I'm no stranger to fancy restaurants. I'm also no stranger to celebrity chef's restaurants--I've been to Bobby Flay's Bar Americain and Mesa Grill, eaten Morimoto in both the Philadelphia and New York City, Alex Guarnaschelli's Butter, numerous restaurants by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, Kefi and Fishtag by Michael Psilakis, and an unconscionable amount of Danny Meyer's and Todd English's restaurants.
Yet I have never had quite the phenomenal experience that I had last night at Tom Collichio's craft. It was basically perfect, in every sense of the word--from the room, to the waiter, the drinks and the food. It was clear that each element of the restaurant was specifically chosen and the end result was as close to perfection as I've had the opportunity to experience.
My dad and I began the night, as always, at the bar. He had a perfectly mixed grey goose martini, straight up with a twist (extremely light on the vermouth) and I had glass of Syrah, slightly cooled at the perfect temperature. We also had a chance to watch the master bartenders make some pretty cool cocktails--the Firefly, by far the most interest to watch, which is made of gin, lillet blanc, absinthe and apricot brandy, and then set on fire.
Shortly thereafter we were led to our table. One of the small things that made this restaurant just a bit smoother than other experiences was that we did not have to settle up at the bar--our bar tab simply transferred over to our table. Yes, it is a little thing, but it is also something that just makes your time there a bit easier for you.
Now the menu at craft is a bit...unusual. It is all a la carte and, if you are interested in a dish, you basically have to ask how it is prepared. The menu simply lists the ingredient and the cooking technique--no word on if there is a sauce or how it is prepared.
Selection of oysters
Of course, the two of us started the meal with an appetizer. Since oysters are my new favorite (semi-healthy, although that was a pretty gross discussion as I found out that you can get hepatitis from oysters, but I digress) appetizer, I ordered one of each kind offered: Beau Soleil, Blue Point, Naked Cowboy and Hama Hama. When they arrived, there was not a cocktail sauce in sight!! Quite unusual, and again, quite pleasant as the sauce was delicious.
So, for those of you who don't know, my dad has, in the past year, lost a ridiculously large amount of weight, started to eat healthier, and well...climbed a couple of mountains. Like...20,000 foot mountains. And works out every single day for hours on end. Yeah...I am adopted. It's become clear to me. Again, I digress--after looking at the menu and eying me over the top, I reassured him that i would not reveal to my mom (hi freddi!!) what I KNEW he was going to order to start...bacon. Crispy, fried, delicious bacon. And oh.my.god was it delicious and fatty and I could basically feel my arteries hardening, yet couldnt bring myself to care enough to stop eating because then the deliciousness would end. It was...amazing, but that word hardly begins to describe. Let's just say it was crispy fried bacon, and those of you who know what I mean, know what i mean.
Photo courtesy of Tom O'Brien who, without glasses on, is practically blind. Apologies for him.
Moving on to our entrees: I followed the fabulous advice I got from my delightful friend and colleague Kris and ordered the scallops--roasted and served with vermouth butter. They were perfectly cooked, just crispy on the outside and splendidly soft in the middle. My dad ordered the halibut, which is slow braised, did not come out hot, but was melt-in-your-mouth soft. It was phenomenal.
As these were a la carte, we ordered sides to share. The pureed potatoes are conceivably the best potatoes I've ever eaten, and from a person who's last name is O'Brien, that's a huge compliment. As I ate, I was positive that at least a pound of pure butter went into the potatoes as they were so soft, but was pleasantly surprised that the butter did not overpower the flavor of the potatoes. After discussing with the waiter, I was reassured that, in fact, I was not continuing to clog the arteries that were sorely tested by the crispy bacon but instead, that the potatoes were made with only a negligible amount of butter (which in restaurant-terms is still more than I would use, but less than I expected) and, instead, the potatoes were pureed by adding extra virgin olive oil extremely slowly at the end. My dad and I resolved to try this technique at home immediately.
Besides the potatoes, we ordered Hen of the Woods mushrooms, which were good, but could not stand up to the deliciousness of our other food. We also split pea and bacon risotto, which was cooked to perfect and had the delightfully smoky taste of bacon.
I adored how all of our food was served--even our entrees, which were, as I've said, a la carte, were in serving dishes and placed in the middle of our table. For most people, it would be the perfect way to share...for my father and I, it ended up as dueling forks, but nevertheless it was much easier to steal bites of his halibut while dodging his tines than when reaching across the entire table. Although, I must boast, I have become extremely proficient at stealing food off of his plate. Not that we don't share...which we do...normally. But this food was not normal, and we were not going to give up any deliciousness that was not hard won.
I must apologize for the lack of pictures, as I was too busy shoving my face with the best food of my life to waste time pulling out my camera. And I'm sure, from that statement, you can guess that i HIGHLY recommend craft, would die to go there again (and probably die if I were the one receiving the bill-thanks again dad's company!) and will walk by the restaurant longingly for the rest of my days. GO THERE. Seriously. This is not a joke. GO.
To visit craft, which...you better be...you can find the restaurant at 43 East 19th St, right off of Park Ave, and online at craftrestaurant.com. For those of you on a a slimmer budget, I also highly recommend craftbar, which can be found around the corner from craft at the corner of Broadway and E 20th.