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Two Fishes: Craft Vs Ponty...hint: the Underdog Wins

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So a mini-review/first impression of Craft...though i'd been to Craftbar once, i'd never been to Craft til the other night, when i went in and snagged a bar seat...nice lighting, ultra-professional/nice staff...and an absurdly fun wine list which i could read like a quirky smart novel...

After some discussion w/ the bartender, i went for a half-order of the beets/tarragon salad (the half-order being his suggestion after i commented how large the salads i saw nearby were, and imo, a wonderful customer-friendly policy) and the swordfish w/ gremolata...the beets were flawlessly delicious...

The swordfish was a straightup dud: it was two very small thick rectangular solids: faintly charred on the outside, and cooked/yet-coolish in the center...an odd prep for swordfish...there was a dot of gremolata on each piece...maybe 4 ounces of fish or less total?...completely bland, like the most flavorless thing that's ever been pulled from the sea and cooked...29 dollars...i tried to eat it, got through most of the first piece, but just couldn't finish even that piece...the bartender asked what i thought, and when i told him it was grim, he cleared it and offered a subsitute, but i didn't really feel like waiting for another entree, so i asked for the check...he took it off the bill on his own, which was professional and somewhat generous given that i had eaten almost half of it...

The couple sitting next to me had ordered a medley of various veggie dishes (kale, carrots, salads, pasta, etc) which looked delicious and i wish i'd had that instead...so i'm sure there are yummier options on the menu than what i'd had...but as i wasn't thrilled w/ my entree and the space/seating doesn't seem especially suited to dates (though perhaps great for things like group family dinners and work meals), i'll prob be slow to return...

On the way home, i stopped in at Cafe Ponty on 3rd Ave and 19th St...as i peeked in the window, the chef/owner remembered me from another place he'd worked years ago, so, since i was still hungry, i decided to come in...as the food people were eating looked good and the vibe was festive, i ate at the bar: a fragrant herbal awesome chicken soup, followed by a moist delicious grilled small branzino w/ green plantains and salad...nice wines by the glass too...totally satisfying meal and i'll be sure to return and review it more thoroughly...

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Craft
43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

Ponty Bistro
218 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Craft has really great customer service and I think you should give it another shot, especially since they seem to have really cared that you disliked the swordfish so intensely by offering you another dish and taking it off your bill.

    If/when you go back, order the crispy bacon with apples, the sweetbreads, the roasted foie gras, the roasted scallops, the short ribs, roasted mushroom medley, potato gratin, or any of the pastas.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      thanks for the suggestions on other dishes...i agree that the customer service is very good, and i'd be open to trying it again, esp if i was with a group and sharing a lot of the veggie dishes...but it might take me a while to get back there...

      1. re: kathryn

        I have not been to Craft nor Ponty Cafe, but thanks to all of your posts here I will be to both soon

      2. We've never been to Craft. But I can empathize with you about getting a piece of fish (or, in your case, two pieces) that turns out to be "grim" since that happened with my John Dory at Marea.

        Re: Ponty Bistro (which is the name on the website). I immediately perked up when I saw its location, i.e., very near our apartment. Seems it's been open since Nov. '08. We must have passed it dozens of times but never noticed it. The chef/owners have a strong culinary pedigree, and the menu is very enticing.

        I'm very glad that you had such a wonderful experience. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We'll be giving it a try very soon.

        https://pontybistro.com/

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com .

        2 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          cool...let me know what you think...the owner Cisse ("see-say") is very friendly, so i'd recommend introducing yourself and saying you are locals, first-time customers, etc...

          i've only been the one time, so i'll report back as i try more of the food...the menu is mostly French bistro food, w/ a few American choices and a couple Senegalese/Senegalese-influenced dishes, and i'm hoping they add more hardcore Senegalese recipes, as i loved eating West African food when i lived in Paris last year...

          1. re: Simon

            Whether it be haute or bistro, French is our favorite cuisine, so it's good to have another option for it in the neighborhood, especially since La Petite Auberge has shurttered permanently [sniff]. But we're certainly interested in trying the dishes with a West African bent.

            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        2. We had dinner at Ponty Bistro last Sunday. We started with an arugula salad and the escargots. The salad was excellent: pristine baby arugula combined with fennel, Parmesan, a few orange slices and a tasty honey lemon vinaigrette. The traditional ramekin holding six very plump escargots was completely covered with a blanket of herbed, crisped-in-the-oven bread crumbs. While I liked the crunch of the topping, the untraditional addition of cognac in the garlic butter sauce pretty much obliterated both of those flavors. For main courses, when Mr. R. heard that one of the specials for the evening was coq au vin, he immediately ordered it as it's one of his favorite dishes. It came with Israeli couscous and haricots verts. I tasted just a bit of the couscous and a haricot vert. Both were fine. He was a very happy camper and cleaned the plate. I chose the rack of lamb. Talk about generous portions! Six very large double chops accompanied by a sizable round of potato gratin and a heap of sautéed spinach. I wasn't asked how I wanted the chops cooked, but they arrived as I like them, with nicely pink centers. The lamb had very good flavor, and the sides were tasty. I ate one double chop, some of each of the sides, and took the rest home, The leftovers actually made for a nice dinner for the two of us on another night, For dessert, we shared the well-made profiteroles. Overall, a very good meal.

          When we arrived at around 9 p.m., there were only two other tables occupied. We were told by one of the staff that they had been busy earlier in the evening. Everyone on the small staff was very friendly, and service was fine. The decor is pleasant, but lighting was a nightmare for my camera since there were Christmas lights strung throughout, giving all the photos a rather pinkish cast.

          Thanks, Simon, for posting about discovering Ponty. As I said previously, with the closing of La Petite Auberge, we're pleased to have found another French bistro in the neighborhood that is serving enjoyable food.

          Ponty Bistro photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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          Ponty Bistro
          218 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

          6 Replies
          1. re: RGR

            Delighted that you enjoyed it, and thanks for the full review...i haven't been back yet but plan to go again soon...

            1. re: RGR

              Simon and RGR, thans for the rec and reviews of Ponty Bistro. I took my parents and wife there last night. We all enjoyed ourselves and our meals. I had the braised branzino - the onions that came with it were a delicious complement and made the dish. My wife had the Chicken with Sengal spices (forget the name) which was very flavorful. My parents had the stuffed flounder and African mussels, good but not as flavorful as our dishes. From the small taste I had, probably dishes I would avoid. We had the chocolate cake and crepes for dessert. Both were good, but we all agreed that the crepes were the best. Definitely plan to return.

              Also, I briefly chatted with the chef/owner - indeed he is very friendly

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              Ponty Bistro
              218 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: uncledunkel

                Glad you enjoyed your dinner at Ponty, uncledunkel. It so happens that Mr. R. and I had dinner there last night, too. We each started with the onion soup. Delicious and perfect for a very cold winter's evening. Since we'd learned from our first experience that the main course portions are huge, we shared the sirloin marinated in Senegalese spiced. Cooked precisely to our medium-rare specification, the steak was juicy, and the excellent flavor was enhanced by the spices + the au poivre sauce. Fries were excellent as well -- hot and crisp. We shared the apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream. Nothing to rave about but decent enough.

                Service was a bit lacking this time. True, it was much busier. But there were several servers, so it wasn't a staffing isse. They just were not attentive enough.

                That said, it will not keep us from returning to Ponty since the food is so good.

                Ponty photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

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                Ponty Bistro
                218 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: RGR

                  Ah the Senegalese spiced sirlion, I almost ordered it last night - next time!

                  Regarding service, we found it to be average. One server did mention it was her first night so that could be why you had some issues

                  1. re: uncledunkel

                    There was the runner who brought the soups to the table without soup spoons. Then, when he brought the steak to share, the extra plate he brought was bread plate-sized rather than for a main course. (I just let that one go.) We had to ask our waitress for bread, which should have been served automatically. Perhaps, if she had been paying proper attention, she might have noticed we hadn't gotten any. But what really frosted our cockles was her schmoozing with the couple one table away from ours (with her back to us) when we were trying to finish up paying the bill. It's entirely possible that she was the one new on the job. Regardless, our annoyance was reflected by a decrease in the tip.

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                    1. re: RGR

                      Okay, I agree those type of screw-ups can't be excused by it being someone's first night. As it happens, we had similarly bad service last night at Dafni Greek Taverna, but the fish was good as it always is

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                      Dafni
                      325 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

            2. Sounds like Craft is really committed to customer's satisfaction - I absolutely would not have expected for them to take it off after eating almost half of it. I haven't been to Craft yet, but this actually makes me want to go even more. I will avoid the swordfish though - their meat options seem more appetizing to me anyway.

              Ponty sounds great too! Any place that serves a big, perfectly cooked rack of lamb works for me.

              5 Replies
              1. re: uwsister

                Yeah, the Craft folks seem like good people...i'd surely try it again, preferably w/ a group when we could order tons of vegetables and eat family style...but it may take me a while to get back there as it doesn't fit into my usual M.O. for eating out...

                1. re: uwsister

                  Don't miss out on the appetizers and lighter options when you go! Crispy bacon with apples, sweetbreads with sunchokes, perfectly roasted scallops....

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                  Craft
                  43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

                  1. re: kathryn

                    and, my favorite appetizer there, the octopus.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Wow, they all sound amazingly delicious. I think we might just make a meal out of a bunch of apps when we go there - which is what we like to do anyway. Thanks for the recs!

                      1. re: uwsister

                        My usual plan there is to load up on as many of the following I can convince my dining companions to share: agnolotti, octopus, sweatbreads, bacon, hen of the woods mushrooms, quail and then split either the steak for two or the pork for two. works out great.

                  2. Great thread!

                    I've walked past Ponty a bunch of times but haven't walked in. That will doubtless change soon. Would it be a mistake to just show up without reservations for two?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Pan

                      That depends on when you walk in. It's not that big a place, so on a busy Saturday night, all the tables could be taken. Except for the small bar with four seats, there is no comfortable place to wait. Personally, I think calling ahead to ask if tables are available is always a good idea.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      1. re: RGR

                        I'll call ahead, then. I'll report back after we go, whenever that is.