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Lunch at Craft (long)

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Lunch at Craft (long)

Abrocadabro | Jul 11, 2001 05:53 PM

This is my first detailed review, so bear with me.

I enjoyed a tasty, if lengthy, lunch at Craft this afternoon. Five of us dined for about $320 (pre-tip), no hard drinks (but lots of iced tea and Evian).

As a good chowhound should, I had thoroughly investigated the exisiting threads at chowhound.com prior to my visit, as well as reading Grimes' and the Post's reviews, so I came prepared.

While ordering we were encouraged to order appetizers and sides for the table (i.e. share), although we each ordered our own and tasted the others'. Main courses were not shared.

Appetizers ordered: sampling of six oysters (Wellfleet, Glidden, Malpeque); 2 orders of pork terrine; duck ham; rabbit ballotine.

I had three thin strips of the duck ham which I recommend. Hint of duck taste but tasted mostly like ham. A review described it as much like prosciutto; I agree -- it melted in my mouth. The rabbit ballotine was excellent, accompanied by some olive puree. I did not taste the other dishes.

Main courses: two of us ordered the loin chops or lamb, medium rare. One hangar steak. One braised monkfish in a veal broth and one roasted skate (breaded). My 2 loins of lamb were perfectly cooked, well-seasoned with rosemary and accompanied by garlic cloves that melted like butter. The hangar steak was also excellent, delivered to the table sliced. I understand from the others that the fish dishes were perfect.

Sides: Roasted hen of the woods, roasted shiitakes, roasted fingerling potatoes, sauteed spinach and roasted spring onions. Every review I have read raved about the mushrooms and I must agree. Both the hen of the woods and the shiitakes had tremendous flavor, with the hen of the woods nicely crunchy with a hint of salt. Spinach was gorgeous green, not soggy with an intense flavor (I am not a big spinach fan but this was not in slightest offputting in taste). Onions were excellent, but nothing special appeared to have been done to them. Potatoes fine, again nothing special. Generally, the sides were small in size (particularly given that we were encouraged to share). I recommend the two mushrooms dishes; as for the others, there was nothing to them that I could not duplicate at home (although my spinach comes out a little more soggy than theirs).

Dessert: I ordered the brioche and roasted bananas. Perfection. Brioche was nicely fluffy and eggy with hint of crispiness on top. Bananas were served in a light caramel sauce. Well worth the untold calories.

Service was mixed. Very attentive about refilling glasses. Helpful explanations about how dishes are prepared and polite suggestions regarding selecting a sampling of appetizers and side dishes (e.g "two mushroom dishes have been ordered for the table so perhaps some potatoes to balance..."). No input on which sides would go best with which main courses, but perhaps we did well on our own. Did, however, suggest accompaniments to desserts (e.g. one diner (or is it luncher?) ordered the chocolate tart and staff suggested ice cream, in particular recommending the lavender ice cream -- a big hit!)

Drawbacks on service: One diner ordered cheese course for dessert; cheeses brought to table and carver (don't know what the real job title is) attempted to explain how each tasted and where it was from. Had problems remembering which cheese was which (seemed to have memorized it and not know it from experience); carver also doubled as maitre d', which might explain lack of knowledge. Other drawback was generally slow service despite the restaurant being only 1/4 full and we being dressed as business people who clearly needed to get back to the office.

Obviously, this was a pricey meal (one tea and two cappuccinos were ordered as well), so I hesitate to say it was worth it (unless someone else is paying). But for the most part the food is intensely naturally flavored, giving the consumer a real natural feel/taste for the basic ingredients. Preparation of the dishes appears to be simple (other than some appetizers) so it leads one to wonder why they cost so much; no doubt the ingredients themselves must be costly to be so excellently tasting.

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