For once I wish someone in Dallas would create a wine bar that follows the syntax of the billing and puts the "wine" before the "bar." More often than not, the wine-bar designation is a shallow ruse used to draw denizens hoping to lap the drippings of sophistication into what is little more than a night spot with better glassware. Instead of being the central fixture, wine is just another trinket deployed in the service of "scene," a thing ordered to impress waiters and poured to impress dates (swirl, baby).
That's why it's so distressing that Crú, Patrick Colombo's anticipated wine bar cuddled next to his restaurant Ferré in West Village, doesn't depart from this weary protocol. Crú disses wine as it pretends to promote it.
Not that Crú isn't slick and handsome. It is. But that's the point. After the slick and handsome, there's not much left in your glass. A stunning mirrored back bar is impregnated with divots embracing wine bottles and glasses. On one wall, famous labels--Opus One, Dom Perignon, Silver Oak cab, Monton Rothschild--are imprinted. A floor-to-ceiling wine rack, complete with a rolling library ladder, is installed in one wall.
But Crú is dark, and Crú is loud--two substantial detractions for a wine bar. Almost as much as smell and taste, wine is about visuals (color, legs, bubbles) and discussion. But Crú effectively seals off these pleasures. Blaring music and dusky ambiance are fine for a bar, but it's impossible to parse a Brunello di Montalcino if you can't see it, and it's a drag to be forced to shout your taste impressions to your companions.
Crú offers wine flights, but they're kind of floating out there in a by-the-glass menu in the middle of nowhere. Flight menus contain sparse descriptive phrases of limited or no utility. (The bottle menu contains modest varietal descriptions.) No suggestions. Varietals from different global regions are sometimes mixed within tasting trios, but there are precious few tasting benchmarks called out for the taster to gauge and appreciate differences and similarities. Worst of all, the damn thing is so California-centric (read Napa-centric), it's boring--especially in the context of a vibrant global wine market.
This lax wine consciousness seeps into the menu. Not that the food isn't good. It is, drafted as it is by Paul Singhapong, opening chef of Bay Leaf in Deep Ellum.
But it isn't necessarily effective wine-bar grub. The menu has an array of cheeses from France, Italy and other locales. But amazingly, there are no wine-pairing suggestions. And there are items such as tempura fried crab cake rolls with wasabi and fried calamari with spicy sweet and sour sauce--difficult foods to pair with wines, especially without guidance and an adventurous by-the-glass list.
But a couple of things stood out. Escargot and shiitake mushrooms scattered over a smooth cheese polenta were sheer joy, roiled with plump juicy snail globes and earthy mushroom slices.
Sesame-seared shrimp were ripe with sweetness, set off by a clean smokiness and punched with succulence. The shrimp nested in a tasty salad of noodles, carrot and red bell pepper soaked with soy vinaigrette.
Much less impressive was the veal sausage pizza that the menu says is prepared with spicy sausage. But it was limp and tame, suffering from a dearth of seasoning of any kind.
For its West Village locale, where the national bird is the leased BMW, Crú and its ersatz oenophilia are no doubt just the ticket. But for the rest of us, who yearn for a true wine bar, one that respects and promotes the full sensual spectrum of wine, Crú is corked.
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