Tuesday, April 01, 2008

craft : Is There A Better Night Out?

Now 7 Years Young, A Serious Chef Continues to Prove His Point

As someone who loves food and who has now lived in NYC for several years, I recently asked myself an important question.

How can you have never been to craft?

I’d been to craftbar, craftsteak… hell even ‘wichcraft. But never the jewel, craft.

A few days ago, that all changed.

As a foodie and proud NYC food blogger I am a believer in the skill of Tom Colicchio… and have always believed that one day he too would have his moment in the sun… aside from his sporadic television appearances, that is.

Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for, if in fact this would pull him away from working his magic at his stores, for ‘wich I am truly grateful.

My trip to 19th Street would confirm my irrational fear.

My inagural visit to craft began at 6pm on a Saturday evening. A simple cab ride dropped me at the door, and once inside my dining partner and I were warmly greeted and sat at once.

The menu at craft is a greenmarket approach to dining, and one I love. Truly ala carte in everyway, the menu relies on what’s fresh…. today. Even though the dishes may rotate from time to time, the seasonal approach to this cuisine is refreshing if not highly anticipated.

Even though there is a tempting tasting menu, I went the route of selecting individual courses, which was the right decision. With so many terrific options, I just wanted to “craft” a wider array of dishes, and I did. The service was professional, personal and spot on.

What did we eat?

I started with a pasta dish that literally left me speechless.

The dish was Sweet Potato Agnolotti & Pecan… a plate of delicate pockets of handmade pasta filled with creamy sweet potato and crunchy bits of roasted pecans. Make no mistake folks, this dish was as good or better than ANY pasta dish I have tasted at Babbo…. and if you know me, this is not a statement I make lightly. This was the real deal… and one of the best dishes on any table in the city.

Not to be left out, was the second pasta dish, a Celery Root Ravioli topped with freshly shaved Black Truffles. Unreal… and again, Babbo (or above) quality.

I knew this was going to be good, but I wasn’t ready for an OMG meal.

We added a terrific Friseé and Coppa Salad as well as a plate of beets and fresh tarragon… both terrific but sadly having to follow the pastas which I was still gushing over.

Dinner was a tough choice, but we opted for a Porterhouse for two, which was prepared Lugar style and sliced just right. The steak was on the expensive side, but was tender and flavorful… and accompanied by two roasted bones brimming with rich bone marrow. It just kept getting better.

On the side, we ordered what I would consider a real treat, Hen of the Woods mushrooms… one of the most (if not the most) delicious mushrooms in the world. Pan roasted in butter, the mushroom was crispy and steak-like… and on the money. We added the smaller Velvet Piopini mushrooms (also terrific) with a side of white grits (average) and found ourselves with just about everything we needed. House wines by the glass were spectacular.

So I am guessing by now you are getting the picture… this is amazing stuff. By this time we are 2 ½ hours in, but I am not bailing on dessert. I have come this far, I will not be defeated.

Dessert at craft is special. Sure, you can order Meyer Lemon Beignets, Chocolate Tarts… or Praline Panna Cotta…. but the homemade melt-in-your-mouth donuts along with a sorbet line-up that includes Rhubarb, Tangerine and Blood Orange is the bomb.

But if you want the real show-stopper, pass on all of it, and get a scoop of Brown Butter Ice Cream.

You heard me, Brown Butter Ice Cream. Holy crap.

Now that I have left my own body, it was time to pay the check and float home. Yes, it was a pricy night, but a special one. It’s not every week you get a treat such as this one… and spending 3 hours being pampered and fed like this, well, is just plain worth it.

I can be tough to please at times, but when I have a meal like this one, I feel a profound duty to tell everyone I know.

And now, I’ve told you.

43 E 19th St - Btwn Bway & Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

212 780-0880

Bring the plastic, you're gonna need it.