Craft is a tale of two cities.
First, what a room! The new Craft restaurant on the first floor of the W Hotel is the most beautiful dining room in Dallas. No contest.
As I walked in the W, I was struck by the fact that there was no lobby and the decor and pulsating disco music reminded me of the worst of LA. However, once I stepped into Craft I was immediately transported to Rockefeller Center in NYC. Cool, urbane, rich, calming and yes, even quiet describe the setting. The ceilings are high and the seating arrangements are cleverly divided so as to minimize the noise level without completely diminishing the sight lines. The decor is modern but subdued with rich dark colors and dark wood. There is a vertical/horizontal theme to the room that repeats itself in obvious and subtle ways and delivers an overall pleasing visual experience that I found unique in Dallas.
Some misconceptions 1) You can't get in. We easily procured a 6:30 reservation with less than a week's notice. At 8, the room was still not full. 2) Cost. Entrees are $20-35 and sides are $8-10. Our average for 4 people with shared appetizer, entree, one side, shared desserts and coffee was under $70/person. Since everything is served family style sharing is easy and natural. 3) The W madness. Craft has a small door off of the W "lobby". It also has direct access from the street. These small doors and frosted windows provide an effective divide from the hotel. Also, there is no bar immediately as you walk in, as at most restaurants. This is not a "hang-out" place. It is serious about food but WITHOUT attitude.
The theme of Craft, as stated by Dottie Griffith, is to serve the finest ingredients, simply but perfectly. They do just that. The menu features many of the usual suspects from a "New American" menu including beef, pork, chicken, and fish. The side dishes were also rather direct and included seasonal items like tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, etc. Everything is served family style and the portions are generous. As an example, the foie gras appetizer featured 4 very large peices of perfectly charred foie gras accompanied by a rich reduction sauce. I had no intention of trying the foie gras but there was so much of it that we all wound up having a full portion. Sharing should be your theme at Craft, both from a flavor and cost standpoint.
For entrees our group got stuck on softshell crabs and instead of the advertised 2 per person, our "family style " platter featured 8 of the buggers instead of the 6 we expected. The crabs were perfectly prepared - moist, succulent and slightly crunchy. The only complaint, and it is one I had as well with my rack of lamb, was that we all wished for more of the delicious sauces. More sauce would seem to be in conflict with the restaurant's theme of simplicity yet a bit more was definitely in order, especially since you cannot extract all of the provided sauce from the "family" dish without a fuss. Next time we will request extra sauces. My Colorado lamb rack was also perfectly prepared and was tender and flavorful. Also included with the lamb was a small portion of "pulled pork" which turned out to be a fork tender tournedo of rich, slow roasted pork. A nice surprise!
The sides were indeed highlights. The heirloom tomato gratin was rich, ripe and had just the right amount of breading. The waiter recommended pea and mushroom risotto was stellar. It was a broth based risotto without cream and finished with EVO. Very very nice.
Overall, I loved the room for both it's decor and lack of noise. The food was both interesting and satisfying. The service was very friendly and extremely good. The waiters were readily available but unobtrusive and very knowledgeable and confident in their recommendations.
The valet parking at the W can be hectic, so I recommend seeking parking else where and then strolling through the Victory complex and entering Craft throught the street entrance.
My early take is that Craft, Bice and Nobu (if they turn off the disco music) will all survive and survive well in Dallas. None of them have the faux pretention that Il Mulino or Aurora have foisted on us. That lack and interesting food, with good service go a long way. A way not always understood by new high end dining palaces.