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Restaurants & Bars 8

Craft - Dinner Review

kathryn | May 18, 200801:30 PM

I always forget about Craft. I'm not sure why. I've dined there a few times, and always enjoy my meals there. But the cooking itself is not innovative, flashy, or a big foodie-magnet. But I wanted to visit it when it was spring as my other visits have always been in the fall and winter, and I wanted to make sure I got there before their pastry chef left.

The amuse was a shooter with something I'd describe as a kind of cold flan with root vegetable. A little odd, like vegetable jello or custard, with radish on top. It was interesting but not something I'd necessarily order off a menu.

For firsts, we started out with Yellowfin Tuna & Lemon. Light, delicious, and refreshing. I loved the contrast of the meaty tuna and the lemon. Next up was Roasted Sweetbreads. This may be my favorite preparation of sweetbreads right now. Sweet, succulent, tender, and perfectly cooked. A lovely large of chunk of sweetbreads that melted in your mouth. I also revisited one of my favorites: Crispy Bacon & Apple. Big chunks of fatty pork belly! It may be a little hard to eat but the appeal is irresistible. We were four people and there were a good 5 chunks of porky goodness, with tiny cubes of apples. Despite the deliciousness, we each found it difficult to consume more than one piece of "crispy bacon." That's how large the chunks are. The Lamb Raviolo was next. It looked more like a big piece of lasagna than raviolo -- delicious, oozing cheesy goodness, topped with more cheese and a mixture of herbs. Nice executed but I couldn't believe it was a "first course" -- this looked more like an entree course! In retrospect, we should have ordered something smaller, as all of the pastas looked wonderful. Perhaps a salad, next time. Despite the influence of spring making its way throughout the menu, we ended up getting many winter-ish dishes.

Dayboat Diver Scallops were perfectly cooked. Buttery and brown on the top. Nicely opaque in the middle. Cooked just past raw (how do they do that?!). Sweet, buttery, and tasting of the ocean. There were three giant scallops. I could have eaten three more. Roasted Rack of Oork was wonderful. Berkshire, of course, has a great flavor. Like eating steak of pork. Really fresh and porky tasting - I couldn't get enough of this. It reminded me of the pork shoulder steak that Momofuku Ssam Bar serves. And the rack of pork came with a delicious white bean ragout (I think I tasted cheese, white wine, lots of fresh herbs in there) that helped enhance the porky goodness. And ragout was pretty great on its own, too. I wish the menu had mentioned it came with its own side dish! We also got the Beef Short Ribs - cooked until falling apart, so sweet, and tender. It's a classic Craft dish, and once again, I can see why. The Guinea Hen was a giant portion in a lovely copper dish. White meat sliced on top, a ragout of dark meat on the bottom (really nice and tender). We barely made a dent in this, eating perhaps 1/3rd. A nice chickeny flavor, but not the best I've ever had, and far too much for four people to eat, given our other dishes. (Next time, I'd go for the organic chicken instead). By then, we were struggling to eat all of the dishes we'd ordered. If anything, I would have not ordered the guinea hen, and just stayed with 3 mains. Maybe two.

Of course, we also went over board on the vegetable sides. I was tempted by sauteed ramps or asparagus, but went with a a medley of mushrooms, wonderful and meaty. Each bit was a umami-bomb. I scooped up every last little roasted mushroom. I never can decide which gourmet mushrooms are my favorites here, so I end up getting a medley. Full of bluefoots, hen of the woods, etc. Wonderful. We also got the roasted Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes - so tender and fragrant! This is one of my favorite root vegetables, and one of my favorite preparations for them. Excellent. I'm glad I got one last shot at eating them before the season was over. To make our table even more crowded, we ordered a spring risotto. Nicely cooked and the right consistency for risotto, but I could manage no more than a mouthful. I'm sure I would have more to say if I hadn't been stuffed full of the buttery potatoes gratin that we ordered to go with the short ribs. Mmmmmm! Craft really excels at great side dishes and I'm alway impressed by the variety available, too.

As a palate cleanser, we were treated to a delightful shooter of fizzy Meyer lemonade. Great, light, sweet, and something I'd want on a hot summer day. I was sad we only got a tiny little glass to taste.

Dessert was phenomenal. I never remember to save room for dessert at Craft. We ordered Meyer Lemon Beignets with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Ice Cream. Phenomenal. A little sweet but not too much, as our stomaches were ready to explode. A nice, creamy and tart lemon curd that played off the vanilla ice cream. An order of warm, fresh donuts. So light and fluffy. Impossible to resist. Even the smell is intoxicating. And they so cleverly include the donut holes as well. The Warm Chocolate Tart with Coffee Crunch Ice Cream and Cacao Nib Granita was a nice study in contrasts. Rich chocolate with the bitterness of the coffee beans and cacao nib. Delicious but heavy. The ice cream sampler was also really nice: brown butter, caramel, and coffee crunch. All refreshing and sweet. Once day I'm going to convince the table to order all the available ice creams and sorbets in one go; I haven't been successful yet. Craft's pasty program is indeed so great and a perfect end to a delicious meal. I can only hope that they keep these great dishes for a little while before a new pastry chef arrives.

Overall, I think the firsts and the sides are a tiny bit better than the mains, but the scallops and rack of pork were definitely winners. As always, I enjoyed my meal at Craft immensely, although I'm guilty of the sin of overordering, always forgetting how large the portion sizes are and how some of the signature dishes (sweetbreads, short ribs, mushrooms, etc) are winter-ish and heavy. Craft: it's simple, hearty, solid, and satisfying. I look forward to my next visit.

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