As being a huge Top Chef fan, I just had to check out Crave when I learned that Dave Martin took over the position as executive chef. I think the place has been there for a couple of months but it seems that it's starting to make the news in the last few days.
They're really making using out of Dave Martin's 15 minutes of fame. He made the rounds around the tables. If you order Dave Martin's truffle mac and cheese (the dish that earned him the win in Napa) he will personally deliver it to you. Poor guy -- I think the restaurant has him running around in front of the house and back of the house.
A little difficult to spot as the restaurant has no sign, it's a relaxed medium-sized space with a bar and restaurant area. Colored Christmas lights decorated its windows. As it's in a bit of an unfortunate location (42nd between 11th and 12th), I don't think it will draw too much walk-by traffic. But it was pretty busy last night, most likely from the press it has been receiving recently. As we didn't have a reservation, we had to wait about 20 minutes at the bar for a table at 6:30P.
Now, for the food. For appetizers, we ordered Dave's Black Truffle Mac and cheese (what else?) and Out of the Bleu, which consisted of pan-roasted shrimp with proscuitto, basil, gorgonzola served with sherry cream. The mac and cheese was good. But at the $14.95 price tag, we didn't encounter the huge chunk of black truffle as in the show. It was very rich and creamy. Although I didn't find a huge chunk of truffle, the taste of the truffle bits did come out nicely. I prefer my mac and cheese a bit firmer and not as runny, though. The shrimp was indeed tasty but I didn't taste the gorgonzola. I think they forgot it as gorgonzola is quite a strong tasting cheese and not easy to miss. The sherry cream was delicious, and went well with the salty proscuitto.
For entrees, we had the pan-roasted free range chicken stuffed with fontina and proscuitto. It was good; the chicken was a bit dry. We also had the filet mignon served with a rub that tasted vaguely of a type of mole with some coffee in it. It was topped with gorgonzola and maui onion rings. The piece of meat was not steakhouse quality, but still OK. I think if you're into well-seasoned meats, you'll like this dish. If I had a filet, I probably would have wanted it plain. Both dishes were served with seasonal veggies which turned out to be asparagus. We found that a bit odd as asparagus is more of a spring veggie. However, they were cooked really well, crisp-tender. The steak also came with yukon mashed potatoes which were very creamy and flavorful.
We shared the sour cream panna cotta with mango coulis and shortbread cookie for dessert. The panna cotta was actually the best one I've had. I'm not a fan of most panna cottas as I find them to be too gelatinous (not the biggest fan of jell-o). But this one was luscious and creamy. The shortbread cookie, however, was kind of hard and difficult to bite into. I feel that a proper shortbread should crumble in your mouth.
Overall, I thought the food was tasty. It's comfort food with the signature Dave flavors -- bold, complex, layered, blah, blah. I thought that some of the food lacked a bit on execution (definitely not the panna cotta). The restaurant has major service issues though. While everybody was friendly, they definitely didn't have their stuff together as it seemed that nobody coordinated with each other, bartender and waitstaff was very unsure what their roles were, etc. Hopefully the service will improve over time. Overall, a decent experience -- hopefully their location won't be a curse.