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Manhattan Dinner

Craft Dinner review


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Craft Dinner review

happymeals | Jun 16, 2009 09:05 PM

I literally walked into my apartment not more than 15 minutes ago, and had to get on and review Craft.

It. Was. Fantastic.

Let me preface, I am a huge lover of food. I am not overly critical of food unless it purports to be something special; I accept and love food for what it is. But when restaurants want to be hoity toity and charge an arm and a leg, then you better believe I'm going to bring my game face (and palate), And Craft was a fantastic, absolutely phenomenal, memorable meal.

I brought my boyfriend to Craft for his birthday, along with two of our good (hearty, hungry male) friends. We all love good, unpretentious food, and sharing plates, so Craft's atmosphere and dining style suited us perfectly. The decor was lovely, grand and conducive for our convivial, celebratory event. The table for four was large; we ordered lots of plates and nothing felt cramped, but it made talking across the table a bit harder. ;) The noise level was moderate to low; we could hear each other as well as the good music they were playing tonight.

They brought out baskets of bread, white and multigrain, along with their amuse bouche - a rare skirt steak with daikon. I'm sure I missed the other components as they brought it out, but that first bite was a perfect mixture of quality meat, acidity and flavor. It set the tone for the rest of the night and got us excited and ready for our meal.

For appetizers, we ordered the Wagyu beef carpaccio, the sweetbreads, and the ricotta cavettelli with dandelion greens. The carpaccio was perfect; it came with delicate potato crisps and a hardboiled quail egg that tasted amazing. The sweetbreads were decadent and cooked perfectly, the cavettelli the right amount of salty and flawless. As someone who doesn't generally favor Italian cuisine, I was wary about the pasta but it turned out to be full of flavor, and not any flavors I was expecting. My boyfriend never knew sweetbreads could be so delicious. The four of us (keep in mind, it was 3 hungry men and a girl with hungry eyes) ate up every last bit, enjoying every last bite. The sweetbreads came with a leek in the skillet that had soaked up all the flavors, and you better believe we fought over that as well.

For entrees, we ordered the braised short rib, the halibut, the roast chicken and the 28 day aged sirloin. Again, we shared everything and, this is not hyperbole - everything was cooked to perfection. The short rib was rich and luscious and fell apart as I divvyed it up amongst the four of us; the sauce was so good we kept going back to the copper pot long after the meat was gone to spoon out the drippings. The meat was tender and luxurious; almost too much (who am I kidding. It can never be too much.) It was only a single rib, but it was huge and easily fed 3 hungry guys and myself with all the other courses. If it were just me, no sharing, then it certainly would have been enough because of the size and richness of the rib. The roast chicken was cooked to perfection; not dry at all, but moist and flavorful and let me tell you - it was unreal. I rarely, if ever, order chicken at a restaurant because it tends to be boring and/or dry and tasteless, but this chicken was none of the above. And it was a large portion! We each had a quarter of it and the quarter alone could pass for an entree at most restaurants. The sirloin was cooked medium rare, per our order, and was delicious. It came with bone marrow, which only enhanced the flavors. It was quality beef, seasoned well and satisfying, but I have to say, it was probably my least favorite entree. But don't let that convince you that it wasn't good; it was fabulous, but the others I felt had much richer, deeper flavor profiles and were more sophisticated in execution in general. Finally, we ordered the halibut. I can't even begin to describe how well cooked this fish was. It flaked in all the right places, almost taking on the texture of a perfectly cooked scallop. It had exactly the right amount of salt - something some chefs have problems with, for whatever reason. It was definitely an out-of-this-world counterpoint to all the beef we'd eaten.

For sides, we ordered the mushroom medley (why settle for one mushroom when you can have them all?). I highly recommend you do this, even though it's not on the menu. Trust me. We also ordered the carrots and the fingerling potatoes. Three side orders amongst 4 adults was just the right amount. Nothing got wasted and everyone was satisfied without feeling stuffed and on the verge of having a food baby, or worse, going into a food coma.

For dessert, since it was a birthday they brought out the Boston Creme Donuts with a personalized happy birthday message written in chocolate on the plate. It came with orange marmalade, chocolate milk and expresso ice cream. We also ordered the brioche pain perdu, to go with roasted bananas, peanut-butter caramel crunch ice cream and chocolate sauce. We had originally ordered the buttermilk waffles with strawberry sabayon, but they ran out so we had to change our plans. The brioche, bananas and peanut butter crunch MORE than made up for it. The peanut butter crunch was probably my favorite - this could easily be ordered alone as a dessert for those who don't want a heavy, rich dessert. A close second was the brioche. And the donuts were nothing to sniff at - the order came with two donuts, good sized and delicious (way better than Dunkin ;). And take it from someone who is not a dessert person - these were not afterthoughts or throwaways on the menu, but well-executed finishes to the meal. And as a final bite, the mignardises were little banana cream pies...the perfect final note to a great meal.

Now, I'm not one to be easily impressed; I was expecting the meal to be good and tasty but was NOT expecting to rave about it (or post on chowhound about the wonders of Craft!). I cannot remember the last time since maybe Le Bernardin when every course was cooked exactly to my (and the other guests') liking, with the exact amount of seasoning needed and portions perfectly allotted. I would not even try to compare Craft to other restaurants - while some tasting menus are arguably more sophisticated, Craft aims to satisfy deep down with simple preparations of enriching flavors. And that is exactly what it did. It satisfied every part of me, as well as my friends. Nothing felt heavy or overly filling; no bite was wasted and yet no bite felt forced.

Another perk? Even with starter cocktails and 2 bottles of good wine, along with a glass of dessert wine and an espresso, the bill, divided between 3 people (it was a birthday dinner, obviously the birthday boy couldn't pay for himself!), including tax and a generous tip, came to about $200 a person. And as we walked out, they handed us fresh baked blueberry muffins for breakfast tomorrow...looking forward to that one! I highly recommend Craft to anyone looking for a satisfying, surprising meal that is also a great value (at least, for the quality and quantity we received). No sightings of Colicchio (nor was that a goal of the night) but if I ever do run into him, I'm going to have to give him a big hug.

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