I know this post is long overdue, but we had such a delicious meal at Craft that I absolutely had to review it. We went there for my birthday dinner and had an absolutely marvelous time.
When I was growing up, my birthday was always spent at my then-favorite restaurant, Union Square Cafe. I knew the menu by heart and would spend the entire year deciding what I would eat for my celebratory birthday meal.
This year, the Boy offered to organize my birthday festivities, which included a trip to the Cloisters, lunch at New Leaf Cafe (right by the Cloisters, and where I'd been dying to go for some time) and a dinner with several family members--Mom, Dad, Uncle Steven and Jake, my cousin. And, of course, the Boy. Sadly, Ozzy couldn't join us, seeing as how we're in the States and not France. We had planned on going to Union Square Cafe for dinner, but they were booked solid and couldn't accomodate our party until too late, so we began to look at other places. We finally settled on Craft and I am thrilled that we did.
We were seated at a long table up against the window and the only problem the whole night was that a chill came in from the window. No matter--the food and company more than made up for it.
Craft's shtick is that all the dishes are "separate." This means that instead of creating a complicated combination of ingredients on one plate (Meat + Vegetable + Starch), all components are served separately. So if you order Meat, you are just ordering meat. The vegetables are served family-style, making this the perfect place to dine with a large group who loves eating and sharing--ours!
The Menu is divided into First Courses, Main Courses and Side Dishes. Everything is then divided again by cooking method, a fascinating way of doing so. And without further ado, a recap of our meal, as best I can remember it:
For his First Course, the Boy ordered Roasted Quail & 50-Year Balsamic. This was one Quail, roasted to perfection and drizzled with the richest Balsamic Vinegar glaze that I have ever had. This may very well have been the best dish we had all night. It can also be served as a Main Course (2 Quails instead of 1) and, when next I return, that may very well be what I order. Mom and Dad both began with the same salad--Wild Arugula and Lemon. Since I recently began my own love affair with Wild Arugula, it was a delight to see it on a menu. The salad was clean, crisp and simple--exactly what a salad should be. Uncle Steven also ordered a salad, Butter Lettuce. It was light and tasty. I ordered Hamachi & Bartlett Pear. This was a cold appetizer, the Hamachi raw and thinly sliced. It paired beautifully with the crisp, almost tangy Pear. Finally, Jake enjoyed a dish with Foie Gras that, surprisingly, was not as clawingly rich as I often find Foie Gras. Unfortunately, I can't remember more details of his first course.
For Main Courses, we were far less diverse. Dad and I both had the Roasted 28-Day Dry-Aged Sirloin & Bone Marrow. This was absolutely divine--rich and delicious. And even though it could be ordered by just one person, because both of us ordered it, it was served on one plate as a giant steak with a big, delicious bone. The only thing slightly off for me was that the Bone Marrow was so rich I found it an unnecessary accompaniment. But Dad liked it, so I gave my Marrow to the Boy who thoroughly appreciated it. Uncle Steven, Jake and the Boy also ordered the same Main Course--Braised Beef Short Rib & Root Vegetable. Again, the Short Ribs were all served on one platter, the dished up to the expectant plates. The meat literally fell off the bone and was so rich a delicious--a perfect cold-weather dish and one the Boy has been begging me to try my hand at for some time. As usual, Mom was the iconoclast and opted for the Roasted Pheasant & Prune--another wonderful dish, though she found the meat a tad salty.
All our Side Dishes were shared and proved a wonderful counterpart to the mains. We had Potato Gnocchi, homemade Gnocchi that actually tasted like rich, creamy Potatoes in a plain Butter sauce. I could have made a meal just of that. We also had Roasted Bluefoot Mushrooms, having been attracted by the name; Golden Nuggets -- the most perfect Tater Tots imaginable; and Braised Escarole.
Next came Desserts and, somehow, we all (except Uncle Steven) managed to clean our plates yet again. I had a Brioche Pain Perdu with Roasted Banana. The dessert menu works as an extension of the regular menu, so you can still piece together your ideal dish from various components. The Pain Perdu (or French Toast to us lay-people) was divine--rich and creamy--and the Banana was just beginning to crisp and caramelize, provided a delectable flavor and texture contrast. The Boy had an Apple and Quince Tarte Tatin, a mini-pie, rather than just a slice. Dad, Mom and Jake all had dishes I can no longer remember, but that, I'm sure, were delicious.
We were also served wonderful Amuse-Bouches, tidbits between courses and a post-dessert dessert, as well as the Apple Crumb Muffins pictured at the beginning of the post which served as breakfast the following morning. There was also wonderful Red Wine to wash it all down.
All in all a thoroughly delicious meal. I can't wait to return!
43 East 19th Street
New York, NY 10003