Dinner at Craft last night
the folks are in town for a visit, and since none of us has ever made it to Craft either here or back East, we decided to give it a shot. i'm not one to post long, detailed restaurant reviews - most of you know i generally save my ramblings for the Home Cooking and other topical boards ;) but i did want to go on record with our experience.
i have to say that all the reviews i've read about the service there were spot on - it was IMPECCABLE. attentive without being intrusive, gracious, and *extremely* accommodating. i made the reservation several weeks ago through Open Table and noted in the comments section that we would have a diner with Celiac disease and a soy allergy (me) and one with a seafood allergy (Mom). when i arrived at the restaurant and gave the host my name, he immediately assured me that they had received the information about our restrictions and had already informed the manager, our server, AND the kitchen. when it came time to order, we grilled our poor waitress with numerous questions about various dishes on the menu, and she was incredibly patient and informative, even pointing out preparations that wouldn't be safe for me before i had a chance to ask.
ok, on to the food:
Mom couldn't stop raving about the bread, which is from La Brea Bakery, and the butter, which is apparently sourced from a small distributor in Las Vegas - i forgot to check back with them on the name of the dairy.
the amuse was a parsnip panna cotta with diced chorizo and salsa verde. i wasn't crazy about the texture - it was more like a soup. but the sweetness of the parsnip was lovely against the spicy, salty chorizo. the "salsa verde" was so minimal it was about the size of a pinhead so i couldn't even taste it or tell what was in it! overall, a so-so preparation.
Mom & i decided to share a salad, and i let her take the reins on it. she ordered the Baby Spinach, Walnut & Pancetta salad, which came lightly dressed in a gorgonzola vinaigrette. the spinach was wonderfully fresh, crisp, sweet, and dressed perfectly, and the dressing was lovely, with just the right balance of acid to complement the creamy, pungent cheese. the one element i didn't love was the pancetta - the chunks were rather large and dense, and i personally thought the texture and flavor overwhelmed the spinach...but mom was more than happy to take it off my hands ;)
Dad started with the braised octopus, which was sliced ultra-thin in a carpaccio style, and served with lemon, mint chiffonade, and diced potato. Dad's first comment was that it was incredibly salty - i took a bite, and man, was he right! i personally thought it was inedible, but he insisted he was okay with it and ate some of it anyway. i had actually ordered the octopus as my entree, so i immediately tracked down our server, mentioned the issue, and asked her to please request that the kitchen pull *way* back on the salt for my order. to her credit, she offered to take Dad's back, but he's never been one to do that, so we just let it go.
fortunately, when my octopus arrived at the table i discovered upon tasting it that the kitchen had gotten the message. it was perfect - tender and flavorful, with a hint of lemon & mint. it was really wonderful - i cleaned every last morsel off my plate.
Mom & Dad both had the Braised Beef Short Ribs. now, Mom is a salt FIEND, and the first thing she said was that they were salty. uh-oh. i asked if they were TOO salty, and she said no, just noticeably so. i tried a bite, and i - the salt-sensitive one - didn't think they were too salty. in fact, the most prominent seasoning i picked up was red wine. i joked that after two mojitos Mom's judgment was a little off, but we decided she was also still tasting the salt from all the pancetta in her salad. anyway, the meat was *meltingly* tender with a rich, beefy flavor ad a wonderful lingering finish of red wine...pretty spectacular stuff. in fact, after she had some water to cleanse her palate and took a few more bites, she proclaimed that it was perhaps the best rendition of braised short ribs she'd ever had.
we also ordered a couple of vegetable sides. i had heard from several friends that the mushrooms were disappointing, so we settled on the shishito peppers and the roasted acorn squash. again i requested that they go easy on the salt, and again, the kitchen accommodated the request.
the peppers are typically tossed in aged soy sauce - which i can't eat - so they were just pan-roasted in [a lot] of oil. the char on them was terrific, and fortunately the peppers are nice & spicy this time of year (the way i like them!) but they were much too greasy for my taste.
the squash was simply cut into wedges and baked with butter, salt & pepper. (apparently they offer it glazed with maple & brown sugar, but we're not fans of sugar on our vegetables so we passed on that option). not too much you can screw up here, but the squash was just slightly less done than i like it - i like it just soft enough that i can cut through it with my fork, but this required a knife. it was still tasty, though.
Dad was the only one who ordered - he had the Huckleberry Yogurt Sorbet. it was FANTASTIC. tart, tangy, creamy, refreshing and rich all at once. seriously, one of the best yogurts/sorbets i've ever tasted.
they also brought us a small plate of complimentary cookies - Dark Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich Cookies, and Gingersnaps - as well as candied orange slices for me...which i thought was really nice of them to do. Mom & Dad raved about the sandwich cookies, and said the gingersnaps were good as well but paled in comparison to the shortbread. the candied orange was pretty disappointing - way too sugary and tough...but i still appreciated the gesture.
they also sent us each home with a "treat" - Mom & Dad got squash muffins, and i got a Pinova apple. needless to say i had a little gift envy ;) but i once again appreciated the thoughtfulness.
all in all, i have to say that despite the salt issue and the stumbles in execution on the vegetables, it was a pretty terrific meal. and the service was undoubtedly the best i've had anywhere in years. i'd gladly return to sample more of their menu as long as they can keep the salt under control - my hands were so swollen this morning i couldn't get my rings on my fingers.
oh, and the bill including tax for 2 starters, 3 entrees, 2 sides, 1 dessert, 2 teas, 2 cocktails, and 1 glass of wine...grand total of $199. not bad!
Craft Los Angeles
10100 Constellation Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067
the swelling was a result of sampling dad's octopus, eating some of the pancetta in the salad, and having a piece of the short ribs - my body reacts pretty violently to excess sodium. but my entree was excellent, Mom loved her salad & short ribs, Dad loved the meat as well, and dessert was delicious. and above all, the service really was outstanding.
Nice detailed review. Craft is one of our most favorite restaurants though we can't afford to eat there very often. The service at Craft is fantastic, which makes for a great experience. I'm sensitive to salt, but didn't find any of the dishes particularly salty.
I'm glad you and your family enjoyed Craft.
The granola pack they give you at the end is delicious as well. Anyone have a recipe?
no granola to be seen when we were there - just squash muffins & my apple :) wish i could sample it - granola is one of my specialties and i could probably clone the recipe for you!
anyway, the next time you want to splurge on a meal, try Scarpetta. we had dinner there last night, and i posted about it today. the service at Craft is far superior, but the food at Scarpetta wins hands-down.
ETA: just had a thought - Karen DeMasco is most likely the creator of Craft's granola recipe. see if you can find someone who has a copy of her book, "The Craft of Baking" - there's a recipe for Toasted Nut & Honey Granola on p. 34 that may be it...
Very interesting comments. When Craft first opened, I found many of the dishes overly salty. After a while, however, that problem seemed to disappear. It's too bad that they are back to oversalting things.
I'm sorry you missed the mushrooms. I've never had a bad experience with them.
you know, when i told a friend [whose food opinions/palate i respect] about the experience, this was her exact response:
"first and last time i was there was two years ago. i STILL remember those beautiful wild mushrooms just ruined b/c they oversalted the dish."
comments like that are the reason i skipped the mushrooms! but since some of my fellow Hounds still recommend them, i guess i'll have to risk it next time ;)
aww, thanks. i'm certainly no exilekiss (and my folks would have been horrified if i had whipped out my camera to take pictures of the food!), but i felt that i owed it to my fellow Hounds who are always so forthcoming with their own detailed experiences to post about my own...Scarpetta's up next tonight :)
Curious if you recall who your server was.
I really like the food at Craft (I've never had a salt issue, but I happen to love salt and use it liberally in my own cooking, though I never use table salt), but what really keeps me coming back is the service, which (combined with good food) really makes it a true dining out experience.
Those short ribs are pretty amazing.
re: Jack Flash
Tessa? does that sound right? she was really wonderful. we actually started with one server, and then ended up with another because we had to move tables - with Mom's bad back those banquettes weren't happening :)
i'm actually thinking about calling the restaurant to confirm who our server was, because she deserves proper acknowledgment. if it helps, she was very tall, graceful, and articulate, and i got the sense she might actually have a hand in management. she called my Dad "dear," which he loved :)
i just did. turns out it was the GM - i had the feeling she was in a management role, it was something about the way she carried herself and handled all the details.
of course now i'm even more impressed that the manager took such an active role in our service! for anyone who's interested, her name is Stacy Bowers.