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From a NYer: Craigie on Main is FABULOUS.

I'm picky about food. And judging by my other whiny posts here (i.e. regarding the lack of a good weekday brunch in Cambridge, or the lack of excellent delivery in Boston/Cambridge, etc.)., I give Bostonians a hard time about food. Especially since my old hood in Manhattan (West Village) had some of the most exquisite neighborhood establishments in the world (I'm speaking of Westville, The Little Owl, Markt Table, and Jane for their divine Sunday french toast).

For my 30th, we went to Craigie on Main (finally! others we've been meaning to try are Hungry Mother and Oleana).

I'm late to Sofra Bakery with a friend now, so I have to cut this review shorter than I would like, but all I can say is that this place was near PERFECT. We had the 6 course tasting menu which was more like a 10-course when all was said and done. We had each course paired with Mocktails since we don't drink, and we were expecting the usual "cranberry with a twist of lime and peligrino" sort of thing. No way. Tom, the indefatigable bartender, dazzled us with concoctions of avocado, rosemary, thyme, lime and homemade bitters, or freshly squeezed blood orange juice with cinnamon and cardamom, or pineapple crush with fermented mint acid and meyer lemons.

OK, onto the food. Remarkable. Monk fish cheek, trout belly sashimi with oroblanco, duck two ways, spanish octopus with chorizo (I would never order this dish, for example, but Tony Maws created something I was smitten with), (about 3 other savory dishes that escape me now), jasmine-tea infused panna cotta, a beautiful, amazing chocolate 5-ways plate, and finally their signature ancho chile hot chocolate.

The service was perfect, and if my only criticism is that the butter portions on the plate could have been bigger than the triangle provided to accompany the blissful bread, then you know this place is a winner.

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  1. You cut this review short?

    1. I'd love more info on the mocktails - I have a friend who doesn't drink and I'm looking to take her out for fanciness. Do they have ideas for you, or did you say "make me something good?" And what did they come up with?

      1 Reply
      1. re: enhF94

        I also second the mocktails. They were fantastic. We just told the bartender to make us something good and yummy. You can guide that if you want by saying you want something "fruity", "tart", "not too sweet", etc. Out of this world, not like anything you'd ever think of yourself.

      2. nice review.
        what was the cost pp?

        2 Replies
        1. re: ScubaSteve

          The six course tasting menu at Craigie on Main is $80pp and well worth it! The wife and I ate there on Christmas eve, and it was one of the finest meals of my life. They also have a 3 course prix fixe (app, entree, dessert paired with a dessert wine) for $75, but the only reason to order it instead of the 6 course is that you have your own choice of app, entree and dessert. I've done it both ways, and the six course is the way to go. We had smoked sablefish, scallop sashimi and sea bass sashimi, monkfish, root veggie soup with rabbit sausage, pork belly, venison, panna cotta, desserts, and the hot chocolate. Yum! Can't wait to go back!

          1. re: kimfair1

            thanks!
            it sounds Very Good.

        2. Just got put on my list to go. Great review!

          1. Thanks! The mocktails, again, were out of this world! Here's what I remember (sorry, I was in a daze from the scents, so I don't remember it all):

            1) blood orange w/cinnamon
            2) a "Tom-Tom" with meyer lemon, bitters, and probably 4 other ingredients
            3) Avocado w/thyme, rosemary, lime (my favorite)
            4) Something else with cardomam
            5) non-alc champagne with homemade bitters

            Sorry, that's all I remember!

            Oh, and Sofra was sort of disappointing, even if the spinach-potato-chickpea flatbread was excellence (who designed the seating and queue plans?!)

            1. I couldn't agree more. This place is fantastic. Here is my lengthy review.

              This past weekend my hubby and I finally made it to Craigie on Main along with another couple. For whatever reason, it took us several years to make our way over to this restaurant ... so long in fact that in the meantime, the restaurant changed locations! Well ... it was worth the wait. And let me tell you, things may never be the same. My hubby has even gone so far as to declare his meal at Craigie *possibly* better than his beloved L'Espalier.

              For starter's the craft cocktails are amazing. I have been gushing about the "classic" cocktail for many a post lately, and I still think it's fantastic. The bartender, sorry ... mixologist, was like a mind reader. I told our waiter Jonathan (who by the way was really great at explaining everything to us) what I liked and didn't like, he conveyed it to the mixologist and the result was the perfectly crafted cocktail, just to my liking. Order off the menu if you like ... or be whimsical and let the craftsmen (or women) perfect their trade. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. I will also add a plug for the mocktails with amazing ingredients such as homemade almond syrup, rhubarb juice, ginger beer, bitters - the list goes on and on. I could spend all day on the drinks, but there is food to discuss!

              So, cocktails in hand, the four of us began perusing the menu. With SO many appealing options, how were we to choose? Well it was easy, we didn't. We let the Chef choose for us. Perfect. Easy. Done. We all opted for the 6 course tasting menu for $80 bucks a pop. Not cheap, but heck, we're here for a culinary experience right?

              This is where I let the menu and the pictures do (most of) the talking (see pic of full printed menu and pictures in blog). They kinda speak for themselves. There is NO possible way I could have remembered all of the courses and the unique ingredients that comprised them. No possible way. Luckily, I didn't have to as Jonathan graciously offered to have the hostess prepare a personal printed menu of the chef's selections for each of us to take home. And you'd think, that's easy, right? That the hostess can simply print out the pre-set chef's tasting course of the night? Nope. Each and every table gets a different make up of courses, so the menu was totally personalized for our table. Honestly, where can you find such personalized service?

              Oh and before I forget - many of the ingredients are local-yocal. Chef/Owner Tony Maws finds the ingredients first, surveying local farmers and purveyors, each and every day, and then creates the menu. Literally, the menu changes daily. In fact, the last page of the clipboard menu lists all of the local food suppliers that were used in preparing the day's menu. Really freakin' awesome.

              So the first four courses consisted of seafood. Tony uses uncommon or rare ingredients such as caviar, geoduck, squid noodles, etc. Of these delicious dishes, my favorite was easily the sashimi dish, but truly, everything was phenomenal. Though, the geoduck got a few skeptical glances at first.

              Now onto the meat. These were the hits of the evening for me, a true carnivore at heart. The Vermont (local!) meats, both the organic braised lamb and the pork were absolutely out of this world. The lamb meat was so tender it was falling off the bone (as it should be). And the crunch of the shallots and zing of the ginger provided just the right compliment. Fantastic, it shouldn't get any better ... but it did. When I was first looking at the menu, I had my eye on the "Pork Two Ways" dish. In fact, if there was any disappointment with choosing the tasting menu at all, it was because I wasn't going to get to try this dish. Well, low and behold, to my surprise, it was one of the courses. Yippee! And it was the favorite of the night, for me. The suckling confit had just the right amount of crispness to the skin to set off the soft tender meat below. And the pork belly? Just enough fat to meat proportion to make it one of the most delicious things ever. Not to mention the mushrooms and perfectly cooked cashews on the side.

              So that should be it, right? The 6 courses above ... well Tony is so into the creativity of the Chef's menu that he doesn't really stick to the numbers, he just keeps cooking away. Instead of 6, we ended up with a full 9 courses, rounding out the evening with 3 dessert courses. Everyone got the first selection which was the panna cotta, but there were two different types. A jasmine infused and a rooibos infused. Two of us got the jasmine and two of us got the rooibos. The rooibos was my personal favorite, the smooth creamy panna cotta, with a hint of the rooibos and citrus kick. Then, for the second round of dessert, instead of each of us getting the same exact thing, we were each brought a different treat. Needless to say, there was a lot of dish passing going around. My favorite was the chocolate terrine, but I have a feeling the overall winner was the market fruit crisp with the champagne mangoes. The miss, if any there be, would have to be the grits. I don't think any of us were too into the grits. Too savory for us, but if that's what you're into, you might enjoy it. The final selection was a small cup chile and cardamom hot chocolate. Need I say more?

              All in all, the meal was an amazing gastronomical delight. So, in case you were wondering what we thought of the place ... we really liked it! Will we be back? You better believe it. It helped that our table felt personally recognized (though I am sure he does this often) when Tony himself came up to our table to see how we were enjoying everything.

              Next up on the list of must tries is the $18 local grass fed burger. Tony's secret? According to the waiter, to make up for the leanness of grass-fed meat, Tony adds pure beef fat—bone marrow and suet. Yummy.

              www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

              11 Replies
              1. re: kristinayee

                That's funny, I've always thought desserts were the one weak point at Craigie -- we've gone there quite a few times and it's become a running joke that after a transcendent meal, the inevitable, (in my opinion) only so-so fruit crisp comes out and everyone says, "Oh no, not the fruit crisp!" -- BUT the one dessert I've loved there is the grits! Of course, I'm basing all of this on Craigie Street Bistro. I haven't been to the new location yet and the desserts may have changed.

                FYI, if you do the six-course tasting when they have the Chef's Whim (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, after 9 p.m.) it's only $55, a total bargain for food this amazing. http://www.craigieonmain.com/?page_id...

                1. re: Pia

                  That is funny. To each their own I suppose. =) And for the record, I personally didn't love the fruit crisp, but others at my table did.

                  1. re: Pia

                    I have to say that the desserts I've had at Craigie are totally unremarkable. Especially the ubiquitous fruit crisp. In fact, I had the chef's whim a few weeks ago and thought it was one of the least memorable meals I've had in a while. I can't even remember the courses.

                    From a non-NYer who eats in Manhattan all the time (work), Craigie doesn't deserve 1 Michelin star, or even 3 NYT stars.

                  2. re: kristinayee

                    This sounds great! I'm so excited because my friend and I are going tomorrow night for her birthday dinner. My plan was originally the 10 course tasting menu, but now based on some of reports on the 6 course tasting menu, I worry if this will be too much. I'm a small person, but I can pack it in quite well, though I wouldn't say I enjoy stuffing myself silly either. Is that too much for the average person?

                    1. re: kobuta

                      If the 6 course is normally a 9 course, as ours was, I would say it was plenty of food. There were 4 of us, of all different eating levels, some eat a lot, some eat a little, etc. and each and every one of us was definitely full by the end of the meal. I can't even imagine 10 courses ... if it actually means that it is 13 ...

                      www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                      1. re: kristinayee

                        Curious if you could tell - so what was what was "extra" so to speak in your meal? I'm not a dessert person, so if it ends up being an extra dessert or two I think that would be ok, or if there are a few more appetizer-sized plates, that wouldn't be a problem. Thanks for all the details and info on your meal.

                        1. re: kobuta

                          If you check out my blog, you can see the pictures of exactly what was served. But basically there were 6 full appetizer/main courses and 3 desserts. So instead of the 6 course consisting of say 4 mains and 2 desserts or say 5 mains and 1 dessert, we got a full 6 courses of apps/mains, PLUS 3 desserts. Hope that helps!

                          www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

                          1. re: kristinayee

                            That's helpful - thanks! I'm glad I won't be the only one curious enough to take pictures of the meal too. If it looks too dorky, I can blame it on my friend's birthday.

                            1. re: kobuta

                              This all assumes, of course, that the Chef ALWAYS does more than the 6 courses you are paying for. But I get the sense that he does. I can't wait to hear your report back!

                              1. re: kristinayee

                                Wow, where to begin and a warning this is long. Last night was one of the best dinners I've had in the city. I unfortunately wasn't able to retain a lot of the ingredients rattled off with each dish so the descriptions will be somewhat generic. I enjoyed each and every course presented, and the tastes were spot on. My companion and I went whole hog and ordered 10 course tasting. We had the 10 dishes each, but they varied on the desserts so we saw 5 different desserts. I would've suffered a fate like the fat guy in "The Meaning of Lfe", if I had tried to stuff anything else in.

                                1) 3 chilled seafood starters: the geoduck sashimi with orange coulis, a Florida shrimp with grapefruit, and a Greek sardine in what looked like a balsamic sauce. All fresh and fantastic bites, with my favorite being the shrimp (normally I’m ‘meh’ on shrimp). It was crisp, flavorful, and the grapefruit balanced the shrimp perfectly with its acidity and texture.

                                2) Hiramasa sashimi salad with mango salsa, shiso, etc. – voted the favorite of the night by both of us. I wanted another order of this…or 10.

                                3) Grilled (roasted?) durade with ginger + greens salad and yuzu kosho – my second favorite dish of the night.

                                4) Chilled French white asparagus with bacon and a chopped peanuts sauce – reminded me of a Thai sauce, adding sweet and savory to the dish. Very strong taste compared to the first 3 dishes, but after the initial “shock” on the tongue, the flavors really grew on us.

                                5) Home made tagliatelle pasta with clams, guanciale – my friend and I were surprised the guanciale reminded us of Chinese sausage. A good dish, but slightly too salty because of the guanciale. A really light simple broth might have helped cut the salitness. We both found this the least spectacular of the dishes last night.

                                6) Assorted greens and veggies with a farm-fresh egg, chicken cracklings and snail paired with a sauce with chicken fat – I love duck cracklings. I never even thought of chicken cracklings. This dish was the biggest surprise in terms of taste. The green sauce was so delicious; the chicken fat added that nice flavor you get when you bite into fried chicken, but without the crunch of the skin. That essence was infused into the sauce and lended such a wonderful taste to the whole dish.

                                7) Vermont pork belly in a walnut sauce - *gurgle* I love Chinese braised pork belly, and I wanted to see how this can be done in a non-Asian style. This dish was heavenly and indulgent. So rich but loved the crispiness of where it was seared. I would have never guessed I would like a walnut sauce but it worked and was delicious.

                                8)Duck breast with a duck “roll” stuffed with foie gras. – I normally don’t care for foie gras (the horror) but I threw caution to the win last night and gave them no restrictions, and this dish was lovely. I don’t liked the slightly cold, and mushiness of foie gras (and don’t get me started on the ethics) but this thing made me want 5 of those rolls on my plate. The duck was well done and served with a sauce of mushrooms, mandarin oranges and cashews. Great sauce.

                                9) Jasmine and Rooibos tea infused panna cotta – this is where my non-love of dessert strikes. A little too sweet for my taste (my verdict for about 90% of desserts), but we both found the taste unusual and worth trying. I liked the tea taste in the jasmine one, but we both preferred the spiciness of the rooibos and the depth it added.

                                10) The warm sweet white corn grits – I liked the combo of sweet and savory, though still too sweet for me. Served the same time as below.

                                11) My companion got a homemade peanut butter cookie with peanut butter ice-cream with a framboise coulis. My friend LOVES peanut butter and she drooled over the entire dish. I gave her most of it since it was her birthday dinner, but I would’ve loved more of this too. *sniff*

                                12) Ancho-chile and cardamom spiced chocolate – my companion didn’t care for this (she likes milk chocolate not dark) so I had hers too. I liked it, and found it slightly too sweet. If it weren’t for the fact that I was at the brink of overload, probably would’ve liked it more. Note this didn’t stop me from finishing both.

                                We were disappointed that we smelled the fruit crisp being made throughout the meal, yet we got no fruit crisp for dessert. I also had a wonderful accompaniment of 4 mocktails that blew me away. If I could walk out of the restaurant with a recipe for anything we had that night, the top of my list would be the mocktails. They opened my eyes to how they could be paired well with food, something I’ve never imagined being a non-drinker. I would easily go back and just request a series of mocktails alone. Service was outstanding and never felt rushed despite spending 3.5 hours for our meal. This was definitely the culinary journey I was hoping for and they delivered on all fronts.

                                1. re: kobuta

                                  I am so glad you enjoyed your meal!

                  3. I too love Craigie. Tennisboy, to your list of places you're meaning to try I would add Salts (right across the street from Craigie) You won't get the cocktails or mocktails there but the food and wine is excellent.

                    I'm not going try to compare most of the food but I will say I like the dessert at Salts just a little bit better.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: heypielady

                      I have solved this dilemma by stopping at Craigie for cocktails and then dining at Salts. (I like the food at both places a lot.)

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    2. Craigie is very, very good but I often urge people not to do the tasting menu - it leaves me exhausted! It's as if each course is its own cresendo - and it keeps going plate after plate! For me, there is no balance or a moment to rest the palate - it become a sensory overload so by the 3rd dish, it becomes all the same and the flavors unfortunately begin to overlap.

                      Until there is a better balance of courses (unlikely given the chef's love of animals), better IMHO to go often and have only an app and a main - focus and appreciate the perfection of the dishes without becoming flavor-logged.