Friday, February 20, 2009

Craft - Restaurant Review

I took Dena out for her birthday to Craft in Century City. Craft is one of the restaurants run by Tom Colicchio , the head judge on Top Chef. Dena and I are big Top Chef fans and we were looking forward to a real "foodie" experience. We were not disappointed. I'll run through the meal below, if you're not a foodie, this may be boring....

The meal started with a lovely champagne, a Michel Beauchamp Rose. Incredible finish on this champagne. What I like about Craft is that they do not cheap out on the wine pours. A lot of restaurants bring you exactly 3 oz. of wine or will only pour you half a glass of champagne. Look, I'm paying 18 bucks a glass, fill it up! At Craft they bring out the bottle of whatever wine by the glass you are having, you taste it, once you're happy they pour you a nice generous glass. I love it!

The meal started with an amuse bouche, a little goat cheese tart. It was lovely. I'm not into the amuse bouche's because I feel the restaurant just stacks them up and brings them out like MacDonald's burgers. I was not surprised, it was the same here. We had two starters, a lovely marinated Tasmanian sea trout served with avocado, pomegranate and dill. One of the things we've learned from all these food shows is to combine all the flavors served on the plate. This was especially true of this dish where it was completely different if you had a bite of the trout sans dill or with dill. The chef combines these flavors for a reason and you should enjoy each of those reasons....

The second first, (LOL) was a sweet onion tart served with local goat cheese and a dollop of tomato paste. Weird that the paste is just plopped there but it was delicious none the less. For our second course, we had one dish, the stinging nettle and ricotta ravioli. I just had to order it because it was a little out there. The edges of the ravioli were a little al dente for my taste, the dish was good, unique, but not special.

Our wine choices were both fantastic. We're into Chilean and Argentina wines lately and are never disappointed. Dena's a Malbec - Bodega fin del Mundo, 2006 Patagonia -and mine, a Tempranillo, Beronia Reserva 2001 Rioja - also yummy.

Our entrees were good but not fantastic. Dena had the prawns and I had the braised short ribs. When those appeared in their little cast iron pot they looked just scrumptious, but apparently looks are not everything. They were very tender but short on flavor. Excessive amounts of fat, a little dry and bland. I would have to tell the chef to "pack your knives and go" on that dish.

In true shwanky restaurant tradition, everything is separate, so we ordered to vegetable dishes, the kale and the mixed mushrooms. We wish we knew what the sauce was that the kale was steamed in because it was spectacular. As a pallet cleanser we were served a cute, wonderful little blood orange vanilla ice cream float. It was so delicious.

For dessert, I had two hand crafted dark chocolates. One a hazelnut/orange chocolate and the other a rhubarb chocolate. I thought if heaven existed then I was surely there. My eyes closed and my tongue danced around each flavor, happy and content. Dena had the banana cream pie, served with maple and banana ice cream and toasted cashews. She made yummy faces throughout that dish. After our dessert we received the little complimentary dessert, which we didn't know we would get. It was a nice surprise with two little red velvet cupcakes and two little butter cookies. As I popped the red velvet cupcake into my mouth, a smile widened across my face even as I opened the check.

All in all, a wonderful meal, very special. We were treated exceptionally well, the wait staff is highly trained, highly professional but yet very personable. In a restaurant such as this, everything matters. A snobby wait staff can ruin an otherwise exceptional meal. Craft fires on all 12 cyclinders like a finely tuned machine with only a couple small missteps. I don't fault them for those and wouldn't let them interfere with my return visit. I felt almost as if they knew me because I came in all the time I was treated so well. We'll be back....

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