We had the pleasure of eating at the newly formed Manhattan outpost of artisan meat yesterday evening, the newest jewel in the Colicchio empire – Craftsteak. There’s a constant assertion that one should avoid new restaurants, but I have really tremendously enjoyed every experience I’ve had with visiting restaurants in their first month. In many cases, these have even been preferable to subsequent excursions. Even as the staff may not have hit their stride yet, there’s something undeniably fresh about a new restaurant, and that adds a lot to the dining experience for me. Think Like a Chef is really the book that got me interested in pursuing serious fine cooking, so I feel a special connection to Chef Colicchio’s places.
The decor is fabulous, of course. The layout of the space has a good flow, with the main dining room separated from the bar and raw bar by a characteristic walk-in transparent wine cellar. The dining room is very open and has exquisitely high ceilings. Even at full capacity, the sound level was pleasant.
And, on to the food.
We started with three appetizers for the four of us – roasted veal sweetbreads, roasted foie gras, and wagyu beef tartare. I’m a big fan of sweetbreads, and these were among the best I’ve ever had, and a generous portion for an appetizer course. The foie gras was outstanding in flavor, although it was not completely cleaned of veins (despite, as Mayur noted, explicit instructions to do this in Think Like a Chef). The wagyu beef tartare was served with a quail egg and toast, and it was tasty, if not terribly impressive. We all felt that the presentation was too much like traditional beef tartare, and would have preferred a coarser cut usually reserved for fish tartare, to really highlight the exceptional texture of this fine meat.
And now, the steaks.
The selection is large and detailed, from a few varieties of corn-fed heresford beef, both wet and dry aged, through grass-fed Hawaiian beef, to the premium grade Wagyu beef (which tempted all of us, but which budgets demanded we resist). Surprisingly, the waiter was pushing everyone to get medium rare, but couldn’t really explain why beyond “that’s what the chef recommends”. Despite our mostly ignoring that advice and asking for more on the rare side, one of the steaks did arrive fully medium rare, and had to be sent back. We had a similar problem with the rabbit. It was actually a beautiful presentation, with the various pieces separated – leg, a mini rib rack, some “pulled” rabbit meat, and a tenderloin. This would have worked well, but the tenderloin was slightly underdone. However, once we got past those two problems, everything was great. I opted for the grass-fed filet mignon, and it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and outstandingly prepared. It was uniformly and perfectly rare all the way through (about 2.5 inches thick), and impressively tender and flavorful. The other two steaks on the table – a 42-day dry aged strip and a grass-fed ribeye, were also superlative. As with the main Craft, sides are ordered and prepared separately. We opted for the more seasonal choices – roasted ramps, sugar snap peas, and baby carrots, and a pea and morel risotto. All of them were up to the usual standards.
We paired with a moderately priced Qupe syrah, which was intensely berry-oriented, and matched well with everything.
The desserts (pineapple upside down cake, a warm chocolate tart, and monkey bread – a cinnamon and nut encrusted brioche) were all acceptable, but the balance was off a bit on everything. A little too sweet, too salty, or just not quite right. The espresso was sub-par, disappointing and bitter. This wasn’t enough to really ruin the meal, but it wasn’t an impressive close, and it’s obvious that the most attention has been paid to the meat.
Overall, I had a thoroughly enjoyable and delicious meal that very much worked for me despite the nitpicking flaws above, and the very exceptional quality of the steak is really the standout here, the gem that puts the shine on the whole thing.
I see great potential.
Tags: food, restaurants, craftsteak, craft, steak, tom colicchio, nyc