Monday, June 1, 2009

FOOD CZAR REVIEW #50: CRAFT RESTAURANT

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Diners with limited financial means need not rule out the better restaurants, even in times of financial turmoil. Sure, at some restaurants, a dinner tab can easily run to $300 or more, so some people might shy away from such places. However, as I've discussed previously, there are many ways to sample a chef's cuisine. One method is to go to dinner, but stick with appetizers, soup or salad, and maybe see if you can split an entree. Another way is to go for lunch or weekend brunch. But wait, you ask, won't I end up with an "inferior" meal. Not on your steakknife. If the chef is any good and particularly if he has any reputation, he would not allow the simplest bowl of potage to leave his kitchen without measuring up to his exacting standards. It is both a matter of personal pride and professional reputation. In such a spirit of adventure, and wishing to try the cuisine of renowned Food Network guru Tom Colicchio at the Dallas outpost of Craft Restaurant, my lovely wife the Rock Star and myself ventured down the well-worn path of the Tollway one recent Sunday for brunch.

From the first glance, it was readily apparent that no expense was spared designing the interior of Craft, as is true with most of the Victory Park development where it resides. Very tall ceilings with seemingly thousands of exposed-filament bulbs hanging from them. Exposed concrete pillars. An enormous glassed-in wine cellar. (Our genial waiter later confirmed that there are no wine angels on staff at Craft; servers must instead climb stepladders to reach the desired bottle.) We were seated quickly, the better to peruse both decor and menu.

So, how does Chef Tom's cuisine stack up? Very well, thank you. Unlike FN cohort Bobby Flay, who is fond of putting his own spin on things, our brunch at Craft suggested that both Tom Colicchio and recently-departed Chef de Cuisine Anthony Zappola prefer the more traditional approach. In other words, let the ingredients speak for themselves. My lovely bride decided to begin her repast with a glass of her beloved prosecco, in this case, the Bisol Jeio Brut from Valdobbiadene, Italy. Very clean-tasting, with a crisp finish. I decided to bypass the bubbly and instead ordered a bottle of our brunch wine. The Can Blau, a Spanish blend of carignan (mazuelo), syrah, and garnacha, proved to be an excellent pairing for our beefy entrees. Solidifying her reputation as one of the world's great burger fanatics, the Rock Star ordered the Craft Burger. Featuring white cheddar and applewood bacon, the Craft Burger is nonetheless quite conventional and cooked precisely medium-rare. (So hard to get a burger in any preparation but well done these days; such are the advantages of a fine-dining establishment.) The fries were quite perfect as well, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, they were no doubt properly blanched before frying. She was enormously pleased. For myself, I decided to see what chef could do with the diner classic New York Strip Steak and Eggs. So exquisitely simple was the presentation that my lovely bride and myself couldn't resist posing it for pictures before I devoured same. The beef was topped with just the slightest touch or bordelaise and was again perfectly prepared medium rare. The eggs were over easy and made the perfect foils for all that beefy goodness. Coupled with my own order of those marvelous fries, I must confess that this was the most delightful brunch since our Valentines repast at Al Biernats.

Service was leisurely paced but not at all inattentive, it was after all a lazy Sunday afternoon. Our waiter even joined in our lively discussion concerning the merits of modern architecture, and the names Le Corbusier, Frank Geary, and Frank Lloyd Wright were bandied about freely, as we were no doubt inspired by Crafts impressive interior. (My wife and I are devoted Frank Lloyd Wright fans; in fact the highlight of our Arizona vacation was the trip to his old studio Taliesin West in Scottsdale, and we long to someday visit Fallingwater.) Website is www.craftrestaurant.com, where it is a simple matter to link to the Dallas page.

Once again, my thesis is proved that a great chef will provide world-class cuisine, whether for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Discover the postmodern experience of Craft for yourself, and remember:

LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

3 comments:

Margie said...

I didn't even know they had brunch! Czar, if you like FLW you should visit the only high rise office building he designed. It's in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I believe. It's part museum now, part hotel and there's a restaurant. We stayed in a loft suite. It was amazing.

Food Czar said...

Margie, thanks for reminding me. We have meant to visit that hotel for quite some time now, and I've priced the rooms; they are not too expensive. Some day we'll stay there!!

michelle said...

i somehow missed this review... i am so excited you went to craft and liked it. i'm a big fan of his and have been wanting to go for a while now!