So my sister just turned 30. (Happy Birthday big sis!) And, god bless her, she decided we should go out somewhere special for dinner. We went to zagats.com and started looking. Anisa was a fan favorite, but unfortunately suffered from a fire and wouldn’t be open in time. Obviously Peter Lugers came up, but that almost seems pedestrian now that we know about the $10 burgers. BTW, if you don’t know, Lugers has a $10 burger that may be one of the best cheeseburgers there are.
Anyway, we picked Craft Bar, the Tom Colicchio joint. Needless to say I’m syked. I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to Felidia and Babo, so I know to expect a lot out of these chefs. Yes, this is Craft Bar not Craft so its a little less expensive and I’m assuming a little less stuffy. All good things in my book.
A bold move. The front of Craft Bar is all glass. Its extremely inviting, especially on a need-your-scarf October night. I wondered what it would look like if there weren’t a lot of people in it. If the big glass facade would result in a cavernous look. But that night— there was no need to worry. The bar was full, there were happy people conversing and filled tables that gave it a buzzing, but not hurried din once you entered.
The lobby has a catwalk with access to myriad wines in rows of fridges. The look is modern, the catwalk is black steel. The stools of the bar contrast with the metal with their warm wood but are clearly a modern design. The whole restaurant has a look that suggested you would leave stuffed, drunk and happy.
We ordered oysters. Lots of oysters. The entire table agreed that these might be the best oysters anyone had ever had. They came with a balsamic vinaigrette, a first for me, but the acidity worked really well.
I really like octopus and have made enough attempts at ordering the stuff to know that ordering octopus is a great way to tell if there are good chefs behind the counter. So I ordered the octopus. To me, the stuff should be charred but not chewy, the way they were served at Babo and Felidia. Chef Colicchio did not disappoint.
All the apps were exceptional. The Smoked Pig Head Terrine was even surprisingly good. It looked like one of those meats that are held together by a jelly. Except this was smoked pig so it tasted smoky and rich. But the varying taste it had depending on the color of the protein pressed between the jell-o mold you just spread on a nice, unsuspecting triangle of toast was alarming.
As was the soup. It was a Clam Chowder with Pig Belly. How could that have been the dish that went wrong? But it was. It had no depth of flavor. Ol’ Tommy would have torn apart a top chef that made this (sorry had to go there at least once).
The other disappointing item was the Lamb Shank. It had no real flavor. Which was weird because the Celery Root Ravioli was outstanding. As was the Skate and the Pork Belly. So, the more routine items on the menu were the only things that weren’t great. Considering they weren’t any cheaper, I seriously suggest expanding your culinary horizons at this restaurant. Skate wing tastes like scallops. They will serve you a giant piece of fish that tastes exactly like a scallop. And Pork Belly is like taking the goodness that is pork and distilling it into a seared rectangle that you place over a delicious sauce (i have no idea what it was) and lentils that served to soak up the excess goodness that ran down this perfectly seasoned piece of heaven. This place is dope.
The deserts were excellent as well. Due to a snafu on an order, the waitress threw in a grape sorbet with whip cream and peanut butter cookies desert. The waitress and the rest of the staff was very nice, btw.
I would highly recommend going here. The service was excellent. We sat for over three hours and never once felt the slightest bit rushed. The crowd had an occasional family with a kid wearing a hoodie that didnt look out of place despite most of the crowd being a little more upscale. They have a $10 Corn Beef sandwich that’s giving me a reason to come for lunch.
This place gets a big thumbs up.