Sunday, September 28, 2008

Craft, NYC

Craft was opened by Chef Tom Colicchio in 2002, a short walk from the Union Square Greenmarket, as an antidote to some of the food excesses of the 1990s. You remember: a small hunk of flesh centered in a pool of sauce on an enormous plate with another sauce on top of it, and then a coulis in a contrasting flavor and color drizzled across the whole plate, maybe with some crispy bits sprinkled over everything. Everything at Craft, by contrast, is prepared with a few fresh ingredients, but they're the best ingredients you can get. We visited Craft for dinner last night, and I'd say the concept is holding up quite well.

Craft is a fairly expensive restaurant, even by New York standards, but having a meal like this is like attending a performance, and compared to opera tickets, it's not so bad. Grandson of food is at a stage right now (almost two years old) where going out to a restaurant is a hit or miss proposition, and I like cooking at home most of the time anyway, so we're not going out as much as we used to, and when we do, we're probably hiring a babysitter. One memorable meal at $125 a person is unquestionably worth five decent but forgettable meals for $25 a person and then some.

We started with Wagyu beef carpaccio with a vinaigrette and celery garnish as an appetizer. This was the closest any dish came to having a sauce. Before this came there was an amuse bouche in the form of two fresh mussels in a hot pepper marinade, presented on two spoons. Wagyu beef is astonishingly marbled. One can't imagine that it's very healthy for the cattle, but it is interesting, having a distribution of fat to meat that looks like a salami.

For the main course we had the roasted bluefoot chicken, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted baby carrots with rosemary, risotto with corn and bacon. The roasted chicken is presented to the table on an oval copper gratin dish with the blue feet intact before it is carved for serving and garnished with chives. The mushrooms are just roasted with some butter and salt and maybe some garlic, so the main flavor is the mushroom. The carrots are similarly roasted and served with a sprig of fresh rosemary. The Savory New York site features an interview with Collichio on video, and you can see the chicken, mushrooms, and carrots. Everything was excellent, prepared simply but perfectly, but the risotto was transcendent. It seemed to use a small amount of very smokey bacon, and very fresh sweet corn added just at the end of the process, so that it had the texture of corn that had just been barely steamed.

For dessert we split the warm chocolate tart, which comes with a chocolate granite and Earl Grey ice cream. It came with another little extra from the pastry chef--two tiny semolina tarts. The Earl Grey was very intense and will foster some new experiments with the ice cream maker at home. That's what a good restaurant should do, isn't it?--make you want to try new things in your own kitchen.

Even the way they handle the leftovers is outstanding. They pack them up and put them into the refrigerator and hand you a number, like a coat check, until you are ready to leave. And they sent us home with another bonus--two packets of biscotti that we enjoyed this morning for breakfast as we remembered last night's dinner.

1 comment:

Family of Food said...

Sounds like an excellent dinner. I've added Craft to the Family of Food Map, found in our sidebar.

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