Saturday, May 17, 2008

Craft


If there is one thing that I have learned in the last year of writing Beef Aficionado it is that there is always an exception that proves the rule. Craft breaks several rules at once, turning steak convention on its head yet still delivers a masterful hunk of beef. Steak aficionado's have long know that the only way to properly cook a steak is either over an open flame or a high powered industrial broiler. They also known that fine dining restaurants can never turn out steak that is truly the equal of what a top chophouse offers. Craft is of course the flagship of Tom Collichios rapidly expanding empire that includes restaurants in several US cities. Although there are steak restaurants in the Craft empire called, you guessed it, Craftsteak with locations in Las Vegas and NYC, the steak offerings at Craft itself are bountiful. Paradoxically in my experience the domestic steak at Craft is superior to the domestic steak at Craftsteak NYC, which I visited on two occasions last year in July and in August. I refer to the domestic steer because the superb Japanese Wagyu that is on offer at Craftsteak is not featured on the regular menu at Craft, although on my last visit it was featured as one of the courses on the tasting menu. What the two restaurants have in common are the method of preparation as well as an obsessive chronicling of the provenance and aging of the steak. Both restaurants roast their steaks in the oven after an initial searing on a griddle as opposed to the aforementioned methods of preparation traditionally favored by chophouses. Both restaurants also offer effusive service that is quite unlike the gruff service one expects and receives at a traditional steakhouse. But what really sets them apart is that the rest of the cuisine on offer is leagues above what you will get at a steakhouse. This is fine dining yet the steak is also almost perfectly prepared, a rare combination and one that defies conventional wisdom.

A quail with the 50 year Balsamic reduction was perfectly cooked with a crisp skin and a rare center although it lacked much of a pronounced flavor from the vinegar itself.

While Craft does not offer Wagyu steaks it does feature the Wagyu carpaccio that is found at Crafsteak. It was a delicious dish when I tried it at Craftsteak and I was equally as enthused by the iteration of it here. I would love to see what Craft might do with a Wagyu tartar, the beef is truly delectable.

The 28 day dry aged strip came out perfectly black and blue. I was surprised at how favorably it compared to the best NYC steakhouse iterations of the cut. While it may have fallen slightly behind my personal favorite bone in strips at Primehouse and Smith & Wollensky in terms of overall flavor it was pretty close. The latter two steaks have more pronounced marbling and a more apparent dry age flavor but that is not to say that the Craft incarnation necessarily lacked these desirable traits, it did not.

The cote de boeuf from Four Story Hill Farms was utterly exquisite. While it is admittedly pricey at $125 it is intended for sharing, although those who have no trouble polishing off a Peter Luger steak for two might need one for themselves. It comes with two generous marrow bones that aside from adding value to the dish also compliment it both texturally a from a flavor perspective, the gelatinous marrow positively oozes with an earthy richness. The beef itself was the pinnacle of tenderness and flavor. The crust was perfectly charred and the cool interior had the perfect red hue. The irresistible tang of dry aging was evident through out the cut making the pan drippings and forest of herbs that are served with the steak largely superfluous. Most steakhouses can't deliver a black and blue steak to this degree of perfection and I have never had a steak in a fine dining restaurant that comes close to this.

Triggerfish

Beyond the steak there is some very serious cooking going on here. A roasted black cod was flaky and tender with a deep sea flavor. Similarly the buttery Triggerfish struck the perfect textural balance between succulence and firmness. The sides are also universally delicious. The Hen of the woods mushrooms had a creamy earthiness, sugar snap peas more than lived up to their name a being wonderfully sweet with a pleasing crunch. The puree potatoes had the perfect mix of starch and richness with out devolving in to pure butter and cream as can so often be the case. The deserts are also exquisite. A toffee pudding, sadly absent from the menu on my last visit, perfectly capped the meal but rest.

While the cuisine at Craft is serious the general atmosphere is quite casual. The service strikes a good balance between effusiveness and familiarity and the room is warm and inviting, the brown and bronze hues giving it a welcoming feel. Craft might be the exception that proves the rule for it is undeniably one of NYC's finer restaurants yet they offer a steak that competes quite favorably with the city's top steakhouses and indeed surpasses many of them.

Craft
43 E. 19th St.
(bet. B'way & Park Ave. S.)
Manhattan, NY
212-780-0880

7 comments:

danny said...

are those two different steaks that are pictured? they both look amazing in the photos. but wow, $125!

Nick said...

Yes those are two different cuts, The first one is the NY strip that sells for around $60 for about 16oz and is meant for one. The second one is the ribeye for two,probably weighs in at around 35oz.

Backyard Chef said...

I've been meaning to get over there and this review has my tummy grumbling all over again.

Sorry I missed you at the restaurant-- I had a very rare day off....hope you enjoyed everything.

chiff0nade said...

Yeah i'm impressed. Do you throw around big prices you piad to impress people who dont have that kind of money. I was born and raised in brooklyn and never could afford to eat like this.

sickchangeup said...

Man that was an awesome review. I've been to craftsteak many times, and craft a couple of times. I've eyed that quail each time, but never ordered it - really neat seeing a picture of it.

My experience with the Four Story Ribeye at Craftsteak wasn't as good. I wasn't informed that it was grass fed, and I was REALLY in the mood for a big honkin' piece of Nebraska's finest/fattiest/juiciest cornfed Ribeye when I ordered it. So even though the steak was great, and my dining companions dubbed it the steak of the evening (served with marrow like yours), it just didn't resonate with my due to my mood for the wrong thing at the time. Looks like I missed out.

I know this is beef aficionado, but fyi - the whole blue foot chicken at craft (complete with a tableside "moment" - blue feet in the air et al.) was beef worthy.

Betty said...

Nick

That post by "chiff0nade" and the obviously fake blog are the work of DocChuck. He's messing with you.

A quick Google search will confirm this, as he's tried it with a bunch of other food blogs.

See here: http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com/2008/05/spicy-crab-cakes-with-key-lime-mustard.html

Chiffonade is a woman that DocChuck has harassed for several years now.

He posts using her name as well as those of her family and friends and creates fake blogs for them too.

Unless nipped in the bud, he is downright toxic to a blog.

Betty said...

Nick

Have you seen what Chuck did to your "Five Guys" thread?

That's what I mean when I said "Unless nipped in the bud, he is downright toxic to a blog."