By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
A number of dishes fluctuated over my three visits, those mushrooms included. One night they seemed dry and overcooked — ordinary, even. On another visit, when they arrived rich and flavorful, I saw the light and was made a believer. Scallops oscillated too. Once they arrived so small they couldn't take a sear without overcooking. They sat still, in a heavy muddy sauce. But later they showed up larger than life, with a rich caramelization, dancing in a light butter emulsion delicately tinged with mushrooms.
Gnocchi shared the same inconsistency, light if slightly gummy when served as a side, but heavier and closer to gluey when served with a sliced sirloin at lunch. Bevins' gnocchi isn't dense, but it shouldn't stick to your chops the way it did, and the texture detracted from a perfectly seared hunk of beef. The steak sports a thick and savory crust you could strive to produce at home, if you're that kind of cook, but you'll never, ever succeed. Your home stove can't kick out the heat.
An unevenly browned saffron tart marked another hiccup. The tart presented much more beautifully on a subsequent night, and figs previously left alone with Champagne grapes and honey now welcomed candied pistachios and apricots to the party. A nice dessert, but nothing compared to beignets so beautiful they made me recoil with surprise when I first touched them. The fried spheres of dough were so light they should list air among the ingredients. Served with strong black coffee and honey for dipping, you're immediately transported to the French Quarter in New Orleans. Don't forget your beads.
My favorite meal at Craft came on my final visit. It started with a half-dozen briny oysters and continued though well-executed scallops complemented perfectly by a fairly priced Lambert Bridge Chardonnay.
More often than not, Craft deserves the reputation it's earned, but dishes can stall just short of what's expected from $30 seafood plates and $60 steaks (each à la carte). Craftsmanship should not only describe the quality of a product, but also its consistency over time. This is especially true in restaurants. If you visit on a good night, it's money well spent, but if your meal skews toward my first experiences, you might be left feeling a little melancholy when your bill arrives (though that gratis muffin will lift your spirits some).
Consider, then, lunch, when prices plummet but portion sizes decline less noticeably. You'll enjoy that same doting wine service, the same perfectly roasted chicken, but your billfold will emerge from the experience mostly unscathed. This is, after all, the W, which could stand for welcoming but for many refers to the wallet, which depending on its size may define your experience and enjoyment at Craft.