer. Then after I finished my appetizer the plate wasn't clear until I finished the entree. I had the quail before (not during RW but at dinner), and mine wasn't really charred, which I didn't mind at all. The problem was that the balsamic vinegar, which they said to be of 50 yr old, certainly did not have the consistency or flavor of any fine aged balsamic vinegar. Um...
Anyway, I think overall I enjoyed my lunch experience very much, especially during the RW!
p.s. I also have the same feeling about Gramercy tavern. I somehow could never get too excited about it. Judging by your preference in Chinese food and other restaurants, I think we have very similiar taste!