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The Art of Craft

November 16, 2009
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Tom Colicchio is no Picasso.

Not that I think he’d ever aspire to that. After all, he named his restaurant empire Craft, not Art.

He’s more of a craftsman. An American artisan. More in the vein of a Charles Eames or a Frank Lloyd Wright than a European master. If not in reputation then at least in aspiration.

And that artisanal viewpoint is carried through to his food. An emphasis on seasonal and sustainable ingredients. Family style service. A hearty meat-centric menu.

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Walking into Craft, it’s hard not to be impressed by the dining room. All woods and curved surfaces, it’s like a welcoming cave lit with what seems to be a hundred Edison bulbs. Perhaps a nod to another great American artisan.

This was a meal shared with friends. Pepsi Monster from Right Way to Eat, Fel from The Food Ledger, Austin from Living to Eat, a friend G. (who is ex-Patina) and the girl. Fittingly, all the dishes were served family style.

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We started with a selection of breads, two servings of endive, apple and pecan salad, and two servings of the smoked salmon rillette.

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The endive salad was good. Fresh, crisp, with a light tart dressing. It felt clean.

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I also enjoyed the salmon rillette, served with lavash bread. The smoked salmon gave it a nice earthy taste. I’m a big fan of patés and rillettes and am always happy to start a meal off with them.

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For entrees, three of us ordered the roasted beef sirloin and it was also served family style. Given that Craft is known for their meats, this was a dish I was looking forward to. Honestly, I liked it but it was nothing special. I mean, it was well prepared, still nicely pink in the middle, and seasoned but not a dish I’d return for. Granted, one of my slices was the end slice so it was somewhat dry and overdone. I did try a bite of one of my companions’ braised beef short ribs and it was delicious.

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The sides – mushrooms, potato gratin and market vegetables – also served family style, were very good though. The gratin was creamy with a nice crust. Rich and cheesy.

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The mushrooms, simply prepared, tasted of herbs and earth.

But the desserts were where Craft shone. Definitely not what I had expected, always having thought of Craft as a mecca for meat. But pastry chef Shannon Swindle deserves the recognition for this meal.

Also served for the table, we shared the raspberry and almond buckle, the Columbian chocolate coupe, donut holes with caramel and chocolate dipping sauces, a selection of six ice creams and sorbets, and caramel corn.

I’m predisposed to love any meal that ends with sorbet and donuts. I eat donuts so infrequently but somehow ordering them at a restaurant legitimizes them and makes them less bad for me. At least, that’s my justification. I also like my ice creams and sorbets served separately, so the flavors don’t mix when they melt. Picky, I know, but I don’t want my fruit flavors laced with chocolate.

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The ice creams and sorbets came out in six separate cups. Banana, apple, vanilla, cacao chip, cinnamon and raspberry. All were delicious. You could really taste the individual ingredients. The apple tasted like frozen apple sauce, the banana tasted like real banana, and the cinnamon (which you can buy at $24/quart) obviously used a good quality cinnamon.

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The Columbian chocolate coupe was essentially a chocolate mousse atop a whipped cream topped with candied orange zest and what tasted like Oreo crumbs. Given that I’m not a big chocolate fan, I really enjoyed this dessert.

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The raspberry and almond buckles, similar to a muffin with a streusel topping, were served warm and were deliciously moist.

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And, of course, the donut holes and the caramel corn. The donut holes were warm, soft and sugary. You really didn’t need to dip them. But I did. And they were good. What more can I say about donuts? Ditto caramel corn.

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What I can say though is that it was a very homey way to finish off the meal. A meal, served shared, that was as much about the company as the food. A meal that left me satisfied and happy with the world.

And if that is not art, then it’s a fine craft.

10100 Constellation Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 279-4180

Craft in Los Angeles

Craft on Urbanspoon

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 5:46 pm

    thanks for the mention!! haha

    I like the picture of the sirloin… good composition. I agree, solid dish, but probably not something I would get again. I mean, it was in a way, trivial, for a place such as this.

  2. November 17, 2009 7:50 am

    That looks beautiful, I love the room. Because my days of expense account style dining seem to be slowing down somewhat (blame the economy), I have only eaten at Craft NYC. I liked but did not love it. This sounds along a similar vein, really solidly good but not write home to your mom food. BTW, I like your watermark.

  3. November 17, 2009 11:37 am

    Congrats on the EaterLA linkage! :)

    Those desserts look absurd. And even though you say the steak was only just okay, that is a beautiful shade of pink!

  4. Jacqueline permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:16 pm

    Congrats on the beautiful blog. Have been wanting to go to Craft forever. Get a chance to check out the patio? How does one secure one of these coveted table spots with you?

    • November 17, 2009 1:34 pm

      Checked out the patio but didn’t sit there. The dining room is too beautiful to pass up. And join us for dinner sometime. I’m @gastronomnom.

  5. TheEatingOne permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:57 pm

    I’ve always found the food at Craft to be excellent, but what really stands out is the general “welcoming” feeling that you kind of hit on. Part of it is the design of the room, but I really have to give the staff credit — they have been really terrific every time I’ve been there. Warm, without being chatty or too informal, attentive without being intrusive. It can be a big bustling room, but it doesn’t seem hectic and they aim to please. Example — one of our party asked if they had fresh lemonade. The waiter hesitated for a second, said he would have to ask the bartender, but then caught himself and said “It’s lemons, water and sugar, of course we’ll be glad to make you lemonade.”

    A few minutes later he returned with our cocktails and a fresh lemonade, which my friend found delicious.

    The bar probably did have lemonade, or very likely fresh pre-squeezed juice on hand, but what hit me was that the waiter knew they could accomodate the request with a little extra effort even without those things — they had lemons, sugar and water — and was willing to do so. It is a very service oriented place.

    • November 17, 2009 2:03 pm

      Yes, I have to say the service was spot on. Agreed – attentive without being intrusive.

  6. November 17, 2009 4:07 pm

    your Craft post is inspiring me to post about Grace on my blog…

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