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Craft


yvonne johnson
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Craft and Text New York City Entry #24

As a tagline to his online food essays Steve Plotnicki adds provocatively, "It's okay to like Salieri more than Mozart, but it's not okay to think that he's better than Mozart." An aesthetic puzzle that deserves unpacking.

In many of my dispatches from the culinary front, some feel that I have floated over the thoughtful and sensory writings of my fellows on various discussion groups. When I have read the texts (praying for wise advice), I rarely incorporated the ideas into my writings.

The case of Craft - the craft of cooking and of dining - demands such an assessment, even if I still touch lightly on deep and unresolvable issues. For this review I have read the extensive posts on Craft on several websites - and spent several days considering them in light of my meal. Not to tire readers, I abbreviate what could easily be a lumpen academic commentary, heavier than a leaden dumpling. In the case of Craft, the quality of Chef Tom Colicchio's cuisine aside (but not too far aside), the texts of Mr. Plotnicki on several websites have contributed to placing Craft at the culinary center.

Critics, when enthusiastic, persistent, and well-placed, can midwife an aesthetic. Here the classic models are Emile Zola as promoter of the Impressionist cenacle at the Café Guerbois or Clement Greenberg's role among postwar Abstract Expressionists at the Cedar Street Tavren. The recent attempt of Frank Bruni to trace the revolution in New York cuisine to the Ground Zero of Danny Meyer, 1985, and the Union Square Café has something of the same flavor.

When rare and well-done, these critical assessments matter when based in a web of ideas. In the several debates on those threads that assess the importance and limitations of Craft, opinionated diners attempt to assess whether Craft really matters to New York dining - and how. And how!

I return to the Plotnicki tag, and what it implies. In his writings (and I will avoid those citations that decorate an academic assessment), Steve calls for (on August 17, 2004) an "objective perspective," adding "What the dining experience should be about is not calibrating your palate to [others, but] it should be calibrating your palate to a standard of what is good. . . . The real bias . . . revolves around stylistic preference and not a critical assessment of ingredients, techniques and philosophy of cuisine." He later adds what could be a mantra, "our mission is to go beyond subjectivity."

We modernists often hold tightly to an ancient ideology, "De gustibus non disputandum." Caligula's philosophy. Now we are told to stake its heart. "Chacon a son gout," get thee gone! Yet, relativism and its sib subjectivism dampen disputes, of course, and that is sometimes a blessing. Relativism must be correct, but yet must not be. Put another way, objectivity can only exist within a shared world of communication. To suggest that a Bolivian peasant, a Uzbeki farmer, or a Eritrean hunter must share Steve's assessment of pain perdu would take eccentricity over a bridge too far. So, we must realize that objectivity must be linked to a community that is grounded on trust, socialization, and discourse. For objectivity to be possible, one needs to believe in the possibility shared assessment and in a desire for a hierarchy of value.

Yet, even in this more limited way, problems emerge. When two friends diverge how can we adjudicate the difference, except by splitting the difference. Is assessment to be based on a golden mean, the conclusion of a Quaker meeting, or through the insistence of one party. A "hard objectivity" cannot help but privilege some voices over others. Fortunately a soft objectivity is possible as well, and it is this that Steve's tagline explicates.

Some foods satisfy: we can call them Salieri foods. Perhaps these puddings and chips are comforts from our childhood (Most moments I'd rather quaff an egg cream than a Lafite). Mozart foods are harder tests, their appreciation demands effort. Their complexity must be considered, challenged, revisited, and not just ingested. Philosophers have it as hard as hod carriers. But philosophers in the kitchen also depend on seeing the dishes in light of assessments of others. A world in which everyone were to judge cuisine on their own would likely not produce much consistency. It is precisely for this reason that Steve demands that cooks understand their dishes while perched on the tongues of their diners. Alone all hell can break out. I ask my students to perform the experiment of viewing a museum without benefit of the wall labels, just judging the art without knowing whether others have determined that the painter was a Salieri or a Mozart. It is a disconcerting and discouraging task.

The point is that the collected texts of critics - all of us together - make possible the goal of an assessment that is not purely subjective. We are shaped by texts and well as by craft. I have read 100+ assessments, learning that both carrots and eyes can be glazed. But as a result my tasting of Craft is shaped, sharpened, and quite different from what it might have been. By claiming objectivity, we exalt community. This asserts that suggests that a chef is not an isolated artist in a cold-water garret, but a social worker.

Turning, at long last, to Craft, my assessment builds on what others have remarked about Chef Colicchio's craft (and that of his Chef de Cuisine, Damon Wise). This reality of a community of evaluation enriches - rather than pollutes - what food means. And our community provides a space in which others can present dissonant views where - if they persuade - the meaning of those dishes can be changed. And so to the truth of craft - at least when my tongue doesn't deceive my pen.

Craft, located just north of Union Square, is an sleek space, with enough curvaceous modernist browns, pumpkins, and oranges tones to be memorable without detracting from the chef's work. On this evening we selected the tasting menu, asking only that one of the choices be the heralded Kobe Skirt Steak.

We began with an amuse of a small glass of banana squash soup with chives, topped with creme fraiche. I believe that the soup base was a beef base. It certainly was beefy, substantial, and golden. This was a bracing start, complex in its aromas without being showy.

Our first course were two pairs of Oysters - Kumomotos and Chilmarks, each paired with a fruit: Asian Pears and Watermelon. Both oysters were pristine (I give my nod to the Chilmarks), but the Asian Pear matched the Kumomoto better than the pickled watermelon did for the Chilmark. However, my companion had the opposite reaction - damn him! He enjoyed the punch from the watermelon more than the tap of the pears. Who is to say? Is this only the final 10% - a dollop of subjectivity - or does it undercut a 90% objectivity.

Following these bivalves were "Marinated Sardines with a French Sucrine." (I treasure Google to inform me that Sucrine is a buttery, sweet French lettuce, semi-romaine, pretending omniscience). With the mild, sweet salad, with cucumber and bits of fig and black olive, the sardine proved a most suitable match. When well-married, I enjoy marinated sardine, but I could imagine a diner for whom sardines would have been a poor choice. Yet, and this supports an ideology of objectivity, the first thing that any young chef must learn is how to prepare nasty food so that one's diners feel that it is prepared to perfection. Even if that young chaud-froid cook gags on sardine, I must believe that s/he has an inspired touch with marinated fish. A quarter century ago I watched young trade school students grimace and blanche as they tasted oysters, asparagus, and artichokes - sometimes for the first time - learning what their craft demanded. If not acquiring an objectivity of taste, they were learning the demands of clients.

The Raw Dayboat Scallops with little sticks of black truffle and endive was a most elegantly displayed plate. Although I may be in the minority here (let's vote!), I preferred the slightly bitter endive (so modest that it was not listed on the tasting menu) to the Burgundy Black Truffle. Of course, the two were matched, black and white, bitter and musky, as they backed the raw dayboat scallops. The dish represented the magic of small flavors. In Chef Wise's hands, the mild flavor of the scallops was preserved while its slightly gelatinous texture was transformed with the sexy crunches of truffle and even sexier endive. Although I won't discuss our wine choices, the slightly sweet Macon-Villages Quintane, (Domaine Emilian Gillet, 1999) was the liquid high point of the wine pairings, with just enough sugar to enhance both truffle and endive.

If I were a vegetarian I would have treasured our fourth dish, "Butter-Braised Halibut with Chanterelles and Corn." Unfortunately the halibut, while not dry, seemed to have its flavor drained. Although it looked pearly white, it was no gem, but a damp memory. I was told that the chanterelles were flown in fresh from the south of France. Why Craft should import chanterelles in mid-October, rather than using local fungi is mysterious. A greater commitment to local produce seems proper. However, the mix of mushroom and corn was a lovely take on creamed corn (another Salieri moment transformed into a Mozart taste).

Concluding our main courses was an inspired Kobe Skirt Steak with infant Hen of the Woods, sauteed in a touch of olive oil, Hubbard squash puree, and Brussel Sprouts, those little green globes of chacon a son gout. If truth is anywhere at Craft, it is in the skirt steak. The purity and flavor of this beef with its roasted juices is profound. Even my partner who generously permitted this course, despite an aversion to beef, admitted we were served One Fine Cow. Simply and perfectly prepared, it didn't need its well-presented accompaniments. The sides, and they were really treated as apart from the steak, were fine (and the midget Hen of the Woods better than that, since my mature twenty-pound Hens generally require a lot of boiling).

Next appeared a small glass of Concord Grape Spritzer - deeply grape, but equally seltzered. Although Jews are reminded of Concord Grape on Passover (thanks to Manischewitz), this cleanser suited on a night before Yom Kippur.

Dessert was a Brioche Pain Perdu - a recast French toast with whipped cream, roasted bananas, and caramel ice cream. The dish was not a transformative moment, but it was certainly a superior sweet, leaving other choices for future visit.

We ended with a small plate of caramel popcorn, pleasant enough, but more Salieri than Mozart, and less Charles Ives that the packing popcorn that Homeru Cantu serves at Moto.

Craft may be an appropriate restaurant to propose gustatory objectivity: good to eat, good to write. It is hard to dislike the creations of Chefs Wise and Colicchio and it is hard not to recognize their confidence with tastes and textures, while not straining to create an alternate universe of cuisine. These are not dishes that undermine our collective expectations, but they are always well-conceived, smart, and inviting. Perhaps in this sense Craft represents, even when a rare dish doesn't work, an essential three star restaurant, proffering creative cuisine to its community of diners. Even when the kitchen flubs - as in the halibut - we avert our pens, erasing the memory.

No harm, no foul.

Craft

43 East 19th Street

Manhattan (Union Square)

212-780-0880

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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I'm confused, gaf. I think I get your review, but I don't really get the relationship between it and the philosophical discourse that preceded it (and which you might want to touch on in a different thread in the General forum -- I'm not sure which -- though some of these are issues that some people might not want to revisit here). It seems to me that the differences between your reactions and your friend's clearly demonstrate that taste is subjective, not objective. Also, Salieri wasn't so much a pedestrian composer as an inconsistent one, who ranged from rather laughable to truly great. Nor do I find Mozart generally harder to listen to than Salieri; most of his music is very accessible and easily enjoyable, not only to a professional musician like me but to almost all of the college students I've taught, regardless of major or whether they had any previous background in music. We could talk more about problems relating to the canon in music -- which I both uphold and undermine, in different ways, as befits a musician of today who loves great music of the past with his eyes open -- but to go too far in that direction would get us off-topic for this website. On the other hand, the influence of received opinion about food and restaurants is definitely on-topic, though a general or food media forum topic.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 5 months later...

The current Craft menu (on their website) shows a 21-day dry-aged porterhouse for $125. I assume that's an order for 2. If so, it's a significant premium over the porterhouse for 2 at most of the city's better steakhouses. (For instance Steak for 2 at Ben & Jack's = $75.90.) Is it worth it?

The menu also shows a 30-day dry-aged Côte de Boeuf for $125, which I'm also assuming is for 2. How would you compare this to the porterhouse?

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Had dinner last night at Craft's private dining room. OK, but not impressive. It does have its own kitchen. They served various types of beef, all of which were fine. The potatos in the scalloped potatos were undercooked, which shouldn't happen in this price range....

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My friend and I had dinner at Craft last Friday night. We had a wonderful time, although we concluded that the restaurant is, perhaps, a touch overrated.

We started with the foie gras terrine ($24) and the roasted quail ($14). Everything at Craft is served family style, and two appetizers are more than enough for two people. We were especially struck by the ample foie gras portion—two hefty discs that resembled slender hockey pucks. It was superb, to be sure, but required a little more of the wonderful toast that came with it. The quail, too, was excellent.

I had asked upthread whether the Côte de Boeuf, at $125, could possibly be worth it. No one replied, so we went with a more modest choice, the braised veal shank ($75), which is a portion for two. As one would expect for a braised meat, it fell off the bone at the touch of a fork, and was perfectly prepared.

We ordered a side of the gnocchi ($10). Our waiter seemed aghast: "Just one side?" We stuck to our guns, and good thing too, because we were plenty full and were unable to finish the gnocchi, which was chewy and over-salted.

The dessert menu is confusing. There are six sorbets and six ice creams listed. Below these, it reads: "Ice Cream & Sorbet Sampler. 6./12." So, what do you get for $6, and what do you get for $12? When our server heard that we were both interested in the sampler, he advised, "In that case, you can get one of each." We didn't ask him to specify what that meant.

Promptly, $24 worth of ice cream and sorbet arrived, and there full scoops of each flavor. One must assume that this was a greedy waiter who eagerly seized on an opportunity to pad the bill, as no one could sensibly believe thattwo people could polish off that much ice cream and sorbet. Indeed, a party of four most likely wouldn't have finished it.

At Craft, wine selections under $50 are few and far between. We settled on a Cadence Coda 2003 at $60, which was terrific. The final bill for two was $229 before tip.

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I went to Craft a few weeks ago with my wife and a friend from England.

We started with round of cocktails. A Craft Cocktail (prosecco & blood orange) for my wife, a Manhattan for me, and a Brown Ale for my friend were all enjoyed by the recipients.

Our amuse was salmon belly over apple cubes, and was very nice.

Apps were foie gras with apple and applesauce (wife), green salad (Rick) and scallops (me). I tried the foie, and it was very good, but not $24 good. My scallops on the other hand were excellent. They came sliced in an overlapping row, and were dressed with fine meaty bits and some microgreens. I was very pleased. I didn't bother with Rick's salad.

Entrees were quail (wife), braised short ribs (me) and a fish I don't remember (Rick). Our sides were Jerusalem Artichokes, carrots, assorted mushrooms plate, gnocchi and potato gratin. Rick finished his fish, but we only got through half the sides and half our mains. All were excellent, but I think we ordered way too much food, and perhaps should have been cautioned about that by the waiter. OTOH, it did make a great late night snack and lunch for my wife the next day. The short ribs were superb, everything I wish mine could be, but the star was the Jerusalem Artichokes.

The gratin was a bit too firm for our taste, but reheated as leftovers was just fine.

Still, we had to have dessert. We had a dessert amuse in a shot glass which I remember I liked but couldn't tell you hat it was if you held a gun to my head. I then had Meyer lemon and blood orange sorbets (excellent way to finish), my wife had the warm chocolate cake with coconut sorbet, and Rick had apple crepes with caramel ice cream. We were all pleased even though Rick felt his was a bit heavy. All tasted fine to me. We were given muffins as a little parting gift which was very nice the next morning.

A bottle of Pinot at about $60 gave us a bill of about $440 with tax and tip. While we were generally very pleased with everything, I think that was more than a bit steep. We could have done it a bit cheaper, I'm sure, but all the prices were clearly marked on the menu. :biggrin:

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Gee, I take a break from eGullet for over three weeks and there's a thread on Olive Garden in the New York forum. :biggrin: (I'm half-kidding.)

Anyway, dinner at Craft this past Friday with friends.

We had:

Roasted sweetbreads

Cured and marinated octopus

Crayfish risotto

Pheasant and prune terrine

Durco pork terrine (gratis)

Rack of pork

Heritage veal

Striped bass

Fiddlehead ferns

Ramps

Assorted mushroom sampler

Gnocchi

Brioche pain perdu/roasted pears w. caramel sauce

Sorbet and ice cream sampler

Mas Carlot Rose 2004

Palo Cortado

Manzanilla La Gitana

Sancerre Mollet 2004

Framingham Pinot Noir 2002

Espresso, mint tea, etc.

The amuse was a quenelle of veal mousse which had kosher salt and mustard seed amongst other ingredients, served neatly in a porcelain Chinese soup spoon. Very interesting, not what I would normally think of an amuse-bouche.

Service could use a bit of improvement. Our party of five had a 9 pm seating, and yet we received our appetizers at 10:25-10:30 pm. :blink:

Marco Canora, of Hearth Restaurant, has better gnocchi in my opinion. These seemed heavier and more leaden. Perhaps the master could learn from the student in this instance.

Overall, a 7/10. A bill of $476 came out to slightly over $100 per head once tips were factored in. I'll be back eventually, and hopefully not as long between visits this time. If memory serves, the last time I was at Craft was over three years ago.

Soba

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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  • 3 months later...

I had my first meal at Craft last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am not sure why it took me so long to get there, it was just one of those places that got lost in the shuffle of trying all of the new restaurants our City produces every year and returning to my old favorites.

The first thing that struck me was why so many people have focused on the format of the menu. When Adam Platt recently wrote a small review of Craft for his 101 Best Restaurants article in New York Magazine , he made mention of the fact that "You may not like the conceit of building your meal one spare ingredient at a time (many food aristocrats I know actively hate it)..." I simply did not find it so terribly different from other dining experiences, there are first courses mains and sides. I agree that the experience is greatly enhanced by going with a group as opposed to going with just one other person and the bill does add up, but beyond that I did not feel as if I was "building" my meal. I likened the experience to eating at Casa Mono, one of my favorites, and a place where you can also sample many offerings off the menu.

My fiance and I and one other couple had a 7:15 PM reservation and were seated by 7:20 PM. Service was exceptional through out the night, there when we wanted them, gone when we did not, with the meal very well paced.

The bread that was served was good, but what I really enjoyed was the butter, so sweet (good butter is such a marvelous thing).

As you will notice from what we ate, it is heavy on vegetables and fish, with the exception of the braised beef short rib I ordered. The two women I was with do not eat meat, so, I had to be sensative to that. This was extraordinarily difficult with roasted sweetbreads, braised fresh bacon (sigh) and Foie Gras terrine staring up at me from the menu. So much so that I just made reservations to return for dinner on August 9th, when I wil be packing a fellow carnivore.

We started with an amuse bouche of shrimp that had been sliced thickly lengthwise and were in a light citrus marinade, basically a ceviche, served in a Chinese spoon. It was bright and refreshing, a nice way to start.

We went on to have the following:

Escargot & Chicken Egg

The best escargot dish I have had in a long time. I forgot to ask how it was prepared, but the little guys came in a small copper pan and were swiming in a deep, dark, viscous sauce, almost like a veal demi-glace, it was delicious. Resting on top was one egg that had been fried in oil in a similar style as one would poach it, with the white wrapped around the yolk. It is a great way to serve an egg, slightly crisp on the outside, liquid yolk within. The only other items in the pan were some croutons crisped in oil and flat leaf parsely.

Beet salad

Very simple, very pretty, not really a salad, roasted, small golden, red and chioggia beets, tossed lightly in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, along with a small amount of micro greens. The beets were delicious and very sweet, the golden and red much sweeter than the chioggia (candy striped).

Braised white asparagus

Nice thick white aparagus braised in a touch of cream.

Roasted baby carrots

Similar to the beets, simple and pretty, whole roasted baby white and orange carrots, tossed with a bit of olive oil and sea salt.

Roasted hen of the woods

These could have used a bit more roasting and a bit more salt. I just had them at Hearth a few weeks ago and the tops were crisper and they were salted better.

Braised short ribs

These were all that short ribs should be, unctuous and tender. Served in its own little cast iron Staub pot, adorned with nothing more than some baby turnips, carrot and sprigs of fresh thyme

Roasted Wild stripped bass

I did not try the bass, those that did said it was good, I am not certain ast to how it was prepared, but I did notice that it was very moist and the skin was very crisp.

Roasted Atlantic Halibut

Similar to the bass, I did not try the halibut, (the fish eaters at the table were a bit voracious) but similar to the bass, it came with a very crisp top and what seemed to be a touch of a cream based sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Bi-color corn

This was excellent. Very small, very sweet, white and yellow kernels, tossed with a touch of cream, salt and fresh thyme. I have cooked close to everything with thyme, but never corn, I am not sure why, I just never thought of it. The two are a fantastic match, great flavor.

Summer squash ravioli

Triangular herb flecked ravioli with a squash filling, in a touch of a very light creamy sauce. This was good, not great, the squash inside was not smooth and did not have much of a flavor.

Roasted spring onions

I know, this is a running theme with the vegetables, but these too were tossed in olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. They did not need anything else, I love roasted onions and these purple, bulbous onions were very pretty.

Dessert amuse bouche of a tall shot of chilled peach and ginger soup

This definitely woke up the palate, very fragrant, slightly effervescent.

Brioche Pain Perdu, Roasted Bananas, Caramel Ice Cream

Like the best French toast you have ever had, sweet, eggy, the small banana slices were nicely caramelized and served in a seperate copper pan.

Doughnuts

Small doughnuts and their holes, served hot, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, served with chocolate and apricot sauces. These were as good as I remember Claudia Flemings were when she was at Gramercy Tavern.

Panna cotta

I did not try the panna cotta, it went too fast.

Three cheeses (served with a dish of honeycomb and Marcon almonds): Monte Enebro, (goat), Avila Spain

A nice, slightly acidic, creamy and lemony goat cheese with a thin layer of ash on the rind.

Alderbrook, (sheep), Milton Vermont

I had never heard of this one before, a really nice, semi ripened soft sheep cheese, that was buttery and sweet.

Mountain Gorgonzola (cow), Lombardy, Italy

Sharper and firmer than Gorgonzola Dolce, intensely good.

I drank a nice 20 year port with the cheese. We had a nice medium bodied Italian red with dinner, but, forgive me, I was not the one that ordered it and I cannot remember the name.

After the dessert dishes were cleared, we were served a small dish of popcorn and cashews that had been tossed with caramel and allowed to harden. it was crunchy, sweet and a touch salty. With our bill we were each given a wrapped blueberry scone to take home.

The total bill, which included one bottle of wine, plus three additional glasses, two Craft cocktails, one port, one espresso, was $405.88.

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My wife and I went to Craft last evening and had an extraordinary meal. We skipped dessert because I had reservations at Room-4-Dessert (see that thread for comments).

The amuse was a ham, shrimp cold chowder "thingy" - great flavor with a hint of smokiness.

We started off with the Snails and Chicken Egg - snails in a brown hunter style sauce with a deep fried egg. I would have like the egg to be a bit more runny to mix with the sauce, but otherwise a great concept. My wife ordered artichokes which were perfectly cooked and seasoned and tasted fresh from the garden.

For the entree my wife had King Salmon (rare). It was perfect, moist, rich and full of layers of flavors. I told the waitress I couldn't decide between the scallops and the Thai Red Snapper. I asked her to choose and not tell me. She brought out the Scallops and it was a great choice. Buttery, nice crust, impeccably prepared.

For sides we had the Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, which were earthy and full flavored; Braised White Asparagus - crunchy, mellow and a hint of sweetness; Gnocchi - served in a cream reduction, perfect little pillows, airy, but packed with flavor.

My wife started with glass of German Riesling and I had a very grassy Sauvignon Blanc - neither was spectacular but both were very good.

I ordered a 2003 Luddite Zinfandel from Dry Creek (Sonoma). At $37, this is the best wine value in any NYC restaurant. I had heard good things about this wine, but didn't taste any until last night. It could be the perfect Zin - slight pepper, great fruit, a hint of tannin and herbs with a long, full finish. This rivals some of the Ridge selections. I would go to Craft just for a bottle and some bread with EVOO.

My only complaint was the temperature. Craft is located within the Manhattan grid that was under electrical pressure yesterday and it showed. The room became increasingly warm as the evening progressed. Obviously, not their fault. Just mentioned it so the Con Ed honchos know they are jeopardizing people's livelihoods.

Bill came to $250 after tax and tip. An outstanding dinner and experience.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This post may be a tad off topic, but I have reservations at Craft Dallas for Friday night. There IS a Craft thread in the Texas forum, but so far, no actual reports from any eGullet member.

I've learned a few things from the posts here about the original New Yourk forum. I am dining with just one other person. Not sure if I should be *too* worried about that, although I do see how having more people might be better, especially if they are "food people" or are willing to try new (to them) things.

I'm really interested in trying things that are new to me as well. I love foie gras and all, but I don't think my dining companion is into it. Maybe getting sweetbreads (if available) would be a good way to experience them? I've never had them before. Of course, I'd like to be able to share what I order, so maybe it's not a good idea?

I want to try to buy into the concept as much as possible. My dining companion isn't always the most adventuresome diner. But to be fair, there are a few things she likes to order that don't really appeal to me.

Can anyone here tell me anything they have heard about the Dallas location? It's only been open for a 2 months. Does it live up to the original?

Obviously, I'll report my experiences to the proper thread in the Texas forum. I'll probably come here and post a link to it as well.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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The crazy thing about the Craft at the W Hotel in dallas is not just the fine dining restaurant but they are running all outlets of the entire hotel. They're are only two kitches cooking food for everyone in and out of the hotel. Something Chef Maxey didnt know he was getting into untill he got down there but hes having fun doing it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Craft, one of what I felt to be among the handful of good ambitious NY restaurants, batted 1.000 tonight. Seven out of seven "hot" dishes arrived luke warm. It appears that this quasi-institution of New York dining buttreses my dictum that restaurants only get worse. Good execution and conception were evident here and there, but if you want a good illustration of how deadly it is for a chef, whose profession by nature is to lord over his restaurant on a day-to-day basis, to then run around the country doing empire building, leaving inferior underlings to do the twice-daily task of catering, go eat at Craft, or just about any high-end restaurant in America for that matter.

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Craft has been in existence for a few years. I'm not saying that all restaurants get worse within a year. Sometimes it takes longer, but almost inevitably they do as greed replaces initial integrity, good intentions and setting high standards. I can think of some chefs, however, who seem to stick to their knitting, but they all have been around a long time. I may not be an admirer of their cuisine or restaurant, but I admire them for doing what chef-restaurateurs should be doing.

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As someone who has actually worked there, let me say that the kitchen runs better without having colicchio at the pass. What you people don't realize is that the big name has nothing to do with the food...merely the concept and face for the restaurant. Damon Wise has been running the place very smoothly for the last couple of years.

I know it seems simple to put two and two together and blame it on the empire and expanding, but that's just not right. I wish this board had more people in the know and in the industry.

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As someone who has actually worked there, let me say that the kitchen runs better without having colicchio at the pass.  What you people don't realize is that the big name has nothing to do with the food...merely the concept and face for the restaurant.  Damon Wise has been running the place very smoothly for the last couple of years. 

I know it seems simple to put two and two together and blame it on the empire and expanding, but that's just not right.  I wish this board had more people in the know and in the industry.

buddy you have a very valid point, but.

this board is a lot of "foodies." self proclaimed. but there are many of us on here who have been new york city line cooks in 3 star settings.

unfortunately, line cooks aren't really the internet posting type, they are not usually academic or into this sort of thing, even though in person we eat live breathe and are obsessed with food, hey, its our lifeblood.

however, be careful. don't burn bridges.

tom hasn't seen john schafer at grammercy in 4 months either, and john does a very good job running that ship too.

but just be careful what you say, you may regret it later.

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  • 3 months later...

Times change.

I just went to Craft for the first time since it was new. When Craft opened, it kind of pissed me off. I thought the mix-and-match menu concept was kind of an abdication of the chef's role. I also thought that the separate charges for each dish jacked up the price well above what I thought was reasonable.

Since then, they've moderated the menu concept a bit. Meanwhile, separately-priced side dishes have become sufficiently common in New York non-steakhouse restaurants that the concept, while lamentable, is no longer shocking.

So now I was ready to appreciate Craft just for the food.

And the food is very very good. Excellent, in fact. I'd rank it at the level of, say, Picholine, which to me is very high indeeed. Whoever the current chef de cuisine is there, he (or she) is a very talented guy.

We had the chicken egg and escargots, the roasted and braised partridge with foie gras, the venison, the roasted brussel sprouts, the yellowfoot (or something) chanterelles, and the grits with pig's trotters.

Standouts, to me, were the chicken egg and escargots (where do they get snails that plump?) and the grits with pig's trotters (how rich can they make the grits? how perfectly can they cook the pig's trotters? will I ever be able to eat anyone else's pig's trotter's again?). The partridge was almost too rich (I don't know if that's a criticism or high praise).

But the emblematic dish was the brussel sprouts. They were perfect. (Roasted with bits of bacon.) You don't think you're going to be going around celebrating something like brussel sprouts, but that's what Craft is about.

The wine list needs more bottles under $100 -- although our waiter steered us to a $75 West Coast pinot noir that was very good.

One other thing. I went with someone with an almost whimsical list of dietary restrictions, owing to celiac disease (real) and lactose intolerance (she at least thinks it's real). Craft is a perfect place for someone like that. Most preparations are both simple and transparent. And even when they normally use butter, as in the brussel sprouts and the mushrooms, it was easy for them not too (the grits they couldn't help).

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Anyone else been here lately? This is one of our favorite restaurants, and we've always had great meals here but hadn't been back in almost a year - opting for Craft Steak and Craft Bar in our rotation as of late. My dad was in town, he enjoys family style eating, and on the heels of yet another Michelin Star snub, I figured this would combine to make a good place for dinner, so I booked it.

And to be honest, I was very let down with almost everything - food, service and prices. Here's all we ordered:

Farm Egg

Pork Trotter 18.

Charcuterie

Foie Gras Torchon 26.

Roasted

Dayboat Diver Scallops 30.

Braised

Halibut 30.

Roasted

Hare 48.

Roasted

Trompette Royale 16.

Roasted

Japanese Eggplant

Desert

Chocolate Souffle x2

Ice Cream Sampler

First issue was with service. They lay down 6 nice sized pieces of (very good) bread for three people, along with two small pats of butter, making a bit of an awkward situation where we each have to carve out 2/3's of a butter pat, which is barely enough to cover a single slice let alone the two slices we were each given. It took 3 different calls over about 10 minutes to 2 different servers for more butter to grudgingly arrive, and once again - 2 small pats. Without having said anything out loud (just repeated requests for more butter), my dad laughed and suggested they had a butter shortage in the kitchen. I thought back to dining at Le Bernadin, where bus boys rush to swap out the (presumably expensive and French) butter whenever we consume even 2 of our 3 pats, ensuring we always have a full tray at the ready. This wasn't that...

Second issue with service was that for our apps and mains they tried to clear our table when there was still VISIBLY food left on the plate and serving dishes. I clearly felt they were saying "your allotted time is up, we need to clear this now", and we did not eat slowly at all. Even more annoying was that the place was pretty empty when we arrived (7:00 pm), although it was pretty full by the time we left. Presumably they had to turn us over at 9, since with the mains they did it again - and even more inappropriately - we still had 1/3 of our $48 hare dish to be eaten and plenty of each veggie, and the waiter brought two bus boys with him to clear our table. I was mid fork with a piece of mushroom at the time. I repeat: We were not eating slowly, we were all pretty hungry and dug right in each time food arrived (see butter section above!)

Next issue was the food itself. I figured that $18 would buy us a decent amount of pork trotter - it's the trotter after all! Instead we got something no larger than an egg mcmuffin (the 99 cent one that looks 50% smaller in real life than in the commercial?), giving each of us maybe 2 bites of this dish. It was very tasty, but for $18 of trotter and an egg at a family style restaurant where people are expected to share, it was kind of comical to look at this tiny little round of pork swamped by a massive staub dish surrounding. The foie on the other hand was generous, and the highlight of the meal because it came with 4 big thick slices of brioche and 2 big rounds of foie. This was your standard torchon, and the fact that it was the highlight was kind of a sore. But no complaints here, it was very nice.

The mains were once again small. $30 in scallops bought us two nice sized scallops and a third tiny one - again, awkward to share for three people. $30 in halibut was small, and again difficult to logistically share amongst three people. Both were well prepared, I should note. The blowout hare platter was curious and perhaps telling. It was very expensive at $48, and it was definitely "designed". It had the little ribs in one section, tenderloin neatly wrapped and cut up like a sushi roll of sorts, a pork sausage thrown in and the rest of the meat in another pile on a big serving dish. What should have been your classic triumphant American platter of Craft goodness (the blue foot chicken we've eaten in the past a glorious testament to their ability in this regard) arrived instead with a whimper, giving an impression of poor technique as various things were mis-arranged, and poorly cooked. I felt like Wise or Collichio must have left a picture of what it was meant to look like (a picture that I'm sure is awesome), and some poor schmo in the kitchen had to try to figure it out for himself. Fail.

The final let down was that the deserts, normally something to look forward to at Craft restaurants definitely seemed off. The souffle came out in very short order and was pretty thick, having risen a touch and served with a cardamon (should have capitalized every letter of that word) sauce, and we got an ice-cream sampler, as my wife has always LOVED craft/craftsteak ice-creams. Nothing really impressed, everything tasted flat - and we soon learned that their former big time pastry chef had departed since our last dinner there a while back (Damasco).

The bill with three glasses of wine was close to $400. Being a fan of Craft establishments, I'd have to say that nothing at all about this meal said Michelin Star, or 3 Star NYT. I felt kind of ripped off to be frank.

Was it just a very bad night to go? Anyone else experience anything different recently?

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I've had a similar experience there. Could be that Collichio's eye is not on the ball as he is focused on his other (TV) ventures. As Craft seems to have gone down a notch, I would say that Craftsteak has gone up a notch over the past couple of years.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We ate there last week, and in general were not disappointed at all.

(I must apologize for the photos - my other half was trying out two new high-end low-light cameras, for the technique we recently discovered of dispensing with the flash and lighting the food with the light of two iPhones running the "Flashlight" app - and he failed to notice that both of the cameras were set for the wrong focusing mode.)

We began by sharing the Roasted Foie Gras:

gallery_11181_6276_57381.jpg

and the Roasted Sweetbreads:

gallery_11181_6276_92093.jpg

both of which were perfectly generous portions. The foie gras was actually overcooked, but was still tasty enough. The sweetbreads were utterly magnificent.

For main courses we both ordered the Wild Mallard Duck, and having never had one before, I wasn't prepared for what a scrawny bird it is! This is the serving for two:

gallery_11181_6276_113538.jpg

While there are a lot of breast slices, they're not more than a half-inch tall, which you can't really tell from the photo. And this is in no way the fault of the restaurant. It was served with a very decadent "foie gras sauce" and was, except for the fact that I'd rather have eaten a different breed of duck - my fault entirely - quite enjoyable.

The sides we chose were the delicious potato gratin:

gallery_11181_6276_116347.jpg

(You can see me holding the iPhones that were lighting the photos - I didn't crop it out.)

And the delicious braised escarole:

gallery_11181_6276_49313.jpg

Dessert (not shown) was the "Brioche Pain Perdu", and it was (as our desserts were last time as well) sort of underwhelming.

But we really had no qualms with the deliciousness of the food.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 4 weeks later...

I had to chuckle when reading this post, as our experience last night was very similar. I was thinking "well, day before Thanksgiving, most likely they're not playing the varsity", but interesting to see similar complaints.

My wife and I got the tasting menu - I got the wine pairings, which were uniformly excellent. Most of the courses were very good as well - the sheep - milk agnolotti were a particular hit.

However, the service was iffy at best. Same problem with the butter; one small pat for the two of us and the four large pieces of bread. No amuse (even though our neighbors who ordered a la carte got one), straight into the meal, which was delivered very fast - and cleared just as fast. I turned my head and wasn't able to get the busboy to leave my last swallow of wine; plates were cleared with food on them, without asking. The main waiter was nice and somewhat knowledgable, but the runners didn't have a clue and weren't in tune with trying to time the wine and food together.

Overall a nice meal and I'd consider going back to order a la carte, but the service was definitely lacking for a $400+ meal for two, even giving them some extra credit for it being a low-priority day. Other than the excellent sommelier (seriously, the best set of wine pairings I've had in a long time), the front of the house seems to be resting on their laurels.

Anyone else been here lately?  This is one of our favorite restaurants, and we've always had great meals here but hadn't been back in almost a year - opting for Craft Steak and Craft Bar in our rotation as of late.  My dad was in town, he enjoys family style eating, and on the heels of yet another Michelin Star snub, I figured this would combine to make a good place for dinner, so I booked it.

And to be honest, I was very let down with almost everything - food, service and prices.  Here's all we ordered:

Farm Egg

Pork Trotter  18.

Charcuterie

Foie Gras Torchon 26.

Roasted

Dayboat Diver Scallops  30.

Braised 

Halibut  30.

Roasted               

Hare  48.

Roasted 

Trompette Royale  16.

Roasted 

Japanese Eggplant

Desert

Chocolate Souffle x2

Ice Cream Sampler

First issue was with service.  They lay down 6 nice sized pieces of (very good) bread for three people, along with two small pats of butter, making a bit of an awkward situation where we each have to carve out 2/3's of a butter pat, which is barely enough to cover a single slice let alone the two slices we were each given.  It took 3 different calls over about 10 minutes to 2 different servers for more butter to grudgingly arrive, and once again - 2 small pats.  Without having said anything out loud (just repeated requests for more butter), my dad laughed and suggested they had a butter shortage in the kitchen.  I thought back to dining at Le Bernadin, where bus boys rush to swap out the (presumably expensive and French) butter whenever we consume even 2 of our 3 pats, ensuring we always have a full tray at the ready.  This wasn't that...

Second issue with service was that for our apps and mains they tried to clear our table when there was still VISIBLY food left on the plate and serving dishes.  I clearly felt they were saying "your allotted time is up, we need to clear this now", and we did not eat slowly at all.  Even more annoying was that the place was pretty empty when we arrived (7:00 pm), although it was pretty full by the time we left.  Presumably they had to turn us over at 9, since with the mains they did it again - and even more inappropriately - we still had 1/3 of our $48 hare dish to be eaten and plenty of each veggie, and the waiter brought two bus boys with him to clear our table.  I was mid fork with a piece of mushroom at the time.  I repeat: We were not eating slowly, we were all pretty hungry and dug right in each time food arrived (see butter section above!)

Next issue was the food itself.  I figured that $18 would buy us a decent amount of pork trotter - it's the trotter after all!  Instead we got something no larger than an egg mcmuffin (the 99 cent one that looks 50% smaller in real life than in the commercial?), giving each of us maybe 2 bites of this dish.  It was very tasty, but for $18 of trotter and an egg at a family style restaurant where people are expected to share, it was kind of comical to look at this tiny little round of pork swamped by a massive staub dish surrounding.  The foie on the other hand was generous, and the highlight of the meal because it came with 4 big thick slices of brioche and 2 big rounds of foie.  This was your standard torchon, and the fact that it was the highlight was kind of a sore.  But no complaints here, it was very nice.

The mains were once again small.  $30 in scallops bought us two nice sized scallops and a third tiny one - again, awkward to share for three people.  $30 in halibut was small, and again difficult to logistically share amongst three people.  Both were well prepared, I should note.  The blowout hare platter was curious and perhaps telling.  It was very expensive at $48, and it was definitely "designed".  It had the little ribs in one section, tenderloin neatly wrapped and cut up like a sushi roll of sorts, a pork sausage thrown in and the rest of the meat in another pile on a big serving dish.  What should have been your classic triumphant American platter of Craft goodness (the blue foot chicken we've eaten in the past a glorious testament to their ability in this regard) arrived instead with a whimper, giving an impression of poor technique as various things were mis-arranged, and poorly cooked.  I felt like Wise or Collichio must have left a picture of what it was meant to look like (a picture that I'm sure is awesome), and some poor schmo in the kitchen had to try to figure it out for himself.  Fail.

The final let down was that the deserts, normally something to look forward to at Craft restaurants definitely seemed off.  The souffle came out in very short order and was pretty thick, having risen a touch and served with a cardamon (should have capitalized every letter of that word) sauce, and we got an ice-cream sampler, as my wife has always LOVED craft/craftsteak ice-creams.  Nothing really impressed, everything tasted flat - and we soon learned that their former big time pastry chef had departed since our last dinner there a while back (Damasco).

The bill with three glasses of wine was close to $400.  Being a fan of Craft establishments, I'd have to say that nothing at all about this meal said Michelin Star, or 3 Star NYT.  I felt kind of ripped off to be frank.

Was it just a very bad night to go?  Anyone else experience anything different recently?

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