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Crave Ceviche Bar

Fat Guy

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I had an impressive meal at Crave Ceviche Bar a couple of weeks back, then got busy and neglected to post the details. So, here goes.

Crave Ceviche Bar is constructed along the "new paradigm" downtown restaurant model: a long bar dominates the place and most people eat there, and there are just a few tables off to the side. Except, it's in the most boring part of Midtown. It's on Second Avenue between 50th and 51st Street. When you're inside the restaurant, you simply can't believe you're in Midtown East. Neither the style of the place nor the crowd is neighborhood-compliant. It's as though through some sort of culinary Gerrymandering they decided that this particular block would be part of the East Village.

On the menu, it says: "Ceviche is a preparation common in Latin America where dishes, most commonly seafood, are usually cooked with acid from citruses. At Crave, every dish is a take on ceviche but nothing is ordinary." That statement is accurate. The restaurant runs far and wide with the ceviche metaphor. I chatted with Todd Mitgang, the chef (formerly of Kittichai), and his explanation was that he loves raw fish but didn't want to do yet another sushi place. So, he figured out this angle, emphasizing acidity, and in the bargain created a unique, different, delicious restaurant. Mitgang, by the way, is not Latin (he's Jewish, from Long Island).

Paul Adams of the New York Sun wrote an on-target review of Crave in October. He gives a good description of the concept:

Taking the ceviche technique as a starting point, [Todd Mitgang,] the chef and co-owner, who polished his raw-fish skills at Kittichai, whips up a wide variety of snacks. Everything from veal to foie gras gets the treatment, soaked in solutions made with yuzu, Champagne, yogurt, and any number of other ingredients. To broaden the possibilities, Mr. Mitgang works within a loose definition of ceviche. Traditionally, it's a preparation wherein the acid from a tart marinade, usually citrus-based, "cooks" a protein, performing roughly the same job that heat does, but without heat. At Crave, "to ceviche" means roughly "to marinate," whether or not the fish (or whatever) has been chemically cooked and turned opaque by the process.

A typical dish description on the menu goes like this:


swiss chard, roasted walnuts, sunny side up quail egg, horseradish oil

ceviche’d: beet juice, yuzu

That, by the way, is an awesome dish. The bitterness of the Swiss chard is the real surprise, then you have the crunch of the walnuts and the burn of the horseradish oil. The ceviche effect comes from the yuzu and beet juice. It works, beautifully.

The word "ceviche'd" is used a lot on the menu. You have to get past that in order to enjoy the place. And you should, because most of the food is superb.

The best dish of the evening was florida red snapper with a rich lobster broth (basically a bisque) poured over, with seared butternut squash, fennel and Chinese long beans, "ceviche’d" courtesy of aged Sherry and Sherry vinegar. Even just on its own, the lobster broth was one of the best I've had anywhere. The combination of that with snapper made a compelling case for snapper; it almost made the snapper seem like monkfish. You'll see what I mean if you try the dish.

Also excellent:

Cedar smoked ARCTIC CHAR

enoki mushrooms, bean sprouts, salted yellow bean dijon aioli

ceviche’d: negro modelo, brown sugar


shrimp dumplings

braised Berkshire pork, fennel, leeks, pink peppercorn

ceviche’d: tomato water, lemon, thai basil

The one dish we tried that I thought collapsed on itself by trying too hard to be a ceviche-type thing was the "Bread and Butter Ceviche," which is grilled olive bread buried under (and made soggy by) roasted shallots, goat butter, "clementine meat," and pink sea salt. (Incidentally, has anybody noticed that several of the new-paradigm places don't have normal bread service but, rather, have composed bread dishes that you need to order and pay for?)

There was also a Kona Kampachi special which, like the tuna, had Swiss chard. It was great, but I've now eaten my fill of Swiss chard for the season.

The wine list is compact, with a lot of good stuff under $50 and with good, short, no-BS descriptions of the wines. We had a 2004 Xarel-lo from Segura Viudas, priced at $34. It was described efficiently and accurately: "Almond biscotti, very powerful." Most of the wines -- not all, but the majority -- are also available by the glass. There's beer and sangria too.

Pretty much all the dishes are priced in the mid teens, except for lobster and some of the meat dishes -- none of which I tried. I thought the servers were very good, knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastic, especially the lovely woman from South Carolina who handled much of the room.

At the end of the meal they refused to present a check. I was at the restaurant working on an assignment and would have been reimbursed. So, it saved somebody some money, albeit not me.

The owners of Crave are Brian Owens, Dino Andreakos and Todd Mitgang. They have plans to take over a space on 50th Street this summer to create an L-shaped restaurant that will face both Second Avenue and 50th Street. This will allow for a larger kitchen, so the restaurant will be able to open for lunch. Right now, it's dinner only because they need all the kitchen space for prep during the day.

Crave Ceviche Bar

946 Second Ave. (between 50th and 51st)



Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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