In the first season of TV’s Top Chef, Dave Martin just missed the final cookoff. But before packing his knives for good, he had viewers drooling at the sight of his over-the-top black-truffle macaroni and cheese. Now that signature dish highlights a menu of Martin’s American comfort food at month-old Crave on 42nd. And it doesn’t disappoint. Rich, creamy, and balanced, it’s a deeply satisfying first course, hounds say. Truffle earthiness sings out loud and clear, though it comes from bits of truffle, not the huge fungal chunk you might have seen on Top Chef. That’s right, television is not the same as real life.

Other dishes are up and down. Winners include two fish entrées—pan-roasted sea bass (dry-rubbed and finished with adobo honey butter) and roasted salmon (dusted with ginger and nutmeg, finished with shallot-sherry-brandy glaze, served with coconut couscous)—that are both first-rate, marthat writes. Pan-roasted scallops (with vanilla cream and smoked-tomato butter) are perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned, says the otherwise unimpressed JungMann. Panna cotta with mango coulis is luscious and creamy, says Miss Needle.

Near misses include tasty pan-roasted prosciutto-wrapped shrimp in sherry cream sauce, short on the advertised Gorgonzola, and slightly dried-out pan-roasted chicken stuffed with fontina and prosciutto. Service, at least based on early reports, is enthusiastic but can also be clueless and slow. “We wanted to love Crave; but we didn’t,” JungMann concludes.

Speaking of fancy mac ’n’ cheese, princeofpork recommends the version at the Capital Grille, a knockout side dish loaded with chunks of lobster meat in a creamy sauce of mascarpone, Havarti, and Grana Padano, crowned with crisp breadcrumbs. It blew away everything else on a table laden with appetizers, sides, and steaks. For anyone who was wondering, the prince adds, steaks at this upscale chain restaurant are good but a step below those at the top steakhouses.

Crave on 42nd [Midtown West]
650 W. 42nd Street (between 11th and 12th avenues), Manhattan

The Capital Grille [Midtown East]
155 E. 42nd Street (between Lexington and Third avenues), Manhattan

Board Links: Crave on 42nd with Top Chef Dave Martin
Capital Grille reservations tonight–any help?

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