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Restaurants & Bars Manhattan


santorinii | | Jun 3, 2007 08:34 AM

I know there have been countering opinions about Craft on the board--one either appreciates it for its craft of simplicity or one finds it overrated and overpriced for items that you can cook "equally well at home." I've kept an open mind and listened to both sides of the argument but in the end, I realized the only way I would know what answer fit me best was to try it myself. So I did.

The evening was raining and cold but the moment we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a beautiful warmth. The restaurant is so lovely, lit faintly with multitude of light bulbs, individually dangling from the ceiling. The amber leather-lined walls, the large vases of fresh cut flowers, and huge tables were perfectly complimentary. There was indeed an understated sexiness about the place. Maybe it was the lighting. Then again, isn't it always about the lighting? :oP

The three of us settled on three proteins: Soft-Shelled Crabs, Braised Short Ribs, and Grilled Quail. Sides were: Gnocchi, Soft Polenta, English Peas, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms. Before the meal proceeded on, we were given Amuse Bouche of Mini Pate Choux filled with Lobster. Tasty little things. The dishes came out soon after. Everything was served in their individual cooking vessels, which created a very charming table setting. Of course, not to be outdone by the food, which was in my humble opinion, amazing in its purity. I absolutely fell in love with the quail, gnocchi, and mushrooms. The quail was seared to perfection--caramelized on the outside yet retaining sublime moistness. The gnocchi, wow. They were so tender, they exploded with flavors of Parmagiano and butter before melting in your mouth. No mastication needed. As for these mushrooms which I've never eaten before, I was very pleased with the end result. The mushoom is huge and resembles an acorn in appearance. Here, it was cut into wedges and seared in butter until the edges were crispy and caramelized. Hearty and with such of depth of flavor, they were so good. The English Peas cooked in a touch of cream and butter were also superb. Undoubtedly the freshest peas I've ever tasted--vibrant and crisp in texture like an edamame, it hardly resembled the dull mealy peas we remember from our youth.

Everything else was great, though a little slight alteration was needed. The short ribs were meltingly tender, though a touch underseasoned. Same with the Polenta. The crabs were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, but on the other hand, they were a little overseasoned. Those were the only quibbles I had.

As you all can gather from my review, I ended up loving the restaurant. Indeed, the prices may be steep and the items, stripped down and bare. But sometimes, after having meals focused on reforming themselves and/or masked in layers of complexity, you need a meal that will bring you back to the roots of comfort through its devotion to purity and simplicity. Indeed, I can go to the greenmarket and bring back produce to recreate these items, but then again, I can say that about a lot of things in life. Sometimes, we just want to be pampered and have a meal cooked by others who know their food and can exemplify them in the way they think highlights the food best. But in the end, eating out is about the experience as a whole...sharing a meal in a beautiful setting with great friends is often enough to pay for the meal itself. And indeed, this was one of those moments.

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