Valentine's Review: Craft, Will you be mine?
Last night my fiance and I celebrated Valentine's Day at Craft and I cannot stop thinking and dreaming about it. One of the best meals/experiences I've ever had was at Craftsteak in Las Vegas so when I heard it was coming to LA I was ecstatic. I also had very high expectations. Craft LA did not disappoint.
First let me just say that when we were in the making reservations process a couple months ago, it came down to Craft or Fraiche (a restaurant which I had heard very good things about and have been wanting to try) but whoever was taking the rsvns for Fraiche was not as hospitable as Craft, actually borderline rude. So Craft it was!
Now having dined here, I can attest that the same hospitable spirit and attitude we received on the phone reflects itself throughout the whole restaurant. Every person we came across--greeter, bartenders, bussers, runners, amuse bouche guy, servers--were effecient, knowledgeable, gracious, and accomodating. (not one bit of snootiness) Don't worry I still plan to visit Fraiche but I just wanted to touch upon how impressed I was by Craft's consistent thread of great service from start to finish.The staff at Craft strikes the perfect balance between being professional and also being open and warm.
While waiting for our table we tried two of their signature cocktails , the guava margarita and the pomegranite cranberry proseco. (sorry I can't remember their proper names) They were good but not noteworthy. I think next time I'll just order a martini. The candied nuts and marinated olives they serve at the bar were delicious though. We tried not to eat too much of them but found we couldn't help ourselves especially with the olives!
They informed us our table was ready midway through so somebody transported our drinks and the bartenders encouraged us to just transfer our tab to our table bill (very nice).
There was no pre fixe menu but there were some specials printed in the box at the bottom that were featured for that night.
We had brought our own wine selected from special wineries we had visited in years past. The corkage fee is 35$ by the way. We started with Le Cuvier Chardonnay 2002 ( we were fearful the wine had peaked but it was still good with some lovely caramel notes!) It went well with the first amuse bouche which was a small pastry stuffed with some sort of light cream. It didn't go so well with the oysters we ordered next but we enjoyed the oysters nonetheless.
We ordered 4 of each oyster: Kumamoto, Caraquette, and Malpeque. My favorite was the Malpeque which was meaty but still delicate in flavor. Usually I'm a huge Kumamoto fan but for whatever reason (the wine? not a good season?) they didn't pack the punch for me they usually do. Still good though.
Next we ordered the Parsnip Mezzaluna with Black Truffle Butter. We were still deciding on our main dish. It was between the Wagyu beef cheek or the lamb special for the night. (braised lamb shoulder and rack). We decided on the lamb.
We also ordered 2 sides--the roasted assorted mushrooms and bok choy.
We gave our server Daniel the rest of our white (whenever we bring our own wine in we try to give our server a glass and leave a little extra on the tip) and moved on to a cabernet--Stag's Leap Artemis 2004.
OK here's one small note: the mezzaluna although we ordered it much earlier than the main dishes and sides, arrived with the lamb and sides. Maybe it was our fault in not specifying we wanted it before? Although it is listed under first courses like the oysters and we received our oysters first...no matter. Once I put the first ricotta, marscapone stuffed mezzaluna and slice of truffle in my mouth, all was right with the world. (This was a good match with the chardonnay btw) I felt like the little rat on Ratatouille with all the flavors and colors bursting and swirling around my head!
The roasted assorted mushrooms (trompette,chanterelle, hen of woods,oyster, hedgehog, shiitake) were also out of this world. Not to sound cliche, but they really were seasoned to perfection allowing the flavor of the mushrooms to really came through.
The lamb was delicious. The shoulder fell apart with the touch of your fork like a tender pot roast. And the rack had a medium rare center and was very flavorful. There was a sauce surrounding it but it wasn't memorable.
The bok choy was so rich in flavor I asked our server if it any sort of meat (like chicken) broth worked into the recipe but he informed me that it was ginger infused. Very Very good.
The second amuse was a heavenly concoction using sweetened yogurt which can only be described as “One second you’re in heaven and then it’s gone.” Yes I did stick my finger in to get a second taste!
For dessert we had the glazed donuts with the chocolate,coffee custard and pear jam (?) I thought they were decent but not raveworthy like I had heard from everyone else. My fiance said "They're like krispy kreme" (gasp in horror if you wish)
I also ordered a cappuccino after the dessert arrived. I appreciate that it was brought to the table in a timely manner so I could enjoy it with my dessert.
In summary, everything was great if not fantastic. The décor is modern, the lighting giving the room a warm orange, yellow glow. You dined near others yet it didn’t feel cramped and it wasn’t noisy.
We were seated right next to one of the computers where the staff places orders but I didn’t hear any “shoptalk”. The servers silently went about their business.
The blow your mind dishes were the mezzaluna and the mushrooms, followed closely by the lamb (which is not a usual menu dish) and the bok choy. We finished everything that was served to us but didn’t feel overfull or like the portions were too small.
Next time I want to try the pork belly, baby broccoli and gnocchi.
The crème of the crop moment was as were getting in our car already feeling like we were on cloud nine, our server comes running out. We had forgotten our wine bag with a bottle of wine we decided not to open still inside!
Craft, will you always be my Valentine??
My boyfriend and I also chose Craft for our Valentine's Day celebration - however, we were there Friday night. We too had a fabulous time. The service was fantastic! The atmosphere was comfortable and relaxing (unlike Cut - definitely a colder feel)! Food was divine (the braised short ribs melted in your mouth) and yes, the "Craft Cocktail" (pomegranate, cranberry, and Prosecco) was the perfect way to kick start the meal. We too had waited a long time to try Craft and couldn't have been happier. It was definitely one of the best food experiences I've had in Los Angeles. If you haven't been...go! Now.
Yes! they did give us muffins at the end! I remembered that later. I think they were a pumpkin spice or carrot cake (?) I enjoyed them the next morning. The bill was around 300$ if I peaked correctly before my fiance snapped it shut!
I don`t think that`s bad at all. The reason we used valet is b/c we felt like we were running a little bit late for our schedule (I really wanted to get there early to "try out" the bar) and we were also frazzled from the traffic. It was really bad that night. guess everyone was rushing to get somewhere! But now that I know they validate for parking no charge we will use that option next time. the valet was 8$.
I thought the muffins were a nice gesture. The closest feeling after getting out of Craft, if it makes sense at all, is like the feeling after a spa treatment - thoroughly pampered and relaxed.
We actually tried to self-park, but gave up after circling around the cavenous parking lot and not spotting many cars parked there. Looked a bit too isolated. Perhaps during the day it's packed, but not at night.
Besides, as my hubbie pointed out - what's $8 when the bill is going to be $200+, with a 20% tip?
Yes, the parking lot was absolutely deserted when we went on a Saturday night. But that just made it easy to find a space :) We parked near the elevator on the 2000 Avenue of the Stars side (aka the CAA building), took the escalator up into the CAA building and out onto the plaza. Yes, I know it's ridiculous to worry about $8 when you are paying Craft prices.
Thanks for the writeup. I am glad that the experience was still good. We went in October and I have to say I think Craft was the only celebrity chef restaurant we went to that actually delivered. Even my 9 year old kept reminding us to go back.
Didn't they give you some muffins though when you walk out?
Very nice review. I really got a feel for your experience, from the phone for the reservation to the car ready to take you away when they saved your wine. It is helpful to me as a reader (and hopefully to the restaurant) that you noted the problematic timing of the mezzaluna along with the several highlights of your experience.
I'm counting two drinks, two bottles of wine with corkage (2 X $35 = $70), a dozen oysters, the mezzaluna (with truffle), the lamb (shared?), the two sides of mushrooms and bok choy, and a shared dessert. Also amuses to start and finish. What was the bill? And I'm assuming you used the valet parking -- what was the charge for that?