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Curlz

Crave

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Even though Chef Lo Pinto's thread is still here, I thought Crave should have its own thread since they're slated to open within the next week or two. Their web site isn't ready yet, but I'll post it once I hear it's up. Here's the basic info:

Crave Restaurant and Lounge

168 Passaic Avenue (across from the Essex Cty Airport)

Fairfield NJ

973-882-8700


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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They opened (for dinner only-not sure when that changes) this week, and the basics are up on their web page: www.cravelounge.net


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I attended the soft opening at Crave, and thought I'd let the experience sink in a bit before posting about it here. Overall, I think this place has the potential to be a great success, and I'm thrilled for Anthony LoPinto, as I'm a major fan of his cooking. Full disclosure-the evening was on the house, so there are certain things over which we had no control as customers, as there was only a limited menu and a short list of wine/beer available. That said, I came away thinking that I can't wait to see the full menu, which I'm hoping has at least a few of the chef's stamps on it, and I'm looking forward to getting back to Crave after they have some time to settle in.

My overall impression as I came in is that the space is stunning, and although I don't normally pay so much attention to decor, the furnishings are lovely as well. If someone hadn't mentioned it on the other thread, I never would have known that this was once a bad chain restaurant-that's for sure! The seats at the bar are huge and comfortable, and the chairs at our table were equally inviting. I can see how it would be easy to linger at the bar over drinks-except for the club/house music that is blasting in the bar area. At 8pm, I'm just not ready for that kind of an assault-sorry! After 10, sure-but not when I'm coming for dinner with people I want to have a conversation with. Personally, it's just not my scene, though I know it is something that many people like; the crowd that was there that night didn't seem like the 'club' crowd either, however. Hopefully management will pay attention to the clientele and adjust as necessary. Once we were seated, the volume of the music was greatly reduced and it wasn't much of a distraction, which was definitely a concern I had while waiting for my friends.

Speaking of distractions, I'd love it if management here (and at other restaurants) would take women in to consideration when hiring their staff. The gals behind the bar aren't wearing much, and are definitely there to be looked at-and they do absolutely nothing for me! How about some equal time/eye candy for the female customers? Maybe a few hairy chests to balance things out? :laugh: Fair's fair, guys.

As I already mentioned, the menu for the soft opening was limited; there were a few apps, a few entrees, and a few desserts. There were crab cakes, a spinach salad w/a warm goat cheese fritter, and a Middle Eastern vegetarian sampler, which was definitely the winner, and had Anthony's handprint for sure...it had hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, and an olive/feta 'salad,' all of which was served w/toasted pita points. One friend ordered the crab cakes, but was then told they were out of them already-a trend that seemed to follow her as she ordered the linguini w/roasted eggplant, garlic, and other vegetables (it was a Friday during Lent). We had a late reservation and the house was full, so that wasn't a total surprise. For her entree, she ended up with mahi over white beans, which she thoroughly enjoyed. My other friend and I each ordered the hanger steak med-rare (which it was). It was served with horseradish-mashed potatoes and a side of watercress that was cooked to perfection; again, this tells me that Anthony was paying attention in the kitchen, as I always enjoy his vegetables...these greens were on par with what I get in my favorite Chinese restaurants-a vibrant green with just enough seasoning to bring out the flavor while remaining as simple as possible. The meat was tender and juicy and the serving size just right; I polished it off and was full without being stuffed.

The three of us shared two desserts...a coconut/pineapple parfait w/coconut ice cream and cubes of lemon-poppy seed pound cake at the bottom of the glass. Two coconut truffles (?) accompanied the parfait, and my friends are still talking about how fantastic they were! The other dessert was a dark chocolate/molten cake over a berry coulis (decadent is really the only appropriate term here-and that's coming from someone who isn't a chocolate freak!). Coffee was strong but just okay.

Overall, the FOH issues that we experienced (a very late seating, bartenders who need some basic instruction about wine, and mildly rushed clearing of the table) are all forgiveable for a place on what was literally their first big night. From what I've heard, Crave is already very busy for dinner, and they will probably open for lunch within a month. I genuinely look forward to another visit, the chance to sample from a larger menu, and to the staff working through the initial kinks.


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I joined a friend for the "soft opening", too. I hesitated to comment on this "practice run" (and a free night, too). I'm glad that Curlz stepped in, and I wanted to follow up a little, too. We got there at 7:00 p.m. - maybe the same Friday night. We skipped the bar and went straight to a table. The crab cake appetizer was really nice with a corn relish accompaniment. I had hoped for the scallops with barley, but they were gone and replaced with the hanger steak. I switched to the mahi mahi with white beans. The fish was truly delicious. My friend ordered the pineapple parfait and she was kind enough to pass along a delicious coconut truffle. I had the vanilla on top of chocolate creme brulee and I enjoyed it soooo much.

We both felt that Anthony was at the top of his game with the dishes we had. The space was beautiful with organic components. I had been to this restaurant years ago for a burger and beer. The transformation was remarkable. (The ladies' room was worth a stop.) Other than our waiter wanting to confiscate our bread everytime he came back to the table, the service was fine considering it was a debut.

It's on my short list of places to try now that they are open.

Marie


NJDuchess

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Can't wait to try Crave. The website says the hours are:

Monday – Thursday 10:30am-12:00pm

Friday 10:30am -1:00am

Saturday 3:00pm – 1:00am

Saturday and Sundays private parties only

So, I guess no weekend dinners yet?

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Can't wait to try Crave.  The website says the hours are:

Monday – Thursday 10:30am-12:00pm

Friday 10:30am -1:00am

Saturday 3:00pm – 1:00am

Saturday and Sundays private parties only

So, I guess no weekend dinners yet?

That's a weird way for them to post their hours, as is the phrasing about private parties. I read it 3x, and I think what they're trying to say is that you can only book private parties for Saturdays and Sundays. And that 10:30am-12pm listing must be wrong, as they're not going to be open for breakfast (to my knowledge)! But note that those Fri and Sat times end at 1am.

Right now, no lunches, but dinners are Tues through Saturday nights; at least, that's what I was told. Either way, I'd suggest calling the restaurant to ask before you go!


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I just made a res for this Sat at 8pm, although it wasn't easy. On their site, they have an e-mail link for reservations so yesterday morning I sent an e-mail request. Then later in the day I thought I'd better call. No one answered but they had a voicemail system that didn't identify the restaurant at all (very strange). I left a message but go no call back. Today, I called & got somebody who sounded half asleep...After he took my name & # in party, he was ready to hang up until I reminded him that he might want to know the time of our reservation.

I am encouraged by the reviews of the soft opening below (we enjoyed Anthony's cooking at Fortunato & Earth), but the front end seems a little shaky. I will report back after Saturday!


www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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Can't wait to try Crave.  The website says the hours are:

Monday – Thursday 10:30am-12:00pm

Friday 10:30am -1:00am

Saturday 3:00pm – 1:00am

Saturday and Sundays private parties only

So, I guess no weekend dinners yet?

That's a weird way for them to post their hours, as is the phrasing about private parties. I read it 3x, and I think what they're trying to say is that you can only book private parties for Saturdays and Sundays. And that 10:30am-12pm listing must be wrong, as they're not going to be open for breakfast (to my knowledge)! But note that those Fri and Sat times end at 1am.

Right now, no lunches, but dinners are Tues through Saturday nights; at least, that's what I was told. Either way, I'd suggest calling the restaurant to ask before you go!

Thanks, I will call. I thought maybe I was too jetlagged to read it right! I think I'll give them a couple of weeks to get the kinks worked out. :biggrin:

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Tommy has a report on his recent dinner at the bar at Crave...

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I went to Crave last Saturday night. The place was packed. Service was very good

Bread was great. The food was very good. I was told its a limited menu but its fine now. The inside is cool. My wife loved the decor. Stayed for drinks after dinner. Big drinks. The wine list is a tremoundous value. Lots of low priced wines at great value plus some well known stuff. I want to go back with friends. Its going to be a huge success.

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We had dinner at Crave last night. We had drinks at the bar before dinner (those bar stools are really heavy & awkward) and then sat down a little after 8pm. I ordered the buffalo mozzarella stack, which was very good. My husband & our friends had salads which they enjoyed. For the main course, two of us had the Asian marinated grilled hangar steak, done perfectly. One friend had the pasta special which included clams & mussels, she enjoyed it. However, my husband ordered the rib eye which was tough & full of gristle. Very disappointing for $33. For dessert, I had the cranberry apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream - the cobbler was very good but the ice cream had a very strange taste. The waiter was really pushing the French Toast dessert so we ordered one for the table - not great. There were 2-3 "balls" of fried French Toast with a chocolate mousse on the side. The other dessert we tried was the Poached Pear, which was good. We were also disappointed with the wine by the glass choices - very few & not a good selection.

Given the scene at the bar and the general atmosphere, I couldn't help but feel like this was really a lounge masquerading as a restaurant. Overall, I would have to say the food was good, but the service was very spotty (it took a really long time between courses & getting the waiter's attention was no easy task). This is not really a fine dining experience (maybe my expectations were wrong). I don't really think Crave showcases Chef LoPinto's talents - hopefully he will land somewhere that is a little more serious about the food.


www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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tkrongold, we were there last night as well. I do agree on the loungish vibe. I felt a little bit too un-hip to be there. The decor was unique enough but the lighting and atmosphere did lend to a clubbiness that I don't normally like in a restaurant experience. I liked the simplicity of Earth and Fortunato a lot better, but I'd definitely go back.

We had no issues with the service at all; our waitress was attentive and helpful, although my one qualm was a bit of a logic issue. I asked her what she liked between the pasta special and the duck, and she said that she was a vegetarian so she didn't know, but she liked the pasta. That seemed like a bit of a disconnect to me, but it didn't change the fact that she was at least trying her best.

We started with the buffalo mozzarella stack and the Kobette burgers. Those were tasty, although the beef was very subtle and just a little too well-done, a step above medium rare. If I'm having very good beef, I'd prefer as rare as it can be, but it was a nice nosh. The assorted sauces were very nice, I especially liked the wasabi honey mustard. The buffalo stack was delicious, the mozzarella had a subtle sharpness to it that I haven't had before.

My fiancee had the sea scallops and I had the pasta special with monkfish, mussels, and rock shrimp. Both hearkened back to Lo Pinto classics from Fortunato and both were very good. I think her scallops were perfect as usual and were well-complemented by the mushroom barley. It was earthy for a seafood dish. My pasta was very nice, the sauce had picked up a lot of the flavor from the mussels and shrimp which rounded it out well.

Our waitress also plugged the French toast when I asked about it; she said she really liked it since it was very sweet. My fiancee was all about that. I would have liked more Nutella or otherwise nuttiness to it. Good, but not great - we really needed a knife to cut through it.

I had the cranberry apple cobbler and really liked it. I didn't find any strange taste in the cinnamon ice cream, just the cinnamon. It was nice and tart, it tasted like it was more an autumn dessert than a winter one.

I do agree with tkrongold - this isn't fine dining per se. It's not Fortunato or Earth, but it is a step above. I'd like to see what happens with the next seasonal menu that Chef Lo Pinto comes up with to see what happens with the food; I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on the decor and food matching as a bit of growth.

I work nearby and plan to head over for lunch one of these days once that's rolled out.


"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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I have to agree that this place seems to be geared towards building a "club scene" more than a good restaurant. I don't think LoPinto stays there that long. IMO the food is very typical. Good but nothing to rush home and make a second reservation for. If I end up there again I won't be displeased but I won't really look forward to it. Maybe I'll revisit in a few months but not anytime soon. Hopefully I won't have to pull out the Z. Cavaricci's and fake tan to get in. ;)


"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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Richl2214: we felt the same way, we will not be rushing back anytime soon. When we had Chef LoPinto's food at Earth & Fortunato, we thought his cooking was very good & inventive but this seems to be very average. And the whole "club" feel definitely won't make me rush back there.

It's funny, when I saw they had the word "lounge" in their URL I thought that was a big insight into how the owners were setting the stage.


www.cookstour.netMy Blog

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I too thought Earth and Fortunato were excellent. This place is different. Like I said unless he has a big stake in the place I don't see him hanging around for the long haul. I'd love to see him do a place like Earth again.


"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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We tried Crave for dinner and it was very good. It has a "clubby" atmosphere and it attracts a younger crowd. I think that is a good, free spending, heavy drinking demographic that will benefit the restaurant's bottom line. It is a cool-looking place.

We went on a Thursday night and the place was packed. I ordered the tomato and mozzarella stack, my wife had the house salad. Both very good. For entrees, I had monkfish over a white bean, tomato and spinach stew. The tomato-ey stew was a good dipping sauce for the fish--a generous portion. My significant other had grilled mahi-mahi. Very fresh, really grilled, I tasted it and the fish was fresh and high quality.

We greeted Chef LoPinto on our way out as we know him from Sweet Basil's and Fortunato. He is really the best practitioner of New American cuisine in the area and I recommend Crave. If you like things on the quieter side, go earlier in the week. Fortunately for the restaurant, it was packed on Thursday and we were told it gets more crowded Friday and Saturday. A happening place with a great chef.


Edited by scarlet knight (log)

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Sorry to report that during that big storm that hit on Saturday night, a branch from one of the trees at Crave came down, taking down power lines with it, which in turn caused the transformer to blow, and...started a fire. The restaurant still doesn't have power and is temporarily closed but I don't know if there was damage to the building or just to the outside. If I get any more details or hear that they've reopened (which I hope will be soon!), I'll be sure to update here.

Hang in, guys!


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Crave cravings may now cease; they are once again open for lunch and dinner. :raz:


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I made it over to Crave for lunch this afternoon. I was kind of despondent to find that the monkfish dish was not on the lunch menu, but I was told that this might be rectified in the future once the restaurant is out of it's infancy stages.

Anyway, I had the grilled Hanger Steak with the Asian Noodle salad, so it is never a total loss when you have the opportunity to order Hanger.

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Dined at Crave last night a Wednesday;

- certainly the decor has an earthy yet modern appeal to it, both formal and casual dining experience, must be really great at night on the weekends.

- for appetizers we had the ribs [basic nothing outstanding, the slaw was home made but i could have done that myself and added jalepenos. mayo was running all over my plate] and calamari [basic, nothing worth writing about and the salsa was just ok. the waitress must know the salsa isn't that good because she brought us marinara sauce too'

- dinner Sea Scallops [tender, no grit, barley was tender and tasty] on the other hand the monk fish had an awful gray color, not sure if it was semi grilled or they left the outside skin on it, and while the red sauce that it came in looked rich....it was the most bland dish, not to sound like gorden ramsey "but did you taste it or season it?" and I didn't care too much for the beans it came with, a little ala dente.

and no specials at all??? every good resturant has something?

C+ nothing I'd rush back for

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We went to Crave last Sat night. The decor was pretty slick, especially for being in Fairfield. The bar staff were great - friendly and organized. Specialty drinks were yummy. I had the Serenity (Mango margarita) which I highly recommend. We had plenty of time to indulge at the bar since our 8:30 table wasn't ready till 9:20 (and only then after I chased down the hostess to find out what was going on). The dining area is pretty small. I agree with others who said this is more of a club / lounge place (although we were the last table eating and even though they had cleared out a bunch of tables for what I thought was going to be a dance floor, the place was empty at 11:30). We were a table of 6 and ordered a bunch of aps to start. I only tried the mozzarella / tomato which was ok, not great. Had a bunch of miscellaneous "stuff" (I'm not even sure what it was) on it which was total overkill. Out of the 6 of us 4 people ordered the Grouper special. When we were just finishing the aps the waitress came back and said she was sorry they were out of the Grouper. Urgh - is that not the epitome of unorganized? So we ordered different meals and waited and waited for it to be prepared. Most of the food was average except for the duck which was cooked almost beyond recognition. Even I, the anti Martha Stewart, could prepare duck better than that. One other guy said his steak was tough but he was so hungry he didn't care. For dessert we got the chocolate sampler x 2 which was amazingly bland.

Not somewhere I would rush back to unless it was for drinks and aps at the bar. Shame because I had heard such great stuff about Chef LoPinto , but on Sat night he did not deliver.


Edited by SunnyNJ (log)

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We had dinner for the first time at Crave a couple of nights ago. Decor is nice and I would go back for the food. However, the staff needs work!

First,, we weren't sure if they were open since there were no cars in the parking lot. It was a Sunday and granted it was a bit early (5PM) we had reasons to believe they were not open for dinner till maybe a little later. When I went in to check, the hostess was kind enough to say that they were open and as I turned around to get the rest of my party, either the bartender or server shouted "what does it look like".

I probably shouldn't have stayed but it's been on my list to try.

We get seated. All is well until the server tries to sell us on the ribeye by saying "it's really lean". I know my steak and I prefer a ribeye over any other cuts of meat. But "Lean" is not something I want to hear when describing a ribeye. We order it anyways and luckily it comes out the way we ordered it- med-rare. Then when we asked for the beer list, the same server described the Blue Moon as an ale and not a wheat beer.

The Chef is good. The service needs work.

Would I return? Not for awhile.

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Then when we asked for the beer list, the same server described the Blue Moon as an ale and not a wheat beer.

Not to take away from your point about the service, but your server was right, all Blue Moon beers are Ales. They do make a wheat beer as well as several others, and they are all top fermented -- hence, Ales.

I've been wanting to try LoPinto's food, since I missed him when he was at Fortunato. I think maybe I will wait until his next restaurant incarnation. ;)


"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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Here's a not-quite-review of Crave (well, really more of Chef LoPinto's cooking :wink: ) on the Bergen Record food blog...came out last week but I just saw it. Can't believe it's been a year already since Earth closed. SIGH... Click here


"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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