The Art of Craft
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.
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.
We started with a selection of breads, two servings of endive, apple and pecan salad, and two servings of the smoked salmon rillette.
The endive salad was good. Fresh, crisp, with a light tart dressing. It felt clean.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The raspberry and almond buckles, similar to a muffin with a streusel topping, were served warm and were deliciously moist.
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.
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.
Los Angeles, CA 90067