Thursday, September 4, 2008

Craft Work

If I want to try a new, buzz-worthy restaurant, I always try to wait a few months...until the buzz has died down, the glamorous have all been seen and fed, the glitches have been smoothed out, and the celebrity chefs have long ago sped back to New York, the book tour or the TV studio set. It is in this spirit that I finally make my way to Craft, the one year old outpost of New York restaurateur and Top Chef host Tom Colicchio in Century City.

I've always found Century City to be a rather ominous place, filled, as it is, with impenetrable skyscrapers accessible only from underground parking garages. It is a future cityscape out of some sci-fi flick intended as an exaggerated critique of modern life. It is not welcoming. It isn't warm.

Craft the restaurant may reflect some of that spirit in its sparse, modernist decor, but not in its service or food. The service is friendly and helpful, tolerant and empathetic in a way that is unusual in LA restaurants, and even more so in New York. Servers were kind and the entire staff seemed poised to create an atmosphere that would help you enjoy your meal as much as possible.

The food at Craft is simple, well executed and superb. Colicchio is known for highlighting ingredients and cooking technique without relying on sauces or molecular gimmickry. The menu is divided by cooking method. Under meat, there are headings for braised and confit. The food is served family style, which means it works best with a large party (or family).

There were so many good dishes, it is hard to describe them all. Sweetbreads were lightly fried, a plate of beautiful hen of the woods mushrooms was also lightly seasoned to highlight the flavor of the 'shroom. One of my favorite dishes was the rabbit wrapped in bacon...a traditional dish done beautifully. Per the house style, seasoning was light, cooking was perfect, ingredients shined.

I often find that high end restaurants in LA are weak on desserts. There are many places where I have enjoyed a wonderful meal followed by a lackluster desserts. Craft was the exception. Salted peanut butter cup with peanut butter ice cream and peanut brittle was a peanut-lover's delight. Ice creams were creamy and well flavored (loved the black pepper and the blueberry cheesecake flavors, didn't try the maple-bacon).

And yes, they had doughnuts. Fried, glazed yeast doughnuts, which were crispy on the outside, soft within. They looked and tasted like what you always want a Krispy Kreme to taste like, but it never does. For the record, I am fully supportive of the new doughnuts-for-dessert trend that has been hitting high end restaurants (the bacon-for-dessert trend, not so much).

And Craft knows what customers like: freebies. We received four individual complementary courses: amuse bouche (could have been better); palate cleanser (a wonderful lemon spritzer with coconut sorbet), petite four (very nice) and a delicious coffee cake for breakfast the next morning (a great idea if there ever was one).

I left Craft not only satisfied, but wanting to come back immediately to try what I'd missed.

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

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