Extraordinary Family Dinner at Craft
Food was great, service even better.
There were seven of us early this Saturday evening. My dad has hearing issues, so I requested a quiet location and a round table so people wouldn't be left at the ends. Craft provided a good location almost halfway in from the bar area but away from what I was told are noisier tables nearer the kitchen. Got one of their oval tables which worked well. My brother commented on the acoustics -- even with a full house and music, we could hear eachother without shouting.
Started with two bites from the bar menu, which turned out to be among my favorites: the cheddar hushpuppies with a maple syrup sauce served in a cute little dispenser. Crisp, tasty, and a nice serving -- probably close to a dozen hushpuppies. The crisp brussels sprout leaves were a real hit -- delicate, crispy, delicious -- my dad said he detected a slightly spicy after-effect. I slid some of these through my remaining maple syrup and enjoyed the bitter/sweet effect.
Dishes at Craft are served family-style for sharing. We ordered too much food. To start: kale salad and arugula salad -- hard to tell apart by their appearance, but easy by taste. beef tartar. green garlic risotto -- this was one of my favorites, rich but clean not cloying, really good. there was also a beet salad and a salad with avocado and something... too much food for seven, but I'm glad that left a lot of that risotto for me.
Entrees were the pork -- slices of the loin(?) and a square of crispy pork belly, my favorite of the night. Meat was moist, tasty, really good. Lamb -- someone's favorite, I thought the meat was a touch beyond medium-rare. Sole -- I liked this, listed as roasted but seemed to me similar to sole that has been sauteed. Duck with asian pear -- good. Shortrib -- very good. Cavatelli pasta with mushroom.
Sides were assorted mushrooms and hen of the woods -- I'd heard these were the dishes at Craft but I'm not a mushroom lover and so wasn't blown away. Cauliflower -- nicely browned so a bitter touch, very good. Gnocchi -- a highlight for me, wonderfully light. Asparagus -- didn't taste.
Let me tell you, this was a great dinner. Everything was good, nicely presented in copper or cast-iron containers on dishes underneath, and it is only that some stood out to me (the pork) that the others didn't impress as much. And here is where I have a suggestion for Craft -- when the entrees and sides arrived, probably a dozen dishes, they arrived almost at once. So we spent several minutes passing and serving ourselves, a lot of dishes, some pretty heavy. I could only sneak a bite or two for a few minutes. One wine glass took a tumble. Food had its hotness diminish. For large parties, Craft needs to either send the food out in more manageable waves, so we can serve, eat and enjoy, and then do the same for the following dishes; have the servers circle the table and dispense the food, which would free the diners to select their servings and begin enjoying it; or equip the larger tables with lazy susans, so the dish can be placed near the middle and all of them can circle simultaneously with the diners spooning out servings and not passing the heavy dishes themselves.
Our sommelier was excellent -- we had a superlative, tasty, refreshing white and a red that only suffered in comparison. He wrote down the details on a card for my brother and dad. At about $60 and $90, I'm told, these were fare from the more pricy bottles on the list. Dessert was preceded by an amuse and while no longer hungry we enjoyed the chocolate souffle, the donuts, and the apple crisp and ricotta tart also disappeared. Candy, marshmallow, and packets of granola to take home were over the top.
As good as the food was, I was more impressed with the service. I requested a glass of ice at the beginning -- this was replaced two or three times without asking. Everyone, from requesting the reservation over the phone to complimenting the manager following the meal, was pleasant, positive, and more than eager to please. Topnotch.
No, not inexpensive -- just over $100/pp but this includes wine, at least three mixed drinks, and too much food -- we would have rolled out of there with one fewer starters, entrees, sides, and desserts. But our reservation was for 6:30, we were a few minutes late being seated (some of our party's fault) and our celebration lasted until 10, so it was a very full evening. Our family was very impressed and pleased by Craft.